Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Mid-Week Writing Workout #3 - How to Unstick your Stuck

Yes, my workout is a little late. I'm giving you a large dose, though, because I will be out of town Thursday night through Monday. Baby and I are finally taking our summer vacation... haha.

Sometimes I'm writing "hot" and completely in the flow. Other days the writing is sluggish and it's challenging to get into the story. This often happens if I take a few days off from the writing. I need to get refocused. But sometimes, my mind just isn't there.

When this happens I always turn back to my old stand-by. This exercise always manages to push me through my writer's block and launch me into the work. I'm sure I've used versions of these in the "Start to Finish" Assignments. Of all my exercises, these are the ones I come back to the most.

(These exercises were inspired by Jack Remick and Bob Ray over at The Weekend Novelist. They were two of my mentors in the University of Washington screenwriting program.)

1) Set your timer for 5-7 minutes. Pick one of the following start-lines. Write in short sentences, using repetition if necessary. (i.e. This is a story about love. This is a story about revenge. This is a story about a girl who grows up too fast.) Keep writing, do not cross out, do not edit your work.

This is a story about...

The story I'd like to write is about...

The scene / chapter that needs to be written is about...

(if I'm in the middle of a screenplay or novel, I tend to use the third line, because I usually know what needs to be written next, but starting with the first two are equally helpful)

2) Go to the middle of that piece of writing and pull out a line. This will be your next start line. Using the CHAINING technique (the last word in one sentence is the NEXT word in the following sentence), write for 7-9 minutes.

i.e. Brigitta thinks the faeries are being frivolous. Frivolous because they are more interested in parties than the decisions the Elders are making behind their backs. Backs turned on history and lineage. Lineage that dates back 1000 years and is written in secret books kept...

3) Go to the center of the exercise from #2 and pick your next start line. This time, write in ONE LONG SENTENCE using conjunctions to connect each thought instead of periods. Set your timer for 10-12 minutes. Keep writing!

Now write your next scene! You'll find your thought are much looser now.

BONUS exercise

Write your next scene twice. Once in SILENT MOVIE fashion, meaning, only what you would see if it were on screen. No thoughts, no dialogue, just description and action.

Then, write it only using the dialogue. See what kinds of conflicts you can create this way. Write it in quick one-two rhythm, back and forth. Stay off the "nose" - meaning, don't have the characters say what they mean. Have them cajole, dodge, bribe, exaggerate, seduce, or manipulate instead.

Have a great week!


Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I like the first step of this; that's a great way to get the motor running.

The rest is probably cool, too. I'll have to try it before I pass judgment. I can see it being too structured for rebellious little me. As if a little structure wouldn't be good for me!

Vicki said...

I love the writing the scene in silent movie format. :)

Hope you both have a wonderful vacation!!!

Danika / OpenChannel said...

Hi Susan, we're birds of a feather. I'm not much on structure myself. haha. I resisted the CHAINING exercise for years. Never wanted to do it. I discovered, though, that I travel to interesting places when I do use it. It forces me in unplanned directions.

Vicki - the Silent Movie format is great for Showing instead of Telling.

It's a short vacation, but a necessary one!