In last Friday's post on "voice," I mentioned the book Finding Your Writer's Voice: A Guide to Creative Fiction by Thaisa Frank and Dorothy Wall (St. Martin's), and how it provides specific exercises for helping a writer develop his or her distinctive voice. As promised, for today's Wednesday Writing Workout I'm sharing an exercise based on one in the book. It's from Chapter Seven, "Distilling Voice." I encourage you to borrow the book from a library (or better still, buy your own copy) to read more about this exercise and others in the book.
This is basically a freewriting exercise. Since there are many variations of freewriting, let me start by describing my "rules" for freewriting (which I first introduced back in this blog post):
- the idea is to keep your pen moving without pausing and definitely without editing
- write with pen and paper rather than at a keyboard
- if you find yourself stuck, write something like "I don't know what to write next but I'll think of something soon" until you do think of something
- if your mind wanders away from your main topic, that's fine. Just keep writing.
- Using a timer, freewrite for ten minutes each day for a week. Write as quickly as you can, without thinking, judging, or editing. You can start something new each day, or continue where you left off the day before.
- After the week is over, put aside what you've written. Take a week off without looking back at what you wrote.
- After the second week, pull out your notebook and read aloud your freewrites. As you read, mark the words, phrases, or passages that "leap out at you, that grab your attention."
- Repeat step 1, only this time, begin each freewrite session with one of your marked words or phrases. As it says in Finding Your Writer's Voice: "Using your most exciting writing as your point of departure helps you avoid introductions and leap right into what's vital."
- After you've done this for seven days, again put your writing aside for a week.
- Repeat step 3, only this time, after marking the words and phrases that most captivate you, cross out any words that you don't find interesting or unique. Read aloud what's left. What you have now should really "sing." If the writing still feels bland or weak, repeat steps 4-6.
"You may end up with a prose poem, a surprising non sequitur with its own sense of wholeness, a surreal story, humorous nonsense. Consider this one of your best pieces of writing. Pin it above your desk. Let it inspire you."If you give this exercise a try, do let us know how it works for you.