Inspiration and motivation are short-lived. Fiction exercises help when you’re unmotivated, or think everything you’ve written is pure junk.
Perhaps you’ve developed a resistance to writing: you may be avoiding a scene you know will be emotionally challenging; or you’re doubting your plot.
Try the two exercises below, but consider creating your own exercises too—create your own collection.
Fiction exercises: create a collection
If you find yourself unable to write, your collection of fiction exercises is a powerful tool. Whenever you’re stuck, open your collection, and choose an exercise.
We looked at fiction exercises in this article, and suggested:
Do these exercises right within the typescript of your novel in Scrivener or MS Word.
And keep the exercises, because rereading them tomorrow or next week will trigger fresh insights and ideas.
Let’s look two more fiction exercises.
1. Create first lines to spark your creativity, now, and later
The first sentences of a novel set the tone and voice for the book, so they’re important.
First lines can be memorable; even famous. “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again” is the famous first line of Daphne du Maurier’s bestseller Rebecca.
Of course, you can write any sentence you like as a first line, and change it later, but you need the book’s voice: its emotional key. The emotion sparks your inspiration for the book. Until you have the novel’s voice, it’s a challenge to write with confidence. The voice inspires you.
Here’s an example of how this works.
In How I came to write Wolf Hall, bestselling author Hilary Mantel says:
The basic decision about the book was taken seconds before I began writing. “So now get up”: the person on the ground was Cromwell and the camera was behind his eyes.
As soon as the words, “So now get up” came to Hilary Mantel, she had everything she needed to write, because she had the book’s voice.
Why not create your own collection of first lines?
- Open a text editor.
- Choose an emotion. (In fiction, every genre has specific emotions which authors aim to trigger in readers.) You may want to pick an emotion for the genre in which you’re writing, or you can pick any emotion you choose.
- Close your eyes for a moment. Feel the emotion.
- Write a first line, then write another one.
Keep your first lines.
2. Talk aloud, and (optionally) record yourself to solve challenges in your fiction
Do you talk to yourself? You should.
Speaking out loud is inventive and creative – each uttered word and sentence doesn’t just bring forth an existing thought, but also triggers new mental and linguistic connections.
The first time you try a talk-aloud exercise you may feel a little silly, so close your home office door. A friend does her talking-aloud fiction exercises in her car; it’s the only place she gets privacy.
- Chat to yourself about your novel: events, the characters, settings, or what’s missing in the novel. Here’s a quick checklist to use.
- Speak sentences of dialogue aloud—this is useful for any scene if you get stuck, or if the words don’t ring true. Try reading your written dialogue aloud.
- Day dream. Aloud. You might say to yourself: what this book really needs is… You’ll be surprised at the words you speak. This phrase is useful too: here’s how I can make my antagonist totally nasty… (Read this on how to balance good and evil characters in your novel.)
Talking aloud works.
Try it. If you wish, you can record yourself, but it’s not necessary. You may find, as many authors do, that talking aloud for a couple of minutes can spark useful ideas for a couple of hours of inspired writing.
Develop your own fiction exercises: experiment
We’re all different. One of my friends starts knitting whenever she’s stuck on a novel. I like to doodle every day, because doodling enhances creativity.
Have fun: fun is the key to inspiration and creativity. 🙂
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Copywriter and marketing pro Angela Booth maintains a busy copywriting and ghostwriting practice. Fascinated by online marketing, she wrote one of the first business books for internet marketing, published by Allen & Unwin. She’s been an enthusiastic blogger since the late 1990s.