Friday, June 5, 2009

An Exercise against Writer's Block

If you ever feel like you just can't write, don't know what to write, or don't feel like you write well enough to actually put any words on paper right about now, here is a simple exercise that may help. I think I got it from one of the books about writing by Lawrence Block.

Just take any novel off your shelves, open it somewhere, and begin typing the copy into your computer until you have the urge to alter, change and improve the text at hand.

I have done this at some length and it does seem to help, especially the part where I am moved to add my own take on the work I'm copying. I've changed characters from the ones in the text to ones from my own writing, and changed the setting.

A variation is to copy out first paragraphs from several different novels, and perhaps copying them and then creating altered versions of them. This is a great exercise if you have a hard time coming up with story-beginnings. Or do the same thing with dialog segments, descriptions, narrative-in-general, first person or third person, and so on.

One point--- most of the time you will want to be giving yourself examples that are good, but useable. So avoid Shakespeare or Chaucer for your model, avoid equally first novels and novels of less-than-average quality. You don't want to teach yourself writing mistakes, if you are like me you can do THAT quite well on your own.


Katarzyna said...

Great idea. I've also used this in the past and it has helped me get over writer's block pretty quick. It's also interesting to see how the book looks on the computer screen once it's typed up.
I find this helps to see the structure and how much monologue versus dialogue is used, which gives me a guide for my own writing.

nissa_amas_katoj said...

I once did well over one hundred pages (over several days) from one book and it's certainly better than sitting there like a lump not writing anything.

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