Sweating Ink: Results

survey-resultsAs you may remember from my previous blog, Sweating Ink: The Writer’s Workout, I set out on a 30-day challenge to see if I could spend some time each day completing a random writing exercise. My goal was to complete one exercise per day, but I was only allowed 30 minutes at max on each exercise.

Results:

photoMission accomplished for 24 out of 30 days!!!

Lessons Learned

For myself, I tend to keep my writing/work schedule in a normal Monday-Friday, 8-5 setting, more or less. So, unless I’m working on a tight deadline for a client, or if I’m working (obsessing) on a particular project, I don’t usually write on the weekends.

As a result, though, most of the days I missed during my challenge were either Saturdays or Sundays. That doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t write well on the weekends, because I have written many wonderful projects on weekends. Instead, I think this proves that I have conditioned myself to write diligently Monday through Friday.

Another lesson I learned through these writing exercises was that they do indeed work wonders for getting the creative juices flowing, but sometimes that can be as much of a burden as it is a blessing. Let me explain.

There were several times during the month when I started a random writing exercise and didn’t stop after my time was up. The ideas that resulted from the exercises proved too interesting or too provocative that I didn’t want to just let them go. There were a few times, early on in my 30 day experiment, mind you, that I even wrote for almost an hour. Since doing so interfered with some of my other client-based projects, I had to enforce the following two guidelines:

  • Avoid the more open-ended exercises.
  • After 20-25 minutes, if I’m still writing, stop and make quick notes.

On the plus side, my desire to go beyond the 30-minute mark proves that writing exercises do and can work regardless of the writer’s skill level. Of course, I never questioned whether writing exercises work. I only set out to discover if I had enough discipline to complete these exercises consistently for 30 days.

The other interesting lesson I learned during this past month had to do with genres and writing styles. Regardless of which exercises I chose, and I tried as many as I could, about halfway through my challenge it dawned on me that I almost always catered the exercises towards certain fiction genres, especially fantasy and speculative.

After I noticed which genres I preferred, I started to wonder if I should use this writing challenge as a way to get out of my comfort zone. Therefore, I tried to push myself toward genres/styles I didn’t normally write in. My results were certainly hit or miss, but I think it made me grow as a writer to try something so different.

As a complete side note, I think it might be interesting for someone to create a writing exercise book that focuses strictly on challenging writers to play with different genres.

The book would have to include definitions and background information about each genre; maybe some brief excerpts or some recommended reading lists would also prove useful. Then, perhaps at the end of each chapter, there could be writing exercises that are either general or more focused towards the chapter’s genre.

516HRo-+hML._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_After a quick Google search, it appears that Laurie Lamson has a genre-based writing exercise book, Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror: Speculative Genre Exercises from Today’s Best Writers and Teachers, but this book only focuses on exercises for these particular genres. There are many other writing exercise books available that are also genre specific, but I’ve yet to find any book that really teaches people about each of the mainstream genres AND also offers writing exercises designed for these genre categories.

Promises from Earlier Blog

True to my word, I have decided to include a few examples of my writing exercises. For context, I’m also including the instructions for each exercise in italics.

Before you ask, yes – these are the exercises I am choosing to show off, so they are no doubt the stronger ones. If it were your blog, you would do the same thing 😉

Enjoy!!!

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Day 2 – April 11, 2014

Random First Line Prompts: “The accident wasn’t her fault.”

The accident wasn’t her fault, or at least that’s what he told her. Jenny was new to the Galaxy Freighter 747, and Todd suspected Jenny had never even stepped foot off planet before, let alone travel by space freighter. He had no idea how she managed to fake credentials good enough to get this job, but he was thankful for the company, so he let her mistake and lack of experience slide for the moment.

“It’s your first time working on the old gal, and no two freighters are the same,” Todd assured her. He was lying, but Jenny didn’t know enough to call him on it.

“Won’t they notice the missing cargo?” She said with a voice full of worry. “I mean, you closed the airlock pretty quickly, but at least half a dozen crates flew out. Shouldn’t we go back for them or something?”

Todd had to use all his energy not to laugh in the poor girl’s face. The freighter was traveling in the slipstream, which meant it was moving faster than light. Even if they could make the freighter come to a full stop and turn her around, there’s no telling where the missing crates would be, assuming the crates weren’t vaporized the moment they left cargo hold 7.

“These things happen a lot in the inter-dimensional shipping industry. Hell! The robots do more damage to the cargo than anyone else! Why do you think the company decided to hire another breather?”

Jenny blushed a little and smiled at Todd.

“All right then,” Todd replied, as he tried to get them back on schedule. He knew he would have plenty of time to flirt, since Jenny had signed on for 10 inter-dimensional trips with options to extend her contract. After all, he was the only other breather on board.

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Day 9 – April 18, 2014

Random Words Exercise

This writing prompt aims to get you thinking outside the box. When you click the button, eight words are generated: a mixture of nouns, verbs and adjectives. The following is just a suggestion for how to use these prompts:

– give yourself a time limit
– take the first word and use it in a sentence
– use that sentence to begin a story – incorporate each of the other words as you go along.

What you end up with may not make complete sense, but that’s the idea 🙂

Words:
• angel
• reprimand
• cold
• car
• repel
• blushing
• broom
• tempt

clumsy angel Cornelius, the Angel of Death’s intern, went around the house and used the back door, since it was forbidden for angels to cross the threshold of the front door. He’d been reprimanded not once but twice before for crossing the threshold and recharging the almost dead bodies of the souls inside. The second time Cornelius crossed the threshold, the body had already gone cold, so when the soul got pumped back into the corpse, the now living person immediately went into hypothermic shock. From that moment on, Cornelius posted a list of rules in his car, and he made sure to read them aloud before every assignment. Since humans weren’t supposed to know the rules of death, let alone the rules of angels, he had to use special symbols that would repel prying eyes.

As Cornelius walked through the back door and into the house, he turned the corner and was face to face with a beautiful young girl, which made Cornelius start to blush as he tried to apologize for scaring her. Unfortunately for Cornelius, though, the young girl freaked out, grabbed the nearest weapon to her, which happened to be a broom, and she then began beating Cornelius as she screamed for him to leave the house. Cornelius was tempted to explain that he was an angel and that he had a purpose for being there, but he knew that would never go over very well. Instead, Cornelius snapped his fingers, and instantly the young girl froze. In her ear, Cornelius told her that he needed her to sit at the table, that she would forget ever seeing him, and that in about five minutes she should go into the room where her grandfather was sleeping. The girl did as instructed and sat at the table for five minutes. Cornelius, on the other hand, left the house about a minute before the girl left the table.

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Day 16 – April 25, 2014

Describe a routine or holiday ritual, using present tense verbs.

Centering

Light the candle. Take a deep breath. Close your eyes. Keep breathing.

Now, open your eyes and focus on the dancing flame. See nothing but the flicker of light in front of you. Let the rest of the world melt away.

Close your eyes again.

Imagine your body as a shell. Let the pieces break off and fall away with the rest of the world. Feel yourself getting lighter. Let all the anger break away. Allow the irritations to fall off. Let all of the sadness slip away from you. As your shell breaks off, let it fall away from the light of the candle and into the darkness. Let the darkness consume everything that falls off of you.

Bask in the flickering light of the candle as it illuminates your fresh skin. Let this new skin glow with hope, patience, and love. Let the candlelight bless and anoint your new skin so that you can be armed against what perils may come your way. Let the energy of the light fill your body.

Inside of your body, feel the radiant heat pulsing, filling your soul. Allow the energy to make your body glow, first with yellow light, and then brighter to blindingly white light. When the light burns brightest, let all of the energy burst out of your body and out into the universe. Allow your body to go limp, if needed, and take several deep breaths to regain your strength.

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Day 19 – April 28, 2014

Random First Line of Dialogue: “We can’t invite her. Mother hates her.”

“We can’t invite her. Mother hates her,” Jeanette explained to her sister.

“How can we not invite Shelley?” Annabelle asked. “She was dad’s writing partner for over 30 years.”

“You mean mistress for 30 years.”

“Jeanette!”

“Don’t even pretend like you didn’t know!”

Annabelle shrugged. “I’m not saying dad was perfect, but I really don’t think Shelley was dad’s type.”

“What do you mean she wasn’t dad’s type? Why would mom hate Shelley so much if she wasn’t the reason mom and dad got divorced?”

“Listen, Jeanette, it’s just–” Annabelle started, but then stopped, because she realized the door was still open. She closed the door, and in turn closed out all the relatives who were in various parts of the house helping to clean before the funeral.

“What don’t you want the others to hear?” Jeanette asked.

“There’s a lot that you, mom, and pretty much everyone else in the house doesn’t know about dad.”

Jeanette sat down and looked up at her older sister. “Like what?”

Annabelle sat down too, but even with the door closed she made sure to keep her voice low. “Dad met Shelley at a gay bar all those years ago. He was stepping out on mom at the time, but he wasn’t stepping out on mom with another woman.”

Jeanette’s jaw dropped.

“Dad told me that Shelley helped him in their community. She introduced him to people so that he could hook up, or whatever. They had a kind of mentor/mentee relationship going on, and then he and Shelley just became good friends. Eventually they worked out that they were both writers.”

“There’s no way dad was gay!” Jeanette blurted out.

“Keep your voice down!” Annabelle ordered.

“But he married mom and had four kids. If he was gay, why would he do that?”

“Please, Jeanette, having kids doesn’t make you any less gay. He got married and had kids because that’s what men of his era did. Plus, dad was in the closet and ashamed. He kept making babies to prove he was straight, but even after having four kids dad told me he wasn’t any more straight than he was before.”

“But after mom and dad got divorced, mom always called Shelley a home-wrecker.”

“Before the divorce, dad was spending a lot of time over at Shelley’s place because the two of them were busy writing. She was also calling him at all hours because Shelley was going through a really bad relationship with her female lover. Dad was her shoulder to cry on, but mom thought Shelley was trying to seduce dad away. When mom and dad got into their big fight, mom kicked dad out and Shelley took him in. Mom just assumed they were sleeping together.”

Jeanette just stared out into space for a moment. She was trying to form the right words, and her lips were moving, but nothing was coming out.

“Jeanette, are you okay?”

“Of course I’m not okay, you just dropped like the biggest bombshell ever about dad!”

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Day 27 – May 6, 2014

1.Write ten ‘factual’ statements about your character, then ten lies, then ten odd/bizarre statements.

Random character name generator: Alison Webb

Truths:
1. She is average height (5’6”).
2. She has some freckles on her nose and cheeks.
3. She wears gold rimmed glasses.
4. Her eyes go back and forth between blue and green.
5. She has straight hair somewhere between dirty blonde and strawberry blonde in color.
6. She has a petite frame and rounded shoulders.
7. She has a PhD in nuclear physics.
8. She works as an R&D scientist for the government.
9. She has two pet cats, Sadie and Voldemort.
10. She just got out of a four-year relationship because her partner was killed in a mugging.

Lies:
1. She loves talking to complete strangers.
2. She can make her hair look gorgeous in an intricate updo using only two chopsticks and three bobby pins.
3. She likes the thrill of setting things on fire.
4. She lets off steam every Friday night by going line dancing.
5. Her favorite movie in the whole wide world is Anchorman.
6. She goes to Vegas and Atlantic City to gamble away her research grant money.
7. She makes up for her gambling losses by pimping herself out on street corners.
8. Just for kicks, she secretly sprays people with animal pheromones to attract sex-crazed dogs.
9. She paid her way through grad school by stealing cars.
10. She sleeps with a loaded 9 mm under her pillow.

Odd/bizarre statements:
1. Her four-year relationship ended because her partner was a technological genius who lacked certain people skills, so when he was hired to do a job off book, he worked for the wrong people and ended up getting killed. Publicly, however, his death looked like a mugging gone wrong. One month after her partner passed away, Alison got emails from him with videos, in which he tells her the whole story.
2. She can undo buttons using her long, surprisingly dexterous toes.
3. In her adult life, she has traveled to most of Western Europe, Ukraine, Russia, Morocco, Venezuela, and Australia to either speak at conferences or attend conferences for her job, but she still gets lost in her own home town.
4. She has never sung karaoke in front of people, but she sings in the shower every morning.
5. Her best friend is a chemical engineer who hooks her up with a special blend of anti-anxiety medication.
6. The three movies that cheer her up the most include Hackers, Independence Day, and Ghostbusters.
7. She speaks a multitude of computer code language and has made several programs for herself or for work, but she still considers coding nothing more than a hobby.
8. As a freshman in college, she memorized 20 of Shakespeare’s sonnets and can still recite them perfectly.
9. When she was growing up, her older brother accidentally shot his own foot, and ever since then she has been uncomfortable around firearms.
healed210. After successfully defending her PhD dissertation, she went out and celebrated with her best friend and two other girls. They all got rip-roaring drunk. During the evening, although Alison’s memory is fuzzy, she knows for a fact that she and the other three girls were dancing on tables, possibly flashing people, and at some point ended up at a tattoo parlor. The night resulted in Alison getting a tattoo on the small of her back, but not just any tattoo. Her tramp stamp ended up being the main scientific formula from her dissertation, but in fancy lettering and with a color coded diagram.

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