writing exercise

There are many ways to improve your writing. The first, and most obvious, is just to write more. With more practice you should get better. Part of that process is to get feedback from others. What we think we are writing is not always what is coming across to others.

It can be very difficult to put your work out there and get feedback. One problem, though, is that many people don’t want to hurt your feelings and just tell you “Oh, that’s great, loved it.” That doesn’t really help you because if all the feedback you get is so positive, once you submit to the world or even just to an agent or publisher, you’ll get devastated when told how bad things may be.

But that feedback is so very important because it is a great way to see where your writing lacks and how to improve it.

There are also various exercises you can do. For example – get a topic or situation and just write about it. I have several weekly contests I belong to that do just that. Each week they have a topic or story starter and you have to take that and make a full fledged story. It’s fun and helps because you may write something you may not have any other time. You stretch, which is a great way to get better at writing. It’s also nice to get feedback on these writings because you may not be so emotionally attached to it, so any feedback can be viewed with a more critical eye. That will carry over to your other writing.

Another exercise I like to do is re-writing. I take a section of a book and then re-write it in several ways. I’ve done this with Harry Potter and below I’m doing it with The Shining.

I did 2 sections from Stephen King’s book. They are in bold. I then rewrote it as you might as a new writer. I wrote it again as someone that is over compensating or that hasn’t learned to trim down their writing. Then I wrote it and made other word choices.

Am I saying I can write better than you or Stephen King? No, not at all. This is just an exercise meant to stretch my abilities. I could have chosen to rewrite it as my dog might write.  I could have chosen to write it like Charles Dicken’s might have written it. Whatever. You can also choose any book or passage. It’s probably a good idea to choose something not in your favorite genre at times.

I’m interested in what others think of my choices and if you’ve done this exercise yourself and what the results were.  Here is what I have for this one:

Jack came out onto the porch, tugging the tab of his zipper up under his chin, blinking into the bright air. In his left hand he was holding a battery-powered hedge-clipper. He tugged a fresh handkerchief out of his back pocket with his right hand, wiped his lips with it, and tucked it away. Snow, they had said on the radio. It was hard to believe, even though he could see the clouds building up on the far horizon.

 

Newbie and dry:

Jack walked onto the porch. He zipped up his jacket and blinked in the light. He pulled a handkerchief out and wiped his lips. He then put it back in his pocket. In his other hand he carried a hadge-clipper. He looked at the clouds. The radio had said there would be snow.

 

More full blow:

Jack took a step onto the porch. He grabbed the tab for his jacket zipper, pulled it and zipped it all the way up to his chin as he blinked into the bright light and the air. In his left hand he carried a hedge-clipper. The hedge-clipper was battery powered. Reaching into his back pocket with his right hand, he took out a handkerchief. He used the clean, new handkerchief to wipe his lips and then he moved his arm and put the handkerchief back in his back pocket. He had heard on the radio that the weather was calling for snow. He found it hard to believe that it might snow, but he could see snow clouds on the horizon. They were still far away.

 

Changed words:

Jack stepped onto the porch, pulling the little zipper tab up under his chin as he blinked into the brightness of the air. He carried a hedge-clipper, battery powered. Using his free hand, he pulled a crisp handkerchief from his back pocket and proceeded to wipe his lips before tucking it away. As he looked at the sky, he thought it hard to believe that the radio had predicted snow, but sure enough, he could see the build-up of clouds on the horizon.

 

 

He started down the path to the topiary, switching the hedge-clipper over to the other hand. It wouldn’t be a long job, he thought; a little touch-up would do it. The cold nights had surely stunted their growth. The rabbit’s ears looked a little fuzzy, and two of the dog’s legs had grown fuzzy green bonespurs, but the lions and the buffalo looked fine. Just a little haircut would do the trick, and then let the snow come.

 

 

Newbie and dry:

He walked down the path to the topiary. He moved the hedge-clipper to his other hand. It wouldn’t take long to touch up the shrubs he thought. They were probably not growing because of the cold nights. He thought the rabbit’s ears and dog’s legs may need trimmed. He didn’t think the lion nor buffalo needed trimmed. Once he finished, the snow could come.

 

More full blown:

Jack started walking down the path to the topiary. As he walked along ,he moved the hedge-clipper from one hand to the other. He was thinking that it wouldn’t be a tough job at all. He thought that the shrubs just needed a bit of a touch up. The nights had been cold and that would have stunted the growth of the shrubs. He thought the rabbit’s ears might have looked a little bit fuzzy. He also thought at least two of the dog’s legs had grown some making it look like they had bonespurs. Looking at the lion and the buffalo, he didn’t think the needed trimmed at all. After he finished trimming just a little it, the snow could come and he wouldn’t care.

 

Changed words:

He switched the hedge-clipper’s to his other hand as he walked the path to the topiary. All they needed was a touch-up, he thought. The cold nights had surely stunted their growth, making this a quick job. The rabbit’s ears looked a little fuzzy, and a couple of the dog’s legs had grown leafy bonespurs, but the lion and buffalo looked fine. After a bit of a haircut, the snow could fly all it wanted.

 

Ramblings like Stephen King

One of the writers I have read a lot of is Stephen King. Starting about age 10, I have read almost everything he has written. The Shining is one of my favorite books of all time.

One reason for Mr. King’s popularity may be his comfortable, aw-shucks tone at times. He especially brings this out in the bits he writes before the stories. I remember this in Night Shift, the bit of insight into the actual author. Who they are, how they think, and why the hell are you writing this weird stuff?!

I decided to do this also. I want to get to know my readers – or constant reader as Mr. King affectionately refers to them. Even with my short stories, I’ve started doing this. While they might not be up to Mr. King’s standards, I hope they provide some insight and let us be a bit closer.

Below is what I wrote for my first Martin & James story:

Hello and welcome one and all,

I am truly humbled and grateful that you are reading this story, the third one in the Martin & James series. I am glad the stories have brought some enjoyment and pleasure.
When I originally got it through my head that I really did want to write, I had an idea. Then, I sat on it and let the idea ‘evolve’ in my mind. Looking back now, I think it was more a matter of being afraid – afraid I couldn’t actually write and afraid that no one would want to read it. The fact that you are reading the third Martin & James story tells me that someone enjoys this. That’s totally mind blowing to me. Boom. Again, I am completely humbled and grateful.
I hope, that as you read through this story, that you enjoy it and find a bit of an escape from whatever your stresses are for the day. I hope that you want to read more, to learn more about the masked man they chased or learn more about the agency and other agents. Maybe you are questioning why they have a kid with a field agent – which is totally weird.
Well, the story you are about to read, does not answer all of those questions. That is the other thing that originally popped into my head when I wanted to write. I had never written a full length novel and didn’t have the confidence that I could do that. I did want to write, but if I got discouraged while writing my first novel, I would stop and never know if I really could do it. I’m probably not the only one that has ever felt that way.
To solve that dilemma, I decided to write short stories. This thought came from my love of the Conan stories by Robert E. Howard. Not that he consciously thought about writing short stories that just captured a slice, or an adventure, in Conan’s life. He was writing for what he had at the time – magazine’s that would publish short stories. The way Howard did it was to just write various stories about Conan in different stages of his life. There wasn’t really a thought to make a full life history or to even connect them, it was just stories. I loved that.
So that’s where I was, wanting to write stories but not sure I could. I decided to write a series of adventures about my main character and idea for the world. I did a couple, talked with some people, wrote some more, etc. Finally, I found someone that helped me out and encouraged me to stop with the individual stories and write a book. By that time, I felt that maybe I could.
OK, that’s not the whole story, but I will regale you with more at some other time. Since I took my main idea and went the full novel route, I still wanted to get some action adventure stories that were a bunch of stories loosely connected. My stepson, who is a very active dreamer, started telling me about some of his dreams, and that’s the final piece I needed.
So here we are. Action stories about a duo fighting the forces that want to destroy the world. They have some connection, and more of that will come out in time, but they are just fun reads. That’s my hope and desire.
With that said, I won’t hold you up any longer from finding out about this crazed weatherman and how Martin and James, maybe, defeat him.
Enjoy!