It’s no secret that running every morning, taking time at the ball field to swing or pitch, playing scales on a piano, riffing through chords on a guitar, or well, any skill that requires physical coordination, improves with practice. But practice writing? Not just writing and revising a project, but actually just writing for the sake of practice?
I had the first ten pages of my current project critiqued by Eric Witchey (http://www.ericwitchey.com/). I have to give a plug for his critique service. I’ve not had a review of my work done more professionally and thoroughly, ever. Worth every penny and then some. I gleaned several tips and recommendations but one that surprised me was to practice writing techniques.
I’m not very good at casual writing. My current project started with the intention of writing a short story to enter in a contest so I could build credits. I don’t how it turned into a novel except that I couldn’t stop writing my character’s lives. There was more to tell than a few thousand words.
So how does a novel writing addict reign it in and just ‘practice’ creating characters and scenes? Before I answer that question, I need to mention that studying characters by putting them into the same situation and writing the scene of how each would respond is a tool I have truly enjoyed. There’s no separation anxiety with that exercise. The characters are on my stage and I’ve got a plan for them.
Back to the question, how to practice without engaging the passion of a project. I found a way by accident. I’ve been known to wander through flea markets with tables piled high with junk, true junk. Chipped coffee cups, mustard yellow electric can openers, rusted adjustable wrenches frozen a quarter inch open, five crock pots in a row and then, if I’m lucky, I’ll find the mother lode, a dirty, ragged cardboard box of books.
Last time this happened, I plucked out three, would have been ten but my husband was hovering nearby and although he would say nothing if I bought ten, he would have shook his head all the way home and mutter ‘you don’t have time to read all those…”.
One of the books I bought was “The Gazebo” by Patricia Wentworth, a British author. I started reading it in the car on the way home from the flea market. The set-up of the story was stellar. Then it hit me. I’ve only read the first thirty or so pages. I’ve met the main characters, but I don’t know exactly what they’re going to do. Why not practice with these? Write them into the scenes I think will happen. I don’t have any other connection to this story except my entertainment.
So, that’s the tip I received and the way to make it work. Pick up a book. Read the first thirty pages or so then play with someone else’s kids. Write on! The world awaits your voice.