Friday, August 26, 2011
Fifteen-Minute Writes (Some of Which Might Even Apply to Your Work-In-Progress)
Many of us don't have an hour a day to write. At least we don't have it all at one time. Some of us have lots of time on one day, but not much on others. Nevertheless, most of us have short periods of time we could spend writing or at least preparing to write. I sometimes call this “Writing in Waiting” because much of it can be done while you are waiting for something like waiting for a doctor's appointment, waiting for the kids to get out of soccer practice, waiting for your flight, waiting for a business appointment or just waiting for Godot. All you need are a pad and a pen and fifteen minutes. Of course, if you have a laptop or mini-laptop with you all the better.
Character development is arguably the most important aspect of fiction writing. Even plot takes second place because the plot is simply a series of actions taken by the characters. If those actions are inconsistent with the characters, then the plot seems contrived. That means you need to know your characters inside and out. One way to do this is to create character dossiers. In a notebook simply put the name of the character at the top and then write down basic information about the character. Start with physical appearance: hair, eyes, height, weight, physical defects, strengths. Move on to mannerisms both physical and verbal. Then jot down information about their goals in life, their fears, and those things which stand in the way of them achieving their goals. Jot down what they were doing a year ago or two years ago. Put down small details like favorite food, color, style of clothing, etc.
A story is a series of scenes. Most of us have a vague idea of what is going to happen in select scenes in our heads. We might not have all the details, but we know essentially who is involved the start and the outcome. One of the difficulties, though, in planning is that sometimes these scenes come out of order. So, here's an idea. Keep a bunch of 3X5 file cards with you. When you have a few minutes, take out a file card and jot down these notes about the scene:
How the scene starts
How the scene ends
For instance, here's what I might write for my work in progress.
Setting: Cavor's Restaurant
Characters: Carolyn and Michael
Beginning: Discussion how the killer is evolving
End: Call saying that the Judge in Aldrin Village has been murdered
The Worst Thing
When everything goes right for your main character, your story becomes boring. So, during a fifteen minute break, review where you have arrived in your story and ask, “What is the worst thing that can happen to my characters right now?” Write a short paragraph or two describing it. You can flesh it out later when you have more time.
In writing nonfiction, you usually have the article or chapter divided into a series of main points. Jot these main points down on cards. One point per card. Take the cards with you, when you have five minutes list the ideas you want to express under one of those points.
A variation on this exercise is to take 15 minutes and just write that section of the article or as much of it as you can in that time frame. You would be surprised how much writing you can get done in just a few minutes.
This is a perfect 15 minute exercise. Simply sit down with your computer or a pad and pencil and write down whatever comes to mind about your work in progress. Don't worry if it is orderly or not. Just write in stream-of-consciousness fashion about it. Later in the day, take another 15 minutes to repeat the process. Then do it again at another time during the day. By this third time, something will start to take shape you might be able to incorporate into your work.
Everything in your story has to take place somewhere. This is a simple fifteen minute exercise. Close your eyes and see the setting. Then open them and write a 100 word description. If you want to make it more fun describe it like you were writing a travel brochure or a real estate ad.
You don't have to spend a lot of time writing to get work done. These are just a few fifteen minute exercises that can actually help you write your work in progress.
Do you have any other short exercises you can think of or have heard about? Share them with us on the discussion board.
Learn More about time management techniques in a time management for writer's workshop to be offered by EducationWantsToBeFree.com in September. Watch this blog for details.