Aerobics for Your Pen (or How To Train Like A Great Writer) by Rebecca Waters

Guest Blogger Rebecca Waters gives us practical tips on how be better writers. 

I want to be a better writer, I don't know how

Remember the writing exercises you had to do in your English class? You may have moaned and groaned in high school, but as you grow older you come to realize exercise is important in every area of your life. 

I have said this before:

Good writers become better writers when they write, just as good tennis players get better by playing tennis. Talking about writing isn’t enough.

Do it. Get started every week with an exercise that would make your high school teacher proud.

I keep a list of exercises by me. Sometimes if I am struggling with a writing project, I will turn to one of those exercises to get the creative juices flowing.

How can I become a better writer?

Stretch and Flexibility

Like any good exercise program, start with a few stretches. Get out of your comfort zone to add flexibility to your writing muscles. For example, I agreed to write an article for a home health journal. Trust me, this was totally out of my comfort zone. 

The article was to inform home health aides about medicines their clients may be taking while in Hospice care. I had to research both the medicines and the audience. I used the freelance writing assignment as an exercise in researching and writing. 

The article was accepted for publication, but more importantly, learning about the role of the home health aide answered a problem I had while writing Breathing on Her Own. Writing in a home health aide character to engage in conversation with my main character when she came home from the hospital provided a wonderful solution to my dilemma. I’ve now written several articles for Home Health Aide Digest.

You would never write a children’s book? Then stretch yourself by drafting a children’s picture book. Learning how to communicate to a different audience will strengthen your writing skills. Why did I choose “children?” To write for children you must convey your ideas in precise and understandable words. Not a bad idea for writers.

I’m sure you will be able to come up with exercises of your own. If not, look for prompts elsewhere. (Editor’s note: Every Friday this website offers a writing prompt!) I took the list of proposed topics for Chicken Soup for the Soul and decided on a few for which I had personal experiences to share. I used the prompts as exercises to practice my writing. Two of those stories were subsequently accepted and published.

Aerobics for Your Pen

I hear authors talk a lot about word count. Some argue that setting a word count goal for each day or week doesn’t improve your writing. I disagree. I try to write at least 500 words a day. Having an attainable word count goal helps me write daily. I usually exceed that goal, but if I don’t, I feel good about writing at least 500 words. Again, the more you write, the better you will get at crafting your story. 

Want to engage in a bit of aerobics for your pen? Try completing a free writing exercise. This is when you write for five or ten minutes without stopping to read, revise, or edit what you are putting down on paper. You will be surprised at the bold, courageous words you craft in a free write. Somehow, being released to write without fear of editing also releases you to pour out your innermost thoughts.

Strength Training

Do writing exercises really require strength training? You bet. The strength for a writer is in the power of the words you use. There are many ways to achieve maximum strength for your words. Here are a couple of suggestions.

1. Build your vocabulary. Some authors use crossword puzzles or play word games to build vocabulary. Some advocate reading more. Those are great ideas, but I’m thinking in terms of using a thesaurus. How many different words could you use to convey your message? And try this one for real word power: Use fewer words to convey your message.

2. Hone your self-editing skills. You may want to subscribe to a blog about writing and editing. For example, I have found the short posts on A Little Red Inc. provide great reminders of common editing issues I should watch. (http://alittleredinc.blogspot.com)

Cool Down

Read something inspiring. (Dare I suggest a sweet little novel called Breathing on Her Own?)

Post inspiring pictures on your computer or by your desk.

Get up and take a short walk.

Note: Do not use your social media as a cool down. Your cool down needs to inspire you and allow you to think. Social media will distract you. There is a time for Facebook or Twitter or whatever you use when you are not writing.

 Above all, if you want to be a writer, exercise your craft consistently. If you want to lose weight…well that’s a different blog.

About the author: Rebecca Waters left her position as a professor of teacher education in December 2012 to actively pursue her writing career. She shares her writing journey in her weekly blog, A Novel Creation. Rebecca’s debut novel, Breathing on Her Own, was released on March 24, 2014 by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. It is available on Amazon.com in both print and Kindle versions and is also available through Barnes & Noble.

A Novel Creation:

http://rebeccaawaters.blogspot.com/ 

Get up and take a short walk.

Note: Do not use your social media as a cool down. Your cool down needs to inspire you and allow you to think. Social media will distract you. There is a time for Facebook or Twitter or whatever you use when you are not writing.

Above all, if you want to be a writer, exercise your craft consistently. If you want to lose weight…well that’s a different blog.

About the author:

Rebecca Waters left her position as a professor of teacher education in December 2012 to actively pursue her writing career. She shares her writing journey in her weekly blog, A Novel Creation. Rebecca’s debut novel, Breathing on Her Own, was released on March 24, 2014 by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. It is available on Amazon.com in both print and Kindle versions and is also available through Barnes & Noble.

Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1941103154/ print

Barnes and Noble Link:

 http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/breathing-on-her-own-rebecca-waters/1118968997

A Novel Creation:

http://rebeccaawaters.blogspot.com/ 

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