by Christine Hennebury
Are you a SERIOUS writer? Are you maybe even a bit TOO serious?
Writing well requires discipline. We all know that, and we all try to practice that.
Well, more like, we are all hard on ourselves for not practicing that enough.
I feel like our desire to be dedicated writers who are doing things right gets in the way of our goals sometimes. I’d like to help you sidestep that instinct for a little while so you can remember what you like about writing.
After all, it’s a lot easier to keep coming back to a task you basically enjoy – even if you are not a fan of some parts of it.
NOTE: I’d like to add here that there is indeed a time for serious writing and serious discipline. After all, the difficult parts have to get done, too. I just think that a lot of people try to be too serious too early in the process. The timing of those attempts at discipline can often cause people to get stuck. Finding more fun can help with that.
And it is completely okay to have fun with your writing. It’s totally cool to be able to play with your ideas, to explore side stories, to let your imagination roam. These things are not a waste of time, they help you build your skills, expand your ideas, and really figure out the story you want to tell.
It’s the writerly equivalent of doing warm-ups and drills to prepare for a spelling bee or a sport.
Here are some ideas for fun ways to ‘warm-up’ before getting serious with your manuscript*
Visit your settings – or a reasonable facsimile
Whether your story is set in a bar, a shopping mall, or a forest, see what you can do to visit a similar location. Take in the sights and sounds and smells, make lists if you need to!
If you can’t go somewhere like that, watch movies, read other books, or watch travel videos or documentaries and see what you can glean from them.
You can even ask on Facebook or Twitter and see if someone else can visit a location on your behalf and report back.
Make a storyboard
Figure out a few key scenes and draw some pictures of them on individual sheets of paper or index cards. You don’t have to be a good artist to do this – you can just scrawl any old thing on the paper. Even an initial, or a shape, or any sort of representative item will do.
This is about switching up how you are engaging with your ideas – you don’t have to share the images with anyone.
Once you have the pictures, try shuffling them around to see if any new ideas occur to you.
Take your characters out somewhere new
You probably have most of world constructed in your head and your characters fit right in (or not). What about if you took them out into a different world, or at least a different situation?
How would your future queen react if she had to work in a diner? Would your vampire be a good bartender? What if the little girl who goes on an adventure ended up trying to star in a play?
This is all for fun, so it doesn’t matter whether you find a perfect fit situation or one that your characters hate. Exploring how they might react in different circumstances will tell you a lot about how you perceive them and what you think about their abilities.
Bonus: You might get a short story you can sell in a different market or that you can give away to your newsletter list.
Dive into ridiculous descriptions
At a certain point in your writing practice, you learn how much description is ‘enough’ for a given scene.
What about if you completely forgot that skill and just let the descriptions fly?
Every word you write makes the next word easier. Descriptions can often be one of the easiest ways to increase your writing practice.
Dig into every detail, go over the top. Describe their shoes, their socks, the way their feet feel, the way they remember their feet feeling from before. Talk about their memories of their childhood pet.
Run with every single description you can think of. You may not use any of it, but, again, it keeps you in your characters’ world and if gives you lots of fun practice.
If you don’t enjoy describing things, then let fly with the dialogue, or the grocery lists, or the family histories. Just pick whatever part of writing you find easiest.
Brainstorm with Friends
If you have writer friends, you probably already ask them for ideas as you go along. Have you ever considered asking your OTHER friends?
If you ask people with varied backgrounds and occupations, they will bring different experiences to the table. That will lead to ideas you have never even thought of.
Get together with a friend or two and tell them a little about a scenario from your book. Ask them what they think the characters would do. Go back and forth with the ideas and I’ll bet you will find new ways of looking your story.
This doesn’t have to be limited to in-person friends either. You can ask people you know on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter and see what weird and wonderful ideas arrive.
Note: It can also be helpful to ask kids about ideas for your stories. Kids are less limited about how things SHOULD be and they are often willing to think in wild ways to solve a problem. It can make for some fun writing.
Keep looking for fun
There will always come a time when you have to get serious about what you’re writing but there is also a lot of room for fun in the writing process.
Whenever possible, be kind to yourself and see what fun can be had with your words. I think that having more fun makes writing easier – and that is always good.
*These ideas also work if you get stuck WHILE writing your manuscript.
Christine Hennebury’s storytelling career began when she was four and her parents didn’t believe her tale about water shooting out of her nose onto the couch – they insisted that she had spilled bubble solution from the empty jar in her hand. Luckily, her skills have improved since then. Christine makes up stories, shares stories, and coaches other people who are working on stories, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Find out more about her at christinehennebury.com or visit her on Facebook .