At the moment, while I’m finishing up Sir Gawain, I’m also reading this, and I am really loving it.
I’ve been looking for a book like this, to emulate an MFA workshop/class when I need it. After all, I’m not in a community of writers anymore. Well, kind of. I mean, my students write, but not for fun– only because I tell them to. And I was part of a writing group over the summer, but it’s not summer right now. So if I want the feeling of being in a writing community, I have to construct it for myself.
Lots of writing exercise books are really fluffy. Perhaps they’re meant for the utmost beginner– someone who has trouble coming up with a journal entry. That’s definitely not me. I’ve got two blogs, two in-progress novels, I’m mulling over a short story, I keep a journal– I don’t have a problem coming up with Stuff To Write About.
What trips me up is the rereading I do before I delve into a piece of writing after leaving it for a day or so. I usually catch a few minor errors, like, “Oh! I said that already,” or, “Oh! I need to give a little backstory right there.” But sometimes I become dissatisfied with my plot and the way it’s going, or the way an area feels too thin, and I’m not always sure what I need to do to make it better. Sometimes, I need a teacher. Sometimes I need the Steve or Liza in my brain to wake up and tell me to stop being lazy, or start the story somewhere else. This is where an exercise book comes in handy.
After looking around for several months, I found Bret Anthony Johnston’s book. It’s a collection of writing exercises from him and from other writers and MFA instructors, and it’s divided sensibly, paralleling the writing process. It only arrived in the mail the day before yesterday, and I’ve forgone my grading and done a few exercises already. It’s given me usable material, as well as kicking my butt-ola into gear!
Go. Get. It.