Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Gym Shoes, Leotards, and Ball Point Pens

News Alert: Check out on American Christian Fiction Writers website this week! I am the featured author in an interview. Wow! "Who woulda thunk it?"  Here is the link: ACFW 

Now on to the blog post of this week…dust off your stationary bike to read this one!

Remember walking into English class every Monday in high school? Mrs. Morrison had written a prompt on the dusty black chalkboard. She called it a writing exercise.

I have said this before: Good writers become better writers when they write, just as good runners become better runners when they run. Talking about writing isn’t enough. Do it. Get started every Monday with an exercise that would make Mrs. Morrison 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.

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 the medicines and I had to research my 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.

As I am crafting my third novel, I am intentional about creating a Home Health Aide to help Karen’s mom in the story. The simple challenge to take on that first assignment and strengthen my writing has continued to be of benefit to me.

You would never write a children’s book? Then stretch yourself by writing a children’s devotion based on your Bible reading for that day. Learning how to communicate to a different audience will strengthen your writing skills. Being able to share God’s word to a variety of audiences will strengthen your witness.

I’m sure you will be able to come up with exercises of your own. If not, look for prompts elsewhere. 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 belong to a writing group where every member attempts to write at least 500 words a day. Most of us do just that. Having that word count goal has helped members get in the habit of writing on a regular basis. 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.

Another way to bump up the aerobics for your pen is to bump up your word count goal. If writing 500 words in a day starts to feel easy, set a new goal to write 750-1000 words a day.

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. No, I am not suggesting you do crossword puzzles or play word games even though I know these work in building your vocabulary. 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. (

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. It doesn’t work. 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.

 P.S. Breathing on Her Own is now available through Barnes & Noble! Things are moving fast here!


Leave your comments here. I look forward to hearing from you.