I collect writing exercises like some people collect dust-bunnies or matted, surly stray cats. There are all sorts of them out there, most of which provide a provocative word, line or idea and turn you loose to write.
I like writing exercises that have a little more substance to them. That dig in a little deeper to get your feet muddy. And that is exactly what I found in Terri Lynn Main’s book Creative Calisthenics: The Ultimate Workout for the Writer’s Imagination. Writing exercises that pull you in and force you to think with your pen. This book also spans wide riverbank of topic categories such as Tell Me a Story, Getting Ideas, Characters and Settings, Organization and Plotting, Writing Rx (Revision) and some exercises surrounding poetry and word games.
Although this book is not long (84 pages according to the paperback edition) it is not some thrown together, instant Kindle-get-rich-telling-others-how-to-write-using-simple-writing-exercises book. It has depth and substance. It doesn’t just provide the prompt, but gives you suggestions on where and how to start.
One of my favorite exercises in the whole book comes from the Getting Ideas section: Formula Titles. Here Ms. Main lists several common magazine formula headlines which she conveniently blanks out the important words for you to fill in, Mad Lib style. Titles such as _______ Made Easy or How to Improve Your _________ or _______ Ways to _______ Better.
Now admittedly I had to resist my childish urges to insert my favorite Mad Lib standards such as Poop, Farting and Vomit which always guaranteed pop spit takes at the picnic table while they were being read during camping trips, but you can see the appeal here. These are good ideas on how to frame your subject into publisher-friendly titles. Very clever.
Or this one for getting a fictional character in gear:
Take one of your main characters and write a scene in which a bad choice they made came back to haunt them. It doesn’t mean you need to use it in the story, but it may help you get to know your character a bit better.
Here’s another one:
Every product you see advertised is designed to solve a problem. Do this during an entire evening of TV watching. Look at your list of problems and magazines. Choose the problems addressed by the magazines you have targeted for publication. Write down two article ideas for each of these problems.
As you can see, the exercises are not only good excuses to get you writing, but also teach you something important about the craft. Inspirational & Educational all-in-one. So if you are looking for a book of solid, thought-provoking writing prompts, for yourself, a writers group or writing class, this book is a bargain at the $.99 Kindle edition price. I’m not so sure about $11.26 for an 84 page paperback edition, but to each his own.
Buy it from Amazon Here: Creative Calisthenics by Terri Lynn Main
Rating: This is a ***** star book at the $.99 price and a **** star for the paperback edition. But let’s round it up to a 5 star review because me being a cheapskate should not penalize the author in any way. Available in .$99 Kindle eBook and $11.26 for an 84 page Paperback
About Ratings: ***** — Well Worth it at Full Retail Price; **** — Buy on Sale/Discounted; *** — Buy Used; ** — Borrow It from the Library; * — Waste of a Good Tree