There was a really interesting conversation on Tumblr recently about how to practice writing as a craft
(read the reblog comments too, they're all interesting), especially compared to other creative arts like music and visual art, and it was full of interesting thinky bits and any of you who are trying to be better writers should read it.
Anyway, I didn't speak up there because a) still refuse to discuss anything with any depth via tumblr sorry, and b) what I had to say is sort of orthogonal to the fascinating points they were making. But I have had "post about the stuff you do as writing exercise/practice/warmup" on my list for awhile, and I am fresh off a triumphant tenth massive failure at NaNo, so here is a list of five things I do as a writer that I do sort of think of as the equivalent of an artist doing drawing exercises or a musician doing scales or a boxer jumping rope, and that I think address, at least a little bit, the question from the tumblr thread of how you divide "write a thing" up into individual, simpler skills that can be practiced without having do everything at once.
Though first I should say that every brain works differently and every writer has a different way of working with words, so probably most of these will make no sense to most of you. Also, the first and always advice for being a better writer is the same advice for anybody trying to be better at any skill of any kind - do it a lot, do it with discipline, keep doing it. And read what other people are doing, too, read constantly.
The below are just things I have worked out as semi-effective substitutes for being disciplined and diligent, that I can do when I make time or in-betweens, because let's face it, disciplined and diligent is just not happening anytime soon for some of us, and they're things that work for me, more-or-less, or at least they feel like they work. But also, I think there's a tendency with beginning writers to steer them away from these kinds of exercises, because it is
easy to fall into doing "writing exercises" instead of actually writing things
. All the same, though, I think some of them can be very useful, as long as you keep in mind that they aren't a substitute
for actually writing, so it seemed like they were worth sharing.
Also someone recently asked me how I managed to sit down two nights before an exchange fic was due with a blank page and end up with 7000 words of passable fiction by the deadline. My best answer was something like "Well, didn't write anything down
until then, but I'd been working on writing it for months..." This is sort of the expanded version of that answer.( Write without writing anything down )( Sketch from life )( Do Stupid Language Tricks )( Pastiche Things )( Do stuff. Try things. )