Weekend Workout: Handy Dandy Fallback Exercise

Weekend Workouts are exercises that I use on a regular basis when writing and in the classroom when teaching.

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Because of my screenwriting background, I always think of writing in terms of scenes and sequences. I think it’s a very useful way to write because it breaks things down into manageable chunks.

A “scene” is something that takes place at a certain place at a certain time. If you change locations or go forward or backward in time, it’s a new scene. If a character has an argument with her spouse in the kitchen, and then in the next paragraph she’s fuming in the car while she drives to work, it’s a new scene.

A sequence can contain several scenes and involves a larger change in status quo. i.e. at the beginning of the sequence, the spy enters the compound, at the end of the sequence, she has been captured and put into a cell. The end of a sequence might be the end of a chapter, or at least a pause and breath of some sort. (To learn about the “sequence” approach to writing, CLICK HERE).

If you’re ever up against an important “scene,” one you’ve been avoiding (That argument in the kitchen!), or just the next scene you want to work on, this handy exercise is a great way to start. It works for me every time, and being a competent procrastinator, it’s a super way to get me back into the story.

Set your timer for 5-7 minutes and begin with this line:

The scene that needs to be written is . . . (or is about)

(You can vary this, such as: The scene that comes next . . . The scene I want to write next is about . . . )

Write without stopping, editing, or judging – whatever comes to the page (even if you stray into other parts of the story – what needs to come out will come out).

When you are done, fun stuff, go to the CENTER of this piece of writing and pull that sentence out (it’s your exercise, if you aren’t excited about that line, chose the one above or below it). Set your timer for another 5-7 minutes and use THAT line as your next start line. Do this a third time if you can. Each time you do this, you’ll go a little deeper and discover a bit more.

After you’ve done this three times you’ll be itching to write that scene and it will come to you much easier. Plus, you’ll probably write the next scene, too.

3 Comments

  1. meeshelleneal
    Oct 22, 2011

    That sounds like an awesome exercise/way to get past whatever is holding me back. Thank you!

  2. If you can get your pen to the page, that’s half the battle. The writing uncovers the rest. 🙂

  3. I literally just used this again two days ago – it works, folks!

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