An interesting thing happened last week. An unexpected and unexpectedly delightful thing.
As you may recall, Saving Grace is temporarily off limits while I take a breather from it. That means my daily writing time is open to whatever writing or writing exercises I want to assign myself.
The writing exercise for the week involved writing story summaries by assignment. Beginning with the first idea on the list (which is pages long), my assignment was to develop an act-by-act break down for each idea until I either had a complete summary or determined the idea was not viable. I didn’t pick and chose ideas, but forced myself to work with each one in rotation. I also disciplined myself to at least one hour of such work each day for the week.
Why should I ‘torture’ myself this way? Because….
- Published authors are expected to write regularly and sometimes they have to pull ideas from thin air.
- Looking for solutions to tough problems stretches and exercises the imagination
- Working on things I don’t necessarily like for a predetermined amount of time strengthens discipline
- I never know when a failing idea might suddenly become a winning idea.
I didn’t include the last idea on a whim. Quite the contrary.
On the first day, the first idea I summarized was only so-so. It dated back to 2004, so it’s been lurking for a long, long time. It was high time to see if it could stand on its own two feet or not. I managed to come up with the major turning points, but not much else before realizing it was pretty weak. Not dead, but hardly vibrant, either.
The next idea in line was a little more recent – 2008 – and was also an alternative to Fine Lines, which was officially retired some time ago and yet with apocalyptic feel, as well.
I decided to try my hand with the latter, so imagine my surprise when what I ended up with was a complete and very good summary for a rewrite of Fine Lines. It went in a different direction than the original story, but – dare I say it? – it was a better idea.
It’s impossible to say where this newer, more improved summary will end up because toward the end of the week, I wrote another summary on the same idea and this one was apocalyptic in nature. Two good summaries based on the same beginning idea.
I didn’t take time to play with either idea. Instead, I pushed through the rest of the week with the summary assignment. By Saturday, it was getting pretty old, but it also proved immensely productive. I worked with at least 24 of 47 ideas. A few didn’t make it in the first round, but I didn’t delete any, either. Eighteen were completed, another five were nearly complete and a handful had complete first acts. At least half a dozen of the completed summaries are very strong possibilities for future stories.
In conclusion, I have to say that doing this exercise every day for six days was a lot like eating oatmeal for breakfast every morning. Not very appetizing on some days, but definitely good for me. Should the need arise, I should be able to write a novel from any one of the half dozen best summaries without much difficulty and many of the others could be improved with not much more work.
And there’s nothing like a back list of possible stories just waiting to be written to stave off writer’s block!
Until next week,