Exercise for Writers

by jonnahzkennedy

You gotta work off all that fat so you can write that beach novel! And don’t skip on leg day, either!

Often times, writers will fall into the rut of an idea that they can only write one thing and one thing only: if you write prose, then you can only write prose; if you write poetry, then you only write poetry; if you write screenplays, then you only write screenplays. But the thing of it all is that you cannot hope to become a better write if you focus your time around a single kind of writing; the good writer knows hows to write for all audiences, of all kinds, across the spectrum. This means that a novelist should know how to write a screenplay, a screenplay writer a novel, and a poet how to write a novel and so forth. Restricting yourself can only hurt your writing. There is a great deal of things that a novelist could learn from writing screenplays, for instance, brevity. Often times, we get carried away with our description or dialogue, and we just want to go on and on, and on, so that we make sure we fill our reader in on every detail from the angle of the corner to how much dirt had collected on the rug; but when you write screenplays, the general rule is 3 lines of description per section, meaning you don’t have a lot of space to elaborate, so you must learn how to say everything that you want to say in eloquent tercets more akin to The Inferno, than a movie. For this matter, a screenplay writer could learn a lot from writing poetry, as a lot of times screenplay writers will want to simply explain what is going on onscreen, but the truth of the matter is that if you ever wish to win any contest for a screenplay or to produce a good looking movie, you also have to have a good looking and sounding script. If you want to show a spanning mountain-scape in the old west, then you need to know how to eloquently say this within the few lines that you have without sounding overly simplistic or flowery in your language, which must also be easily translatable for the screen.

So how do you work out all these things so that you  have big strong writing muscles? Well you simply write, and read. Read screenplays, plays, poems, and simple literature, understand the distinctive features of each of them, and learn how to harness the powers of all of them so that you can easily shift between the formats, and soon merge them: how can you make a screenplay a narrative that can be as easily read as a novel as it is recognizable as a screenplay? Can you create poetic prose that reads smooth, quickly like a screenplay? Is your story too fat: do you have to cut out a good deal of description in order to get to the good stuff in the screenplay? Can your screenplay be easily turned into a novel? These questions alone will help guide you when you are writing, as you will begin to figure out to become more descriptive whilst becoming more concise, precise, and eloquent in your language.

One of the ways that I exercise each of these muscle groups is by working on one or another every day as part of my word count, what is more, I transcribe movie scripts for the site Genius.com, which have to be in a certain format to go upon the site: this a chance not only to learn how to format actual scripts, but read good movies and understand them on a deeper level as I begin to see them on a deeper level than that which will get seen in the final product. Find a way to work each of the different muscle groups into your daily writing habits, even if it’s simply looking at the world from a different point of view: how would you describe such and such in a narrative, in contrast to how you would describe it in a screenplay, or even more difficult still, a poem. A writer has to exercise, and exercise a lot if they ever hope to become Stronger; versitility is also the key to stability and immortality.

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