Getting in Shape for WritingPosted: July 26, 2012
I didn’t even consider that I would be humping up the hills of Western State College carrying my back pack, filled with my laptop and all my books, and my small, but well packed purse. Had I known, I would have trained to get in shape before I headed off to class. Getting to class wasn’t so bad, it was all downhill. However, this was a case of what goes down must go up, and it was all uphill getting back to the dorm at least twice a day, if not more. That hike to the dorm made my unprepared calves moan with misery every time. By the second week, my shoulders burned by the time I arrived at either destination. Next year, I will definitely take steps to prepare me for this.
The classes I am taking are a preparation of another kind. They are designed to get me in shape to be a professional writer, and the writing exercises and assignments that we’re given are mostly painless. They are designed to help us limber up the writing muscles of the brain and expand our literary horizons. In that, they were successful. Thanks to my Patterns & Paradigms in Mainstream & Genre Fiction course, I now have the beginning chapters for a Western Novel, the start of a chapter that I can use to transform a small collection of stories about two young girls growing up in Massachusetts during the depression into a YA mystery novel, and I’m looking forward to experimenting more with the horror genre, even though my first attempt was absolutely awful. (You guessed it. My area of concentration is genre fiction.)
As with any type of training, you must tone up the basic muscles to be used before you try mastering the more difficult stances, or executing some of the more complex maneuvers. In the aforementioned course, I also toned up the basic writing muscles. My dialog punctuation was a little flabby, but learning the proper way to exercise this muscle group should have my character exchanges shaped up in no time. I learned the basic elements of the novel: plot, character and setting; methods to create character; and how the “mono-myth”, or hero’s journey works; and techniques to set the pace and tone which will help to create a tight, shapely narrative. And I learned that I often have a case of, what the course instructor calls, “adverb-itis” in my writing; using adverbs to describe things that don’t really need to be described. Flexing those stagnant writing muscles has already improved my writing.
Just as my calves will require continuous workout to remain toned and build more muscle, I must continue to work those writing muscles every single day. No doubt, I will be in better shape next summer, when it comes time to do this again. I will have a better idea of what lies ahead and will be better able to prepare. Certainly, I will need to exercise my muscles, both the writing ones and the physical ones, so they will be prepared for the extensive two week workout I now know to anticipate on both levels. I may not be ready to run the 10K by then, but perhaps I’ll at least be ready to start planning my thesis.