Writing Exercises

Focused Learning

Time is a finite resource. I’m a busy person, and I think most of us are. There are only so many fragments of time in the day I can use for writing, but it takes time to become an expert at something.

10 years or a 1 million bad words have been thrown around around as measurements of expert proficiency. The problem with writing is, what counts as experience? I am not quite sure where I fall on the scale, how much I have behind me, and how far I still need to go.

Is there a way to cut down the learning time? To flatten out the learning curve? Maybe. I think focused/attentive learning can be helpful.

How can you apply focused learning?

When reading a book: Once you’re done, make a few notes on what particular attributes of the writing you enjoyed, what you didn’t care for, what elements stood out to you. Pay attention to the way the writer treats dialogue, ends chapters, begins chapters, or how the characters develop. Enjoy the read, but go back over it with your student hat after.

When writing: Every time you sit down to write, pick one or two writing elements to focus on or experiment with.

Introducing the Weekly Author Aerobics Challenges!

I’m going to give myself some homework, because I’m crazy like that, and start a weekly fiction challenge. I think of this as a basic mental aerobics class for fiction. You’re welcome to join in!

It’s all about focused learning, because I do not have a lot of free time, and you probably don’t either. There’s one rule: set a time limit. For me, it will be one lunch hour a week. When the time’s up, it’s up, and I’m not allowed to revise further (eek!).

I’ll post a writing prompt on Monday and post results on Friday. If you decide to join in feel free to post a link to the writing in the comments, or paste a story right in there.

I’m ready to get back into shape! One, two, three, that’s right, work those fingers! Are you game?

10 Comments to “Focused Learning”

  1. Lua

    I think a writer starts to learn as soon as she becomes aware of the world which surrounds her… Just like you, I have no idea about how to measure the level of expertise when it comes to writing, I guess it varies from writer to writer…
    Focus learning sounds really interesting. I’m kind of swamped with the blog and the revision of my novel but I’m sure curious about your writing project and can’t wait to see how it all goes. Good luck! πŸ™‚

  2. Thanks Kristan & Lua!

    Definitely, no pressure! You’re welcome to participate any time, or not πŸ™‚ It’s been a long time since I’ve been in school so I want to brush off these rusty skills.

  3. I blogged about the million words adage back in March, and I actually added up all my words and came up to around 200,000. With your 10 years number, though, I should be set! I’ve been writing way longer than 10 years! (Is it sad that in 10 years I’ve only written 200,000 words of fiction? Of course, I’m not counting all the words written for backstory and related stuff, but I could probably double my number if I included all that work, too.)

    Since your prompt is all about exercising certain writing skills, why not call it something like “Author’s Aerobics”. I lurves me some alliteration. I might try to play along, as well, when I have time (i.e. probably not during busy weeks at work). I certainly need the practice.

    1. “Author’s Aerobics” does have a ring to it. hmm!

      I think 1 million bad words, or 10 years is an oversimplification. Even though, hypothetically speaking, I might have been playing basketball for 10 years, it would not mean I’d be ready to try out for the NBA. There must be something in the quality of the practice.

      So your 200,000 focused words might be worth a lot more than the objective word count. These are just some half-formed thoughts on the matter. It’s hard to know what ‘counts’ as experience. Reading a lot certainly helps but you can’t quantify that. Writing a lot also is important, but there are different types of writing.

      BTW I thought your series on breaking in was great!

      1. Oh, you’re totally right that quality counts for something. But then again, it’s hard to account for quality – it’s pretty nebulous. My 200,000 words, for instance, could just as easily be worth only 50,000!

        Ultimately, there’s really only one way to know for sure: submit your stories!

        Thanks for the compliment, too! πŸ™‚

  4. thought I’d let you know – to stretch your writing muscles you can also check Fiction Friday on Write Anything. I can’t write short fiction, so I won’t be taking the challenge… no, not even yours (but I enjoyed The Metal Girl)! πŸ˜‰
    Happy writing
    Barb the Saga writer

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