Often, the only kind of writing we do is related to the book, short story, or article we’re working on. Sometimes we need a break from our work. We need to have moments when we write just for fun, or for the purpose of learning how to write itself. This is when creative writing exercises come in handy.
In an effort to encourage its members to constantly work on their craft, CBWLA held its first ever Writing Day Anthology Workshop last June 22nd, 2013. The whole day was dedicated to practicing various writing exercises designed to help attendees improve their writing skills.
Our main goal for creating this workshop, however, was to give our members the opportunity to gain publishing experience. I specifically designed the creative writing exercises so that at the end of day, each participant would have two pieces ready for publication in our first CBWLA Anthology. In September 2013, we plan to release the anthology through Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing, as well as through its Create Space program.
Since we only had one day, we focused on four short literary forms: essay, flash fiction, poetry and picture book.
The workshop began with a freewriting exercise to warm up everyone’s writing muscles. Shutting out their internal editors and forgetting all rules of grammar and punctuation, attendees wrote nonstop for 5 minutes.
CBWLA Writing Day Anthology Workshop Attendees Doing Freewriting Exercises
Their writing muscles loosened, we proceeded to a guided freewriting activity in which everyone used the question “How do you feel about writing?” as a guide for the second freewriting exercise.
Author Melissa Donovan said this about freewrites:
Freewrites can also be used to bring creative, colorful language into prose. Strong images and rich language generates work that is more literary in nature and if done well, it’s a lot more fun to read. It will help you generate words that show rather than tell and make your story or essay come alive more easily in a reader’s mind.
The ten minute guided freewriting exercise was a treasure trove of inspiration and ideas. I asked participants to unearth the gems in their pieces by underlining or highlighting the words, phrases and sentences that called out to them; words they found meaningful or beautiful.
I gave a short talk on the literary forms we would use that day (essay, flash fiction, poetry and picture book), along with tips and techniques to help them in the next activity. Choosing one of these four forms, participants used the gems they harvested in their freewriting exercise to write their first anthology piece.
Handouts were also provided so they could refer to them as they wrote their “On Writing” pieces.
CBWLA Writing Day Anthology Workshop Attendees
The 50 minute writing time was filled with the sounds of scribbling pens and clacking keyboards. While attendees focused on creating their first anthology piece, I quietly went about preparing for the next part of the workshop: Lunch!
Snacks were provided throughout the day, but lunch was still a welcome event for the attendees. They got to eat a hearty meal and make new friends with other writers.
Breakfast and snacks provided throughout the day
Although lunch only lasted for 30 minutes, attendees returned to their workstations and ready for the next round of activities.
II. STORY SPARKERS
Story ideas are generated by our experiences, and emotions, but their mostly generated by our five senses, particularly by things we might see. We might get story ideas from things we read in the newspaper, a photograph or painting , or an event we witness live or see in the news.
In the next exercise called “Shopping for Ideas”, I asked attendees to pick several pictures from a box. These were pictures of shops they might encounter as they travel.
Using the shop pictures, participants came up with several story ideas.
Shopping for Ideas Setting Box
And to help them out further, I distributed two other types of story sparkers: the Conflict Cards and the Character Archetype Cards.
Conflict Cards & Character Archetype Cards
Since they already had the setting based on the shop cards they got earlier, participants now had the option to pick characters they could put into that setting, using the Character Archetype Cards. They could also use the Conflict Cards to come up with problems their characters might encounter in their stories.
Ideas beget ideas. So after 15 minutes of jotting down story ideas, I asked participants to share one with the rest of the class. Everyone came up with intriguing and fascinating story concepts.
I asked them to pick one story idea which they really liked, and to choose the literary form (flash fiction, poetry, picture book) they’d like to use for their next piece. Using their handouts as a guide, the attendees were given an hour to write their second piece for the anthology.
In order to make sure that the writers have chosen the best form possible for their anthology piece, I gave them two final exercises.
CBWLA Writing Day Anthology Workshop Attendees Writing Away
The Point of View exercise required them to pick an alternate point of view for their second anthology piece. If they wrote their stories using the third person POV, they would have to rewrite it to first person, or second person and so on.
The attendees re-read the two versions and picked which POV worked best for their anthology piece. Afterward, they moved on to the final writing exercise on Voice.
The Voice exercise was designed to make sure their anthology piece had the right voice or tone. I challenged the attendees to rewrite their piece using a different tone. For example, they could rewrite their piece as if everything about the story infuriated them, or broke their heart or scared the hell out of them.
Once the attendees had picked the voice that best suited their stories, they immediately set to revising and editing their two anthology pieces.
The minutes flew by really quickly and soon it was time for the writers to submit their works. While co-officer Tiffani went about collecting the anthology pieces on a flashdrive, I collected the works of those who used pen and paper instead of their laptops.
With their pieces all in, the attendees could finally breathe a sigh of relief.And to end the wonderful writing day on a high note, we all posed for a class picture.
CBWLA Writing Day Anthology Workshop Class of 2013 (Formal picture)
The day certainly went by so fast. Attendees barely noticed the hours fly by because they were so busy doing what they loved best: writing. They left the room, already looking forward to the next big anthology workshop--and asking us to organize a launch party for the anthology in September.
CBWLA Writing Day Anthology Workshop Class of 2013 (Informal picture)