Berley’s 5 Ways to Stretch Your Writing Muscles

Whether you’re a recently published fiction writer like me, best selling author like Stephen King, a mega-bestselling author like J.K. Rowling, or just another author trying to get your first book published (trust me, we’ve all been there) you need to stretch your writing muscles.

Before, like most writers, when someone asks how I managed to write a novel my answer was simple/lazy/true. I write every single day. For those who know or follow me, they know that I post on my blog every week. I make my writing a routine to keep me on my toes. Most of us eat and sleep on a set pattern. Writing should be and feel just as natural.

Well enough of that. Now that you know the answer that pretty much every published author will give it’s time to give the non-lazy answer. Time to tell you my 5 ways to stretch your writing muscles. I’m not promising these techniques will help. What I am telling you is that these are the techniques that worked for me. Try them out and see which ones work for you.

1. Writing to Music

I’ve given people this advice before and boy do they take it the wrong way. So I’m going to explain this step-by-step. First you get a pair of headphones or ear buds (whatever) and you put them one and play music WITHOUT lyrics. Music with lyrics puts extra words into your head and that’s the last thing you need. For that matter, don’t even use instrumentals of songs you know. All your brilliant brain is going to do is play the words in your head anyway. My suggestion, Classical Music, Movie Soundtracks from Hans Zimmer and John Williams and my personal favorite, ‘epic sounding music’ from Immediate Music. You can listen to any of these compositions on Youtube. From there you can do one of 2 things. Listen to the music, get inspired, then write. Or do what I do which is write while listening to the music. Hence the headphones. And I what I listen to depends on what kind of scene I’m writing. For love scenes or emotional scenes I choose something a little softer and slower. For fight scenes I choose something with a little more tempo. For big battle scenes I listen to music with a lot of tempo and bass. Trust me, there is a lot of music to choose from. Listen and choose what works best.

2. E-Prime

This technique may seem a little more advance but keep in mind, I did not put this list in any particular order. For those of you who know, E-prime serves as a writing, and sometimes, life practice where people write and speak without using any forms of the verb ‘to be.’ That means the words” (am, are, is, was, were, be, been, being, become and became) cannot be used. That includes ALL contractions such as: (you’re, I’m, he’s, etc). This technique helps in ridding yourself of the dreaded passive-voice sentence. Writing a short story or an essay or whatever in E-prime forces you to flex your writing muscles and think of other ways to say things. For example: (The light is red/ The light turned red. His face was covered in soot./Soot covered his entire face. He’s 20 years old./His just turned 20 last week. My name is Berley./People call me Berley.) The exercise serves as a  wonderful tool for building up your vocabulary as well as increasing your knowledge of verbs. Unfortunately, when applying E-prime to dialogue, speech tends to sounds unnatural after a while. Most people tend to say, ‘my name is’ as opposed to ‘people call me.’ One character, no problem, but after 5 or 6 characters awkwardly introducing themselves, or even if someone else introduces them, it becomes a problem. Clever writers find a way around it but still, it becomes a bit of a headache. I suggest writing little essays to practice E-prime.

3. Hand Write the outline to your story.

Although I’m not sure of the scientific merits of my discovery, I tend to retain information much longer after I write it down. Especially if I hand write it. Like I said in a previous blog, I hand write the outline of my stories that way I get the story down at least once. Also, by handwriting my outline I don’t feel inclined to update and print my outline over and over every time I think of something new to add. Readers have the luxury of not knowing the ending when they start a story. As a writer, YOU DON’T have that luxury. Before you start writing your story you need to already have a beginning, a middle and an end. In fact you should know your ending better than you know your beginning. That way, with every chapter, your characters are working toward a goal. Unlike you’re truly, who only goal is to write another novel and probably eat and sleep somewhere along the way. So sit down, get out your college ruled notebook and start outlining your story. And don’t write a single sentence of your novel until that outline is done.

4. Adjective/Adverb Game

Another effective way to stretch your writing muscles is the adjective/adverb game. Before writing a short story or a chapter, write down 5 adjectives and 5 adverbs. They can be anything, just as long as you plan to put them in the story or chapter. Then, start writing making certain that all ten of those adjectives and adverbs are in there. For a greater challenge, write the entire scene using only those adjectives and adverbs.

5. Scene reWrite

Because all artists, especially writers, are self obsessed, routine ridden, egotistical, pretentious bastards, we always believe there’s a scene in someone else’s story that we can write better. Back in my college creative writing class, that’s what my teacher instructed us to do. Take a scene from one of our favorite books and write it better, or at least write it in your own way. Then the rest of the class would have to guess what book or movie that rewritten scene is from. (Needless to say, if you plan to do the class exercise, leave names and places out ) But if you’re a lone writer, which I suspect you are, take that scene and rewrite it your own way. Change characters, change pacing, hell, change the scene all together. The only stipulation is that it needs to fit the rest of the book or at least all the events that led up to that scene. It’s kind of weird for an entire book to lead up to one scene and all of a sudden the characters decided to go to Tijuana in a time machine. Stick to the realty of the book as best a possible.

So that’s it. My last blog of 2012. And boy has this year been exciting. I saw the release of my book and I finally have this:


This is proof copy of my novel. I still need to look at it and correct whatever mistakes may be before it goes on sale.

Take care, thanks for reading and have a safe and successful new year.



About berleykerr

A Steampunk Author from Los Angeles.
This entry was posted in My Writing Process and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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