Writing Workout Winter 2016 Edition

Do you need to get back into the habit of reading and writing? Check out the Writing Workout Winter 2016 Edition. Featuring a regimented course syllabus of what to read and what to write, you're sure to kick your writing life's butt back into shape.

(But let's not really defeat the puns, because I do like those).

Everybody needs to workout. You have to keep your writing muscle strong and toned if you're going to go after and get through to your goals. This first one is the one to "get back in the swing of things." This is my self-diagnosed syllabus for the upcoming weeks to get me back writing and going after my dreams. It's going to be tough - it's going to be a workout! - but it's going to get me on the right track. Will you join me?

The Objective: To read words and produce words in order to prepare myself for the writing life I want. This is the one to "get back in the swing of things."

More Specific Objective: To write 50 pages, collect analyzed and annotated list of works read, and discuss craft elements that will strengthen the writing process.

Reading List: This list is composed of elements suggested by Gabriella Pereira on DIY MFA. Pereira suggests that your reading list should be made up of four different types of books: competitive, informative, contemporary, and classic. I've interpreted these categories as the following:

  • Competitive = Similar to your WIP;
  • Informative = Not exactly similar to your WIP, but can gain insights;
  • Contemporary = Bestsellers right now;
  • Classic = Typical graduate school reading list, the things you “should have” read already

Pereira also suggests reading anthologies of short stories, reading discussions of the craft, and keeping your writing muscle exercised with some prompts. Using these guidelines, I will be reading from the following sources (books that are, thankfully, already on my bookshelf, or easily found online):

  • Short Stories: Scribner Anthology, Stewart Dybeck short stories, Karen Russell short stories, Best American 2011 or 2013, Pushcart 2011, O’Henry 2011, Jennifer Egan short stories, The New Yorker, Electric Literature
  • Novels: Elena Ferrente, My Brilliant Friend
  • Craft: Ann Lamott, Bird by Bird, Janet Burroway, Writing Fiction, How Writers Write Fiction course
  • Prompts: Following How Writers Write Fiction course through the University of Iowa (HWWF) & Janet Burroway; or try 100 days of flash prompts

When you're making your own list, make sure you have AT LEAST 1 short story collection, 1 novel, 1 craft book, and 1 source of prompts (or you could always follow along with the ones I did teehee!). 

So, each week, complete the following:

  • Read 2 short stories
  • Complete 2 writing prompts
  • Read at least 1 chapter of your novel (for me: Ferrente)
  • Read at least 1 chapter of your craft book (for me: Lamott)

Additionally, each week will be guided be a certain craft element. If you want to design your own schedule, choose one craft topic you feel you need to focus on each week (plot, point-of-view, setting, characters etc.) and research the shit out of it to get all the information you need. This time around, I'm using HWWF & Burroway as the guides. Here's the schedule for the next 5 weeks.

Weekly Breakdown:  

  1. Burroway’s The Writing Process & Show and Tell, How Writers Write Fiction Welcome Wagons
  2. Burroway’s Characterization Part 1 & Part 2, How Writers Write Fiction Weeks 1 & 2
  3. Burroway’s Story Form, Plot, and Structure, How Writers Write Fiction Weeks 3 & 4
  4. Burroway’s Fictional Place & Fictional Time & Point-of-View, How Writers Write Fiction 5 & 6
  5. Burroway’s Revision, How Writers Write Fiction Week 

Following this schedule, we should be in a good place by about March 20! We'll see how this goes!


Find the weekly updates to this workout here:

happy writing!