I’m not normally one for writing exercises. I like to read through them, but rarely try them. However, Brian Kiteley’s approach in The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises that Transform Your Fiction changed my mind (a little). Kiteley believes that writing exercises (prompts to get you to write a short piece of fiction) can be done with your current set of characters/piece of fiction in mind, and can become a valuable part of that work. With that mindset, I did try several of the exercises in the book and found them helpful.
What was even more helpful though were Kiteley’s observations about writing sprinkled amidst the exercises. These observations, about people, relationships, and what works or doesn’t work in written narrative, made me think and at times served to illuminate difficulties I’ve had with my fiction projects. Overall I found the book quite helpful, even though I didn’t do all of the exercises.
The 4 A.M. Breakthrough is Kiteley’s follow up book, and I have to say I didn’t find it nearly as helpful as I found the first one. I’m not sure if it was the way the book was arranged (fewer topic areas) or the fact that I didn’t find as many of the exercises helpful, or the fact that I got pretty tired of the political commentary (I am sick of political opinion wielding in general, and really really prefer not to read it in books ostensibly about writing.), but I didn’t like it as well.
I did get a couple of good thoughts from the book, so it wasn’t a total loss. One especially helpful perspective was Kiteley’s advice to write in inconvenient little pockets of time, rather than scheduling large blocks for writing. He finds that the smaller, frantic bursts tend to be better writing. That is good news, considering that I never have four hours to just write fiction, although I wish I did.
If you’re looking for a good book on fiction, and have read the basic great ones already, I think The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises that Transform Your Fiction would be worth your time, but would only recommend the sequel if you’re a diehard writing exercises fan.
Fiction writers: do you like writing exercises or avoid them?
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