The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises That Transform Your Fiction Paperback – 28 Oct 2005
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About the Author
Brian Kiteley is the director of the creative writing programme at a leading US university. A frequent award winner, he is the author of many successful novels.
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Top customer reviews
I wouldn't recommend this for new writers (a collection of writing prompts is a much better bet and I recommend The Writer's Book of days by Judy Reeves) but for anyone who has material already and wants to improve their craft, or needs shaking out of a rut, this has to be one of the best books on the market.
I would say though, that the print in the book is way too small to be enjoyable. It was for this reason that I bought the Kindle version.
But some I just find completely confusing, as if they've been poorly edited before releasing this book. An example is his exercise called "Maps":
"Draw a map of a small place... and then write a fragment of a story that would not make sense without this map. The reader should receive a very strong sense of this place -- enough so the reader should be able to draw a map of the place simply from reading the story. The story somehow needs this map. The reader should be unable to understand the story without having a clear picture of its layout."
So does that mean that I should make the description clear enough that the map in the end is not needed, or should I make the description rely on having the map beside it? The instructions seem self-contradictory.
Another confusing/badly edited example:
"Use a house in a story fragment. Think about the power of rooms... on psychology and conversation. In this fragment, make the house a unique, though passive, participant in the unfolding events. The room need not be in a typical house."
So am I meant to be writing about a room, or a house?
"Write about a professional writer... who has to say something that convinces someone very dear to her of the truth of a story. For whatever reasons you can think of, this writer must persuade, rather than tell the truth, but the truth of the situation is key to this effort at persuasion."
His following references don't help me understand what he means about the truth being "key to this effort at persuasion" even though the writer isn't meant to be telling the truth. I'm also unclear about how you should go about "writing about a writer". Overall, this exercise seems overly convoluted and badly explained.
I've encountered exercises in many other writing books that look like ones you are meant to do with concentration and focus, but without having to work out thoroughly in advance what you're going to write. Whereas these exercises, I couldn't start working on, not a single one of them, without spending ages thinking what I'm going to write about and how it would work, structurally. So don't go to this book if you're looking for exercises to loosen you up and encourage the words to flow. That doesn't seem to be the purpose of this book. Rather, go to this book if you want ideas that will make you think more deeply about the way writing works.
So, no irritating lectures on 'how to do it' followed by dull exercises designed to reinforce whatever you have just learnt - the exercises ARE the teacher. No name-dropping of authors you haven't heard of (hooray!) and no self-promotion stuff of 'here is an example from my latest novel'
Just exercises. Just writing. Just inspiration.
What level is it aimed at? Well, I think beginners and more experienced writers should each be able to get something from this book. While I found some exercises just too challenging for me even to contemplate at the moment (!), there were plenty of others that seemed approachable. And as most of the exercises are so adaptable, they can be attempted time and time again, with a different outcome each time.
The chapters include exercises on Images, Point of View, Women and Men, Children and Childhood, Conversation, Thought and Emotion, Time, History, Description, Sentences, Work, Humour, Travel, and more, though these 'themes' seem less intrusive than in other writing books. Sure, the Point of View exercises help a writer to learn about point of view, but they seem to also do much more. It's a difficult one to explain, but with each of these exercises I'm learning something about my writing, almost when I'm not looking;I have one of those 'ah!' moments when things start to become clear. I guess it's the difference between someone telling you how to drive a car and actually getting in a car and having a go yourself!
Brief examples of the exercises are: 'write a short scene in which the ability to recognise faces is crucial to the outcome of the scene...';'Imagine a person who has an idiosyncratic way of seeing the world. Have this character witness a traumatic event...'; 'write a short sequence of events in which you slow conciousness down...'; 'Write a conversation in which nothing is said..' [Note: the exercises have longer descriptions and some helpful pointers, so I haven't really done them justice here]
If you're looking for a bit of inspiration, want to come at something from a different angle and expand or refresh your work, or if you're frustrated with being stuck in a rut/stuck in a piece of writing, then this is the book for you. But be warned, some of the exercises may make your brain ache!
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These exercises helped her to finish the first draft!Read more
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