Monday, August 23, 2010


Wendy Watson was our guest lecturer in the spring and also ran an online workshop for our group. Today she's going to talk about strenghtening writing skills. Welcome back Wendy!
Wendy Lyn Watson

by Wendy Lyn Watson

According to the calendar, the new year begins on January 1. But I teach, and I think those of us who live in the classroom (as teachers or students) follow a different annual rhythm. I mark time in semesters rather than months, my year begins in late August, and the school bell signals the time for resolutions and recommitments.

This year, I’ve got a whole mess of aspirations for the upcoming year: bike to work, drink more water, spend more time off-line, learn to relax . . . . And, of course, some of my resolutions are writing-related.

For the past few years, I’ve lived and breathed cozy mysteries. That’s no hardship: I love them! I’d like to grow as a writer, develop new skills. So this year I’ve resolved to spend one day a week working outside the cozy genre. In addition, I’m going to take a step back from story-telling to work on my fundamental writing skills. That means practicing what I preach and doing morning writing exercises to stretch and strengthen my writing voice.

For those who might like to play along at home, let me share a few of my favorite writing exercises:

1. The easiest is probably the best. Pick a word (any word). Write it at the top of a sheet of paper. Set your kitchen timer for three to five minutes. Put pen to paper and write … don’t use a computer for this exercise (the timing between mind and hand works better if you’re writing longhand), don’t edit, and don’t stop. Even if you spend a bit of time writing gibberish, that’s o.k. The key is to remove your filter and let your subconscious drive. You never know what you’ll spill onto the paper.

2. To work on developing richer images, buy a box of crayons. Every day, pull a crayon out and write about that color. What does the color make you think of? For example, a white crayon might make you
think of crisp linens drying on a line, the voluptuous viscosity of heavy cream, or the impenetrable cold of a gravestone

                                                                                           3. To develop your descriptive muscles, play the differences game. Pick two things that are similar (a lemon and a lime) and describe them so that someone can tell them apart. How can you describe the taste of lemon so that it is distinct from the taste of lime? (See, that’s tough, because our usual go-to descriptors—such as tart or sour—don’t distinguish between the two.)

Even if you’re not a teacher or student, there’s no reason to wait until January 1 to recommit to your craft. This is my plan to develop my skills and broaden my horizons. What about you? What are your writing resolutions moving forward into the future?

Wendy Lyn Watson writes deliciously funny cozy mysteries with a dollop of romance. Her Mysteries a la Mode (I Scream, You Scream (October, 2009) and Scoop to Kill (September, 2010))
 feature amateur sleuth Tallulah Jones, who solves murders in between scooping sundaes. While she does not commit--or solve--murders in real life, Wendy can kill a pint of ice cream in nothing flat. She's also passionately devoted to 80s music, Asian horror films, and reality TV. ( :

Wendy's books may be purchased from 

Barnes & Noble
Penguin Group

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Those are interesting exercises. I still haven't described the lemon and lime except by smell.

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