In For Writers, Plotting

Working on Book #2 has been a bit like piecing together a puzzle. I have a handful of pieces but not all of them. I was telling one of my dearest friends about my situation (she’s a fellow writer and soon-to-be MFA recipient), and she suggested an exercise to help me find what I’m missing. It worked so well (and was so much fun), that I just had to share it with you…

Here’s how it works: I’m going to give you a set of specific instructions that you can deploy at your public library or bookstore. The purpose of this exercise is to introduce new stimuli (via a random book) into your writing process, thereby opening your mind to new ideas and possibilities.

All you have to do is follow these simple steps:

Step 1: Go to a library or book store.

Step 2: Walk to the third aisle that you see.

Step 3: Turn to the shelves on your left.

Step 4: Examine the second shelf from the top.

Step 5: Pick up the first book that jumps out at you.

Step 6: Turn to page 100 and read it.

Step 7: Think about how this book, topic, scene, and style could relate to your writing project. Could it take your plot in an unexpected direction? Might it add a new dimension? How would the people in this book affect the characters in your book? Is there a topic or an idea that needs more exploration?

Think. Analyze. Meditate. The answer might not be obvious at first, but spend some time with your selection and let this random new stimuli seep its way into your creative conscious. Consider all of the possibilities that present themselves.

My experience with this exercise was one of deep discovery. I pulled two books from different sections of my local library and both turned out to be non-fiction. At first glance, the books were totally unrelated to the book I’m working on. But as I sat there thinking about my selections, I began to see some lessons that my protagonist might be learning from his particular situation. It also gave me a new idea for my character’s backstory and the motivations behind his actions.

Pretty important pieces to the puzzle if you ask me.

This fun little exercise is courtesy of my dear friend and talented writer, Elisabeth Sowecke, who blogs at Next to Deadly Wait Forever.

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Showing 6 comments
  • Jim

    Fun exercise! I’m going to try that next time I go to the library. Keep finding those puzzle pieces Erika!!

    • Erika

      Have fun with it, Jim! Let me know if you find any treasures.

  • Linda Visman

    Sounds like a great exercise to have a go at. I need something to get me going again, and this sounds interesting and fun.

    • Erika

      It definitely is interesting and fun, Linda. You just don’t know what you might discover and the infite possibilities are so exciting. Good luck with it! Let me know what you find!

  • Ashley Prince

    Wow. That sounds like a fun exercise!

    • Erika

      Yes, the thrill of discovery made it SO much fun. And the fact that it also turned out to be helpful was icing on the cake!

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