Writing Exercises: "Thinking Out Loud On The Road"


Revisiting the topic of turning your driving and travel time into writing time is occurring for the following two reasons: 1) Wasted time towards your writing is obviously a bad thing and 2) when you are working on a project you invest your time in what is called a "planning process" and you are going to need to invest any moment possible to get through completing this process.

Before we attack this topic, remember one of the first practices of being a writer that had been mentioned at the start of working through Greaney's book: writers must be disciplined. Yep, this is yet another lesson on teaching yourself self-discipline and we will be going through yet another helpful list of tips and advise on just how to work through developing this new form of discipline.

Start with cues of when drive-writing begins. Obviously in the morning when we are commuting to work it is important to focus on navigation but we always get to that one point in our driving route where you will be driving a straight line for a little while. My cue is once I'm on the freeway heading to work, following a few quick turns from the neighborhood and through some public streets until I merge onto the freeway where I will spend a good twenty minutes heading for my far-off exit. Once these cues kick in, I focus on a number of things that need tweaking on my projects. It especially helps if I have the soundtrack to whatever writing project I am working on playing in the car too.

The things you can think about following your driving cue involve the following:

Openings

I can't tell you how many times, cruising down I-10 West, I have come up with my favorite openings to a chapter, wether said chapter is the very first chapter or the very last. I have also done my best scene revision of an opening draft while driving. The way this is done: I ask myself whether or not I need to keep the scene I have, what needs to change, or even do I simply scrap the darn thing? You'd be surprised how efficient your brain is when it comes to answering these questions while focusing on getting you to your destination.

Honesty Checks

Interestingly, your best honesty checks occur while driving too. When you're in this magical time of heading from your writing career to your day career your able to freely contemplate whether or not you enjoy what your writing. Time away from your writing project without the distraction of revisiting your daily work project offers an immeasurable opportunity to really consider how you feel about your current project.

Who is this character?

I interrogate my characters in my car. It's true. We discuss their lives in my stories and why they're doing the things they do. We jam out to the songs on my iphone and talk behind other character's backs. Its just how we carry out my creative process. Contemplate your characters on your drive, and as quirky as it may sound, communicate with them in the car however makes you feel comfortable. To answer the question that has possibly popped into your head: no, I don't care if other drivers see me talking to myself, I'm too busy to worry about other people contemplating my insanity.

Recalling scenes

I like to replay scenes in my head as I drive. You do too in a way, like when you went to see a movie the other day. There are scenes you'll replay in your head because they were that good. Do the same with your own scenes. Then challenge yourself to see if there are things you would change. If your writing fiction or nonfiction that is local to your town, you can drive by and reference streets and landmarks for the sake of polishing accuracy in your projects.

Finding the voice

So besides talking to my characters in the car, I also talk to myself and dictate a scene. Suspected insanity aside, I'm extremely dependent on my auditory learning. I have to hear myself, or a teacher of any kind, talk in order to learn. As writers we know that the stories we write depend heavily upon our voices. We also know that besides a few "finding your voice" books on writing you could find at a local book store, there simply are no resources that will do more than simply suggest ways in which to find your voice. Finding your voice is entirely up to you, with some hints and tips of "what worked for me" out there. It is however, entirely up to you and the privacy of the interior of your car is a great place to practice.

Rearranging the plot

Honesty plays into this one again. Sometimes we think a plot point is the most awesome thing ever before a sobering thought comes along and leaves us second guessing ourselves. You're honest-minded when you drive, spend your trip time contemplating whether or not you accidentally jumped the shark. Talk it out in your head, or out loud like I do!

Find the closing lines

Just like those wonderful opening lines we could think up in the car, the exact same goes for our closing lines. Yes, I also have come up with some of the best closing lines cruising along the freeway. Utilize this time to contemplate how to wrap up that first (or last) chapter, or writing project all together. Opening and closing lines are never easy, but the good thing is you always have plenty of time to think about it while your driving.

Let this advice help guide you to turn your travel time into writing time because when you get into the practice, you'll suddenly have much more time at your disposal to write while balancing the obligations you have to your day job.

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