I’m blogging chapter by chapter through a great book on the art of writing by James Scott Bell. I encourage you to pick up a copy of “The Art Of War For Writers”.
Tip 29 is this: [Make] small improvements outside your comfort zone.
JSB fills this book with practical exercises and drills for any writer to practice. This short but sweet entry is one such example.
If you’re a “character-driven” writer, the challenge here is to deliberately work on intensifying the action of your story. If you’re a “plot-driven” writer, then the assignment is to plumb the depths of your characters’ emotions and motivations.
JSB is a merciful mentor though. If an athlete hates pushups, a good trainer won’t bark out, “Nothing but pushups for you!” but rather encourage a small adjustment in routine. Same with our writing. JSB says just try to give a 10% increase in focusing where you’re weak.
He suggests a simple 5-minute exercise where you grab a pad of paper and write without stopping, exploring ways to deepen the tension or enlarge the soul and emotions of your characters.
Many Christian authors, for whatever reason, don’t do tension well. They put their characters into warm bath water rather than a lobster-cooking boiling cauldron. If that’s you, JSB says, “Write a list of what can happen that’s worse, letting the thoughts come fast and furious. Don’t edit. Be as outrageous as you can be.”
Others struggle to add murky layers to their characters’ hearts. Their villains are straw men, easy flicked away by their lead characters, which are little saints-in-training. If that’s you, JSB says, “Write down the characters inner thoughts as passionately as you can, in his own words. Keep pressing for more depth.”
A 10% push can yield a much higher reward. Give it a try.