In March, I wrote a post on my first-ever 10KWritathon and the valuable writing and productivity lessons I learned from it. While I didn’t achieve the 10,000 word goal I had originally set for myself, I did get quite a bit done, and there’s one thing I attributed my final push to: switching mediums when my current fiction project was becoming a chore.
During the 10kWritathon, I devoted a good chunk of my time to my fantasy WIP. Several hours in, the writing became stale—I was tired and no longer interested. The words were coming slowly. I needed some space to clear my head, so I switched to writing a blog post. And just like that, the words flew.
You don’t have to be shooting for a challenging word count or personal record to reap the benefits of variation and experimentation, and the benefits aren’t limited to a boost in word count; after all, as motivating as a hefty word count can be, you’ll never finish Project A if you keep diverting to Project B. But whether your goals are to finish a current project, edit X number of words on any of your multiple projects per day, or to just sit down and write, working within multiple mediums will likely give new life to your voice.
What do I mean by switching gears or working within multiple mediums? Simply spending some time writing outside of the genre or form of your current project, or better yet, your comfort zone–such as a fiction writer dabbling in poetry or screenwriting.
Real-life example: After the 10kWritathon, which took place on a Sunday, I returned to work. At my day job, I spend my days writing newsletter and blog content for a staffing and recruitment firm. The content is very straightforward, professional, and to the point: pretty different from the fantasy and young adult fiction I enjoy writing in my spare time. I had noticed some of my pieces getting a bit repetitive around that time, not in content but in voice—it seemed like all of my articles sounded the same regardless of their subject. But that Tuesday, I wrote an article that was much more prosey. It used imagery and metaphor, avoided the standard numbered-list style that my latest articles had all utilized, and told a story much like a short work of fiction would. When I handed it in, I was a bit nervous; I’d never written an article like that before, especially not to represent this company, with its very corporate appearance and professional style. I expected the pages to come back bleeding red, marked up with my boss’s many edits.
It came back pristine.
My boss loved the article and didn’t suggest a single stylistic edit, which is rare. Spending all of Sunday working on fiction and making that transition to blogging in the last few hundred words sparked a connection for me, one that blurred the lines between the writing styles of fiction and nonfiction and allowed me to utilize them tangentially. This can happen with your writing, too.
Think about each major form of writing and how different it is from whatever it is you do: fiction, poetry, screenwriting, nonfiction writing:
- Fiction: focuses heavily on description and plot and, in most cases, insight into a character’s thoughts
- Poetry: makes great use of imagery, metaphor, and other useful tools that can add life to other genres
- Screenwriting: carries a story through dialog and minimal description/action
- Nonfiction: focuses on the facts and a logical flow of information
Of course, there are many exceptions and these aren’t hard lines—they too get blurred, and there are many more factions they can be broken down to. But I think many would agree these are typically the main characteristics of each.
While these differences may be daunting when you aren’t used to writing in a certain way, playing within them can open your writing up to so much more within your usual form. Struggling with dialog? Write a short scene of a play or movie. Over-describing a scene and taking away license from the reader? Try writing poetry or flash fiction, both of which are typically evocative but clipped. Having a hard time getting to know a character in your cast? Try writing a scene from his or her point of view, long-form, to learn more. The list of possibilities goes on.
Have you found switching gears to be a useful tool for your writing? What else do you typically try when you’re having trouble with your current project? Let us know!