Pros: Tons of exercises; plenty of variations; many technique suggestions; the exercises have a purpose beyond simple inspiration
Cons: Occasional mild confusions; some discussions of techniques/trends you might not understand without a college literature or writing education
Rating: 5 out of 5
Review book courtesy of F+W Publications
Books of writing exercises mainly aim to inspire creativity in the writer. Usually the idea goes like this: by putting a constraint on the writer (a particular topic, a set of words to use, etc.) and often a word limit or time limit, the writer will come up with new material she wouldn’t have thought of if she’d simply set pen to paper and said, “what comes next?” It can help to alleviate the terror of confronting the blank page that many writers face now and then.
Brian Kiteley’s “The 3 A.M. Epiphany” is a little bit different, in several ways. For one, most of the books I’ve read use time limits, whereas this book uses word limits, pushing you to come up with small gems rather than reams of material to sift through.
The exercises also have an additional dimension to them that most don’t. Each one is carefully constructed to help you explore a certain aspect of your writing. These aren’t meant to be “merely” inspirational–they’re designed to teach technique, as well, without reading like a dry instructional book.
I truly love the way Mr. Kiteley approaches writers’ exercises, and he starts off the book with some wonderful suggestions for integrating them into the wider realm of your writing practice:
The suggestions in this book are stretching exercises, warm-ups, and experiments in form and style that allow you to test the various possibilities of the craft of fiction. Some of the exercises may turn out to be building blocks for a longer piece of fiction. You can also use them as instructions for parts of longer pieces of prose you’re already working on.
There are types of exercises in here I really haven’t seen anywhere else, particularly in the sections on “Internal Structure” and “Exercises for Stories in Progress”, and I think you’ll find them inspiring in ways that other books aren’t. They’ll make you think, work and write in whole new directions.
I did occasionally have mild difficulty figuring out what the instructions in a given exercise truly meant I should do. However, there’s always a section right after each paragraph of instructions that delves further into the point of the exercise, and I found that this material pretty much always cleared up any confusions I had.
There are some discussions of techniques and trends in writing that you might not get the most out of if you haven’t taken college-level writing classes, but I do not believe these will in any way interfere with your ability to do the exercises and get a great deal out of them. In fact, if you want to take college creative writing classes and can’t for whatever reason, this book would be a wonderful resource for you.
There are a great many wonderful, inspiring exercises in here, and I highly recommend them for any writer.