I came across a piece by Richard Ridley on the CreateSpace Community Forums titled “A Guy, a Girl and a Bad Critique”.
Long story short, he tells of a creative writing class in college in which his professor didn’t assign them a writing exercise until after they had done a lot of reading and exercises he said “had very little to do with actual writing“. The exercises included identifying and outlining conflicts in their own lives that could like the plot of a story, and discussing what they liked about various books.
Reading this post, I couldn’t help but think he had missed the professor’s point. I think it went like this: reading teaches you the mechanics of writing, and discussing a book critically helps you critique your own work. Also, if you can’t identify plot points from your own life, how do you expect to do so with the lives of your characters?
So, my advice is this:
- Read a lot. Every great writer in history has been a great reader. You learn how to write by observing how other authors write.
- Discuss books with other people. Critiquing and thinking critically about other people’s helps you do the same with your work.
- No writing exercise is useless. Whether or not an assignment seems ridiculous to you, chances are, the professor isn’t paid by the university just to talk nonsense, so there’s a method to the madness. Grin and bear it.