Writing Challenge #7: Small Changes, Big Rewards

I usually write fiction double-spaced in Word with paragraph indents.

When starting my new novel last fall, though, I opted to write single-spaced with no paragraph indents. Sure, it’s a very formal business-letter look. But each page appeared wildly different than my recently completed novel, which was (as usual) double-spaced with indents. The change in format helped me avoid falling back into the old story and allowed me to draft a completely new world.

Today’s challenge: Take a chapter of your novel, or a short story, and make it look different. Change the font, or the spacing, or the program you’re working in. If you write by hand, try typing some paragraphs, or if you’re a computer addict like me, rewrite some in longhand.

Look at your work on the page–don’t read it, but examine its new form.  Pay attention to the way it flows, the length of your paragraphs and sentences. What jumps out? Then go ahead and read the piece. Does the pacing seem the same? Different? How does it sound? What do you want to change?

About Laura Stanfill

Publisher, Forest Avenue Press
This entry was posted in Fiction, Revision, Writing, Writing Challenge and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Writing Challenge #7: Small Changes, Big Rewards

  1. I’m kind of doing that, since I usually write first drafts with a pen (and a fancy-schmancy fountain pen at that), but I’m just starting on the first major rewrite of my third novel (which basically involves rewriting from the ground up, since I’m changing the POV), and so far I’ve done a lot of the writing in a couple of ancient, non-WYSWYG text editors (QEdit for DOS, and vi for Linux).

    I don’t know why, but it feels right. Maybe because my new protag is quite blunt and direct. Who knows?

    As always, I code the HTML as I go, since I know it will end up on the web.

    • That’s so cool, Anthony! Using a different program, especially if you can relate its quirks to your character’s personality, will make it feel so much different than what you’ve been working on. Writing single spaced has “felt right” to me, too. As I transfer chapters into the usual double-spaced format, I’m getting a feel for what’s there and how it looks on the page. It’s definitely great for seeing your work in a new way.

  2. I really like this idea – especially for when I start new projects.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Kathryn Leigh! It’s been so great for this one, and I expect now I’ll do similar tricks whenever I start a new project so it looks and feels different than the last one. I was writing in such a close-in first person last time, I needed all the help I could get out of that character’s head!

  3. Jo Eberhardt says:

    I alternate writing in Word and writing longhand in a notebook all the time, depending on where I am and how I feel. If I’m suffering from a moment of “Writer’s block”, I often find that changing from one medium to the other helps get my mind-words flowing.

    On a related note, I’ve also started printing out my double-spaced pages just to get a touchy-feel look at the blank spaces on the page. It’s given me a great feel for whether I’m getting the balance between dialogue, action and description right.

    • It’s so bizarre that printed out pages can look so different! But they really do. I spent part of my writing retreat last year highlighting various categories in my manuscript and laying the pages out on the floor of my cabin. Seeing the story like that definitely helped me figure out what needed to be more balanced. Sometimes I get so caught up writing each sentence that I forget to look around and see how the paragraphs and chapters relate to one another.

  4. This is a really interesting concept, actually. I think I’ll try this and see how it goes!

    • Oh good! I’m glad it’s helpful. I was so scared to start a new novel after working on one for six years, and changing the way my writing looked definitely unlocked my creativity. It’s been a lot of fun to experiment with this change-it-up method.

  5. I think it would also be helpful if you were working on two different projects at the same time, as was recommended over at Maggie Madly Writing a while back:
    http://maasmith7.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/two-is-better-than-one/
    That way they would look different and you wouldn’t get them muddled up.

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