Cross Training for Writers

Posted by: Rebecca

Are you cross training your writing? Can you even do that?

shoesCross training is defined as how athletes train in a sports area other than the one in which they compete, with a goal of improving overall performance. For example, professional golfers will play tennis; professional football players will take Pilates classes or play racquetball, some swimmers skateboard.

Not only do they continue to train in their chosen sport, they also train in other sports to help overcome weaknesses or to challenge themselves, and, I imagine, sometimes they do it just for fun.

The more I talk with other writers, learn about the craft of writing, and gain experience, the more I’m convinced we could learn a valuable lesson from athletes. 

This past year, I was given an amazing opportunity to story-consult on a feature film screenplay. After a couple of successful brainstorming sessions, the director took a chance and hired me to co-write the script. I had no experience with this format of writing. (Since then, I’ve been blessed with more opportunities to work with this director.)

I was excited and terrified. What if I couldn’t do it? I began to pray…a lot!

I was used to novel writing, which can use hundreds of pages, and a lot of words and descriptions, to tell the story. Now, I was confined to 90 pages or less? (Each page of screenplay equals 1 minute of screen time.)

I love a good challenge. I also like (okay, I admit it, LOVE) researching and learning about new things. So, I threw my fist up in the air and said, “Bring it!” (Well, not really, but I like the visual.)

books2I read the screenplays the director sent, along with the books he recommended. I also found other books and videos on screenplay writing and watched a ton of movies and television shows with my mental notepad out, gleaning everything I could. I was learning. I was loving writing screenplays, and I had no idea I was cross training.

When the screenplay project wrapped up, I delved back into my WIP/novel and thought, “ugh, what a mess!” I dug in and made major changes and revisions, tightened dialog, and most importantly, I found I had learned a better way to tell a story. The challenges I learned to overcome in screenplay writing translated into helping my novel writing go to another level.

Don’t pass up opportunities that are out of your comfort zone. Don’t disregard a writing craft book or video because it’s geared towards the screenplay writer or the memoir writer. Don’t pass up that critique circle or writing group, because right now your work-in-progress is a procedure manual for your boss. None of it will be a waste of time, I promise.

How can I make that promise? Because I’ve realized the time I spend learning about screenplay writing has helped my novel and short story writing. The time I spend learning about novel or fiction writing has helped me edit my husband’s nursing papers. (True story.) All of it has given me more to offer my critique circle and writing group. You get the idea.

I’ve learned the importance of cross training in writing, and I don’t plan on quitting, ever.

Are you cross training your writing?


About Rebecca

Novelist, screenwriter, devourer of books, homeschool mom

4 thoughts on “Cross Training for Writers

  1. blondeusk says:

    I love this cross training idea, thx for sharing!

  2. Bridgett says:

    Great post, Rebecca! I’ve done a bit of cross training in the writing craft, too. Though I write fantasy, I’ve read books or articles by suspense novelists to glean tension-building techniques, those by mystery writers to learn new ways of dropping clues that keep readers turning pages and asking questions, and even some by romance authors to discover how they handle character emotion and multiple protagonists. This is why I’m glad our writers’ group is an eclectic mix of authors in many genres. Let’s continue to learn from each other, so we can shine all the brighter!

  3. Rebecca says:

    I’m thankful for our writer’s group as well. I appreciate the eclectic mix we have and the insight everyone is able to offer.

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