Shaping skills are very important to modern mages. At Zorian's school (and presumably others) they teach students the basics three in class and most mentors give students variations of the basic three to improve their shaping skills.
The Basic Three Edit
The basic three is making an object glow, levitating it, or setting it aflame. There many other simple effects mages can create but these three are given a priority because they are a common elements in many spells (Chapter 8).
15 'particularly interesting' variations of the basic three Edit
This is a book recommended to Zorian by Ilsa when he becomes frustrated with Xvim's lessons and asks her for advice on self study (Chapter 8).
Zorian describes the books as...
fairly interesting. Not only did it explain how to perform each variation in great detail, it also explained the reasons for including each particular exercise, as well as providing a background for understanding why the basic three were being taught to students in the first place.The variations in the book are not only listed in descending order of difficulty, but the variations taught first provide skills needed for the variations taught after.
Levitation Variations Edit
Spinning Object Edit
Involves both levitating the object and adding another force to make it spin. The variations purpose is to teach mages multitasking.
Vertical levitation Edit
Required him to make an object stick to his palm with attractive force, position his palm vertically and then make the object separate from his palm without falling down. The sticking part was easy, and something Zorian could already do, but making the object float off the palm without falling required that he balance the attractive force binding the object to his palm and the repelling force that made it separate from it. Without the ability to multitask he acquired from the pen spinning exercise, it probably would have taken forever to master this one.
Fixed Position Levitation. Edit
Required an ability to maintain the levitated object's position in space despite disruptions and changes in initial conditions. In other words, he had to be able to move his hand up and down, left and right, while keeping the levitated object static in space. It required the ability to balance attractive and repelling force he presumably acquired from the vertical levitation exercise, but this time he had to continually adjust the balance in response to changes.