Monday, January 11, 2021

Become a Better Writer With These 20 Writing Exercises

Writing exercises are designed to bring out our dormant creativity.  Use these exercises to hone your skills and explore new writing frontiers.  It doesn't matter what kind of a writer you are, storyteller, essayist, fiction writer or nonfiction writer, all of these exercises will reactivate your creative juices as well as improve your abilities as a writer.

1. Watch and Examine

Look at your favourite view, and write about it.  Imagine someone with the opposite personality to yours and write about them.

Think about all the people you bump into or see on a regular basis throughout the day.  Picture them in a murder mystery or fantasy story. 

2. Objects

You find an item in the park, this could be anything from a bag to a cheque book.  You start thinking about who might own this item.  You take it to the local Police station, what happens next?

Write about the pile of paper clips on your desk for ten minutes.  

3. Emphasising Details

Write a short story that starts with the letter c.

Choose your favourite part of the day and write about what you see from the window for ten minutes.

Think about the things you hate most about writing and put them into words.

4. Stories or Narratives

Storytelling is one of the most popular forms of writing, to put it simply, narratives are built on fact or fiction.  By jumping back and forth from past to present you satisfy the reader's curiosity.  You might want to write a story to entertain, illustrate a premise or maybe you just want to make a point.

With story writing your imagination is the only thing holding you back.  So you could take everyday things and turn them into something special.

Write about a notebook, a ring, and a mobile phone.

5. Exposition, Description and Dialogue

Use objects such as a mirror, tennis ball, oven, pen etc to write 'a day in the life of.'

Write some funny dialogue about a teenager coming in late and explaining to their parents why they're past their curfew.

Write a short story about your local park.

6. Inspiration

Write about your writing fears, what frightens you the most as a writer.

Write about what scares you the most.

7. Being Present in the Moment

Walk around your house/flat for about five minutes, then sit down and write three pages about the first things that come into your head. 

Go over the pages you've just written and pick out all of the interesting and amusing points, then sit down and write something you would share with friends or family.

8. New Point of View

Write a short story about two people stuck in a lift.

Write a story about a person turning one hundred years old.

Write about friendship and what it means to you.

9. Information Reveal

Make up a new word and put in a sentence, story or scene.  Try using it as a verb, adverb, noun etc.

Write about something you used to do with your grandparents, and something you still do today.

Find a picture and write about it.

10. Investigation

Write a short story about noise.

Put on your favourite piece of music and write about where it takes you.

Write some commentary about a magazine or newspaper article.

11. Expectation and Anticipation

Use any form of writing, nonfiction, short story, drama, poetry etc to write a short piece that includes the phrase "Don't pick up the mobile phone."

12. Do-over

Write about an incident in your life you'd like to do-over again.

13. Special Occasion

Think about your most favourite birthday and write about it.

14. Call to Mind

Write about your favourite teacher from school.


15. Put Confines on Your Writing

When you start limiting the way you write you force yourself into a situation where you can only use certain words, figures of speech or descriptions.  

Try some of these exercises:

  • Leave pronouns out of your writing.
  • Create a poem with only six words per line.
  • Leave out a common letter and write a story.
  • Try E-Prime writing (writing without the use of the passive voice).
  • Leave out adverbs and adjectives when you write.

16. Freewriting

Freewriting involves writing without filtering your thoughts, or controlling what you think.  

Try these freewriting exercises:

  • Use the first word from a newspaper or article you've read today to freewrite from.
  • Use something small like an envelope, receipt or postcard to free write on.
  • Time yourself freewriting for five minutes.

17. Read Like a Writer

This is where you look at someone else's work and start to break it down into the main elements, then start emulating them in your own work.  

Try these exercises:

  • Choose your favourite poem and write your own poem in the same way.
  • Use a sentence from your favourite piece of literature and write a short story with it.
  • Try blackout poetry.  You can do this by crossing out the words you don't want to use, then use the words you do want to use and write a poem based on those words.

18. Write From a Different View Point

When you're writing you're told you should "write what you know."  We're going to take the opposite view of this and try a new perspective, this will help expand your creative limits.

Try these writing exercises:

  • Write the same story from two different viewpoints.
  • Use a historical figure and write from their standpoint.
  • Create a story from the perspective of an object like a doll or statue.
  • Create a story from the perspective of someone you don't like.

19. Create Your Own Metaphor Lists

Metaphors are used in both poetry and prose writing, both are used as tools to engross the reader.  To write the list simply create two columns.  In your first column write down only concrete nouns, things like a cloud, a pillow or a tree.  Or anything that can be perceived with one of your five sentences.

In the second list use abstract ideas, things like, closure, hate, war, peace etc.  Things that are conceptual and can't be directly perceived.

Start by choosing a noun from your first list and an abstract idea from your other list.  Put them together and create a metaphor, for example "Love is like a pillow —it can comfort, or it can smother."

Try these writing exercises:

  • Write a logical poem from your metaphor list.
  • Write a short story from your metaphor list.

20. Keep a Daily Journal

Writing everyday is the best way to improve your writing skills.  One of the best ways to do this is to use journaling to exercise your writing mind.  You can do this by writing freely without an audience or any particular agenda.

Try these journaling exercises:

  • Take note of your mood and emotions throughout the day, then write those emotions in the form of a metaphor, avoiding commonplace nouns and adjectives.
  • Use the second- or third-person to write about your day.
  • Use stanzas, line breaks, and figurative language to journal your day in verse.

Read more:

How to Prepare Yourself as a Writer

How to Accept Your Writing Anxiety, and Spend Time on the Craft

Why All Writers Should Set Goals

How to Overcome Your Writing Fear With Mind Games

Find Your Writing Hero

How to Make Time to Write When You Have a Busy Life

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