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What Are Creative Writing Exercises?
Creative writing exercises are short bursts of improvisational writing. From one line to a short story, these writing drills prompt a writer to approach a familiar topic in a new way. Creative writing classes often incorporate short, spontaneous assignments, but any writer should make these a part of their daily habit to expand their abilities and learn how to approach a story in different ways. Creative writers should do these exercises for ten minutes at a time, several times a week. They are meant to improve writing skills, spark new story ideas, and make you a better writer.
8 Creative Writing Exercises
Whether you’re taking a break from a work in progress or are in between writing projects and need some inspiration, regular creative writing exercises help you strengthen your writing process. Incorporate these eight exercises into your writing routine.
- Let your stream of consciousness run. Start with a blank page. Then just start writing. Don’t stop to edit or think about what you’re saying. This is called free writing. This writing exercise is what Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, calls “morning pages.” She suggests writers do this every day right when they wake up. Stream of consciousness writing can draw out some interesting ideas. Just let your brain lead and your fingers type.
- Switch up a story’s POV. Take a scene—or a chapter if you’re feeling adventurous—from one of your favorite books. Write it from a different character’s point of view. In this exercise you’re switching out the main character to see how the story can be told in another way. Take the exciting finale from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and write it with Ron as the main character. Another variation of this creative exercise is to keep the main character, but switch POV. For example, if a writer has told a story in first person, rewrite a scene in third person. What information gets left out when you switch points of view? What does the reader know, or not know, in this new way of telling the story?
- Use creative writing prompts. To generate writing ideas, use writing prompts, also called story starters. A writing prompt is a sentence or short passage that a writer uses as a springboard into a spontaneous story. You can find writing prompts online, choose a line at random from a magazine, or find a great line from a famous novel as the opener for your short scene.
- Write a letter to your younger self. Have you ever wished you could say something to your younger self? Here’s your chance. Think of a subject you want to address, like a significant event, and compose a letter to your younger self as if you were a separate person. Offer advice or send a message you wish you had received when you were a child or young adult.
- Write flash fiction. Sit down at your computer, or get a pen and paper, and write spontaneous flash fiction, a short story that is 500 words or less. This is different than free writing. Free writing generates a stream of consciousness with no set guidelines. Flash fiction requires all of the structural elements a story arc requires, like a plot, conflict, and character development—just in a condensed narrative.
- Write a fake advertisement. Choose a random word from a nearby book or paper and write a mock ad for it. Write one advertisement in a formal, abbreviated newspaper classified format which will force you to pay close attention to your word choice to sell the object. Then write one for an online marketplace, like Craigslist, that allows for longer, more casual text. In each one, describe the object and convince the reader why they should buy it.
- Borrow someone else’s story and make it your own. Think of a great story someone told you. Perhaps a family member, like a grandparent, recounted a moment from their lives that took place decades ago. Try writing the story as if it happened to you. If it’s an older story, there are most likely details missing. Flesh out the story from your imaginary perspective. Another way to approach this exercise is to take a real-life story from a nonfiction book and put yourself in the middle of the action. Take a scene from Lewis and Clark’s journey and write as if you were there.
- Try blogging. There are a thousand writing tips out there, but they all boil down to one thing: Just write. Blogging is a great writing exercise because it creates an outlet for a regular writing habit. Write a post every day to keep your fingers and your mind nimble. Like most bloggers, you’ll want to have a focus—maybe you’ll narrow your scope to parenting or create a how-to site where you can tell stories from your first-person perspective.
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