6 Exercises to Improve Your Writing Skills
There are a variety of writing prompts and exercises a writer can do to help them start writing and to keep them writing well. Writing exercises can help you discover your own style, generate ideas, practice writing in a specific tone, and just learn how to write better overall. Below are some exercises that can help bring out your best writing:
- Try freewriting. Freewriting allows the writer to follow the impulses of their own mind, allowing thoughts and inspiration to appear to them without premeditation. Set a timer for an amount of time you’re comfortable with, and start writing anything that enters your brain. It doesn’t need to make sense or be coherent in any way—no one will read it but you. Whether you’re academic writing or creative writing, freewriting is an exercise that keeps the mind active, and can help a writer brainstorm and get through writer’s block. Learn about freewriting in our complete guide here.
- Build on a random sentence. Pick a random sentence from a book or other piece of writing and use it as the first sentence of a short story. The story can go in any direction and be about anything you choose, but start with someone else’s words. This is a helpful creative writing exercise that gives you just enough of a beginning to promote idea generation and encourage your own writing.
- Read other writing. Take notes from great writing you admire. Pay attention to the voice and writing style the author employs to create readability. Observe the writer’s word choice and point of view. Are their sentences short and aggressive? Does that evoke a particular feeling or play into the theme? Do they use a lot of long, descriptive phrasing? How does that affect the pacing or add to the sensory imagery? Writing down the techniques used in good writing and applying them to your own writing can help improve your skills.
- Edit another’s work. Writing well means you must also be able to edit well. One way to do this is to find a random blogging site, pick an article, and try proofreading the piece (it may help to avoid bloggers you know in order to remain objective). Mark any poorly constructed or run-on sentences, clichés, instances of passive voice, wordiness, and areas where their sentence structure could be improved to provide more clarity. Practicing your editing will help your writing process overall, by knowing what to look for before you even write it.
- Make a guide. Find a topic you’re generally knowledgeable about and write a how-to article on a subject within it. Practice how to break down a concept into easy pieces and rebuild it in a different structural manner. Doing research and summarizing concepts in a step-by-step way is hard work, but it will improve your organization, keep your analytical skills sharp, and get your fingers writing. The research may also inspire an idea for a new writing project, which can be helpful for writers feeling tapped out of ideas.
- People watch. Write down the things you observe and whatever your imagination stirs up while watching people in a public place. Go to the park or a grocery store, and just watch them. Watch people, get in the habit of observing people, and then see where your thoughts lead, see what directions you can think, just watching a normal situation. Not only can this help ignite creativity, but watching real people live and interact in the real world and listening to the way their dialogue flows can help make your own writing feel more natural.
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