How often are you flexing your creative muscles? If you think of the art of writing as a muscle, writing exercises are how you can train and get stronger. For some writers, warming up before jumping back into a new or old writing project can produce favorable results.
These writing exercises will only take a few minutes, and can leave you with material to use in your next manuscript. Here are some writing exercises that will help you train a large variety of your writing muscles.
Jot Down a Bullet Point List
Set a timer and choose a letter to focus on.
For example for the letter “S”, my list would start with
This exercise can help “wake up” your writing brain and get your fingers moving.
Start Sentences With “I am”
Write sentences that all begin with “I am”. You can write from a character’s point of view, your own, whatever you want. How concisely can you summarize a character and setting in one sentence?
For example, “I am dew drops on the spider’s web”. Or, “I am the untouched book in the library”.
You may be surprised by what you come up with. This exercise is good for practicing character descriptions and scenery.
Write A List Of Your Character’s Favorite Things
What is your character’s favorite foods, scents, weather, animals, etc. What about their least favorite? How many details about your character can you list in five minutes?
Maybe they like the smell of pine, love parakeets, and hate potato chips.
You might uncover something new about a character you’ve been working on for years, or build a new one.
Write About Strangers
This exercise depends on where you’re writing. If there are other people you can see from where you’re writing, pick one and write a short paragraph or bullet point list about their lives. What sort of life do they lead? What are their hopes and dreams? Their biggest disappointment?
Maybe the man walking his dog across the street is a secret agent, or the jogging woman is training for the Olympics.
This is a great exercise to help with character building and descriptions.
Rewrite What You Already Have
You don’t always have to start fresh. One exercise is to take a paragraph of, or a page of existing work and change the character perspective. Flip third person to first. Or second to third. How does that shift the story? Are your descriptions and exposition heightened or weakened by a different perspective?
For example, here is a section that reads “I wake up again as the boat gently sways. It’s pitch black. I don’t know or care what time it is. I reach for some water. I grab a cup and take a swig” in first person.
When rewritten in third person, the section becomes, “He woke to the boat swaying in the pitch black night. As he struggled to find a cup of water he guessed what time it was.”
You may find that the change in shift better suits the needs of your story.
Write A List Of What Inspires You
Whatever informs or inspires your work, it’s good practice to keep them gathered in one place. This way, you might rediscover something that fuels your work if you’re feeling lost and uninspired. What are your favorite books? Movies? Artwork? What issues are you passionate about?
For example, I love Oscar Wilde and J.D. Salinger, my favorite films are made by Studio Ghibli, my favorite artists are Rene Magritte and Alphonse Mucha, and I am passionate about environmentalism and feminism. The creative writing I produce draws from these themes.
This exercise can help you tap into what informs your creativity, passion, and keep you on track.
Build On Sentence Length
Do you find that your sentences are too similar in length? If you want to work on your sentence variation, try writing sentences that each have one more word more than the previous.
For example, “Him. Over there. Watching from afar. What is he doing? His face is a puzzle. Etc.”.
You can start at any number, and can work backwards. Here’s another example: “There was a time when I was happier. Life was simple and predictable back then. Everything twisted and changed; the shift. The ultimate wrench in everything. Taking about it hurts. Etc.”.
While this isn’t realistic when hunkering down and churning out as much writing as possible, this writing exercise is effective at increasing your mindfulness when you’re in the zone.
Work On Your Adjectives
One helpful exercise is to pick a color and start writing a bullet point list of ways to describe it. For the color red for example,
This exercise can also help you work on similes. How many ways can you describe a color without mentioning the actual color?
“Her dress was as vibrant as a ripe tomato”. Or, “His cheeks flushed brighter than a fire truck”.
How many different descriptions can you come up with? Exercising your description muscles can help you strengthen your writer’s voice.
The joy of writing exercises is that they don’t have to take up a large chunk of time. A short sprint before you jump into a writing marathon can do wonders. You may end up using what you come with during these exercises on your next project. There are many creative writing exercises to try out. Are there other writing exercises that spark your creativity? Let me know in the comments below!