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Creative Writing, Storytelling, Fiction, and more

Training your mind and body to respond faster and in more effective ways is an essential part of building any skill, whether that’s bodybuilding or publishing a novel. When it comes to writing, flexing your creative muscles is an important part of honing your craft and finding new ways to get everything in your head down on paper. In this guide, we’ll show you a few creative writing exercises that can help you, no matter the style of writing you do. From poetry and songwriting to essays and scripts, we’ll walk you through some go-to examples of writing exercises that will get you scribbling in no time.

What Are Writing Exercises?

Whether you’re a new or experienced writer, you might never have heard of writing exercises before. So what are they? They’re short bursts of improvisational writing, where you don’t plan anything in advance and note down what is on your mind. 

You could write about something familiar or branch out into an entirely new style or genre. How you go about this is entirely up to you! The main goal is to find ways to expand the skill set that you currently have and learn to approach your work in new and exciting ways.

Creative Writing Exercises

Don’t be put off by the idea of creative writing if non-fiction is more your pace; that can be just as creative as working on a novel or short story. The purpose of creative writing exercises is to expand your imagination and to spark new ideas or thoughts, encouraging you to practice writing these before you start on your next project.

Themed writing prompts can be helpful here, breaking down your prompts into different buckets like:

  • Food
  • Animals
  • Landscapes
  • Dreams

Pick a category and write about it. You could choose to write about your favorite pet growing up or expand on a recent dream that you had, about what you ate for breakfast that day or the trip you’re planning to take over the holidays.

There’s an endless number of options for creative writing exercises for beginners online if you’re stuck and don’t know what to write about.

Daily Writing Exercises

Just like an Olympic athlete hits the gym every day to build their physical muscles, taking 10 or 15 minutes out of your morning or evening to write will help to quickly improve your writing. If your overall goal is to become a better writer, working on your craft should be an essential part of your day.

Not sure where to start? Morning pages, or free journaling, are great for both practicing your writing skills and expressing yourself on paper. The idea here is to spend less than 30 minutes each day writing with no agenda or thoughts in mind, with no stops or editing along the way. Aim to keep writing until your time is up, letting your stream of consciousness guide you and dictate what you want to say. We like to think of this as meditation with words, where you fully embrace whatever your mental guide is leading you to.

Daily writing exercises don’t need to be completed at a specific time. Find a quiet moment that works for you, whether that’s first thing in the morning or when you’re tucked up in bed for the night. If you prefer to type instead of handwriting, that’s not a problem unless you find yourself easily distracted. If that’s the case, put your phone out of reach and switch off the WiFi on your laptop so that you’re not tempted to scroll through social media instead!

Writing Exercises for Beginners

When you’re still trying to find your voice and passion as a writer, it can be a challenge knowing where to start when it comes to writing prompts. After all, there are so many choices and an unlimited number of directions that you could go in.

To help you with your choice paralysis, here are a few of our favorite exercises for new writers.

  1. Write the alphabet. No, we don’t mean simply write out the alphabet. Instead, start a 26-sentence story using the next letter in the alphabet as the opening letter until you reach the end. It’s surprisingly difficult, even at only a couple of paragraphs long!
  2. Pick a word from the dictionary. Like the alphabet exercise, this is where you randomly flip open a dictionary and choose a word. From there, write a single sentence. Then see what ideas that sparks and where you could go from there.
  3. Write a letter to past you. We all have experiences that we’d love to show our younger selves, so pick an age and write to you! What would you choose to share with yourself? What hopes and dreams did you have at that age that you could comment on now?

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Writing Exercises to Try

Now that you have a better idea of what writing exercises are and how they might work to improve your skills, let’s dive deeper into some exercises that are specific to different writing forms. 

But remember, just because we’re recommending the exercise for one type of writing doesn’t mean you can’t use it for another! Get creative and see what ideas you can come up with.

Songwriting Exercises

  1. Rewrite your favorite song. We all have a go-to song that pulls at our heartstrings or makes us want to get up and dance. Try rewriting one that you love, sticking to the same theme but switching out the lyrics. You could even rewrite it from a different perspective or point in time.
  2. Pick a theme and make a word association chart. Songs are similar to poems in that they usually have plenty of words that flow well together to make the listener think about something very specific. Starting with the topic that you want to write a song about, draw a spider diagram or make a list of words that you associate with that topic. From there, you can start to work out how to build those connecting points into your song.

Poetry Writing Exercises

  1. Pick a random object and write a haiku. Haikus may be short (17 syllables in three lines of five, seven, five) but they’re quite difficult to write well. Don’t let that put you off! Think of this like picking up the next heaviest dumbbell at the gym. Haikus will teach you how to create compelling verse and to say more with less.
  2. Describe a sound or smell as if it were a person. Poetry is beautiful in all its forms and so much of that comes down to describing and showing—rather than telling—the reader exactly what is happening. Practice this technique by describing a sound or smell as if it were a character of its own, focusing on more complex adjectives above simple descriptors.

Copywriting Exercises

  1. Write a fake ad for your favorite product. Advertising is one of marketing’s biggest moneymakers, from TV commercials to print ads in magazines. Study the type of ad that you’d like to recreate and put together a few examples of your own.
  2. Write a letter to a friend trying to sell them something. Copywriting is all about the art of persuasion, and who better to talk into something than one of your friends? Write a text or letter as if you were trying to get a friend to buy a product that you’ve recently fallen in love with, focusing on what makes it useful and unique. 

Lyric Writing Exercises

  1. Write new alternating line lyrics to existing songs. If the idea of rewriting an entire song feels too overwhelming right now, try rewriting alternate lines of lyrics. The existing structure will help to guide you, but this exercise also gives you the freedom to change the direction and angle of some of the world’s most popular music.
  2. Put together a song with someone else. Writing exercises don’t have to be completed alone. Ask a friend to work with you, especially if you’re struggling to get started or to edit lyrics that you’ve already started. It’s always helpful to have a second perspective on a writing project!

Screenwriting Exercises

  1. Study the scripts of popular films. There’s no better place to learn screenwriting than from the masters themselves. You can find the full scripts of many popular movies online, including the stage directions and scene descriptions. It’s a great way to get inside the screenwriter’s head and learn how to structure your own scripts. Try reading along while watching the film too and see if you can spot where actors improvised or the script was changed during production.

Dialogue Writing Exercises

  1. Write dialogue like a script. Getting stuck on your dialogue tags? Work from the beginning and write your dialogue without any descriptors at all, as if you were working on a script rather than a novel or short story. This will help focus your attention on what the characters are actually saying; you can fill in the rest later.

Therapeutic Writing Exercises

  1. Design a plan for your future. Writing down your goals and aspirations is the perfect way to bring them into view and help you to visualize what the future could look like. They’re a great motivator for starting a new project, leveling up your skills, or putting plans into place for achieving your dreams.
  2. Make a gratitude list. We can all benefit from spending a little time each day being thankful for what we have and how far we’ve come. Keeping a gratitude list or journal is one of the best ways to practice mindfulness and turn around even the gloomiest of days.

Playwriting Exercises

  1. Watch plays online and write down the highlights. As a member of the audience, you may not notice certain stage directions taking place or props being used in particular ways. That’s the mark of a great play! But as a playwright, you need to understand how best to convey the story in every single prop, movement, and piece of dialogue. Watch some of your favorites online and take note of elements that you could bring into your own work.
  2. Use a prop as your starting point. Props aren’t just there to look good; they can be a crucial part of the play. As you’re writing, think about a scene where a prop is the focus or tells us something about a character or situation that we may not have noticed before. Dedicate some time to working with and around that prop before introducing other scenery and dialogue.

Fun Writing Exercises

  1. Explore fanfiction. If you’re a fan of a popular show, book, or film, there’s a good chance that there are thousands of others out there just like you. And with that popularity comes fanfiction. Fanfiction is a type of writing where fans explore an existing story through their own imagination, writing continuations or different directions for the characters in the story. It’s a fun way to flex your writing muscles and get back into fiction if you’ve taken a long break.

Descriptive Writing Exercises

  1. Rewrite a passage from a recent book. Finished a book recently that caught your attention? Try rewriting a few paragraphs but focusing on something that the author only briefly mentioned. For example, if a character was described as having a pocket watch but the rest of the original was mainly dialogue, try rewriting that scene with a focus on the watch–its history, what it means to the character, or how it fits into the story.
  2. Dictate what you see in your head and then write. This is a great exercise for writers with overactive imaginations! Pull up the voice recorder on your phone and close your eyes, then speak out loud about what you’re seeing in your head. Is it a person, an object, or a place? Whatever it is, keep describing what you’re seeing until you’ve run out of ideas. Then use that audio to help you write a short story all about what you saw.

Essay Writing Exercises

  1. Write the opposite viewpoint to your argument. Most essays, particularly academic ones, need to offer some form of opinion or argument while addressing counter-arguments and bringing those down. Try writing a short draft of your essay from the opposite perspective to the one that you’ll be arguing. This helps you to see things from a different angle. It also gives you more ideas for how to counter those thoughts when you write your essay.

Group Writing Exercises

  1. Edit someone else’s work. Reading and reviewing other people’s writing is one of the best ways to improve your own. You’ll notice flaws that may skip right by the writer, and you’ll likely have positive feedback for other areas that they would never notice themselves. Take the advice that you’re giving to one writer. Remember to follow that in your own work.
  2. Have everyone in the group write about the same object or person. A little like a painting class, by having everyone work on describing the same visual, you’ll ultimately end up with a handful of different outcomes. After all, everyone sees and understands the same things completely differently! Compare your work as a group after you’re all finished; you never know what ideas or tips you’ll pick up.

Short Story Writing Exercises

  1. Write flash fiction. Flash fiction is usually around 500 to 800 words long and is very similar to free journaling, except you’re writing fiction instead of non-fiction. You’ll still want to develop the core parts that you’ll find in any other story, like the plot and characters, but with such a small word count, you’ll have to get creative to fit in everything you need.
  2. Practice specific skills that you want to improve. Short stories don’t always give you the opportunity to use every narrative writing technique in the book, so focus on one or two skills that need some help. That could be dialogue, descriptive writing, or even first-person narration.

Memoir Writing Exercises

  1. Give blogging a try. Most bloggers write from a first-person perspective about their own lives and experiences. Essentially, it’s a 21st century way of creating a memoir. Remember to keep important private information to yourself. Be cautious about naming other people (pseudonyms or nicknames work well here), but this is a helpful way to start expressing yourself in this style.
  2. Use biographic journal prompts. As with therapeutic writing, memoir can be driven by prompts that make you think about who you are and where you’ve come from. Prompts like “I remember when…” are helpful in focusing your thoughts on a specific event or time period. They encourage you to reflect on your past in a way that will translate onto the page.

Script Writing Exercises

  1. Write down the dramatic question for each scene first. Whether you’re writing for the screen or the stage, every scene should have a fundamental dramatic question that the audience asks themselves as the story moves forward. Questions like “will the main character escape?” or “when will these two get together?” should be the cliffhangers that keep the audience interested.

Novel Writing Exercises

  1. Write a speech for every major character. Taking the advice of fantasy writer George R. R. Martin, make a list of a handful of characters without any names and with basic descriptions about who they are. Write a speech of one to two paragraphs for each so that you can narrow down distinctive voices for each character.

Pencils at the Ready!

There are hundreds of possible writing exercises out there for you to try. We hope that these ideas will give you some inspiration the next time you want to start a new writing project.

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