Fifteen Writing Exercises

Updated 10/29/2012

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Writing exercises are a great way to increase your writing skills and generate new ideas. They give you perspective and help you break free from old patterns and crutches. To grow as a writer, you need to sometimes write without the expectation of publication or worry about who will read your work. Don’t fear imperfection. That is what practice is for.

  1. Pick ten people you know and write a one-sentence description for each of them. Focus on what makes each person unique and noteworthy.
  2. Record five minutes of a talk radio show. Write down the dialog and add narrative descriptions of the speakers and actions as if you were writing a scene.
  3. Write a 500-word biography of your life. Think about the moments that were most meaningful to you and that shaped you as a person.
  4. Write your obituary. List all of your life’s accomplishments. You can write it as if you died today or fifty or more years in the future.
  5. Write a 300-word description of your bedroom. Think about the items you have or the other elements of your room that give the best clues about who you are or who you want others to think you are.
  6. Write an interview with yourself, an acquaintance, a famous figure or a fictional character. Do it in the style of an appropriate (or inappropriate) publication such as Time, People, Rolling Stone, Huffington Post, Politico, Cosmopolitan, Seventeen or Maxim.
  7. Read a news site, a newspaper or a supermarket tabloid.  Scan the articles until you find something that interests you and use it as the basis for a scene or story.
  8. Write a diary or a blog of a fictional character. Write something every day for two weeks.
  9. Rewrite a passage from a book, a favorite or a least favorite, in a different style such as noir, gothic romance, pulp fiction or horror story.
  10. Pick an author you like though not necessarily your favorite.  Make a list of what you admire about the way the author writes. Do this from memory first, without rereading the author’s work. After you’ve made your list, reread some of the author’s work and see if you missed anything or if your answers change. Analyze what elements of that author’s writing style you can add to your own, and what elements you should not or cannot add. Remember that your writing style is your own. Only try to think of ways to add to your style. Never try to mimic someone else for more than an exercise or two.
  11. Take a piece of your writing that you have written in first person and rewrite it in third person, or vice-versa. You can also try this exercise changing tense, narrators, or other stylistic elements. Don’t do this with an entire book. Stick to shorter works. Once you commit to a style for a book, never look back or you will spend all of your time rewriting instead of writing.
  12. Try to identify your earliest childhood memory. Write down everything you can remember about it. Rewrite it as a scene. You may choose to do this from your current perspective or from the perspective you had at that age.
  13. Remember an old argument you had with another person. Write about the argument from the point of view of the other person. Remember that the idea is to see the argument from their perspective, not your own. This is an exercise in voice, not in proving yourself right or wrong.
  14. Write a 200-word or longer description of a place. You can use any and all sensory descriptions but sight. You can describe what it feels like, sounds like, smells like and even tastes like. Try to write the description in such a way that people will not miss the visual details.
  15. Sit in a restaurant or a crowded area and write down the snippets of conversation you hear. Listen to the people around you. Listen to how they talk and to what words they use. Once you have done this, you can practice finishing their conversations. Write your version of what comes next in the conversation. Match their style.

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