Why you should follow Writing Prompts and do Writing Exercises

exercises writing

The purpose of writing exercises is to practice the art of writing techniques and mechanisms such as word choice, clarity and word economy. It is not about practising story creation.

The rules to play by

1 always keep the pen moving / the keyboard clanging

2 don’t analyse your work as you go, just keep going, no filters, no holding back

3 be specific, practice using strong verbs and visual tangible telling details etc

4 ignore grammar, spelling and punctuation. this isn’t an exam, that stuff is for revision

5 be okay with writing badly, writing badly is essential to writing well

6 be honest and aggressive. Don’t hold back, don’t fear the critics, say it like it is and go for the emotional punch

7 never apologize for what comes out during a session.

Here’s some exercises to get you started

Set the Stage with Dialogue

Find a line of dialogue, either in something you’ve written or in a novel you’ve read, that reveals the story’s setting. If it’s out of another author’s novel, study how the writer managed to insert bits of the setting into the dialogue to make it seem like a natural part of the discussion between the characters.

Dialogue controls the Pace

Find a bit of ponderous narrative in one of your own story scenes and transition into dialogue, using it to speed up the scene. Resist using much narrative or action; try to create most of the scene using just dialogue so you can discover how dialogue quickly speeds up the pace in a scene. If you’re not far enough into a story of your own, complete this exercise with a novel on your bookshelf.

Set the Mood through Dialogue

Place two characters in a setting that will enhance the story’s mood. A dark, creepy alley in a horror story, a bright island beach in a romance, or you might want to reverse these for something different—a dark alley in a romance or an island beach in a horror story. Write a scene of dialogue focusing on the mood/emotion you want to convey in the overall story.

Reveal Motive Through Dialogue

Consider the background of both your protagonist and antagonist. Give each of them a motive. Write a scene where both of them show up and have to talk to each other, whether they want to or not. In this scene, find a way to insert a bit of motivation into the dialogue so we have sympathy for both characters.

Thinking in Specifics

Thinking in specifics! This is a good exercise if you want to know which details to mention to make an environment come to life, or what unusual combinations of elements you could use to make a situation more interesting or funny. Just pick a random noun! Now come up with as many adjectives as you can, to attach to that noun. Preferably pick adjectives that seem interesting to you or that tell a story. Make every generality a specific.

The Hemingway Challenge

Hemingway challenges you: Write a story in only 6 words. Go!

Enneagram Practice

Create a gang of (9) characters. One elderly man and woman, one parent, one child, one super healthy person, one disabled in some way, one non-human, one talking object (i.e. the TV), one hotel staff person. They are all in the lounge of a Hotel when a the tour guide comes in and announces the tour bus has broken down. Write a reactive line of dialogue for each of the 9 characters, showing which Enneagram type they are.