Writing exercises can be a great way (and a fun way) to improve your writing skills. Creative writing exercises can help you find that spark of inspiration you need to write the short story or novel you’ve always wanted to write.
Essentially writing prompts, writing exercises, and creative writing exercises can give you the starting point you need to get where you want to go creatively. This article will offer several ideas for writing exercises that you can use in your own writing process.
Creative Writing Exercises
When you are looking for a writing exercise to improve your creative writing skills or just to provide inspiration, look for writing prompts that force you to think outside the box. Or adapt a normal writing prompt and begin writing, but use consciousness writing.
Consciousness writing is when you take an idea and just let your fingers go, not thinking about or planning the journey. Just let the story flow where it wants to. This creative spin on even the most boring writing exercise can get your creative juices flowing.
This is how many writers end up coming up with their best ideas or working their way out of plot holes for stories they have been working on. Sometimes just starting any thought process with the question “what if?” is all it takes to get you going in the direction of limitless creativity.
What if tomorrow you woke up and you were the only person in your town? Everyone else had just suddenly disappeared? What happened? Where did everyone go? What does this mean for you? Are you special, or are you somehow cursed because you were left behind?
This all started with a “what if” question, and it can quickly snowball into an entire story full of emotion, fear, curiosity, or mystery. Maybe it’s a government experiment. Maybe it was a social experiment that everyone was in on but you. Maybe it was aliens. You can take a story idea like this in almost any direction.
Simply asking a question that starts with those two simple words of “what if” can propel you in a direction that inspires you so much that you won’t be able to stop writing. Just let your mind run free and let go of any limitations or fears you might have, and see what comes of it.
Creative Writing Prompts
The following are some creative writing exercises and prompts that you can use to improve your writing skills, jump-start your creative process, and build your confidence as a writer. You can adapt any of the following creative writing exercises to suit your own personal needs or style.
- Write a letter to your younger self and give them advice about something you wish you’d known.
- Describe your younger self using only positive words. Write it as though he/she is a separate person from who you are.
- If you could warn your younger self about anything, what would it be?
- Write a story from a child’s perspective.
- Write a story in the second-person point of view.
- Write a story in the third person point of view.
- Write a letter to your children, even if you don’t have any, about what is going on in the world today and how it excites or scares you.
- Write a plot using a celebrity as the main character.
- Write a movie idea that marries two very different genres like romantic comedy and horror. What happens? What actors would you cast for the main roles?
The Connection Between a Creative Writing Exercise and Story Ideas
Creative writers don’t just start writing projects with no story in mind. Even the most imaginative creative writer needs help from time to time to plan out things like the main character for a short story, what sort of short stories he/she should write, and where to take the plot.
When you regularly use creative writing exercises, you practice writing fiction, and you force yourself to think about creative turns you can take to make the prompts more interesting. Daily writing exercises, whether you create outlines first, or simply engage in free writing, force you to push your creativity to its limits. When you start writing your own short story, book, or personal essay, you will have that experience of the creative exercises to draw upon.
Inspiration Can Come From Anywhere
Stephen King once sat in the backseat of a car on the way to a book signing, and the car ended up stuck in traffic. In that situation, many of us would probably be on our phones, listening to the radio in the car, or taking a quick nap. Not King. He noticed that the window of his car sat parallel to a city bus, and he could look up slightly and see passengers.
The woman directly across from him on the bus looked stressed, so he sat there, and he came up with a story on the spot about a woman who gets murdered on a bus. A witness sees it from a car parallel to the bus, and the killer makes eye contact with the witness. Traffic starts to move, and the witness has to make a decision whether to do anything about it or not. King turned this idea into a short story called “That Bus is Another World” that was included in his short story collection Bazaar of Bad Dreams.
This goes to show you that inspiration can truly come from anywhere. If you aren’t attuned to looking for it in your day-to-day life, you should seize the chance to find it in things like creative writing exercises. Maybe a prompt will lead you to another idea, and before you know it, you are writing a novel.
Freewriting is a creative writing exercise where you start with a blank page and write anything that comes to mind, building upon it freely, without worrying about things like grammar. Precisely what the result will be is anyone’s guess. Still, when you engage in this sort of writing exercise, you could be churning out ideas for future stories, the story of your own life, a heartfelt letter to your younger self, or excellent flash fiction.
All of this can help you to become a better writer and a more relaxed writer. When you give yourself the freedom to just create whatever comes to mind, you may be surprised at the talent and creativity that you have within you.
Stream of Consciousness
This term is in reference to free writing. It is when you let your creativity take you wherever it wants, and you simply let the idea guide your fingers to type what your mind wants to say. Writing a stream of consciousness story often yields surprising results for the writer. Often, the author is shocked by the creativity that he or she possesses when they go back and read what they have written.
When you free write, you can’t expect a bestselling book to come from it, but you can’t dismiss the possibility, either. From the first word to the last, you can fill your stream of consciousness writing with great detail, great characters, and a plot that will spark and hold the reader’s interest. When we write free of our own judgments, without the filters we may consciously put on our work; we can create amazing things.
More Creative Writing Exercises
Below are more ideas for creative writing exercises that you can use to spark your creativity, give yourself story ideas, and challenge yourself as a writer. Many writers find these exercises helpful in getting them started on the journey to discovering a great story that is waiting to be told.
- Write a short story where the main character is a bad guy.
- Write a poem featuring an animal as the main character.
- Tell a story in three different poetry forms.
- Write ten six-word stories, each about something different.
- Download a free ebook and copy the first paragraph. Then write five paragraphs of your own that build off of that.
- Write about a family member you barely knew.
- Open any book and select a random word. Write a poem featuring this random word at least three times.
- If you could meet any book character in real life, who would it be, and why?
- Character development is essential in writing. Write about a character that undergoes a complete change or transformation.
- Using descriptive language, describe your childhood home.
- Write a story in first person, where you inherit your dream house. Describe it.
- Write a short scene that will make the average reader cry.
- Write about your best friend as a child.
- Write a paragraph about the most exciting trip you have ever been on.
- Write a one-line story.
More Tips for Successful Writing Exercises
Try to include as many fictional elements in your work as you can when you engage in exercises for your writing, especially if you are a fiction writer. Focus less on sticking to the direct prompt and more on nailing the elements. This can help you with things like character creation, development, seeing things from another person’s shoes, and writing well-rounded main characters.
Another great idea for improving your writing is what is referred to as morning pages. This is when you write whatever is on your mind or whatever you want to write about when you first wake up in the mornings. This begins your day of hopefully happy writing. Morning pages are a great way to get in the mindset for writing immediately, so that everything you think of throughout the day could be the inspiration for a story.
Creative writing prompts can help you to be a better writer, and they can provide a fun exercise, especially when you feel stuck in the middle of your writing day. Having a list printed out or written down that contains writing prompts is a great resource to have at your disposal, especially for those days when you seem to have trouble and are hitting that dreaded brick wall called writer’s block.
Writing Prompts Help with a Nonfiction Book, Too
It doesn’t really matter if you’re writing fiction or if you choose to write nonfiction. Writing prompts when writing a nonfiction book can help you to figure out the structure you need for your book, the order in which events should be told, and ways to keep the nonfiction book you are working on interesting to the reader.
A writing prompt can be a great exercise regardless of the sort of writing you do. For example, if the writing prompt tells you to write a letter to someone, you can pay special attention to the formatting needed in that letter to make it understandable. When a reader is reading and deciphering correspondence between two characters, it can get confusing in nonfiction. You can use writing exercises to work on your clarity in nonfiction.
If you write for a newspaper, or if you write other articles for magazines, websites, etc., that are nonfiction, working with topics that you may find in prompts can be a great way to practice word limits, nonfiction elements, and keeping a story short and to the point.
Make Creative Writing a Part of Your Daily Routine
Whether you are already working on a story where you have every plot point planned out already, or you’re struggling with coming up with a tangible idea to get passionate about, daily creative writing can help you as a writer.
Making a point to sit down each day and let your creativity flow freely will open doors for you as a writer that you never knew existed. If you know you need help with fleshing out and developing characters, look for character-focused or character-heavy prompts. If you have issues with writing conflict, look for prompts and exercises that are heavy on conflict and climax.
Creative writing should be a part of your everyday writing process. You can start your day with it, and then you can work on whatever project you were already working on or planned to work on. Many writers have several stories going at once, and you can, too. Any time you start writing something that you like but can’t devote your full attention and energy to, write down the idea and save it. You can always come back to it when you have the time.
Save Your Best Ideas
When you complete a prompt, read over it and decide what you think of it. Maybe it’s something that you can develop into a full story in the future. If you can, or even if you think there’s a slight possibility, hold onto it. Save it on your computer, in a folder, or in a binder, and revisit it when you have time or when you’re having trouble writing and need a distraction or a quick side project to take your mind off of the issues you are having with your current project.