10 Writing Exercises to Tighten Your Writing

Writing projects can be like children. You love them dearly, but sometimes they irritate you to the point that you just need a break. Working on something fresh and new can invigorate your mind and give you a new approach to your work. These exercises can work for any genre of writing, fiction and non-fiction alike.

By Brittiany Cahoon


1. Free Association

This is probably the most popular writing exercise to get the juices flowing. Pull up a new Word document, take a deep breath and just write whatever comes to mind. Dig as deep as you can into your subconscious and don’t worry about what comes out. Sometimes there’s a mental blockage with something that’s been bothering you, so it helps to write it down and get it out of your system.

2. Think Outside the Box

Think of something you’re passionate about, like a hobby or a love interest, and write everything you know about it. Sometimes writing slumps happen and it helps to write about something you love. Even if you just write a paragraph, it’s better to write something that’s not your current project. This will rejuvenate you to re-start on your current project.

3. Sharpen the Saw

Something I love to do when I’m stuck is read another author’s work, especially an author who writes in the same style or format as my current project. If you’re writing fantasy, read some Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. If you’re writing a biography, try taking a look at some biographies of your favorite actors or writers. Escaping into someone else’s world for a bit can relax you enough to delve into your own imaginary world again.

4. Use the Musical Muse

Writers feel their work, and when you can quite describe what you’re feeling on paper, it can be frustrating. Get out your ipod or computer, put on your earphones and find some songs that appeal to you and the scene or piece you’re working on. Grooveshark.com and Pandora.com are two websites that offer free, instant music streaming to get those juices flowing.

5. Mad Libs

Choose one noun, adjective and verb. Make them as random as possible. Write a story using these words in context. You can also do this exercise with a fellow writer and give each other your noun, adjective and verb to see what you both come up with.

6. Eavesdropper

This is a wonderful exercise if you struggle to write natural dialogue between your characters. Sit in a public place like a park or at your local college campus and listen to the things people say as they walk by. Take copious notes and share them with other writers. This exercise is also great if you need a laugh.

7. Use Writing Prompts

A writing prompt is simply a topic around which you start jotting down ideas. The prompt could be a single word, a short phrase, a complete paragraph or even a picture, with the idea being to give you something to focus upon as you write. You can find examples and resources about on our Writing Prompts 101 article.

8. Person, Place, Event

If you’re in the middle of coming up with some new ideas, this exercise can help. Get a piece of paper and a pen and draw two lines down the middle to form three columns. In the first column, list every type of person you can think of, such as the police, firemen, grandparents, your spouse, a princess or whatever comes to mind. Next, think of a variety of places. It can range from the grocery store to Ireland. In the last column, list a time period or famous historical event like the Battle of Gettysburg or the year 1492. Combine a person, place and event and experiment with writing about that particular situation. You can try as many as you like!

9. Research Rendezvous

Select a random topic, like the African Bush or squids and look it up on as many reference sites as you can find. Dictionary.com, thesaurus.com, Wikipedia.org and about.com are some research sites you can begin with. Learn as much as you can about this new topic. Keep a file for research notes.

10. A New Point of View

Pick a genre or point of view you have never tried before and write a short story with it. If you normally use third-person point of view, switch to first-person. If you normally focus on non-fiction, branch out and write some fiction. If you normally write sappy romances, give action/adventure a try. It’s scary to leave your comfort zone, but you’d be surprised the kind of inspiration you get when you switch perspective.

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