creative writing fiction exercises

57 Genius-Sparking Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers

creative writing fiction exercises

The best writing exercises for fiction writers are the ones that help you tap into the story you already wanted to tell.

Sometimes we writers get ourselves overwhelmed by the thought that there’s something we “should” be writing. We play fill-in-the-blanks with the supposed formula for a bestseller or obsess over style rules until writing is more confusing than fun. That’s why we need writing exercises.

To be clear, I’m not against formulas. Plot structures , character archetypes , and genre tropes exist to help us create seamless, compelling stories that satisfy expectations.

But writing exercises allow us to step away from the formulas, think purely in terms of creation, and harvest our inner fields of genius.

After all, you are a writer because the urge to tell stories is already within you. There is something you want to communicate, even if you haven’t quite put your finger on it, yet.

A great writing exercise helps a fiction writer like you pinpoint that something. It helps you find inspiration in the world around you and connect it with the deeper purpose that drives you. It can even help you improve your voice and style without having to analyze the living daylights out of these elements.

And lucky you! We’ve put together 57 writing exercises just for you. Whether you need help finding story ideas, fleshing out a work in progress, or advancing your prose, you’ll find something here that does the trick.

What’s the Point of Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers?

Close-up of a paper in a typewriter with a poem typed on it.

Unlike, say, math exercises, writing exercises are designed to spark unique responses. There are no correct answers here. There’s only the vast sea of your imagination, washing magical objects up onto the shore when you summon its waves.

Or whatever.

Writing exercises can fulfill a wide range of purposes (more on that in a moment), but one thing they all have in common is they’re meant to inspire new ideas. In many cases, they also challenge you to add complexity or nuance to your storytelling.

And—my favorite benefit—they help you stay connected to the joy of creativity even through the tedious, pride-crushing editing process .

When to Do Writing Exercises

A person with a ponytail writes in a journal with their feet propped up on a table filled with books and notebooks.

Do writing exercises whenever you need them! Seriously. All writing exercises fulfill at least one of these four needs:

That pretty much covers every conceivable goal you might have when you sit down to write.

Not sure what to write about? Do a writing exercise. Your scene description reads like you vomited a thesaurus onto the page? Writing exercise. Discouraged, bored, or distracted? You know what to do.

You can even use a writing exercise as a warm-up before every writing session. The possibilities are endless.

Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers

Okay, let’s get to the goods. Here are 57 writing exercises for fiction writers, organized by category. Some prompts are designed to help you come up with new ideas, while others are meant to help you go deeper on an existing project.

Try the exercises that speak to you, skip the ones that don’t, and adapt anything to meet your needs.  

Story Ideas

A man sits in the doorway of a green tent, looking at his phone.

Two women dressed as flappers—one in a red dress and one in a green dress—smile together in an urban setting.

An overhead view of seven friends clinking glasses over a meal.

An empty cafe patio with small, round tables, soft lighting, a wooden back gate, and greenery overhead.

Bonus Writing Exercise Photo: A person standing at the edge of a sharp mountain ridge, surrounded by thick fog.

When in Doubt, Try Fanfiction

On a grand, philosophical level, fanfiction is a beautiful testament to the way we connect with one another’s stories. On a practical, writerly level, it’s a darn good way to sharpen your storytelling skills.

I was about to disclose that I have never actually written fanfiction myself, but then I remembered that Anne of Green Gables / Little House on the Prairie hybrid play I wrote when I was about nine. My cousin and I performed it for our grandma, and I’ll have you know: she loved it. As for me, it was a useful writing exercise, because it allowed me to play with elements that already worked.

With fanfiction, you’re starting with compelling characters whose rich backstories are already known to you. The world and its rules are clear as day. You’re clear on motivations and goals. All the pieces are there for you to play with. You can take things apart, rearrange them, and reconstruct them.

It’s a hands-on way to understand why things work. Not to mention, it’s not unheard of for a work of fanfiction to morph into its own successful series .

Where Do Your Best Ideas Come From?

Two women sitting at a table behind microphones, doing a podcast interview.

People will ask you this someday. A lot. When you’re on your book tour or being interviewed on television, people will want to know where you get your ideas.

For most writers, this is a semi-impossible question. Our best ideas are often a weird soup made from childhood memories, song lyrics, and the evening news. And of course, writing exercises.

If you need somewhere to manage that mess of ingredients, I recommend Dabble . Between the Character Notes, Story Notes, Plot Grid, Comments, and Stickies, there are plenty of tools for organizing your bursts of inspiration as you plan and as you draft. Bonus: you can try all the Premium Features for free for fourteen days without involving your credit card. Just click here.

‍ And even if you’re not ready to become a full-fledged Dabbler, you can still find inspiration and support in the Story Craft Café community. It’s free, and it rocks.

Abi Wurdeman is the author of Cross-Section of a Human Heart: A Memoir of Early Adulthood, as well as the novella, Holiday Gifts for Insufferable People. She also writes for film and television with her brother and writing partner, Phil Wurdeman. On occasion, Abi pretends to be a poet. One of her poems is (legally) stamped into a sidewalk in Santa Clarita, California. When she’s not writing, Abi is most likely hiking, reading, or texting her mother pictures of her houseplants to ask why they look like that.


creative writing fiction exercises


Read. learn. create..

While the terms "story" and "plot" are often used interchangeably, they are actually two distinct elements of narrative, and understanding the difference can be a useful tool in your storytelling arsenal. You’re going to need some of both to create a compelling book that’ll have your readers coming back for more. 

Editing. That tricky little step between drafting and publishing. Okay, maybe it’s not so little. Actually, it’s kind of important. I’ll even go out on a limb and say it’s actually the most important part. And the limb is very short. But where do you start? You’ve got all these words and now you have to take your messy first draft and make them actually readable. You know editing’s a thing, but you’ve probably heard there is more than one kind of editing. One of the most comprehensive is known as content or development editing. This is often the first kind of editing any book sees and, for new writers, can be a valuable step in honing their craft. 

We tend to give a lot of thought to our characters when we’re writing. Their likes and dislikes. Their appearance and disposition. Hopefully their wants, goals, motivations, flaws and all the things that make them feel like real people. But how much thought do you give to actually introducing them to your readers? A strong introduction to a character can help make or break that character and the way your reader perceives them. So what’s in an introduction, anyway?

✍️ 100+ Creative Writing Exercises for Fiction Authors

This curated directory of creative writing exercises was conceived thanks to a collaboration between the top writing blogs of 2023. Use the filters to find and practice specific techniques — and show that blank page who’s boss!

We found 119 exercises that match your search 🔦

Write a list of images you associate with your theme. Now do the same for each of your main characters. Keep these images in mind as a way to present your theme metaphorically through symbolic motifs.

Plot Development

Break through the block.

Writer's Block

Write a description of the room you are in from the point-of-view of a character in your work-in-progress. If the character is from another time or place, so much the better. What would the character notice first? What would she find odd? What would she love about the room? What would she dislike? Go beyond describing the physical space and capture her attitude about what she sees. Let her be snarky or wax poetical. Whatever captures her emotions about the space.

Your character's story has been Disney-fied. At what point in the arc does your protagonist break out into song - and what is that song about?

Character Development

Mood swings.

I recommend starting this exercise with a travel magazine packed with lots of interesting photos. Select an image that appeals to you. Now, write a short scene from the viewpoint of a character who has just arrived at this location and is seeing it for the first time. Describe the setting through the character's eyes, paying particular attention to the mood that this image evokes in you. Evoke this mood in your readers through the reactions of the character - look for sensory images!Now, write a second scene, with the same or a different character - and evoke just the OPPOSITE mood. If your castle seemed tranquil and romantic, set a scene in which the mood is menacing or sorrowful. If the image of that tropical beach made you feel relaxed and happy, create a scene in which, instead, it is causing your character to feel angry or anxious. Again, look for sensory details and impressions that will convince your reader and evoke that same mood through your words - regardless of what mood the picture alone might have evoked!

Your protagonist has just made it into a New York Times headline. What does the headline say? Write down the reaction of your protagonist to hearing the news that day.

The Sorting

Your protagonist's name is called. They approach the stool, where an old and tattered hat lies. They put on the hat. They will next hear one of four words called out: Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, Slytherin, or Hufflepuff. Which one is it? Write down the reasons detailing why.

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105 Creative Writing Exercises To Get You Writing Again

You know that feeling when you just don’t feel like writing? Sometimes you can’t even get a word down on paper. It’s the most frustrating thing ever to a writer, especially when you’re working towards a deadline. The good news is that we have a list of 105 creative writing exercises to help you get motivated and start writing again!

What are creative writing exercises?

Creative writing exercises are short writing activities (normally around 10 minutes) designed to get you writing. The goal of these exercises is to give you the motivation to put words onto a blank paper. These words don’t need to be logical or meaningful, neither do they need to be grammatically correct or spelt correctly. The whole idea is to just get you writing something, anything. The end result of these quick creative writing exercises is normally a series of notes, bullet points or ramblings that you can, later on, use as inspiration for a bigger piece of writing such as a story or a poem. 

Good creative writing exercises are short, quick and easy to complete. You shouldn’t need to think too much about your style of writing or how imaginative your notes are. Just write anything that comes to mind, and you’ll be on the road to improving your creative writing skills and beating writer’s block . 

Use the generator below to get a random creative writing exercise idea:

List of 105+ Creative Writing Exercises

Here are over 105 creative writing exercises to give your brain a workout and help those creative juices flow again:


random image generator

Do you have any more fun creative writing exercises to share? Let us know in the comments below!

creative writing exercises

Marty the wizard is the master of Imagine Forest. When he's not reading a ton of books or writing some of his own tales, he loves to be surrounded by the magical creatures that live in Imagine Forest. While living in his tree house he has devoted his time to helping children around the world with their writing skills and creativity.

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42 Creative Writing Exercises

Creative writing exercises for adults

This page contains a selection of fun creative writing exercises that can be completed solo, or with a group.  Some are prompts to help inspire you to come up with story ideas, others focus on learning specific writing skills.

The sections are as follows:

A note on running exercises remotely

A letter from your character to you, the opening sentence, make your protagonist act, overcoming writer's block, character arc, giving feedback to authors, the five senses, show don't tell, world building.

Degrees of Emotion Game

Three birds, one line, blind date on valentine's day (exercise for adults), a success (works best for online groups), your dream holiday, writing a haiku, writing a limerick, time travel - child, adult, senior, focus on faces.

The alphabet story - creating a story as a group

A question or two, murder mystery game, the obscure movie exercise, how to hint at romantic feelings, a novel idea, creative writing prompts, creative story cards / dice, alternative christmas story, murder mystery mind map.

Other Content:

How to run the writing exercises

While you can enjoy the exercises solo, a lot of writing groups have gone online during the coronavirus pandemic and are using Zoom, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or Skype to keep in touch with other writers during this time.

If you're running such a group and following a ' Shut Up and Write ' structure, I recommend connecting on WhatsApp (for example) first, doing the exercise together, with participants sending each other their writing samples where necessary as part of the exercise, then disconnecting to write in silence for an hour and a half, before reconnecting for a brief informal chat at the end. This works well with small remote groups and is a great way to gain some online support and stay productive!

If you have a larger group, it's worth looking into Zoom, as this has a feature called  Breakout Rooms . Breakout Rooms let you split different writers into separate rooms, which is great for group activities. The free version of Zoom has a 40 minute limit, which can be restrictive, but Zoom Pro is well worth it if you're going to use it on a regular basis. In my experience, Zoom has a better connection than Skype or WhatsApp.

I hope you remain healthy and creative throughout this difficult time for us all.

I run a  Creative Writing Meetup  for adults and teens in Montpellier every week where we start with a 5 to 20 minute exercise, followed by an hour and a half of silent writing, where we each work on our own project. Each of these exercises has been used with the group and works well.  Where the exercises below specify a number of people, if you have a larger group, simply split everyone up into smaller groups as appropriate.

The solo exercises are ideal if you’re working by yourself to help stimulate your mind before working on a larger project or to overcome writer’s block, or can be used with a larger group, where you simply ask everyone to share what they’ve written in groups of 3 or 4 people afterwards. Looking for something quick to fire your imagination? Check out these  creative writing prompts for adults .

Letter from fictional character to the author

If your goal is to write a complete work of fiction, whether it be a novel, a play or a movie script, you will one day need to write to an agent or publisher to ask them to publish your work.

In this exercise, we turn this around and ask you to instead spend 10 minutes writing a letter from a character in your novel to  you , the author, explaining why you should write about them! This serves three purposes:

If you're doing this exercise with a group of teens or adults, and some of the group haven't already started working on their masterpiece, they can instead choose any fictional novel that they love and imagine that a character within it wrote to the author in the first place to ask them to write their story.  What did that letter look like?

First sentence of books

The opening sentence has to grab the reader's attention and make them want to keep reading. Many authors achieve this by starting with an action scene and avoid starting with someone waking up, or a description of the weather. In this exercise the task is to write an opening sentence either to a book you're currently writing, or simply for an imaginary piece of literature.  Here are some of my favourite opening sentences to get you going:

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

George Orwell , 1984

The Golem's life began in the hold of a steamship.

Helene Wecker , The Golem and the Djinni

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Leo Tolstoy , Anna Karenina

It wasn't a very likely place for disappearances, at least at first glance.

Diana Gabaldon , Outlander

You better not never tell nobody but God.

Alice Walker , The Color Purple

The cage was finished.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez ,  Balthazar’s Marvelous Afternoon

Imagine that you are living your life out of order: Lunch before breakfast, marriage before your first kiss.

Audrey Niffenegger ,  The Time Traveler's Wife

Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.

Douglas Adams ,  The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

There are a plethora of ways that you can start a book, however two ways that help engage the reader immediately are:

Spend 5 minutes working on your own opening sentence, then share it with the other participants.

Exercise for 2 writers, or can be done solo.

Make your characters act

According to John Gardner:

"Failure to recognise that the central character must act, not simply be acted upon, is the single most common mistake in the fiction of beginners."

Spend 5 minutes writing a scene where the protagonist is passive in a conversation with one other character. It could be that the other character says something dramatic, and the protagonist just listens, or it could be anything else of your choice!

Once the 5 minutes is up, swap papers with another writer. If you're using Zoom, or working online, send it to each other in a private chat. Now the other person spends 8 minutes rewriting the scene to make the protagonist as active as possible. This might include:

Read both scenes together. Which makes you want to keep on reading?

If you're doing this as a solo writing exercise, simply complete both parts yourself.

Overcoming writer's block

Are you staring at a blank page or stuck for any story ideas? This exercise will help anyone who's experiencing writer's block with a particular piece of writing. If this isn't you, that's great, others will value your input!

If anyone has a particular scene that they're stuck with (a pool of blood on the floor that they have no explanation for, a reason why the rich lady just walked into a particular pub, etc.) then at the start of the exercise everyone briefly describes their scenes (if working online with a large group, typing it into the chat might be best). Everyone then chooses one scene to use as a writing prompt to write a short story for 10-15 minutes.

Afterwards, split into small groups if necessary, and read out how you completed someone else's writing prompt. As everyone listens to everyone else's ideas, this can be a wonderful source of inspiration and also improves your writing. As an alternative solo exercise, try free writing. With free writing, simply write as quickly as you can on the topic without editing or censoring yourself - just let your creative juices flow. If you're not sure what happens next, brainstorm options on the page, jot down story ideas, or just put, "I don't know what happens next." Keep going and ideas will come.

Character arc

There are several different types of character arc in a novel, the 3 most common being:

For this exercise choose either a positive or negative character arc and spend 8 minutes writing a scene from the start of a novel, then 8 minutes writing a scene towards the end of a novel showing how the character has developed between the two points (obviously, we will have to imagine how this change has occurred).

The point here is to capture the essence of a character, as they will be the same, but show their development.

Animal exercise

This is a fun writing activity for a small group. You’ve found a magic potion labelled ‘Cat Chat’ and when you drink it, you turn into whichever animal you’re thinking about; but there’s a problem, it also picks up on the brainwaves of other people near you!

Everyone writes down an animal in secret and then reveals it to the other writers.  The spell will turn you into a creature that combines elements of all the animals.  Each person then spends 5 minutes writing down what happens when they drink the potion.

After the 5 minutes is up, everyone shares their story with the other participants.

If you enjoy this exercise, then you may also want to check out our Fantasy and Sci-Fi writing prompts full of world building, magic, and character development prompts..

I remember

Joe Brainard wrote a novel called:  I Remember It contains a collection of paragraphs all starting with “I remember”.  This is the inspiration for this exercise, and if you’re stuck for what to write, is a great way to get the mental gears turning.  Simply write “I remember” and continue with the first thing that pops into your head.

Spend 5 minutes writing a short collection of “I remember” stories.

Here are a couple of examples from Joe Brainard’s novel:

“I remember not understanding why people on the other side of the world didn't fall off.”

“I remember waking up somewhere once and there was a horse staring me in the face.”

Giving constructive feedback to authors

If you're running a workshop for more experienced adult authors and have at least half an hour, then this is a good one to use (this is the longest exercise on this page, but I felt it important enough to include).

Give each member the option to bring a piece of their own work that should be double spaced and a maximum of 3 pages long. If you're running a workshop where not everyone is likely to bring a manuscript, then ask everyone who wants to bring one to print two copies each (If someone forgets but has a laptop with them, the reader can always use their laptop).

Print out a few copies and hand them around to everyone in the workshop of the guide on: 'How to give constructive feedback to writers'

Each author who brought a sample with them then gives them to one other person to review. They write their name on the manuscript in a certain colour pen, then add any comments to it before passing it to a second person who does the same (commenting on the comments if they agree or disagree).

Then allow 5 minutes for everyone to discuss the feedback they've received, ensuring that they are giving constructive feedback.

Giovanni Battista Manerius - The Five Senses

Painting by Giovanni Battista Manerius -  The Five Senses

Choose a scene and write it for 5 minutes focusing on one sense, NOT sight. Choose between:

Hearing  Taste Smell Touch

This can be internal as well as external (I heard my heartbeat thudding in my ears, or I smelt my own adrenaline).

After the 5 minutes stop and everyone reads it out loud to each other. Now write for another 5 minutes and continue the other person's story, but do NOT use sight OR the sense they used.

You can use any sense to communicate the essentials, just focus on creating emotions and conveying the story with the specific sense(s).

If you need some writing prompts, here are possible scenes that involve several senses:

2 or 3 people

Show don't tell your story

A lot of writing guides will advise you to, "Show, don't tell," but what does this actually mean?

If you want to evoke an emotional reaction from your reader, then showing them what is happening is a great way to do so.  You can do this in several ways:

Split up into pairs and each person writes down a short scene from a story where they "tell" it.  After this, pass the description of the scene to your partner and they then have 5 minutes to rewrite it to "show" what happened.  If there are an odd number of participants, make one group of three, with each person passing their scene clockwise, so everyone has a new scene to show.  After the 5 minutes, for small groups everyone reads their new description to everyone else, or for large groups, each person just reads their new scene to their partner.

Visual writing prompts

World building is the art of conveying the magic of living in a different world, whether it's a spaceship, a medieval castle, a boat, or simply someone's living room. To master world building, it's not necessary to know every intricate detail, rather to convey the experience of what it would be like to live there.

Choose one of the above images as a prompt and spend 10 minutes writing a scene from the perspective of someone who is seeing it for the first time. Now, move your character six months forward and imagine that they've spent the last six months living or working there. Write another scene (perhaps with an additional character) using the image as a background, with the events of the scene as the main action.

Click the above image for a close-up.

Gossiping about a character as if they're a friend.

Easy to gossip with friends about a character

Judy Blume says that she tells her family about her characters as if they’re real people. 

Chris Claremont said, "For me, writing the 'X-Men' was easy - is easy. I know these people, they're my friends." 

Today’s exercise has 2 parts. First, spend 5 minutes jotting down some facts about a character you’ve invented that might come up if you were telling your friends about them. Either choose a character in something you’ve already written, or invent one from scratch now.

Answer the questions:

What are they up to? How are they? What would you say if you were gossiping about them?

Then split up into groups of 4 to 6 writers. 2 volunteers from each group then role-play talking about their character as if they were a friend (perhaps another character in the story).  The other participants will role-play a group of friends gossiping about the character behind their back and ask questions. If you don’t know the answer, invent it!

Degrees of emotion

This is based on an acting game, to help actors understand how to perform with different degrees of emotion.

Ask everyone to write the following 4 emotions:

For groups of 5 or less, write down numbers starting with 1 and going up until everyone has a number, then give them out in order. For groups of 6 or more, divide groups into 3's, 4's or 5's.

Each person has to write a scene where the protagonist is alone and is only allowed to say a single word, e.g. "Banana".  The writer with number 1 should write the scene with a very low level of the emotion (e.g. happiness), number 2 increases the intensity a bit and the highest number writes a scene with the most intense emotion you can possibly imagine.

Once each writer has written about happiness, rotate the numbers one or two spaces, then move onto anger, then fear, then sadness.

It can help to give everyone numbers showing the intensity of the emotions to write about at the start of the exercise, in which case you may wish to print either the Word or PDF file, then use the ones corresponding to 3, 4 or 5 writers.


Everyone shares their scene with the other course participants.

Kill three birds with one stone

The first paragraph of a surprising number of best-selling novels serves multiple purposes. These are to:

Nearly every chapter in a novel also serves all three purposes. Instead of establishing a goal though, the protagonist either moves towards it, or encounters an obstacle that hinders them from achieving it.

Some books manage to meet all three purposes with their opening lines, for example:  

Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

J.K. Rowling ,  Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone  

A little more than one hundred days into the fortieth year of her confinement, Dajeil Gelian was visited in her lonely tower overlooking the sea by an avatar of the great ship that was her home.

Iain M. Banks ,  Excession  

"We should start back," Gared urged as the woods began to grow dark around them.

George R.R. Martin ,  A Game of Thrones

For this exercise write a sentence or short paragraph that serves all three purposes. If you're already writing a novel, then see if you can do this for the first line in a chapter. If not, choose any combination from the following table:

Valentine's Day Book

In pairs one writer spends a minute or two describing a character they're writing about, or alternatively they can describe a celebrity or someone from a work of fiction.  The next writer then describes their character.

The story is that these 2 characters (or in my case, person and alien, as I'm writing a sci-fi) have accidentally ended up on a blind date with each other, perhaps the waiter seated them in the wrong location, perhaps it's an actual blind date, or perhaps they met in some other fashion that the writers can determine.

Now spend 10 minutes discussing what happens next!

Winning a race

This exercise works best for online groups, via Zoom, for example.  The instructions to give are:

"In a few words describe a success in your life and what it felt like to achieve it. It can be a small victory or a large one."

Share a personal example of your own (mine was watching my homeschooled sons sing in an opera together).

"Once you have one (small or large), write it in the chat.

The writing exercise is then to choose someone else's victory to write about for 10 minutes, as if it was the end of your own book.

If you want to write for longer, now imagine how that book would start, and write the first part of the book with the ending in mind."

In this difficult time, this is great for reminding people of a success in their lives, and also helps everyone connect and discover something about each other.

Dream holiday in France

You’re going on a dream holiday together, but can’t stand conflict, so rather than discuss what you want to do, you’ve decided that each of you will choose a different aspect of the holiday as follows:

Decide who gets to choose what at random, then each of you write down your dream holiday destination/activity/travel/food & clothes in secret.  Next spend 5 minutes discussing your dream holiday and add any other details you’d like to include, particularly if you’re passionate about doing something in real life.

Finally, everyone spends another 5 minutes writing down a description of the holiday, then shares it with the others.

Writing haiku

A haiku is a traditional Japanese form of non-rhyming poetry whose short form makes it ideal for a simple writing exercise.

They traditionally are structured in 3 lines, where the first line is 5 syllables, the second line is 7 syllables, and the third line is 5 syllables again and tend to focus on themes of nature and deep concepts that can be expressed simply.

A couple of examples:

A summer river being crossed how pleasing with sandals in my hands! Yosa Buson , a haiku master poet from the 18 th  Century.

And one of mine:

When night-time arrives Stars come out, breaking the dark You can see the most

Martin Woods

Spend up to 10 minutes writing a haiku.  If you get stuck with the 5-7-5 syllable rule, then don’t worry, the overall concept is more important!

See  How to write a haiku  for more details and examples.

Writing a limerick

Unlike a haiku, which is profound and sombre, a limerick is a light-hearted, fun rhyming verse.

Here are a couple of examples:

A wonderful bird is the pelican. His bill can hold more than his beli-can He can take in his beak Food enough for a week But I'm damned if I see how the heli-can.

Dixon Lanier Merritt, 1910

There was a young lady named Bright, Whose speed was far faster than light; She started one day In a relative way, And returned on the previous night.

Arthur Henry Reginald Buller in  Punch,  1923

The 1 st , 2 nd  and 5 th  line all rhyme, as do the 3 rd  and 4 th  line.  The overall number of syllables isn’t important, but the 3 rd  and 4 th  lines should be shorter than the others.

Typically, the 1 st  line introduces the character, often with “There was”, or “There once was” and the rest of the verse tells their story.

Spend 10 minutes writing a limerick.

Adult time travel

Imagine that your future self as an old man/woman travels back in time to meet you, the adult you are today.  Alternatively, you as a child travels forward in time to meet yourself as an adult.  Or perhaps both happen, so that the child you, adult you, and senior you are all together at the same time.  In story form write down what happens next.

Participants then share their story with other writers either in small groups, or to the whole group.

Solo exercise

Describing a character

One challenge writers face is describing a character and a common mistake is to focus too much on the physical features, e.g. "She had brown eyes, curly brown hair and was five foot six inches tall."

The problem with this is that it doesn't reveal anything about the character's personality, or about the relationship between your protagonist and the character and your reader is therefore likely to quickly forget what someone looks like.  When describing characters, it's therefore best to:

Here are 3 examples of character descriptions that leave no doubt how the protagonist feels.

“If girls could spit venom, it'd be through their eyes.” S.D. Lawendowski,  Snapped

"And Ronan was everything that was left: molten eyes and a smile made for war." Maggie Stiefvater,  The Dream Thieves

"His mouth was such a post office of a mouth that he had a mechanical appearance of smiling." Charles Dickens

Spend 5 minutes writing a character introduction that is animated, uses metaphors or similes and involves your protagonist.

If working with a group, then form small groups of 3 or 4 and share your description with the rest of the group.

Onomatopeai, rhyme and alliteration

Onomatopeai, rhyme or alliteration.

Today's session is all about sound.

Several authors recommend reading your writing out loud after you've written it to be sure it sounds natural.   Philip Pullman  even goes as far as to say:

"When I’m writing, I’m more conscious of the sound, actually, than the meaning. I know what the rhythm of the sentence is going to be before I know what the words are going to be in it."

For today's exercise, choose the name of a song and write for 10 minutes as if that's the title for a short story. Focus on how your writing sounds and aim to include at least one onomatopoeia, rhyme or alliteration.  At the end of the 10 minutes, read it out loud to yourself, or to the group.


An alliteration example from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew, The furrow followed free; We were the first that ever burst Into that silent sea.


Buzz, woof, quack, baa, crash, purr, beep, belch,...

alphabet story

This is a novel way to write a story as a group, one word at a time.  The first person starts the story that begins with any word starting with “A”, the next person continues the story with a word starting with “B”, and so on.

Keep going round until you have completed the alphabet.  Ideally it will all be one sentence, but if you get stuck, start a new sentence.  Don’t worry if it doesn’t make complete sense!

It can be tricky to remember the alphabet when under pressure, so you may wish to print it out a couple of times, so the storytellers can see it if they need to, this is particularly helpful if you have dyslexics in the group.


Here’s an example of an alphabet story:

A Band Can Dance Each Friday, Ghostly Hauntings In Jail Kill Lucky Men, Nobody Or Perhaps Quiet Rats, Still That Unifies Villains Who X-Ray Your Zebras.

As I mentioned, it doesn’t need to make sense!

Small or large groups

1 or 2 questions

The standard format in our group is a short writing exercise followed by an hour and a half of silent writing on our projects.

At one point I felt like we'd done a lot of small group exercises, and wanted to gain an insight into what everyone was working on, so we did the following exercise instead:

Go round the table and ask everyone to briefly talk about their writing.  Each person then asks one or two yes/no questions.

Everyone responds either by raising their hand for 'yes' or shaking their heads for 'no'. You can also leap up and down to indicate a very strong 'yes'.

Questions can be about anything, and you can use them either to help guide your writing or to help find other people in the group who have similar interests.

Here are some random examples you might ask:

This works best when you give participants some advance notice, so they have time to think of a question.

Groups of 3 or 4

Murder mystery

This exercise takes 20-30 minutes and allows participants to create a murder mystery outline together.

Phase 1 (3 minutes)

Phase 2 (10 minutes).

Each person then writes a police report as if they are either describing the scene of the crime, or recording the notes from their interview with a single suspect:

Write the following:

Write the following (from the perspective of the investigator):

Phase 3 (5 minutes)

See more ideas on  creating murder mystery party games

Obscure movie

Pick a famous movie and spend 5 minutes writing a scene from it from an unusual perspective.  Your aim is to achieve a balance between being too obscure and making it too obvious.  Feel free to add internal dialogue.

At the end of the 5 minutes, everyone reads their movie scene to the others and all the other participants see if they can guess what the movie is.

How to hint at romantic feelings

Write a scene with 2 people in a group, where you hint that one is romantically interested in the other, but the feelings aren’t reciprocated.

The goal of this exercise is to practice subtlety. Imagine you are setting a scene for the future where the characters feelings will become more important. Choose a situation like a work conference, meeting with a group of friends, etc. How do you indicate how the characters feel without them saying it in words?

Some tips for hinting at romantic feelings:

Novel idea

Take it in turns to tell everyone else about a current project that you’re working on (a book, screenplay, short story, etc.)

The other writers then brainstorm ideas for related stories you could write, or directions your project could take.  There are no right or wrong suggestions and the intention is to focus on big concepts, not little details.

This whole exercise takes around 15 minutes.

Exercise for groups of 3-5

Creative writing

If you're in larger group, split up into groups of 3 or 4 people.

Everyone writes the first line of a story in the Zoom chat, or on paper. Other people can then choose this line as a writing prompt.

For this exercise:

Once everyone's written a prompt, everyone chooses a prompt (preferably someone eles's, but it can be your own if you feel really inspired by it.)  Then write for 10 minutes using this prompt. See if you can reveal who the protagonist is, what their motivation is (it can be a small motivation for a particular scene, it doesn't have to be a huge life goal), and introduce at least one new character.

Take turns reading out your stories to each other.

Creative story cards for students

Cut up a piece of paper and write one word on each of the pieces of paper, as follows:

Give each participant a couple of pieces of paper at random.  The first person says the first sentence of a story and they must use their first word as part of that sentence.  The second person then continues the story and must include their word in it, and so on.  Go round the group twice to complete the story.

You can also do this creative writing exercise with story dice, your own choice of words, or by asking participants to write random words down themselves, then shuffling all the cards together.

Alternative Christmas Story

Every Christmas adults tell kids stories about Santa Claus. In this exercise you write a Christmas story from an alternative dimension.

What if every Christmas Santa didn't fly around the world delivering presents on his sleigh pulled by reindeer? What if gnomes or aliens delivered the presents? Or perhaps it was the gnomes who are trying to emulate the humans? Or some other Christmas tradition entirely that we humans have never heard of!

Group writing exercise

If you're working with a group, then give everyone a couple of minutes to write 2 possible themes for the new Christmas story. Each theme should be 5 words or less.

Then simply shuffle the paper and distribute them at random (or everyone types the themes into a Zoom or group chat, if you're working online). Everyone then spends 10 minutes writing a short story for children based on one of the two themes, or their own theme if they really want to.

If working alone, choose your own theme and spend 15 minutes writing a short story on it. See if you can create the magic of Christmas from another world!

Murder Mystery mind map

In a murder mystery story or courtroom drama, there's often conflicting information and lots of links between characters and a mind map is an ideal way to illustrate how everything ties together.

Split into groups of 3 or 4 people each and place a blank piece of A3 paper (double the size of A4) in the middle of each group. Discuss between you who the victim is and write their name in the middle of the piece of paper. Then brainstorm information about the murder, for example:

Feel free to expand out from any of these, e.g. to include more information on the different characters involved.

The idea is that  everyone writes at the same time!   Obviously, you can discuss ideas, but anyone can dive in and write their ideas on the mind map.

New Year’s resolutions for a fictional character

List of ideas for a fictional character

If you’re writing a piece of fiction, asking yourself how your protagonist would react to an everyday situation might help you to gain a deeper insight into who they are.

One way to do this is to imagine what their New Year’s resolutions would be!

If completing this exercise with a group, limit it to 3 to 5 resolutions per person and if some participants are non-fiction writers, they can instead pick a celebrity and either write what their resolutions  will  be, or what their resolutions  should  be, their choice.

Verb Noun Fiction Exercise (Inspired by Stephen King)

List of ideas for a fictional character

Stephen King said, "I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops."

He also said, "Take any noun, put it with any verb, and you have a sentence. It never fails. Rocks explode. Jane transmits. Mountains float. These are all perfect sentences. Many such thoughts make little rational sense, but even the stranger ones (Plums deify!) have a kind of poetic weight that’s nice."

In this fiction writing exercise, start by brainstorming (either individually or collectively) seven verbs on seven different pieces of paper. Put those aside for later. Now brainstorm seven nouns. Randomly match the nouns and verbs so you have seven pairs. Choose a pair and write a piece of fiction for ten minutes. Avoid using any adverbs.

It’s the end of the world

End of the world

It’s the end of the world!  For 5 minutes either:

If working as a team, then after the 5 minutes is up each writer reads their description out to the other participants.

7 Editing Exercises

For use after your first draft

Editing first draft

I’ve listened to a lot of masterclasses on writing by successful authors and they all say variants of your first draft won’t be good and that’s fine. Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman summarise it the best:

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”  

Terry Pratchett

“For me, it’s always been a process of trying to convince myself that what I’m doing in a first draft isn’t important. One way you get through the wall is by convincing yourself that it doesn’t matter. No one is ever going to see your first draft. Nobody cares about your first draft. And that’s the thing that you may be agonising over, but honestly, whatever you’re doing can be fixed… For now, just get the words out. Get the story down however you can get it down, then fix it.”

Neil Gaiman

Once you’ve written your first draft, it will need editing to develop the plot, enhance the characters, and improve each scene in a myriad of ways – small and large. These seven creative editing exercises are designed to help with this stage of the process.

The First Sentence

Read the first paragraph of the novel, in particular the first sentence. Does it launch the reader straight into the action? According to On Writing and Worldbuilding by Timothy Hickson, “The most persuasive opening lines are succinct, and not superfluous. To do this, it is often effective to limit it to a single central idea… This does not need to be the most important element, but it should be a central element that is interesting.” Ask yourself what element your opening sentence encapsulates and whether it’s the best one to capture your readers’ attention.


Consistency is crucial in creative writing, whether it’s in relation to location, objects, or people.

It’s also crucial for personality, emotions and motivation.

Look at scenes where your protagonist makes an important decision. Are their motivations clear? Do any scenes force them to choose between two conflicting morals? If so, do you explore this? Do their emotions fit with what’s happened in previous scenes?

As you edit your manuscript, keep the characters’ personality, emotions and motivation in mind. If their behaviour is inconsistent, either edit it for consistency, or have someone comment on their strange behaviour or be surprised by it. Inconsistent behaviour can reveal that a character is keeping a secret, or is under stress, so characters don’t always need to be consistent. But when they’re not, there has to be a reason.  

Show Don’t Tell One

This exercise is the first in The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass. It’s a writing guide with a plethora of editing exercises designed to help you reenergize your writing by thinking of what your character is feeling, and giving you the tools to make your reader feel something.  

Show Don’t Tell Two

Search for the following words in your book:

Whenever these words occur, ask yourself if you can demonstrate how your characters feel, rather than simply stating it. For each occasion, can you use physiological descriptors (a racing heart), actions (taking a step backwards) or dialogue to express what’s just happened instead? Will this enhance the scene and engage the reader more?

After The Action

Find a scene where your characters disagree – in particular a scene where your protagonist argues with friends or allies. What happens next?

It can be tempting to wrap up the action with a quick resolution. But what if a resentment lingers and mistrust builds? This creates a more interesting story arc and means a resolution can occur later, giving the character development a real dynamic.

Review how you resolve the action and see if you can stretch out the emotions for a more satisfying read.

Eliminating the Fluff

Ensure that the words used don’t detract from the enormity of the events your character is going through. Can you delete words like, “Quite”, “Little”, or “Rather”? 

Of “Very” Florence King once wrote: “ 'Very' is the most useless word in the English language and can always come out. More than useless, it is treacherous because it invariably weakens what it is intended to strengthen .” Delete it, or replace the word after it with a stronger word, which makes “Very” redundant.

“That,” is another common word used in creative writing which can often be deleted. Read a sentence as is, then reread it as if you deleted, “That”. If the meaning is the same, delete it.

Chapter Endings

When talking about chapter endings, James Patterson said, “At the end, something has to propel you into the next chapter.”

Read how each of your chapters finish and ask yourself does it either:

Review how you wrap up each of your chapters. Do you end at the best point in your story? Can you add anticipation to cliff hangers? Will you leave your readers wanting more?  

The editing exercises are designed to be completed individually.

With the others, I've always run them as part of a creative writing group, where there's no teacher and we're all equal participants, therefore I keep any 'teaching' aspect to a minimum, preferring them to be prompts to generate ideas before everyone settles down to do the silent writing. We've recently gone online and if you run a group yourself, whether online or in person, you're welcome to use these exercises for free!

The times given are suggestions only and I normally get a feel for how everyone's doing when time's up and if it's obvious that everyone's still in the middle of a discussion, then I give them longer.  Where one group's in the middle of a discussion, but everyone else has finished, I sometimes have a 'soft start' to the silent writing, and say, "We're about to start the hour and a half of silent writing now, but if you're in the middle of a discussion, feel free to finish it first".

This way everyone gets to complete the discussion, but no-one's waiting for ages.  It's also important to emphasise that there's no wrong answers when being creative.

Still looking for more? Check out these  creative writing prompts , or our dedicated  Sci-Fi and Fantasy creative writing prompts .

If you've enjoyed these creative writing exercises, please share them on social media, or link to them from your blog.

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Writing Forward

What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers

by Melissa Donovan | Oct 25, 2022 | Writing Resources | 2 comments

what if writing exercises for fiction writers

What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers.

Good fiction includes many different elements: believable characters, realistic dialogue, and a compelling plot. Every decent story has a beginning, middle, and end. Intriguing tales are built around conflict and are rich with themes and symbols. And those are just the basics.

It can be pretty overwhelming.

Fiction writing is hard work. It requires a complex and diverse set of skills. Stringing words together into sentences only scratches the surface of what goes into good fiction writing. Fiction that is truly worthwhile is layered with meaning. It’s made up of an infinite number of tiny parts. Most importantly, it has a sense of truth and realism that the real world often lacks.

Mark Twain said, “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn’t.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.”

And Stephen King said, “Fiction is the truth inside the lie.”

Writing Exercises for Study, Practice, and Inspiration

It takes years to master the craft of fiction writing, to get so good that you make it look effortless.

Other than reading plenty of fiction, one of the best ways to master this complicated craft is through writing exercises. I have found that the best fiction writing exercises offer three benefits:

1. Tools and Techniques: it’s not enough to be given a writing assignment that does little more than get you to scrawl words on the page. A good writing exercise imparts useful tools and techniques that, once learned, will stay with you forever.

2. Practice: writing exercises force you to do more than study the craft; they also give you practice and experience. They work your writing muscles, which is why they’re called exercises.

3. Inspiration: inspiration often comes when we suddenly see the world in a new way. Good writing exercises point you in a new direction and push you toward fresh ideas from broad story concepts to minute details that enrich your narrative.

The book What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers provides fiction writers with all these benefits and a whole lot more.

I picked up my copy of What If? as required reading for a fiction writing class that I took in college. Ironically, we didn’t use the book much in class, but I’ve kept it close and often turned to it for insight and inspiration. Since it’s a college textbook, it’s a bit pricey, but it’s worth every penny. Here’s what you get:

When I first got the book, my favorite thing about it was that it got me thinking about fiction writing from new angles. Later, I found that the exercises were good practice for developing my writing and storytelling skills. Even now, when I read through a few exercises, I’m inspired, not just with ideas, but I’m actually inspired to write. I can’t wait to get to work.

Sample it for Yourself

Here are summaries of some of my favorite exercises from What If? :

Image Notebook

Keep an image notebook and write down one image every single day by asking yourself “What’s the most striking thing I heard, saw, smelled, touched, or tasted today?”

Put Your Characters to Work

Write a story in which your character’s personal problems are played out at his or her workplace. This exercise is a good reminder that too many stories ignore the mundane in order to focus on the extraordinary.

Go Ahead, Yawn

Give your character a physical problem to cope with. The example given is a nun who has a piece of dental floss stuck between her teeth all day. It’s not the central conflict but constant reminders of her discomfort keep readers engaged at a visceral level.

what if writing exercises for fiction writers

What are some of your favorite fiction writing resources? How have writing exercises shaped your fiction-writing skills? Share your thoughts and experiences by leaving a comment, and keep writing!

whats the story building blocks for fiction writing

I have an earlier print of this book, and I love it–wouldn’t part with it for the world. It’s gotten me past writer’s block more times than I can count. Another of my favorites, I believe now out of print, is “Fast Fiction: Creating Fiction in Five Minutes” by Roberta Allen

Melissa Donovan

Thanks for the recommendation!

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Freewriting & Stream of Consciousness

What do you do when the words just don’t come out? How can you write better if you can’t seem to write at all? One of the best poetry exercises, as well as writing exercises in general, is to start your day by freewriting.

Freewriting, also known as “stream of consciousness writing,” involves writing your thoughts down the moment they come. There’s no filtering what you write, and no controlling what you think: topicality, style, and continuity are wholly unnecessary in the freewriting process. While the idea of freewriting seems easy, it’s much harder than you think – examining your thoughts without controlling them takes a while to master, and the impulse to control what you write isn’t easy to tame. Try these exercises to master the skill:

Among daily writing exercises, freewriting is one of the best writing exercises. Poets can use freewritten material as inspiration for their poetry. Prose writers can also find inspiration for future stories from the depths of their consciousnesses. Start your writing day with freewriting, and watch your creativity blossom.

Copy What You Read

Plagiarism is still off the table; however, you can learn a lot by paying attention to how other people write. This is what we call “reading like a writer.”

Reading like a writer means paying attention to the craft elements that make an excellent piece of literature work. Good writing requires different writing styles, figurative language, story structures, and/or poetry forms, as well as key word choice.

When you notice these craft elements, you can go ahead and emulate them in your own work. As a fiction writer , you might be drawn to the way Haruki Murakami weaves folklore into his stories, and decide to write a story like that yourself. Or, as a poet, you might be inspired by Terrance Hayes’ Golden Shovel form — enough so that you write a Golden Shovel yourself.

Among free writing exercises, this is a great way to learn from the best. The best kinds of exercises to improve writing skills involve building upon the current canon of works — as Isaac Newton said, you achieve something great by “standing on the shoulders of giants.”

Write From Different Perspectives

The conventional advice given to writers is to “write what you know.” We couldn’t disagree with that statement more. The best creative works force both the writer and the reader to consider new perspectives and learn something new; writing from a new point-of-view makes for a great exercise in expanding your creative limits.

Try these ideas as daily writing exercises:

While playing with perspective makes for a great fiction writing exercise , poets and essayists can do this too. Patricia Smith’s poem “Skinhead,” for example, is a persona piece written from the perspective of a white nationalist, but the poem clearly condemns the speaker’s beliefs.

Thus, perspective writing also works as a poetry exercise and an essay writing practice exercise . If you’re stuck in your own head, try writing in someone else’s!

Write Metaphor Lists

All creative writers need figurative language. While metaphors, similes, and synecdoches are more prominent in poetry , prose writers need the power of metaphor to truly engross their reader. Among both exercises to improve writing skills and fun writing exercises for adults, writing metaphor lists is one of the best writing exercises out there.

A metaphor list is simple. On a notebook, create two columns. In one column, write down only concrete nouns. Things like a pillow, a tree, a cat, a cloud, and anything that can be perceived with one of the five senses.

In the other list, write down only abstract ideas. Things like love, hate, war, peace, justice, closure, and reconciliation — anything that is conceptual and cannot be directly perceived.

Now, choose a random noun and a random concept, and create a metaphor or simile with them. Delve into the metaphor and explain the comparison. For example, you might say “Love is like a pillow — it can comfort, or it can smother.”

Once you’ve mastered the metaphor list, you can try the following ideas to challenge yourself:

Any free creative writing exercise that focuses on figurative language can aid your writing immensely, as it helps writers add insight and emotionality to their work. This is an especially great creative writing exercise for beginners as they learn the elements of style and language.

Daily Journaling

Of course, the best way to improve your creative writing skills is simply to write every day. Keeping a daily journal is a great way to exercise your writing mind. By sitting down with your personal observations and writing without an agenda or audience, a daily writing practice  remains one of the best writing exercises , regardless of your genre or level of expertise.

Consider these ideas for your daily journal:

Writing Exercises: Have Fun with Them!

Many of these writing exercises might feel challenging at first—and that’s a good thing! You will unlock new ideas and writing strengths by struggling through these creative challenges. The main point is to have fun with them and use them to explore within your writing, without indulging too many monologues from your inner critic.

Are you looking for more exercises to improve your writing skills? Our instructors can offer prompts, illuminating lectures, one-to-one feedback, and more to help you improve your craft. Check out our upcoming creative writing courses , and let’s put these skills to practice.

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Sean Glatch

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Thank you for this. I’ve been stuck for months—more than that, actually, and you’d think that a pandemic stay-at-home would be the perfect time to do some writing. But no. I’m as stuck as ever. In fact, the only time I seem able to write consistently and well is when I’m taking one of your classes! I’m still saving my pennies, but these exercises will hopefully get me writing in the meantime. Thanks again!

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Hi Kathy, I’m glad to hear some of these tips might spark your creativity 🙂 I feel the same way, I was hoping the stay-at-home order might spark some creativity, but we shouldn’t push ourselves too hard – especially in the midst of a crisis.

The best part about writing: all you have to do is try, and you’ve already succeeded. Good luck on your writing endeavors!

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Bravo….!What a great piece! Honestly I learnt a lot here!

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I picked interest in poetry just a week ago after reading a beautiful piece which captivated my mind into the world of writing. I’d love to write great poems but I don’t know anything about poetry, I need a coach, a motivator and an inspiration to be able to do this. This piece really helped me but I will appreciate some more tips and help from you or anyone else willing to help, I am really fervid about this.

Hi Anthony,

Thanks for your comment! I’m so excited for you to start your journey with poetry. We have more advice for poetry writing at the articles under this link:

Additionally, you might be interested in two of our upcoming poetry courses: Poetry Workshop and How to Craft a Poem .

If you have any questions, please feel free to email us at [email protected] . Many thanks, and happy writing!

[…] 24 Best Writing Exercises to Become a Better Writer |  […]

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50 fun group writing exercises

Group writing exercises you can do with your writing circle or critique group are a fun ice-breaker and a way to get creative ideas flowing. Read 50 ‘fill in the blank’ creative writing prompts.

50 fun group writing exercises | Now Novel

‘Fill in the blank’ writing exercises are fun to do in a group. Writing exercises with some set parameters highlight the diverse, interesting ways different writers interpret and respond to the same prompts. Try one of 50 ‘fill in the blank’ creative writing prompts below, and share your creativity in the comments or tag @NowNovel if sharing your version on social media.

The group writing exercises

The first prompt was a prompt for a contest to win a place on our Group Coaching writing course .

Contest prompt

Fill in the blanks Now Novel group coaching contest

Every year, I’d made a resolution not to ever __ again. Yet by January 20th I’d already __ and __.

Entries were voted on blind by a panel of four from the Now Novel team, and the winner was Ethan Myers with this entry:

Writing contest winner - Ethan Myers entry

Here are 49 more prompts to enjoy and stimulate creative ideas:

Writing exercises featuring scene-setting

On leaving As soon as I turned 18, I left__. It was a town of__and__ .

On arrival I walked through the arched entryway and my jaw dropped. Everywhere you looked there were__. Marco Polo himself could never have imagined__.

The first time It was my first ever flight. I was__. Then a__ sat down next to me, turning to me and asking, “__?”

Compare and contrast My hometown was__. When I got to__, a college town, the first thing I noticed was__.

Use the senses The minute you entered, you could smell __. Paired with the sound of __, it was unmistakably home.

Be specific The home we’d rented for the holidays was neither__ nor__, contrary to the listing. Yet my younger brother was delighted when we found__.

Build a bucket list I’d always wanted to go to__. I’d read so much about its__, though nothing had prepared me for__.

Create a world In the books I had read as a kid, portals were gateways to worlds where __. Yet here, I was surprised to find a__.

Outside/inside Outside, the sounds of__ filled the air__. Yet inside, the 19th Century __was like another world, full of strange __.


Stay accountable, in a structured program with writing sprints, coach Q&As, webinars and feedback in an intimate writing group.

Now Novel group coaching

Group writing exercises featuring conflict

Lovers’ quarrel We thought it would be a romantic getaway to Rome. Then__. By the end of the day, hot and fed up, we__.

A troubling lookout He climbed the watchtower, yet when he turned to the window, what he saw made him tremble.__.

The duel Many had said that if they were ever to duel, no two could be more equally matched. But what his opponent didn’t know was__.

Alien invasion In alien movies, they always blew up The White House or__. So he hadn’t expected to be toe to toe with an extraterrestrial having a screamed debate about__.

An assassin As the most skilled contract killer in the kingdom, she knew how to__. Yet nobody knew that she__.

Warring nations It started with a trade embargo. Then the president said that our neighbors’ president was a __ with a __. Next thing we knew, __.

Difficult decisions I couldn’t decide whether to__ or to__, but it was 4:45 pm and the last train was leaving in five minutes.

Writing exercises using dialogue

Secrets and lies “I never__,” he said. Yet I knew he was lying because__.

Surprises “Guess what I have behind my back?” she said. “__?” I guessed. “No!” She held out__.

Confessions “I didn’t know how to tell you this … I__.” “I’m glad you told me, now we can__.”

Embarrassing family “Your son is very talented, Mr Jones,” the__ said. “You say that now. You should have seen when he was 9. He__ and we were told that__.”

Thinking aloud “You should__.” “What did you just say?” “Did I just say that out loud? I was thinking about__.”

Know-it-all “Bet you didn’t know__,” he gloated. “Bet you didn’t know__,” I clapped back, full sass.

Bad bard “Shall I compare thee-“ I married a thespian. “Shall I compare you to __?” I rolled my eyes.

Writing exercises using simile and metaphor

Wild reactions His face was as __ as a__ after the bug bite and we were all a bit worried.

Comparing the moon The moon is a__ tonight, its thin crescent glowing like a__.

Making abstraction specific My anxiety is like a__ on the first day of school. A__ with a __.

Sound and simile The first minutes the orchestra was like a __, the music shimmering like __. But in the allegro the principal violinist’s string broke and the conductor__.

Describing emotions Fear is a__ with a__.

Describing the human voice He had a voice like__, like a__ echoing in a __.

Degrees of comparison The mysterious drink they prepared was sweeter than__. But sweeter still was__.

Fill in the blanks writing exercise - use the senses | Now Novel

Writing exercises using different POVs

Fugitive I had run all night, adrenaline keeping fatigue at bay. When I saw__ as dawn broke, I knew__.

Collective They had ways of dealing with dissent. If you dared to go against the clan, you would be__, God help you.

The reader as reader You decide to go to the library. You want to read a book about__. The librarian raises an eyebrow as they run the barcode scanner. “__?” They ask, as you blush.

The group as one That summer, we__ until we couldn’t__. We were all in our twenties, and the days were__.

Writing exercise using different moods of the verb

Future perfect tense, indicative mood In several years’ time, she will have changed, our__ changing like__.

Present tense, potential mood “They may change their minds,” the King says, scowling, “or else we may have to__ and__.”

Future tense, subjunctive mood If I should__, then tell everyone I never__.

[See a helpful explanation of verb moods and tenses in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Steering the Craft . ]

Writing exercises from creating blanks in books

Colum McCann – Let the Great World Spin We had a short driveway full of__. If we crossed the road, we could stand on__ and__.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Love in the Time of Cholera He had returned from a long stay in Paris, where he__, and from the time he set foot on solid ground he__.

Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake Jimmy’s earliest complete memory was of a huge__. He must have been five, maybe six. He was wearing__.

Virginia Woolf – Mrs Dalloway Her only gift was__. If you put her in a room with some one, up went her back like a cat’s; or she__.

Italo Calvino – The Complete Cosmicomics I thought only of the Earth. It was the Earth that caused each of us to__.

David Sedaris – Me Talk Pretty One Day When painting proved too difficult, I turned to__, telling myself__.

Eva Hoffman – Lost in Translation The library is located in a__ street, in an ancient building, which one enters through a__. It is Plato’s cave, Egyptian temple, the space of__.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Half of a Yellow Sun Richard said little at the parties Susan took him to. When she introduced him, she always added__. But they were pleasant to him; they would be to__.

Ursula K. Le Guin – The Left Hand of Darkness I’ll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught__.

Colson Whitehead – The Zone The reunions were terrific and rote, early tutelage in the recursive nature of human experience. “__?” the girlfriends asked as they padded in bearing__, and he’d say “__”.

Barbara Kingsolver – The Poisonwood Bible Once every few years, even now, I catch the scent of__. It makes me want to keen, sing,__.

Jorge Luis Borges – Labyrinths He opened a drawer of the black and gold desk. He faced me and in his hands he held__.

Emily Brontë – Wuthering Heights While enjoying a month of fine weather at the sea-coast, I was thrown into the company of a__, a real__.

Build focus and a steady writing routine, and get help from experienced coaches and editors while connecting with other writers on our 6-month Group Coaching course (starts 17th January). Learn more and save with early access until January 3rd.

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Jordan is a writer, editor, community manager and product developer. He received his BA Honours in English Literature and his undergraduate in English Literature and Music from the University of Cape Town.

6 replies on “50 fun group writing exercises”

These exercises look like fun!

Sometimes there comes a point when you can’t think of anything worth writing. I guess every writer will know what I mean. But with these templates, I can get some inspiration and share whole stories with my friends.

Thank you, Jordan.

Hi Daisy, I’m glad that you found these ideas inspiring, it’s a pleasure. Thank you for sharing your feedback!

I love these! They’re inspiring (although I want to cheat and use them as-is). Lots of material for future fun 😉

Hi Margriet, thank you! I’m glad you find these writing exercises fun. We can share fill-in-the-blank exercises in the challenge group, that’s another idea.

Thankyou Jordan for these great points.

It’s a pleasure, Dave. Thank you for reading our blog.

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The 10 Best Writing Exercises That are Borderline Genius

creative writing fiction exercises


Writing is difficult. It is a skill that you can exercise, just as if you were working a muscle in your body. Exercise makes you stronger, and this can be said of writing exercises.

Writing exercises are designed to help kick-start your thinking. Whether you are a grant writer , or if you are writing fiction or non-fiction , you will find that stimulating your brain is half the battle.

This is followed up with editing and formatting, which are two aspects that can also be practiced with a writing exercise. Using any number of these techniques on a regular basis will help you learn how to write a book fast.

Writing Exercises to Stimulate your Mind

There are all kinds of writing exercises that will help you flex those writing muscles. You can practice your strengths or work on a weakness you know you have. There are specific writing exercises that will help you in these areas.

Once you’ve worked through some exercises and find yourself ready to get back to your projects, consider using a book writing template to help you. Some templates are specific to genre, but if you’re just getting started, a more generic one might be beneficial:

general fiction template

The above template is a good choice for a budding novel. If what you’re working on is nonfiction, there is a template for you too:

general nonfiction template

These templates offer general guidelines and suggestions while still allowing your own creativity to flow and flourish.

Here are some writing exercises to help you get started. These will be useful if you want to know how to write a novel.

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Answer Some Questions to Get Your Mind Rolling

With this writing exercise, you are going to ask yourself several questions that are meant to build upon each other and get your brain working. The idea is to write your answer to these questions quickly without overthinking.

Here are a few examples of what you could ask. They can help you learn how to write a novel :

For those who are looking to practice a more nonfiction writing style, they could answer these types of questions:

You can ask any type of questions, as long as they continue the first line of thinking and get you to keep writing!

Write a Letter to Your Younger Self

This writing exercise is one that really helps a writer to write about emotion. It tackles harder topics that they may not have faced before. You can choose to write to yourself as a child, or even the person you were five years ago.

The idea is that you should be offering something such as compassion, an explanation, advice or even just recounting an experience and how this has impacted your adult life.

Let your thoughts go and write what you feel. This is a good way to learn how to better write about feelings. It can also help you practice the art of showing rather than telling.

In addition, this writing exercise has been shown to help you think like your readers – as real people with emotions rather than a generic form. The idea behind this exercise is to help your writing become something that moves people emotionally.

Find Writing Prompts Online and Write

For those who are looking for an easier way of getting the writing exercise that they need, then writing prompt s are the way to go. These can be found easily online and in a variety of skill levels to ensure that you find the one that best works for you.

writing exercises

What are writing prompts? These are simply going to give you a scenario and you write the rest of the story , so to speak. The idea is that this can encourage your imagination and get you writing, rather than being blocked on what to write.

In most writing prompts you will be given this type of information:

With these prompts, you can choose the ones you like the best. Or, you can challenge yourself to write something that’s outside your comfort zone. Either way, they will help you figure out how to write a novel .

Write About Your Expertise

What exactly are you are experienced in? What do other people ask you about because they consider you an expert?

If you have an answer to these questions, then write about it! You will be amazed at how well you can write about something that you are an expert in.

However, this doesn’t mean that you have to be an expert in rebuilding car engines or something dramatic like that. This can be something as simple as being an expert in washing clothes. You can detail the process, what you do, and why this makes it better.

This type of writing, whether you are an expert at washing dishes or an expert at painting landscapes, allows you to write about something that you know. This can make the words flow easier and get you back on track.

Write a Stream of Consciousness Page

What is a stream of consciousness?

Well, what are you thinking about right now? Whatever it is, just put it to paper.

Here are a few tips to help you make this simple writing exercise worthwhile:

The idea of writing on your stream of consciousness is not a new concept. In fact, this is one of the ways that several professional authors get their creative juices flowing and ensure that they remain at the top of their game.

Play Pretend

How many times did you play pretend when you were younger? How many times have you thought about what it would be like to be a totally different person? This writing exercise lets you bring these ideas to life!

With this exercise, simply play pretend and start writing ! You are responsible for choosing the situation, the setting, the encounter that you have and whatever you see, think, feel, and hear about this scenario.

One of the biggest benefits of this writing exercise is that it allows you to really dive into a character . You can work on expressing thoughts, feelings and even the scenery that is around the character in a setting that is purely your imagination.

Take a Trip Down Memory Lane

This writing exercise is simple and starts with: “I remember…”

From here, start to write your heart out. This can be about one of your first experiences such as:

And the list goes on! The idea is to take a trip down memory lane and work to recreate the setting. Since you were in the memory, you should have no problem accurately recording the information.

Write out an Actual Conversation

Creating a conversation is sometimes one of the more difficult processes in writing. With this writing exercise, you can get some good practice.

Write an actual conversation that you have been part of. It sounds simple enough. But, what you do afterward is what helps to improve your writing.

You will want to:

This is a simple writing exercise that is just for you, so don’t worry about what conversation you use for this practice.

Play Devil’s Advocate

Is there a hot button topic that you are interested in? While you know what you really think, take the time to play devil’s advocate and write the other side of this issue.

It sounds hard, right? And it is for many people. However, it is a great writing exercise when it comes to looking at small details and being able to get out of your thoughts, as well as a great show of empathy.

In addition, this is a great writing exercise for ensuring that you can write a piece based on opinion, which is often needed in the writing world.

The First Line Exercise

Grab the nearest book to you and look at the first line. Write this down…then continue the story!

What makes this a great writing exercise is that you are going to write on the fly. You do not have time to think about anything. You are simply going with your gut on what comes after the first sentence.

This type of exercise was actually inspired by a contest called The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest that is all about finding the best first line. This was inspired by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford’s (1830) first line that reads:

“ It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents—except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”

Can you top this first line? Give it a try!

Best Practices for Writing Exercises

With the above writing exercises, you are going to find that you have more than one to choose from that is going to encourage you to become a better writer . However, you are going to want to consider these best practices!

With you apply these tips to your writing exercises you are going to find that you grow as a writer .

Writing Tools

In addition to these helpful tips, you might find that some writing tools will help you even more. There are many different apps, software, and tools available to writers that are all designed to assist with different parts of the process.

You can do some experimenting to find what you like best. Many writers use several writing tools at the same time as some compliment each other nicely.

A good one to start with is Squibler . If you want to learn how to write a book , Squibler can help. It even takes things a step further and helps you write your book fast.

This doesn’t mean the quality is compromised. It simply means that Squibler gets you so organized and motivated that you are able to complete your book in record time.

Squibler offers benefits and features in all major parts of the writing process:

While powerful, Squibler is simple and easy to understand.

writing exerises

Squibler is an excellent tool to have on hand when going through these writing exercises. You can do them right in the software, and save all your work.

Even the silliest, most trivial pieces of writing might come in handy down the road. Or, if you’re using one of these writing exercises on a current character or idea, you can save the work you do in the same project.

Overcoming Writers Block

One of the biggest reasons so many writers work with writing exercises is that they may be struggling with writer’s block. Writer’s block is common, so don’t feel disgruntled if you do fall victim to this. Even the best of writers have had to overcome it.

It is especially common when first learning how to write a book as you’re still new to everything.

Here are a few tips that can help any writer to overcome writers block:

Hopefully, with these writing exercises, you will find that you can easily get past anything that may be holding you back.

Are you new to the writing world? Then you are going to find that these writing exercises and tips can make your venture successful. When you get frustrated and/or stuck, you’ll always have something to fall back on.

Remember, try out of a few exercises to see what works best for you. If one doesn’t work, move onto another. If nothing is working, push through and force yourself to complete at least a few sentences. You’ll be glad you did.

creative writing fiction exercises

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Creative non-fiction writing exercises

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Writing Prompts

These prompts are intended to help inspire your creativity. Try your hand at any one of them or use them as quick ten minute writing exercises. More exercises will be added as time goes by, so please check this page periodically – the most recent prompts appear at the top. Remember what Natalie Goldberg says about writing practice: Keep your hand moving. Note: prompts #1 through #10 are preserved from the original Keep Writing classes, hosted by Linda Rome.

# 18:  Self-Searching

When you’re struggling with what to write about, sometimes it helps to get reacquainted with yourself…who you are…what matters to you. Here is an exercise designed to help you discover, and inspire you to explore in your writing, those things you feel most passionate about.

Take out two pieces of paper. Now answer every question in Phase One on the list below. If you would be willing to share your answers with the wider world, put those answers on the first sheet of paper. Any answers you are not willing to share should go on the second piece of paper. But all questions must be answered fully and honestly.

Once you’ve finished with Phase One, go through all your answers carefully, expanding on them by answering the corresponding questions in Phase Two.

If you find that those things you feel most passionate about are the ones you aren’t willing to share…don’t despair. Creative writing recreates reality – frequently changing events and characters, times and places – while staying true to the heart of the story – its emotional truth.

Pick one of your answers and recreate it into a story, an essay, a poem, a performance piece, that you would like to share.

# 17:  Sketching

Think you might enjoy writing about some far-off place and time…or maybe even inventing an imaginary place and culture all your own? Here’s a basic exercise to help you define place, time, and cultural mores as a context for your story.

# 16:  Characterization

Use the following format to create your own character. No cheating. Do not simply fill in the blanks by describing yourself or someone you know. Instead, fill in the blanks describing someone you’d find it interesting to know. Then, remembering that conflict is the essence of all dramatic writing, repeat the process by imagining a character whose value, attitudes, etc. would likely put them in opposition to the first character you invented.

Full Name: Nicknames: Sex: Age: Height: Weight: Hair: Eyes: Skin: Posture: Appearance: Health: Birthmark: Abnormalities: Heritage: Where born: Where live: Favorite food: Favorite subject in school: Favorite game as child: Best memory: Worst memory: Smoke/Drink/Drugs Profile: Favorite section of newspaper: Favorite type of music: Last book read: Last movie seen: Morning or night person: Introvert/Extrovert: Indoor or outdoor person: Greatest fear: Closest friend: Dearest possession: Favorite season: Class: Occupation: Education: Family: Home Life: IQ: Religion: Community: Political Affiliation: Amusements/Hobbies: Reading Interests: Sex Life: Morality: Ambition: Frustration: Temperament: Attitude: Psychological Complexes: Superstitions: Imagination

# 15:  Word Lists

Word lists can sometimes be a great spur to creativity. Try this one. Set your timer for ten minutes, then read the word list below and attempt to write something (a poem, a story, a short play) that contains all nine of these words.

Once you’ve completed this exercise, reread what you have written. Is there a character or a situation worth pursuing farther?

Another variation of this exercise is to create your own word list, listing only words that in some way are significant to you as a person. Then, use this list as your jumping off place, following the same rules as those given above.

# 14:  Recollections

Write some memoirs about a favorite teacher..

# 13:  Celebration

Write about a special birthday.

# 12:  Reinvention

Write about an incident in your past that you would like a chance to relive and do differently.

# 11:  Suspense

Write in any form (poetry, drama, short story, nonfiction, memoir, etc.) a piece that incorporates the phrase, “Don’t pick up the phone.”

# 10:  Explorations

A. Write a paragraph or story about noise.

B. Make a list: Start each phrase with “It would be crazy to. . . ” Go until you run out of sentences. Then, write the other side of the coin: Start each phrase with “It would be perfectly sane to. . . .”

C. Explore the differences of the two lists – either in an essay or poem or put two characters in a dangerous situation together where one is more likely to have said the “it would be crazy” statements and the other would be more likely to say their opposite.

D. Put on a piece of music and write where it takes you.

E. Comment on a newspaper or T.V. clip.

F. Imagine yourself as a child, looking at your mother’s wallet. What do you see? How do you feel? Tell a story from this child’s perspective.

# 9:  Disclosures

A. Make up a word and tell us what it means. Use it in a sentence, a story, a scene. The word can reflect something you always thought needed a word or it can be a set of sounds that trigger your imagination. Try it as a verb, an adverb, or a noun. Be playful.

B. Write a short paragraph/essay about something you used to do with your grandmother or grandfather that you still do today. Questions you might ask and answer: Why do I still do whatever it is? Do I enjoy it, how have my feelings for the activity changed? Why? Have I passed this on to my children? Explore the then and now.

C. Look at a picture. What is the secret hidden in the picture? Explore it, push the characters until they reveal the secret knowledge, power, or pain that they conceal.

# 8:  New Perspectives

A. Write a story about a person turning eighty.

B. Write a dialogue between two people who have to share a seat on a plane and who are attracted to one another. Introduce an obstacle to the smooth sailing of this attraction.

C. Write about an ugly moment between two people, but don’t label it. Make the reader experience it without you telling them what is going on.

E. Choose one aspect of the natural world that you feel has something to teach you. What specific quality does it express that speaks to you about your own life? Cluster your thoughts and shape them into a poem. (From Poetic Medicine by John Fox).

F. Write about a birthday.

G. Write the saddest thing you know about friendship.

H. Go back to one of the exercises you’ve done since the beginning of class and edit it with an eye to new ideas, different approaches, clearer sentences. Add a sustaining metaphor or an apt simile. Approach it creatively.

# 7:  In the Moment

Today celebrate what you still don’t know. Make a list of the elements you are unsure of in the plot of your story; the ideas as yet undeveloped in a poem; or the point of an essay that hasn’t yet crystallized. These are your reasons to keep on writing. Or, write the phrase “I still don’t know” as a diving study and fill the page with whatever comes out. Select one thing you don’t know to write/learn about today. — From Bonni Goldberg, Room to Write

A. In this exercise we’re going to practice being present to what is around us and reflecting that present reality in our writing. Get up and walk around the house, the porch, the deck, and/or the yard. Spend five or six minutes. Then write three pages about whatever comes to mind. This isn’t even a rough draft; this is just flow; pure mental, emotional, associative pure flow.

B. Go through your three pages and underline the sentences or paragraphs, phrases, or ideas you think are most interesting, provocative, amusing, enlightening. Underline or bracket them. With these thoughts in mind, again walk around. Then sit down and write something you might be willing to share, building on your first efforts. Let the ideas and subject matter pick the form.

# 6:  Motivation

“Always do what you’re afraid to do,” Ralph Waldo Emerson’s visionary Aunt Mary advised him. We tie ourselves in knots to sabotage the energy that might be unleashed if we move resolutely ahead. The risks of making changes are great. . . especially great changes. — Gail Sher, One Continuous Mistake

Write out all the things you are afraid to do concerning your writing and your writing life. Do not simply make a list, but use sentences so you can experience the flow of your thoughts. If you are stuck, start your sentences with something like, “I am afraid my writing will. . . .” or “I am afraid writing is . . . .”

Now make a list of other things you’re afraid of doing. Be as outrageous as you can.

In this exercise, we’re going to use quotations as our jumping off place into writing. You may choose the form: narrative or essay or dialogue. Spend the first five minutes thinking, jotting notes, clustering, doodling, gnashing your teeth, or wandering around, if you choose. If no response comes together for you, write three pages on what is going on in your mind, starting with the quote:

“Where we are going is here.” or “Both ways are best.” or “What is the straight within the bent?”

Who might say such words? In what context? You may use them as dialogue or images or theme. Write a poem or a story or a reflection. Let yourself play.

# 5:  Dialogues and Expositions

A. Write about a day in the “life” of an inanimate object. (Suggestions: a mirror, football, computer, refrigerator, rug, or paperclip.)

B. Write some funny dialogue between a father (or mother) and his/her daughter (or son) who must explain explain why she/he is two hours past curfew.

C. Expository essays that define call for short or extended definitions to help both the reader and the writer understand the meaning of a word. Depending on its length, you may develop your definition by examples, comparisons, and/or functions. Fill in the blank. Go for 10 minutes. Bad luck is __________.

D. Write a story about a factory.

E. Describe a lake as seen by a young man who has just committed murder. Do not mention the murder. (Exercise taken from John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction .)

F. Look around the room you’re in. Write about an object that you have an emotional attachment to or that triggers an emotional response in you. Some tips for writing ten minutes a day: Try to do it around the same time every day. It helps build a habit. Go with your first thoughts. Get down the sentences as they occur to you. Trust yourself. You can edit later. This ten minutes is for writing, not editing, not note taking, not planning. If you pick up a piece from the day before, you must make forward progress – at least one sentence. Keep writing!

# 4:  Narratives

Writing has tremendous energy. If you find a reason for it, any reason, it seems that rather than negate the act of writing, it makes you burn deeper and glow clearer on the page. Ask yourself, “Why do I write?” or “Why do I want to write?” but don’t think about it. Take pen and paper and answer it with clear, assertive statements. Every statement doesn’t have to be one hundred percent true and each line can contradict the others. Even lie if you need to, to get going. If you don’t know why you write, answer it as though you do know why. — Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones

Tip: If you feel stuck, start out: I don’t know why I write, but . . . . or I feel that as a writer I have something to say, but. . . . But? But what? Stay with this “but” until you are about “but,” the most knowledgeable person in the world.

Since everyone likes a good story, it’s no wonder that the narrative is such a popular form of writing. Fairy tales, anecdotes, short stories, novels, plays, comics, and even some poems are all examples of the narrative form. Simply stated, a narrative is a story based on fact or fiction. Any type of narrative (or story) writing is built on a series of events. By telling about these events one after the other, just as they occurred, your story will satisfy a reader’s curiosity about what happens next. (A more complex narrative device of moving back and forth from past to present within a story is call the flashback technique.) A narrative composition can be used to entertain, make a point, and/or illustrate a premise.

A. Write a story about wanting and glue and staring.

B. Respond to the following quote. Follow where the words lead you.

A man’s life is nothing but an extended trek through the detours of art to recapture those one or two moments when his heart first opened.  — Albert Camus

# 3:  Highlighting Details

A. Start a story with a word that starts with the letter B – any B, any word.

B. Pick a particular time of day and a particular window. Spend 10 minutes each day for three days describing what you see out of the window.

C. Write about what you hate most about writing.

D. Create a lovable character with one disappointing flaw. Put that character in the same room as you and a very favorite small child in such a way that the disappointing flaw is evident. What happens?

E. Remember haiku? Those 5-7-5 syllable poems that have a touch of nature and a hint of epiphany in them? Try writing one every day this week. Or try your hand at a sonnet!

# 2:  Found Objects

A. You find a checkbook on the ground-perhaps you’re in a park, jogging along the highway, or in the parking lot at the Mall. You decide to return it. What happens next?

B. You’re tired. Who isn’t? You make a mistake, a costly mistake. What happens next?

C. Question of the year: What do you see in that new piece of art your spouse or significant other brought home? How do you feel when you find out it cost the equivalent of three months pay? Write this story in the third person.

D. Let’s revisit the expensive piece of art your significant other brought home. Write a story from the point of view of the person who brought it home.

E. Paper clips. How important are they? Pick up your pen and write about paper clips for ten minutes.

F. Pick out one piece of your writing. Look in Writer’s Market or some other marketing tool and pick out three possible places to send it. Write them down, bookmark them. Or type up a query and send off your piece.

G. Pick out three current market listings that sound appealing to you. Think of an article idea that you would be able to write for that market. Write your idea and the approach you’d take down. Write down the names of possible contacts to interview or the titles of books for quotes you might need or use. Play around with a first sentence. Write a rough draft. (Take ten minutes to do each of the previous directions.)

# 1:  Observe and Analyze

A. Sit in your favorite chair. Write about the view. If you want to write a piece of fiction, imagine someone who is the total opposite of how you see yourself, and put him or her in that same chair. How does the view change?

B. The pair of shoes, scuffed and worn, stood sentinel, at the door. Use the previous sentence as the beginning or ending sentence for a short story-maximum 1200 words.

C. Today, notice all the people that grease your day but who you rarely think about: the newspaper delivery person, the mailman, the elevator doorman, the pizza delivery guy, the cashier at the grocery store or the hostess at your favorite eatery. One of them is a murderer. What’s the story here? Who tells it? What happens next?

D. Pick out one page of your work. Look at it very carefully, sentence by sentence. Cull 10% of the words. Look at the verbs in each sentence. Punch them up by choosing more vigorous, more active verbs. On your word processor, take out all the adjectives and adverbs. Add them back sparingly.

E. Pick out another page of your work. Look at it very carefully, sentence by sentence. Where do you make leaps of logic that may leave your reader confused? Where do you make assumptions about what the reader knows? Are those assumptions valid? Do you actually portray the scene you see in your mind’s eye-or are there important details you’ve left out? Add them in. Pay attention to the sensory details: add in whatever is necessary to make the reader hear, smell, taste, or feel what’s going on in the scene (or essay or poem).

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7 Creative Writing Exercises For Writers

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Need a creative lift as a writer? Try these 7 creative writing exercises for writers to boost your writing skills.

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Has your creative well run dry? Are you struggling to find inspiration for your next written work? Creative writing exercises could be the answer.

creative writing fiction exercises

Just like any other skill, the art and craft of writing will benefit from the frequent working and reworking of your practices and habits. Creativity exercises for writers could unlock that writer’s block that you have been struggling to overcome and spur you on to new and exciting creative directions. 

What are Creative Writing Exercises?

Creative writing exercises can take on many forms and can mean different things to different people. However, certain elements are common to most examples of creative writing exercises.

They are often produced in short, intense bursts, for one thing, and they are often entirely improvised. Improvisation is one of the earmarks of the creative writing exercises employed by many writers.

One other factor that most creative writing exercises have in common is that they often encourage the exploration and expounding of familiar subject matters in novel ways.

Many classes and guides that focus solely on developing creative writing techniques involve adopting short and spontaneous approaches. 

How often should writers practice creative writing exercises?

creative writing fiction exercises

Regardless of what form a creative writing exercise takes, it is smart for writers to adopt these practices and incorporate them into their daily routines. The goal is to expand their writing skills and develop the ability to tell the same story in as many different ways as possible. 

Start by writing a few lines once or twice a week, spending only a few minutes each session. Gradually increase the length of each session and how many times you sit down to write per week.

Eventually, you could work up to about ten minutes per session, performing these exercises several times throughout the week. 

Here are 7 Creative Writing Exercises for Writers

creative writing fiction exercises

If you feel like taking a break from a writing assignment or are between projects, you can try your hand at these creative writing exercises. They can also serve as inspiration for your next opus or strengthen your creative muscles. 

1. Follow your stream of consciousness.

creative writing fiction exercises

Many writers have become conditioned to feel a great deal of stress or worry about being confronted by a blank page. This exercise will help you address this fear head-on. 

Get a piece of paper and start writing the first thing that comes to mind. Don’t even think about what you are writing or edit your thoughts. This type of writing is known as “free writing”. Author Julia Cameron referred to this as the “morning pages” in her award-winning book, The Artist’s Way . 

2. Work with different points of view.

creative writing fiction exercises

If you find yourself struggling with expressing yourself, try switching up your point of view. Take a chapter from your favorite book, or even just a scene if you want to start slow. Write everything that takes place from the point of view of another character. The goal here is to communicate the story in another way. 

You could also vary this exercise by writing as if you are the main character by changing their point of view. If the story is written in the first person, try writing it from the third person. Be aware of the details that are omitted when you switch viewpoints. This frequently leads to an interesting new twist to the story. 

3. Take advantage of writing prompts.

Writing prompts or story starters can be invaluable writing tools that could encourage you to explore unfamiliar but interesting creative directions. These are sentences or short passages that could serve as springboards for writing spontaneous stories. 

We have many writing prompts lists here at ThinkWritten you can use for inspiration, including 365 Creative Writing Prompts , 42 Fantasy Prompts , and 101 Poetry Prompts .

4. Have a Conversation With Yourself

creative writing fiction exercises

See what it’s like to write a letter or converse with yourself. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to have a conversation with your younger self, this is the perfect opportunity to do so.

You can choose any subject you want, from a significant social or political event or some words of wisdom to your younger version. Try to be as honest and as forthcoming as possible. The results might surprise you.

5. Try Writing Flash Fiction

creative writing fiction exercises

Try to crank out a piece of flash fiction. As with other creative writing exercises, don’t spend too much time at it. Simply sit down in front of the computer or a piece of paper, and begin writing. Flash fiction doesn’t usually go beyond 500 words, so try to keep it short.

Note: It might be helpful to differentiate flash fiction from the freewriting exercise discussed earlier. While freewriting involves generating words and ideas in an unbridled stream of consciousness, flash fiction is more about writing within a set of guidelines. In this particular exercise, try incorporating structural elements such as plots, conflicts, and character development, all in the goal of developing a logical story arc. 

6. Practice writing fake ads

creative writing fiction exercises

Writing fake advertisements is another potentially useful exercise. Few tasks can flex your creative muscles than trying to sell a product, person, company, or idea. You don’t need a lot to get started either. All you have to do is to select a word at random from a magazine or newspaper and get started writing an ad for it. 

It might help to write one ad in a more formal tone, similar to the classified ads published in newspapers. This exercise will train you in using a few words effectively to sell your subject. You can then write another ad in a style similar to that published in online marketplaces, which allow for longer text. In both exercises, try to convince your readers to purchase the product in as definitive terms as possible. 

7. Rewrite someone else’s story

creative writing fiction exercises

Consider adopting a story from someone else and making it your own. Unlike the exercise that involves writing a story from another point of view, this one involves telling the same story from the same viewpoint but using your own words.

It could be any story you want to write about, from something a family member told you about or an urban legend that has long made the rounds of your town.

Whichever story you choose, try to write it as if it happened to you. If certain details are missing–which is often the case with old stories–don’t hold back from adding your own touches. You could even take a well-known story and write it as if you were there when the events took place. 

There are only a few of the creativity exercises for writers you can try. There are many more variations that you could use to help you get back into the pattern of writing creatively.

If you ever find yourself stuck and unsure of what your next step should be, consider taking some time off and working on some creative writing exercises instead. After some time, you might find yourself becoming more eager to get back into it and more inspired than ever. 

Tell us what you think! Do you enjoy creative writing exercises? Do you have any additional ideas for ways writers can continue to build and work on their writing skills? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Eric Pangburn is a freelance writer who shares his best tips with other writers here at ThinkWritten. When not writing, he enjoys coaching basketball and spending time with his family.

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creative writing fiction exercises


13 Creative Writing Exercises: Become a Better Writer

Posted on Mar 21, 2023

by Hannah Lee Kidder

No matter where you are in your writing journey or career, there is always room to grow!

But how do we grow intentionally and in the right ways?

Today we’re going to talk about the fundamental ways that writers improve, and we’re going to try out some fun writing exercises to build your skill level and refine your writing style!

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How to get better at writing

There are a few fundamental ways to get better at writing.

Creative writing exercises are great to loosen up the writing muscles, as a warm-up, to practice specific writing skills, or just as a fun activity when your writing project has you feeling stale.

Here are thirteen exercises you can try to sharpen your writer reflexes! 

13 Creative Writing Exercises

Becoming a better writer can’t be done by just reading and learning. You have to put these things to practice in order to see your own weaknesses as well as where you can improve.

The more you write, the better writer you’ll be.

Here is your list of 13 free creative writing exercises:

1 – write a scene or short story using no adverbs or adjectives.

This exercise trains you to focus on stronger verbs and nouns. I give this exercise to newer writers because they often default to unnecessary adverbs and adjectives as a crutch instead of refining their word choice in core parts of speech.

NOTE: There’s nothing wrong with using adverbs and adjectives effectively! But before you get a hold of your writer’s voice and personal style, they can weaken your writing.

2 – Choose a random object from the room you’re in and write an image-only poem about it

This exercise will let you practice using imagery and specific description without relying on telling

NOTE: Try using senses other than sight! What does the object feel like? Smell like? Maybe even taste like?

3 – Take a story you’ve already written and write it from the point of view of a different character

Writing the same story from a different point of view can give you an understanding of character motivation and perspective.

A story can completely change based on who’s telling it!

4 – Take one of your favorite short stories, either one you’ve written or one you’ve read, and write it in a different genre

For example, take a romance and write it as horror.

This is a super fun exercise, and it lets you practice using tone and perspective! The tone of a story can change the meaning.

5 – Speed-write a story using a writing prompt

Speed-writing helps to release judgment you might put on your stories, allowing for a more natural process. I like to speed-write when I’m stuck on a short story or a particular scene.

REMEMBER: You can always edit and delete anything you write! Don’t be afraid to write with your gut without judging it.

A few writing prompts:

6 – Write a stream of consciousness

A stream of consciousness is a direct transcript of every thought you have. It’s a bit like speed-writing in that you just dump thoughts onto paper without judging them.

Giving yourself the freedom to write without second-guessing it helps to unkink writing blocks.

7 – “Write your dialogue like it’s a script”

This one comes from Gloria Russell, critique professional .

This is more of a writing strategy, but a lot of successful writers, like Jenna Moreci , suggest outlining your dialogue-heavy scenes that way before you flesh it out fully.

Oftentimes, we’ll get so caught up writing descriptions, dialogue tags , and body language cues that it distracts from the important conversation we’re writing. If you can focus on the dialogue itself on the first go, it’s easier to get a natural back-and-forth exchange, then you can write the rest of the scene around it.

8 – Free-write for ten minutes before you begin your writing day

Before athletes train, they warm up. Writing is the same! Loosen and stretch your writer muscles with a ten minute free-write session.It can be a daily journal, a writing exercise, a stream of consciousness, or anything you’d enjoy!

9 – “I like to write a story starting from the resolution and working my way backward”

This exercise is from Micah Klassen , Those Three Words

Writing a story out of order is another way to get a fresh perspective. This exercise can also give you insight on things like story structure , progression, climaxes, conclusions, and countless other story elements.

It’s a way to dissect a story and see how they’re built.

10 – Edit someone else’s writing

Thinking critically about another writer’s work helps you think critically of your own. It is good practice for problem-solving, critical observation, and revision.

You might even glean some inspiration!

11 – Revise the oldest story of yours you can find!

Maybe it’s from college, maybe high school, maybe it’s a story you wrote when you were seven–rewrite it with your current skill and life outlook

This is a helpful, fun exercise. It’s good practice, it’s inspiring to see how far you’ve come as a writer, and you might end up salvaging something into a quality story!

12 – Practice a skill with a short story

Choose a specific writing skill you’re struggling with, or just want more practice in, and write a short story focusing on that skill.

Can’t nail your dialogue? Write a dialogue-heavy short story and edit it until you’re happy with it. Bad at showing instead of telling? Write a scenic short story and focus on writing with compelling imagery and specific details.

Nailing a skill with a short story is quicker and easier than struggling with the same problem throughout longer projects.

13 – Write your MC in a different world/setting

What would your contemporary character do if flung into a science fiction scenario? What would their profession be in a different era of time? What if their socioeconomic status was completely reversed?

This is a good exercise for understanding your character at a more complex level. If you’re struggling to connect with your MC, definitely try out this exercise.

Anytime you feel stuck on a story, it’s great to do a little free-write session changing something up, like in exercises 3, 4, and 11. Sometimes you just need a perspective switch to knock the story loose.

The best way to sharpen specific writing skills is to identify the weakness and write short stories, really digging into that skill. I find it’s helpful to share those stories with other writers so they can give you feedback and let you know if you’re getting better with it.

I hope you found these exercises helpful! Feel free to share anything you’ve written from them in a comment below.

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creative writing fiction exercises

29 Easy, Fun, and Effective Writing Exercises

Working out isn’t just for your cardiovascular health. You gotta keep that brain in shape too! Writing exercises will keep your imagination limber.

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.

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What are writing exercises, songwriting exercises, poetry writing exercises, copywriting exercises, lyric writing exercises, screenwriting exercises, dialogue writing exercises, therapeutic writing exercises, playwriting exercises, fun writing exercises, descriptive writing exercises, essay writing exercises, group writing exercises, short story writing exercises, memoir writing exercises, script writing exercises, novel 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:

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.

creative writing fiction exercises

Turn Your Life Story Into a Piece of Creative Writing!

Writing Essays: Making the Personal Universal

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.

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.

creative writing fiction exercises

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14 Creative Writing Exercises to Improve Your Writing

Allison Bressmer

Allison Bressmer

Professor and Freelance Writer

Writing Exercises title

Whether writing is a hobby or a career for you, developing consistent writing habits is key to becoming a better writer.

Blank pages are intimidating. Commit to writing every day to conquer that page and develop your writing skills and style.

By engaging in intentional writing exercises daily, you’ll hone your skills and develop a creative mindset.

These creative writing exercises will get you started immediately!

14 Best Writing Exercises to Try (For Beginners AND Pros)

How do you improve your writing skills, 1. practice freewriting.

To freewrite , set your fingers on your keyboard and start writing; don’t worry about mistakes. Your freewriting is for your eyes only and your goal is simply to get words on the page.

Stuck for a topic? Choose an object you can see—your coffee cup; your sofa; the beat-up (or not) car across the street.

Now, write about the object. You might describe it, tell a story about it, analyze its usefulness—anything is fine. Allow your stream of consciousness to flow and bring ideas to the surface.

The endgame of this writing exercise isn’t to produce great writing about boring objects; it’s to work your writing muscles.

As you search for ways to make these objects interesting, you’ll find unexpected ideas, word choices, and wordplays.

Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, calls freewriting exercises “Morning Pages” and advises all writers to practice freewriting every day, first thing in the morning, right after waking up.

2. Use Story Starters

Story starters or writing prompts are creative writing exercises that can help you escape a creative rut.

A writing prompt can be anything—a single sentence, a short paragraph, a word. You could even use the first line of a favorite book or newspaper article and take the story in a new direction.

Try building a story from one of these prompts:

There are many places to find story starters and writing prompts online, such as Daily Prompt .

Story starter examples

3. Write a “Dear Younger Me” Letter

What would you like to say to yourself five, ten, 20, or 50 years ago? Go ahead and write a letter to that younger self!

Maybe you’ll offer advice or reassurance, relive a special moment with them, or tell them how you’ve changed, or haven’t, since you were “their” age.

Another option: imagine what someone else in your life would say to you at a particular time and write from that person’s perspective.

This activity is a great creative writing exercise and a way to tap into your emotions.

write a letter to your younger self

4. Do a Point of View (POV) Switch

Take a segment from a favorite book. Rewrite that segment from a different character’s point of view.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is written in third-person limited POV. A third-person narrator tells the story, but focuses on Harry’s thoughts and feelings.

In your rewrite, focus on Hermione’s POV. What does she see that Harry doesn’t? What is she feeling and thinking?

As you write, notice how the story changes. Chances are, it will take on a distinct form and tone and may inspire an idea for a new story of your own.

Or rewrite the segment from an entirely different point of view. If the original is told from first-person POV, recreate it with a third-person narrator.

Note what other changes you’ll have to make because of that switch.

Should you include more or less sensory detail ? Should you adjust what’s revealed about each character thinks or feels?

This writing exercise can help you determine what POV you like writing in best and demonstrate how a single story can be told in several ways.

5. Put Yourself in the Middle of the Action

Put yourse;f in the middle of the action

Take a story that resonates with you.

Rewrite the story as if you’re the main character.

Now that you’ve got eyes “inside” the story, can you expand on the details to make a situation more intense or to convey your feelings more fully? Can you think of ways to make the story more engaging?

As you generate ideas you’ll likely find a creative direction for a new story.

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6. Eliminate Empty Words

Sentences contain working words and glue words. Working words tell your reader key information, convey emotions, and provide meaning. Glue words hold the working words together.

Streamline your phrasing to only use necessary glue words. Unnecessary glue words are empty words that clutter your sentences and slow your writing down.

There are, there is, there are, in, on, of, this, just are common glue words that can become empty.

In this sentence, “There are two birds sitting on the roof,” the only purpose of the words “there are” is to make the sentence complete. A better strategy is to use a stronger, more specific verb. For example, “Two birds perch on the roof” or “Two birds idle on the roof.”

ProWritingAid’s Sticky Sentences Report highlights sentences with too many glue words. With rephrasing and editing, you can streamline those sentences and keep your work moving fluently.

ProWritingAid's Sticky Sentence Check

To practice, review a scene in your manuscript and restructure sentences to eliminate glue words.

Replace weak verbs with stronger ones and be economical with your word count. Don’t be afraid to cut; you can always go back and add details as needed.

You’ll find yourself choosing more precise words and constructing leaner, clearer sentences.

7. Outline Dialogue-Heavy Scenes

To create a natural back-and-forth exchange between characters, outline the dialogue in dialogue-heavy scenes first.

Don’t worry about writing descriptions, dialogue tags , or body language cues. Just write the basic dialogue.

Then, go back and evaluate what you need to add to express the characters’ tone, feelings, and personality more fully.

Outline dialogue heavy scenes

Tip: only use dialogue tags when the speaker’s identity isn’t clear. When they’re needed, it’s best to stick with said and asked . If the exchange needs intensity, add action beats—a telling glance or gesture to heighten the moment.

8. Replace Adjectives with Descriptions

Adjectives are powerful. However, they only tell what’s happening; they don’t give the reader an experience. In this sentence, the adjective tells us Peter’s feelings:

Replacing this with a description allows the reader to experience fear along with Peter:

Now you try.

Review your draft. Look for adjectives you can replace with descriptions.

Use sensory words so your reader can experience the smells, touches, sights, sounds, or tastes you describe.

ProWritingAid’s Sensory Report helps you balance sensory details by analyzing the emphasis you put on each sense. For example, in this sample, my writing has a heavy sight-emphasis.

ProWritingAid's Sensory Report

The report measures 67% of the sensory words as appealing to sight, letting me know I might want to make adjustments and create a more balanced experience.

9. Blog Every Day

Blogging every day encourages regular writing habits and is great practice for any writer.

You can consult online resources for tips on how to find a blog topic or niche.

Why you should blog every day

For example, you might decide to focus on food, on being a teacher, on being a millennial, on parenting, or on being a millennial who is a teacher and a parent!

Focus on a different aspect of that topic each day—even if you simply write a “Day in the Life of a _ _ _ _ _” series.

This limited focus provides a framework, but leaves plenty of room for creativity. Explore within that framework as you develop your voice and style.

For an extra challenge, limit the number of words you write. On slower days, the number will serve as a target. On days when ideas flow, it will help you ensure that each word matters.

10. Write a 500-Word Story

The definition of flash fiction

In the writing world, a 500-word story is an example of “ flash fiction. ”

Flash fiction includes all the elements of plot, conflict, and character development, but since it’s so short, every word counts.

Want to try? Write a fully formed story that includes these three words: rose, glass, forbid . Add no more than 497 additional words of your choice!

This exercise will help you focus on story structure, word choice, and powerful imagery.

11. Set a Captivating Mood

Readers should be intrigued by the story and drawn into the setting so they can feel for and with your characters. To make that happen, create a mood.

In Creating Short Fiction , Damon Knight suggests imagining you’re a character in a room. Describe what’s happening in that room and how the character sees, experiences, and responds to those surroundings.

Put the exercise into practice. Imagine an enemy from your past just called you, saying, “I’m outside your door.”

Now describe the space around you. Do everyday objects become potential weapons? Is the air heavy with dread or charged with fear or filled with fury?

12. Be Observant

Pay close attention to your own reality and the emotions you experience in response.

Let’s imagine you’re sitting on a beach. Engage your senses and observe your emotions.

What do you see, hear, taste, smell? What does it feel like to sit in the sun and sand?

Are you feeling excited? Tranquil? Contemplative? What’s triggering that emotion?

Perhaps the roaring waves make you feel small and insignificant—or invigorated! Maybe the ocean is quiet, and the small waves’ gentle rhythm soothes you,

Capture those details and feelings in a journal (or on your phone!). Later, write a scene based in that setting, using those captured details to create sensations and evoke emotions.

13. Practice Empathy

Being sensitive to the feelings of others and seeing the world through their eyes will help you create well-developed characters .

Imagine a mother struggling with a stroller and shopping bags on the bus. Her kids are loud, they press the stop button repeatedly, and she has to take a phone call. Passengers are obviously annoyed.

Write the scene from the mother’s perspective, considering her feelings and frustration. Does she notice the passengers’ anger? Who is calling her? Where is she trying to go?

This exercise also works when you make it personal, though it may be emotionally challenging.

Rewrite a part of your life from the perspective of someone you hold negative feelings about—an ex, an enemy, a boss. Consider their feelings and tell “their side.”

Why you should practice empathy

14. Group Writing Exercises

Groups can trigger creative writing ideas.

Give each member time to write one or two themes (one sentence each) for a holiday story.

Shuffle those submissions and redistribute them randomly.

For online groups, post the themes in chat and have everyone use the entry following their own.

Set a timer for ten minutes, during which each writer creates a story fitting their assigned theme.

Then, share your stories! Keep the exercise going with a story swap. Have a new author continue each narrative.

Writing prompts rouelette

Stephen King once observed:

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

Reading and observing the work of other writers is essential to developing your skills, but isn’t enough on its own.

You must give your writing skills a workout—and these 14 creative writing exercises provide the perfect starting point.

You don’t have to work alone! Professional bloggers, novelists, copywriters, and other writers use ProWritingAid to receive personalized feedback on their work.

It’s a one-stop tool to help you evaluate, edit, and improve your writing. Try it out today.

Do you want to know how to build a world your readers won’t forget? Download this free book now:

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Allison Bressmer is a professor of freshman composition and critical reading at a community college and a freelance writer. If she isn’t writing or teaching, you’ll likely find her reading a book or listening to a podcast while happily sipping a semi-sweet iced tea or happy-houring with friends. She lives in New York with her family. Connect at

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creative writing fiction exercises

Fiction Writing Basics 3 - Sample Assignments

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Welcome to the Purdue OWL

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.

Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

This resource discusses some terms and techniques that are useful to the beginning and intermediate fiction writer, and to instructors who are teaching fiction at these levels. The distinction between beginning and intermediate writing is provided for both students and instructors, and numerous sources are listed for more information about fiction tools and how to use them. A sample assignment sheet is also provided for instructors. This resource covers the basics of plot, character, theme, conflict, and point-of-view.

Sample Assignments

These five exercises are adapted from Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction .

1. Take a simple but specific political, religious, scientific, or moral idea. It may be one already available to us in a formula of words, or it may be one of your own, but it should be possible to state it in less than ten words. Write a short story that illustrates the idea. Do not state the idea at all. Your goals are two: that the idea should be perfectly clear to us so that it could be extracted as a moral or message, and that we should feel we have experienced it.

2. Take as your title a common proverb or maxim, such as power corrupts, honesty is the best policy, walk softly and carry a big stick, haste makes waste. Let the story make the title ironic, that is, explore a situation in which the advice or statement does not apply.

3. Taking as a staring point some incident or situation from your own life, write a story with one of the following themes: nakedness, blindness, thirst, noise, borders, chains, clean wounds, washing, the color green, dawn. The events themselves may be minor (a story about a slipping bicycle chain may ultimately be more effective than one about a chain gang). Once you have decided on the structure of the story, explore everything you think, know, or believe about your chosen theme and try to incorporate that theme in imagery, dialogue, event, character, and so forth.

4. Identity the belief you hold most passionately and profoundly. Write a short story that explores an instance in which this belief is untrue.

5. Write a short story that you have wanted to write all term and have not written because you knew it was too big for you and you would fail. You may fail. Write it anyway.

These eight exercises are adapted from Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction .

1. The playwright Bertolt Brecht had over his desk a sign that read, “The Truth is Concrete.” You will notice, however, that this sentence is an abstraction (he didn’t mean that the truth is cement). In your journal, cluster the word “concrete.” Write a passage about it. When you’re finished, check whether you have used any abstractions or generalizations that could be effectively replaced by concrete details.

2. Paint a self-portrait in words. Prop a mirror in front of you and describe, in the most focused sight details you can manage, twenty or thirty things that you see. Then try to distance yourself from your portrait and choose the two or three details that most vividly and concisely convey the image you want to present. What attitude do you want the reader to have? Should we find you funny, intense, pitiable, vain, dedicated? Add a detail of sound, touch, smell, or taste that will help convey the image.

3. Write a passage using significant details and active verbs about a character who conveys one of the following:

4. Write a description of a rural landscape, a city street, a room, or the desk in front of you. Use only active verbs to describe the inanimate as well as animate things. Avoid the pathetic fallacy.

5. Write about a boring situation. Convince us that the situation is boring and that your characters are bored or boring or both. Fascinate us. Or make us laugh. Use no generalizations, no judgments, and no verbs in the passive voice.

6. Write about one of the following and suggest the rhythm of the subject in your prose: a machine, a vehicle, a piece of music, sex, something that goes in a circle, an avalanche.

7. Write about a character who begins at a standstill, works up to great speed, and comes to a halt again. The rush may be purely emotional, or it may represent the speed of the vehicle, of pursuit, of sport, or whatever you choose. The halt may be abrupt or gradual. In any case, let the prose rhythm reflect the changes.


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Detective Fiction - Creative Writing - Detective Story Template

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Crime Stations: Fiction Literary Analysis

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Crime Fiction / A Brief History

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Short Vowel Worksheets Homework and Activities

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Rigorous Short Story Lesson Plan "Lamb to the Slaughter" by Roald Dahl

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Detective Fiction - Complete Unit Outline and Creative Writing Unit

Detective Fiction - Complete Unit Outline and Creative Writing Unit

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Upper Elementary Mystery Writing Activity

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Middle School English: Creative Reading & Writing Unit Grades 7-8 - Crime

Middle School English: Creative Reading & Writing Unit Grades 7-8 - Crime

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Crime & Punishment by Dostoyevsky —AP Lit & Composition Skills Pack (4-6 Weeks)

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Library Skills- Literary Genre Pack

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Mercy Watson Fights Crime

Mercy Watson Fights Crime

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Lamb to the Slaughter 3 Week Unit - 9 Lessons, PPT, Resources, Homework!

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Canadian Winter Homeschool Materials

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creative writing fiction exercises

The Writing Cooperative

Penny Zang

Feb 7, 2020


5 Exercises for the Nonfiction Writer

Creative non-fiction prompts to help recharge and inspire.

There are numerous writing prompts and exercises for fiction writers, but finding quality creative nonfiction prompts can be difficult. When I teach creative writing, the non-fiction unit produces the most initial resistance. It is hard to share and sometimes even more challenging to know where to begin. However, the creative non-fiction unit also ends up producing the most engaged and compelling stories of the whole semester.

You don’t have to be a student to know what I mean. Non-fiction can be terrifying and rewarding all at once. After combing through creative writing guides and textbooks, here are five exercises to inspire the non-fiction writer in you.

List of lists

The idea of making a list may seem overly simple, but listing is a quick way to gather ideas without overthinking or censoring yourself. As Sondra Perl and Mimi Schwartz, the authors of Writing True: The Art and Craft of Creative Nonfiction , say, “Freelisting involves picking a subject, big or small, and jotting down phrases, as many as possible, in a few minutes.”

That’s easy enough, but my students have better luck when they’re asked to make a list of lists. What are lists you could make, I ask them. For example, I could make a list of the classes I took in high school, the number of times I changed my mind, the things I’ve lost, the places I’ve lived, the crushes I’ve had, and so on. Once I provide a few examples, they are good to go.

The key with listing of any kind is not to expect every item on the list to be a winner. Write your list and see where it takes you.

Destroy your favorite places

Setting isn’t relegated to fiction. Writing about place is crucial in many types of creative prose. One of my favorite activities starts with a generic prompt: Write about your favorite place (or a place you used to spend a lot of time) in as much detail as possible. Students are often eager to share descriptions of the library, their grandmother’s front porch, or the playground in their old neighborhood.

Then I make them destroy those places. Write about the destruction of this place, I say. What does that place look like now? What emotions come to the surface? This is much harder, even heartbreaking, for some students to imagine. I remind them that this part isn’t necessarily true and that they can “destroy” the place in any number of ways: neglected and overgrown yards are as interesting as explosions.

Even though they are imagining this destruction, they are often able to get closer to their emotions about the place when they view it from a different angle.

Ambushed by smell

Conjuring sensory experiences is one of the quickest ways to provoke a memory. Smells, especially, as you already know, can bring back memories you never expected. By considering smell and memory, options for nonfiction essays can grow in so many ways.

In Tell it Slant: Writing and Shaping Creative Nonfiction , Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola say , “Have you ever been ‘ambushed’ by a smell you didn’t expect? Opening a box of clothing from a deceased relative, for example, and having the smell of that person’s house flood over you…If you can’t remember anything like that, imagine it.”

Try to write a scene or essay about how the body carries those hidden smell-related memories. You can experiment with the other senses (especially taste) in the same way.

Three versions

If one of the hardest parts of writing is getting started, writing different versions of the same introduction is a way to experiment and take the pressure off the beginning. In this case, think about a project you’ve already started or have been struggling to start. Consider all the ways you could start this essay.

For example, you could start with a description of place, or a quote, or a piece of dialogue. You could start at the beginning of the story (or whatever you perceive to be the beginning), and you could also start in the middle or at the end.

Once you have a few ideas, try writing the intro of this story three different ways. Not all of the versions will work, but that is the point. You don’t know what’s going to work until you try. You just have to start writing.

Bear witness

Unless you deliberately avoid the news, it is likely to impact you (and your mood) on a regular basis. In Tell it Slant , Miller and Paola prompt writers to “think about a news story that has affected you in the past month or so. Then think about the individual stories that have emerged from that event.”

In this way, the writer can start to look at the original story from different angles and consider why the story made such an impact in the first place. The key is to not only write about the events, but to write about the feelings and the people involved. This helps to avoid ranting or writing a persuasive essay (unless that is the goal).

All writers get stumped from time to time. Nonfiction writers can certainly use the same prompts given to novelists and poets, but other options are available. As I tell my students, nonfiction gives you the opportunity to not just tell the story, but reflect on the events and emotions. Since reflecting is a challenge that doesn’t come naturally to all of us, practicing and working through exercises can be the jump start we need.

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