When it comes to honing your fiction writing skills, there are two ways that outperform most others: the first one is reading a lot of fiction, the second one is doing creative writing exercises.
But the latter is particularly effective because it forces you to “write outside the box” so you get to develop new techniques and approaches that you might not have discovered by writing in a self-directed way.
And this is not something that’s reserved for beginners — pros like Stephen King, Julia Cameron and Margaret Atwood swear by this practice too.
In this article, we’ll discuss why creative writing exercises are essential for fiction writers and offer 15 creative writing exercises to help you take your fiction skills to the next level.
Why Are Creative Writing Exercises Important?
Here are a few reasons why writing exercises are so important for your development as a fiction writer:
They’ll help you sharpen your writing skills
Writing exercises will help you sharpen your fiction skills by challenging you to write in different styles, genres, and formats.
For example, you may be asked to write a short story in the style of a specific author, create a scene using only dialogue, or describe a setting you’ve never written about before.
By completing these exercises, you’ll learn how to write more concisely, how to convey emotion through your writing, and how to use language in creative ways.
You’ll also become more comfortable experimenting with different writing techniques, which will ultimately make you a better writer.
They’re great at sparking creativity
Creative writing exercises can also help spark your creativity by giving you new ideas and perspectives to explore that you might not have tried otherwise.
For example, if you’re struggling to come up with original ideas, doing a writing exercise or two may help you get your creative juices flowing again.
Overcoming Writer’s Block
Finally, writing exercises can help you overcome writer’s block by giving you a specific task to focus on.
When you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed, having a concrete goal to work towards can help you get back on track and start writing again.
15 Creative Writing Exercises
Without further ado, here are fifteen creative writing exercises that’ll help you develop those fiction writing chops:
1. Write as a stream of consciousness
The idea here is to write down your thoughts and feelings as they come to you uncensored, without worrying about sentence structure or grammar. It’s like giving yourself permission to write freely and without judgment.
This exercise can be particularly helpful for writers who find themselves stuck in a creative rut.
By allowing yourself to write without any constraints, you’ll be able to get quickly unstuck and even uncover new and unexpected directions for your writing that you might not have considered before.
Don’t worry about making sense or writing in complete sentences. Just focus on capturing your thoughts as they arise.
Now, if your mind starts to wander or if you get stuck on a particular thought, that’s okay. Just keep writing, even if you end up writing about the same thing multiple times. Your goal is to keep your pen moving or your fingers typing no matter what!
2. Describe a dream
Describing your dreams in as much detail as possible can take you to unknown worlds, introduce you to new characters, and bring up emotions that you may not otherwise experience in your daily life.
Start by writing down everything you remember from your dream. Focus on the sensory details, such as the colors, sounds, and textures you dreamt about.
Also, think about the emotions you felt during the dream. Were you scared, happy, or confused? Write down everything that comes to mind and use it as a starting point for a new piece of writing.
3. Describe an object in extreme detail
Another interesting creative writing exercise is to describe an object in your immediate surroundings in extreme detail.
Choose an object that you find interesting or that holds special meaning to you. Focus on the sensory details, such as the way it feels to the touch, the sound it makes when it’s moved, and the way it smells.
Also, think about the feelings the object evokes. Does it remind you of a particular time or place? Does it hold sentimental value?
4. Personify an animal
Personification is a fun writing exercise. Choose an animal that you find interesting and write from its perspective as if it was a human being.
In other words, imagine the world through the animal’s eyes, and describe its thoughts, feelings, and actions. This exercise will help you develop your character-building skills.
5. Write a book review
Writing a book review is a great way to practice your critical thinking skills. Choose a fiction book that you’ve recently read and write a review.
Begin by providing a brief summary of the book, then analyze the author’s writing style and arguments. Consider its strengths and weaknesses and provide examples to support your claims.
6. Write an opinion piece
Although not strictly a fiction-writing exercise, writing an opinion piece is an excellent way to practice persuasive writing skills. Choose a current event or issue that you feel strongly about and write an opinion piece on it.
Be sure to back up your argument with facts and evidence. Start by stating your position clearly and then use examples and evidence to support your argument.
7. Write about your day
Writing about your day may seem mundane, but it can also be a great exercise in capturing the small moments in highly descriptive detail.
When describing your typical day, pay attention to your sensations. What did you see, hear, smell, and taste? Use specific language to paint a vivid picture for your reader.
For example, instead of saying I went for a walk, describe the feeling of the sun on your skin, the sound of the dry leaves crumbling under your feet, and the smell of fresh-cut grass.
Don’t forget to include your emotions as well. How did you feel throughout the day? Were you excited, anxious, content, or overwhelmed?
8. Create a character
Creating a character is a fun and creative exercise that can help you further develop your fiction writing skills.
Start by thinking about their personality traits. Are they kind and compassionate or cold and calculating? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
Next, consider their backstory. Where did they come from? What kind of childhood did they have? What events in their life have shaped who they are today?
Finally, think about their motivations. What do they want in life? What are their goals and dreams? What drives them to make the choices they do?
Bonus idea! Once you’ve created your character, try writing a short story featuring them. Focus on the details that bring your character to life, like their mannerisms, speech patterns, and thoughts.
9. Describe a fantasy world
Creating a fantasy world is a fun and imaginative exercise that can help you develop your descriptive writing skills. Start by imagining the world you want to create. What is it like? What are the rules of the world? Is it similar to our own world, or is it vastly different?
Once you have a general idea of the world you want to create, start filling in the details. What kind of creatures inhabit the world? What do they look and sound like? What’s the landscape like?
As you describe your fantasy world, consider the emotions it evokes. Does it feel exciting, mysterious, or dangerous? Use descriptive language to convey the mood and atmosphere of your fantasy world.
10. Writing about your surroundings
Writing about your surroundings is a great way to practice fiction writing. Pick a place you know well and have spent time in. It could be your home, your workplace, your school, or even a park or a beach.
Take a few minutes to look around and observe your surroundings. Pay attention to the colors, textures, shapes, and sounds.
When you start writing, focus on the sensory details. Describe what you see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. This will help bring your writing to life. Use descriptive and vivid language to paint a clear picture.
11. Pretend to be someone else
This can be a fun and creative exercise that allows you to explore different perspectives and points of view. Think of someone you know well, such as a friend or family member. Alternatively, you could choose a fictional character from a book, movie, or TV show.
Put yourself in their shoes and imagine what they might be thinking and feeling in a given situation. What are their goals, fears, and motivations?
To help make the writing feel more authentic, use their voice and style of speaking and make sure the actions and thoughts you describe are consistent with the person or character you’ve chosen.
12. Explore a childhood memory
Childhood memories are often rich with detail, making them a great source of material for fiction writing.
Think of a memory from your childhood that had a strong emotional impact on you. It could be a happy memory, a sad one, or something in between.
First, focus on sensory details: what did you see, hear, smell, taste, and touch? Then, describe your feelings about it. How did it make you feel then, and how does it make you feel now?
13. Describe your favorite travel destination
Whether it’s a city, a beach, or a mountain range, describing your favorite travel destination can be a fun and exciting exercise to hone your writing skills when it comes to developing your settings.
Pick a place you’ve been to and love. It could be a place you’ve visited once or a place you go to often. Describe the destination in full descriptive detail to make your readers feel like they were there themselves.
14. Write a song lyric
Writing song lyrics can be a fun and creative writing exercise even if you don’t consider yourself a musician.
Start by thinking of a theme or message you want to convey. This could be a personal experience, a social issue, or a feeling you have.
Then, pick a song you really enjoy that fits the mood or tone of your theme and come up with your own lyrics.
Finally, find a karaoke version of the song online and sign your heart out!
15. Write about an issue you’re really passionate about
Fiction writing can be a powerful medium for advocating for social justice and change. If there’s an issue that you’re really passionate about, use this exercise to create a story about it.
Start by doing research and gathering facts and statistics that support your point of view. Next, think about your personal connection to the issue. Why does it matter to you? How has it impacted your life or the lives of those around you?
Use your personal experiences to add depth and authenticity to your writing.
The exercises provided in this article are just a starting point — there are countless other exercises and prompts available to help inspire your fiction writing (just Google “creative writing exercises” and you’ll see what I mean 🙂
Writing is a craft that requires practice and dedication. By regularly doing writing exercises, you’ll hone your skills and simply become a better writer. The key is to find exercises that work for you so you can easily incorporate them into your writing routine.
So, pick an exercise from the list above and see where it takes you!
Harry Wallett is the Founder and Managing Director of Relay Publishing. Combining his entrepreneurial background with a love of great stories, Harry founded Relay in 2013 as a fresh way to create books and for writers to earn a living from their work. Since then, Relay has sold 3+ million copies and worked with 100s of writers on bestselling titles such as Defending Innocence, The Alveria Dragon Akademy Series and Rancher’s Family Christmas. Harry oversees the creative direction of the company, and works to develop a supportive collaborative environment for the Relay team to thrive within in order to fulfill our mission to create unputdownable books.
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