Creative Writing Exercises to Get Your Book Started
You’re ready for this. You understand all of your options when it comes to getting started in creative writing and decided that it’s something you want to take seriously. Now comes the hard part; actually writing. There are few things more intimidating for any writer than a blank page. Staring at the screen can make the idea of finishing a book or short story feel daunting. But there are ways to lessen some of that anxiety, and engaging in creative writing exercises is one the most effective ways to make that happen.
What is a creative writing exercise?
Creative writing exercises are different drills meant to help improve your writing. Similar to how an athlete will train and practice for their games, writing exercises help prepare you for your grand project. That project can be a full-length novel, a short story or a memoir. Regardless, creative writing exercises act as prompts that help ignite your imagination, build your writing skills and approach storytelling in unique ways.
These exercises tend to be short. They’re meant to be bursts of inspiration or introductions to techniques that can be completed within a few minutes. But your goal should be to incorporate these writing exercises into your daily routine so you can feel the improvement in your writing. These exercises are also beneficial because it prevents you from staring at a blank screen without knowing what to write.
Creative writing exercises for beginners
Freewriting is a creative writing exercise that requires the least amount of thinking. All you need to do is open up your laptop or notebook and start writing. It doesn’t matter if the writing makes sense, the sentences are coherent, or if you’re writing full sentences. The goal of freewriting is to write whatever comes to mind. The first thing in the morning is usually the best time to free write. The first few times might feel awkward, but soon you’ll be bursting with thoughts that you can’t wait to get onto the page.
Write a letter to your younger self
This is a great exercise because it triggers so many memories. You’ve lived a full life and have gone through great moments as well as some not so great times. Imagine you can sit with the younger you. What would you tell them? What kind of advice or warnings would you share with them? Would your messages be more hopeful or sombre? Writing a letter to your younger self can feel cathartic while at the same time helping you find subject matter that can be relevant to your larger story.
Change the ending of your favourite book
This is probably the most fun, creative writing exercise for beginners. Choose one of your favourite books or even the most recent book you’ve read. Ask yourself how you would change the ending. The best part about this exercise is that you can totally use your imagination. Don’t worry about whether it even makes complete sense with the real story. Be creative and make the ending your own. If you really get going, you can even have multiple endings.
Short story writing exercises
Rewrite a paragraph
The thing about a short story is that you don’t have too much room to be long-winded. Your sentences have to be precise, and every line must be meaningful. This is not the easiest thing to accomplish, but this exercise can help with that. Write out a full paragraph about a topic you’re familiar with (don’t be picky). Once you’ve done that, rewrite the paragraph so it’s half as short as what you initially wrote. This will force you to write only the most significant parts of the paragraph and help build the precision you need to write your short story.
Write about your neighbourhood
In short stories, the setting usually plays a significant role. You don’t have a full book to be going back and forth to different places, so the setting you choose in a short story is more important. To work on this, write a page about your neighbourhood. Be as detailed and descriptive as possible. If it helps, take a walk outside before you start writing. The goal is to include all aspects of your neighbourhood, both the physical and the intrinsic parts that make it interesting.
OK, this exercise is a bit odd, but there’s a method to this madness. A big part of writing is rhythm. Your words need to flow into each other so the reader can follow along without your story feeling clunky. To improve on your rhythm, try creating 10 line stanzas that have to rhyme. These stanzas should read almost like poetry, but you aren’t as concerned so much about the content. You should aim to create a cadence that flows well, and using rhyme as a premise helps with that.
Fiction writing exercises
Give your characters a backstory
Characters drive fiction writing but trying to make a character whole can be challenging. To help with this, it’s a good idea to create backstories for each major character before you start writing your novel. A backstory is simply a summary of your character’s life — where they grew up, their parents and family, any quirks. Not all of what you write will make it into your final story, but doing this exercise will help inform how your character behaves and give you a point of reference you can visit once you do start writing your novel.
On the same point of character building, you want to make sure your character makes choices that align with their personality. To achieve this, try a writing exercise where you constantly ask your character why. It should look something like this:
Why am I tired today? Because I didn’t sleep last night.
Why didn’t you sleep? Because I stayed up speaking to my mother.
What were you speaking about? About my brother, Dale, who is going through a divorce.
Get the point? Asking why just makes sure that there is a reason behind all of your character’s actions.
Sometimes, it’s easier to imagine what the world you’re creating in your book would look like if you had a reference. Well, you can create one. When thinking of your characters and the world they live in, collect images that best reflect that. Find pictures that can be your main character’s home or that resemble your antagonist’s younger brother. Use magazines, browse the internet and create a collage of your novel.
Free online creative writing exercises
We’ve listed a few of the ways in which you can use writing exercises to improve your skills and ignite your imagination. But there are lots of creative writing exercises for adults out there that you can utilize. Consider using some of these free platforms:
Learn creative writing with hosts at Boomerang
As important as it is to try at least some of these writing prompts, working directly with a professional writer is also a useful experience. Not only can they provide you with tactics on how to approach your writing, but they can give feedback on the work you’ve written. And if there’s one thing that will improve your creative writing more sharply than anything else, it’s receiving feedback.
With our creative writing workshops hosted by Boomerang, you get that feedback. You’ll be working with hosts who understand writing in all of its elements and can help elevate your writing to the next level. Sign up for Boomerang today and join our next creative writing workshop.
Learn more about our creative workshops.