Whether you’re a bestselling author or a complete novice, there’s always room for improvement. To help you sharpen your writing skills, here is a list of five creative writing exercises. These exercises will stretch and warm up your creative muscles while also scraping the rust off your writing.
Mastery comes with practice, and putting in the time will enhance your writing abilities, allowing you to better convey your thoughts and inspire your readers and online audience.
1. Avoid adverbs
Adverbs are words or phrases that modify or change a verb, adjective, or adverb. Common examples are “gently,” “timely,” “angrily,” and so on. They can add flavor to your writing, but like seasoning a dish, it’s easy to overdo it if you’re not careful. Adverbs mostly get a free pass in dialogue, but they can be a crutch for weak verbs when used in prose.
For example, instead of “they ran quickly,” use a stronger verb like “raced” or “sprinted.”
Adverbs are often redundant, particularly those ending in “ly.” Take “she screamed loudly,” for example. If it’s a scream, it’ll be loud.
Here’s an exercise that will help you trim the adverbs and strengthen your writing. Write a paragraph of 200-350 words, or a page of descriptive narrative, without using adverbs (and no dialogue). The goal of this exercise is to provide a detailed description of a scene or activity by utilizing verbs, nouns, pronouns, and articles.
If you are already writing, do this for your next paragraph, or scan something you’ve already written for adverbs and modify a few paragraphs by eliminating the adverbs there.
Remember what Mark Twain said: “Adverbs are the tool of the lazy writer.” And you sure don’t want to be lazy, do you?
2. Use writing prompts
Writing may be intimidating. Particularly if you’re gazing at a blank page. An initial push often overcomes a simple hurdle. No matter what stage of the writing process you’re in, using writing prompts may jumpstart your imagination and get your creative juices flowing.
It is important to find the right writing prompts that can sharpen your writing skills. If you don’t know where to begin, start with a simple online search. It will help you discover a huge library of writing prompts. Alternatively, you can pick a random line from a magazine, the opening sentence from a popular novel, or your favorite quote as a starting point.
The options are endless!
Everyone has different tastes and preferences, so no prompt is perfect for everyone. You may need to dig up the ideal prompt for your creativity to flow, but once you do, this creative writing exercise will surely sharpen your writing skills.
3. Try the Benjamin Franklin method
The most common advice to sharpen your creative writing skills is “read, read, and read some more.” While it’s good advice, it’s also pretty generic. However, if you’re looking for a specific process you can put into practice right away, look no further than the Benjamin Franklin method.
The method, named after a founding father of the United States, was a self-developed technique that Franklin employed to enhance the clarity and purpose of his expression.
The exercise is simple.
- Step 1: Select some well-written content. It might be a passage or a scene from a novel or a magazine article. It’s entirely up to you, but it should be something you like and want to emulate and be inspired by.
- Step 2: After that, jot down brief comments for each sentence. Preferably in such a way that its “sentiment” is self-explanatory to your mind.
- Step 3: Set them away for a few days.
- Step 4: Get back to your notes and use them to reproduce the article or piece in the same spirit as it was originally written.
Now compare the two.
After completing this creative writing exercise, your shortcomings and areas for growth should become more obvious and that will help you find out where and how you can improve your writing skills.
4. ‘Borrow’ a story
We’ve all heard stories from others that have left an impression on us. An incident with a coworker or a friend. Stories or anecdotes shared by your parents or folklore told by your grandparents. Such stories are often interesting as well as intriguing. But these stories almost always lack details, and gaps can be found when linking one incident to another.
This is your opportunity to fill those missing gaps with your creativity. Take a riveting story and write it in a first or a third-person POV. You can also experiment by writing the same story from multiple vantage points to make it even more engrossing. If your creative juices start flowing, add your spin to it.
The idea is to get you to write like a pro and sharpen your skills by unconventional methods.
If you can’t think of a story from your friends and family that’s exciting enough, take a look at today’s news. Take any real-life incident reported locally or internationally and create a story around the facts that you read.
You will be amazed by the way this simple yet highly effective exercise impacts your creative writing skills.
5. Sharpen your senses
The five senses you probably learned in school are sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Unfortunately, most writing focuses only on sight and sound rather than delivering a multisensory experience.
Producing a multisensory experience for your readers can be difficult, and it demands focus and attention. You have to include details that help your readers not only see and hear the scene, but smell, taste, and feel it also. Use the following exercise to sharpen your senses and create a rich, realistic experience.
For this exercise, select a setting that is naturally rich in description. A coffeehouse, retail store, or movie theater are great options.
Visual and auditory aspects are likely the first to spring to mind. Make a note of them. Now focus on the other senses. What are the smells you are likely to encounter in such locations? Now go a little deeper and pay attention to the textures that go with them. Feel free to use metaphors while describing these sensory details for a creative boost.
When you’ve finished your list, try writing a descriptive paragraph or prose of 200-300 words that incorporates some or all of the five senses. Creating a mental picture that uses several senses can be far more engaging for your readers than a picture that uses only one or two.
This creative exercise will help you get in touch with all of your main senses while writing and will help you create a world that offers your readers a far deeper, more immersive experience.