Most people think about writing exercises as a way to get ideas for a story or to overcome writer’s block, but there are actually some pretty compelling reasons why you might want to do writing exercises even if you are in the middle of a book or already have your story in mind. Doing writing exercise before you begin the work of actual story can get your juices flowing and result in better prose when you start on your real work for the day. A writing exercise doesn’t have to take long – you can kick back, rev up that coffee maker, and do five minutes or so and you’ll notice an improvement in your daily writing. Here are some ways that you can use writing exercises to “prime the pump.”
Describe a Setting
Take five minutes and describe some setting in your story. This does not have to be a setting that you are going to use (although you can), but if you are already writing a story then you might as well describe a setting from within that story. Even if you don’t use it, you will still have more detail on your world and that is a very good thing when trying to make it real for your readers.
Write Some Dramatic Dialogue
Take your character and simply start writing some dramatic dialogue. You can drop them in right in the middle of the drama. Here’s an example:
“Shut up!” Ted said, tears streaming down his face. “I know you did it. I saw you that night.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Jimmy-Big-Lips said, taking a menacing step forward. “You didn’t see anything and you don’t know anything.”
Don’t worry about whether it makes sense or where the story is going. Just write some dramatic dialogue that gets your heart rate up.
Write a Taut, Thrilling Scene
Again, don’t overthink it. Just start writing from wherever the action begins. Here is an example:
He crouched in the bushes, trying to ignore the sharp lightning bolts of pain that kept running through his legs from being in that position for so long. The smell of the rosebush was strong, and the feel of cold steel of the pistol he’d stolen was comforting against his palm.
Write a Blurb (For Anything)
Another thing that you can do to get the juices flowing is to write a blurb. If you are already working on something, then write a blurb for that. If you are stuck without an idea, then write a blurb for anything – even something that is already published. The point is to get your juices flowing so that when you sit down to write, you are already at your full potential.
Write an Impossible “What If” Scene
Finally, take any character and put them in a situation where something happens that they cannot explain. You can learn a lot about a character by writing them confronting something that is impossible; it can be aliens, monsters, a conspiracy or whatever you like.
If you really need to hone your craft, try writing some short stories.