There’s only one way to improve as a writer, and that’s to write. But what should you write about? What if you’re simply not ready to write an entire novel?
The answer is to participate in daily writing exercises. Whether you’re between novels or haven’t started your first, writing exercises are just what the doctor ordered to help you level up as a writer. Let’s take a look at some of the easiest and most useful writing exercises to participate in daily.
The Benefits of Doing Daily Writing Exercises
Why should you commit to writing every single day (including the weekends)? Here’s a look at the top benefits you’ll gain from making daily writing a priority:
Staring at a blank screen isn't fun. Some days, you may have a ton of ideas. But then, other days, you don’t have a clue what to write. However, when you have a stash of daily writing exercises (like the ones we’re listing below), you will always have something to write about.
Improve Your Weaknesses
We all have weaknesses as writers. Fortunately, there are writing exercises for everything, from characterization to plot development to dialogue. You can use writing exercises to annihilate your weaknesses.
Build Your Writing Confidence
The more you write, the better you'll get. Even as writers, words and ideation can intimidate us. However, when you participate in daily writing exercises, you will become more comfortable with the idea of writing. Inspiration, it turns out, is not a mystical process but the result of showing up to your screen or paper ready to work.
A List of Daily Writing Exercises
Here’s a list of writing exercises to consider doing each day:
Write a Letter to Your Younger Self
Whether it's the offer of advice or encouragement, writing a letter to your younger self can improve your writing chomps. It helps you to develop your awareness of the reader since you're no doubt writing a more targeted narrative and you intimately know your audience.
Not only is this process cathartic, but it may also help you gain clarity and inner peace.
Put time on the clock (either five or 10 minutes is a good starting point) and write without stopping. Whether handwriting or typing, the benefit of freewriting is that you record what you're thinking. It's from this stream of consciousness that you may come up with your next big idea.
When freewriting, try not to think too much about what you've written or what you're about to write. Many authors use freewriting as a warm-up exercise because it allows them to loosen up and get into the zone.
One of the best examples of the six-word story belongs to Ernest Hemingway. “For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.”
Obviously, this type of story doesn't give you a lot of room for characterization or plot development. However, it should provide conflict and resolution. The goal of this story is to leave the reader wanting more. It's a tease because it immediately evokes emotions.
For inspiration, check out this list of actual six-word stories submitted on this page, look at this list of story starters here, or check out Writerly Tweets for a list of six-word story prompts.
Writer Longer Flash Fiction
Are six words too restrictive? Consider writing a longer piece of flash fiction. Flash fiction is a short story that can go up to 1,000 words. While 1,000 words is certainly a lot more than six, you'll find this type of exercise very challenging. It's pretty tough to create an entire story, with characters, setting, plot, conflict, resolution, and theme. For this reason, it's best to focus on one scene, one or two characters, and one central conflict. Trying to do too much in the space of a couple of pages can muddle the story.
Depending on your flash fiction word limit, you can pen a solid story in 60 minutes or less.
Switch the Point of View
Take a scene that you've already written, and rewrite it from the point of view of a different character in that scene. The benefit of this exercise is that you already know the scene and where it's headed, so you're not pressured with driving the narrative forward. Instead, this will help you with characterization, specifically exploring how the character responds to the conflict in the scene.
You can also work with a story that doesn't belong to you, such as a real-life story that you've come across while watching the news. The main character may be the victim or even the perpetrator. But consider telling the story from a secondary character. This can help you improve your ability to develop secondary characters.
Use Photo Prompts
Look at photographic landscape images on Pinterest, Instagram, or some other inspirational site. Then, write a description of what you can see. If descriptive writing is difficult, challenge yourself to write an entire page (500 words) on the image.
Focus on an Area of Weakness
What is your weakness as a writer? You may struggle with writing dialogue or world-building or word choice. But that’s why you exercise! Think of what you’d like to improve in your writing and do that exercise.
Here's a list of common writing weaknesses and appropriate exercises to try:
Struggle with word choice? Challenge yourself to write 10 or more sentences using your chosen word of the day. You can find a new word of the day on the Merriam-Webster website.
Want to write better dialogue? Consider writing a page of back-and-forth dialogue between two characters without using tags. The challenge is to write dialogue that sounds unique to each character without needing to identify who's speaking with tags. This allows you to work on individual speech cadences and word choices.
Have a problem with wordiness? Take one page and attempt to cut it down to one paragraph without sacrificing on beauty, tone, or significance. The goal is to rewrite it in a way that doesn't make it look like a summary but more like an edit.
Want to write well-rounded characters? We’ve all written a generic character before. It’s easy to do. But if you want to challenge yourself to write a well-rounded character, consider creating a backstory each day for a random character. This will help you to see each character you write as a third-dimensional person with their own agency and motivation in a scene.
Write in a Different Genre
Have you considered writing in a different genre but didn't want to commit to writing an entire novel? Consider doing it as a writing exercise! As an extra challenge, take a story that you already know well (such as one from a beloved novel) and turn it into a different genre. Re-imagine Pride and Prejudice as a dystopian story or To Kill a Mockingbird as science fiction. To keep the exercise short and manageable, only write one page and select a scene that you think would be perfect when retold in your chosen genre.
Plus, when you write in a new genre as part of your writing exercise and instead of a “real” pursuit, you have less pressure to get things right. You can simply have fun exploring a different genre each day or week. What's even better, you may actually find a new genre that you love and want to explore for real.
Regularly taking part in writing exercises will guarantee your continuous improvement as a writer. No matter where you are in your writer’s journey, from beginner to seasoned pro, doing daily writing exercises will keep your skills sharp.