Six prose writing exercises

Six prose writing exercises

These six writing exercises encourage you to think more creatively and are easily adaptable and repeatable. These writing exercises have been adapted from writing workshops I have attended, others from my days as an English teacher and exercises I have tried and tested myself.

1.   Timer on

Choose how you want to time yourself, whether for example it’s one chunk of ten minutes and you write solidly for this time, or you time specific sections. Most importantly, stick to the time, don’t run over and don’t doubt the decision but write with power.

2.   Chapter borrowing

Pick three of what you consider to be the most interesting chapter titles. With each chapter, stop at an unplanned page and pick one line at random. You will end up a collection of chapter titles and a selection of lines. Alternatively, choose 5-10 words per chapter instead of lines. What if the chapters are numbered? Either think how the number can have significance in your story or substitute the number for three selected words on the chapter’s opening page.

3.   Headlines

Buy a paper and pick out the most interesting headlines and based on these, draft the plot of the story. You have been given the plot devices so now you need to think how you can use language to create fiction from non-fiction. When choosing the headline, try to go for one’s that share factual information rather than emotive or uncertain headlines. This will make it easier to build a loose plot around it, rather than create the plot yourself.

4.   A letter from your character

You have created a character but there is the sense they are not quite complete. Or they have arrived at a certain part of the story, but you are now not sure where they should go. Try writing a letter to you from them. What does this letter reveal about them that you needed to know in order for their character to continue moving through the story?

5.   What can comics teach us?

Sometimes we need to turn our eyes away from the novel and seek the story in a different format. It can be really useful to read or flick through a comic or graphic novel and see how the story develops in a much more visual way. Try drawing out some panels and with imperfect drawings and not much writing, plan out your story. Do as much of this as you need to, even if it you spend an entire day panelling and planning, you may find that this gives you enough to then write for days on end.

6.   Transforming poetry

Select a few poems with different themes, i.e. relationships, coming of age, nature/environment, death etc, and turn the essence of the poem into prose. For example, the poem about relationships could reveal the conflict or solution between two characters, the poem about death could prompt an extended inner struggle of your character you were seeking. Ideally, lay them out like an unmatched puzzle and see how these poems can fuel parts of your own story.