Thursday, September 11, 2008

Writing Exercises

My writing group recently disbanded due to a lack of attendance, but I thought I’d share some of the writing exercises we would use in hopes that they will benefit other groups or individuals looking to get their thoughts flowing. I’m pretty sure I swiped these ideas from other people, so I wouldn’t be surprised to find them elsewhere on the Internet.

The intent for each of these exercises is to let people write for 3-5 minutes, just long enough to put 2-3 paragraphs together, but not long enough to think for an extended period of time. It’s good rough-draft training for those of us who like to think through too many details early on. Each person should read their work aloud at the end of the time.

Exercise 1: Let someone think of a random sentence. Each person must begin a short story with this sentence. I tend to runaway with this exercise and never end up at a good stopping point. Maybe that’s why I prefer the next exercise.

Exercise 2: Let someone think of a random sentence. Each person must end a short story with the sentence. I really like this one because you can be clever in getting to the end, to the point of drawing laughs. It’s like being given a punch-line.

Exercise 3: Divide the group into teams of 4-5 people. Each person in the team should start a story. When time is up, everyone pushes their papers to the left (keeping them within the same team). Give everyone a minute to read what has already been written. Then, each person should continue the story they were given. Continue rotating the stories until they reach the original authors, and then read the stories aloud in their entirety. This could be a good way to get people mad at you for ruining their work, I suppose, but I haven’t had that experience. I especially like it when an author tries to set up the next person, but the newest author ignores the suggestion and takes the story someplace the previous author never wanted it to go.

There are a plethora of other exercises out there, but these were some of the ones we liked to do on a regular basis. You can run through one or two fairly quickly, and sometimes you may come away with a new story idea.

This article is part of the Top Five Writing Improvement Articles:
1. Writing To Your Strengths Or Weaknesses – Should you write to your strengths or weaknesses? The answer varies depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.
2. Writing Tools – As writers, we need to consider which tools will help us the most with our craft and have them at the ready.
3. The Callous Editor – To edit our own works well, we must divorce emotions from the process and make hard choices.
4. Writing Exercises – When thoughts seem locked up tight, try some exercises to get the sludge moving again.
5. The Jab – We need good openings to our stories, and this article shares some advice and an example from my own writing.

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