I don’t know a writer who doesn’t experience times when the ideas flow freely, and times when the creative juices dry up. We all need a kitbag full of strategies to prime the pump.
From writing groups, workshops, and other sources, I’ve come across a few good quick writing exercises here and there. I like to use them when I’m feeling stale and uncreative, when I need to solve a problem with a manuscript, or sometimes just for fun. Here are a few of my favourites:
1. Free writing. I think every writer does this once in a while, for good reason. It’s a great way to unblock and release your muse. Simply take a picture or a word as a starting point, set a time limit – one minute, five minutes – and WRITE. That’s the only rule. You cannot stop writing, even if you write the same word ten times. It’s as simplistic as it sounds, but you just might amaze yourself with what you produce.
2. Write a scene using DIALOGUE ONLY. No body language, no description, no narrative. I had a lot of fun with this one writing a dialogue between two partially deaf people who kept misunderstanding each other. It really gets you thinking about how to show instead of telling.
3. Think of a character as different from yourself as you can imagine, and write a scene showing that person getting up in the morning and starting their day.
4. Take a very familiar scene, like your bedroom or backyard, and write about a blind person in that setting. I’ve mentioned this one before, and it’s a great way to get away from dependence on visuals and learn to include all the senses in description.
5. Take a scene you’ve already written, with two characters, and write it in the other character’s point of view. I did this with several scenes in McShannon’s Chance. It helped me figure out if I really had written those scenes in the POV of the character with the most to lose.
6. Tell a story in ten words or less, newspaper headline style. The best one of these I’ve ever seen: ‘Spinster aunt sold wedding dress today.’
Hope you enjoy this, and may your muse be kind! Feel free to add to this list if you have ideas.
I'm a teacher, an amateur musician and, for over thirty years, a writer. I fell in love with words at a very early age, and the affair has been life-long.
Glimpses of the past spark my imagination. There's an archaeologist buried in me somewhere. I'm currently working on a series following the McShannon family as they put down roots and find love in the old world and the new, against the background of the American Civil War. Along with this series, I'm writing a story set at the time of the Halifax Explosion in 1917. I'm really enjoying delving into the history in my own backyard.
I write for children as well as adults. When I'm not writing I garden, play guitar and spend time with my DH, our cat Emily, and our dogs Chance and Echo, the most spoiled Duck Tolling Retrievers on the planet. I live in Nova Scotia, in my opinion the most beautiful place in the world.