Writing tips are easy to come by but it’s a lot more difficult to apply those tips to your writing. With these creative writing exercises for beginners, you can start practising the things you’ve learned straight away.
When you’ve read this post, start using the exercises instead of just taking a screenshot or bookmarking the page! And read all the way to the end to find out how to get a free ebook full of my best writing exercises.
Write about your life
If you don’t yet know what to write about, using your own life as material saves you the trouble of waiting for inspiration. As a fiction writer, you also need to have a unique way of looking at everyday life and you need to be able to make the mundane seem interesting. Here are some of the best writing exercises I can give you about your life:
- Write about your coffee cup like it’s the most interesting thing in the world.
- What did you do yesterday? Write about it as if you were only two inches tall.
- Look out the window. Write about what you see as if you were seeing everything for the first time.
- Write about yourself as if someone was watching you in case you were about to commit a crime.
- Pick something inconvenient that has happened to you and write about it as if it was the end of the world.
- Write the instructions for living as you.
Create a main character
Creating unforgettable characters is one of the most important skills for any novelist. Even the most mundane plot can be unputdownable if the main character is interesting and can carry the story, and likewise, even an interesting plot will become flat in less than five seconds if the characters are one-dimensional and boring.
I want you to practise creating interesting main characters. They don’t need to be something you would actually want to write a book about, so feel free to come up with romantic cowboys or virtuous vampires even if you wouldn’t even dabble in writing cowboy romances or vampire stories.
A great protagonist doesn’t just have strengths and weaknesses – they need to be the right strengths and weaknesses. That means that they need to be relevant to the story and bring unique obstacles and advantages to your hero. In addition, the best weaknesses are usually the flipside of the character’s strengths. Let’s try doing these exercises:
- Come up with a person (human or supernatural creature, it’s up to you) and give them a name and occupation.
- Give that character a big problem – this is what your story is about. It needs to be something they can’t walk away from and something that they would struggle to overcome.
- Which weaknesses would make it difficult for your character to overcome that problem? Come up with three.
- How can those weaknesses become strengths in the right situations? How will they help overcome the big problem?
- How can your character’s strengths get them in trouble?
- Which strengths and weaknesses will lead to your character making mistakes that only make things worse?
Related reading: Conflict ideas for a story
Exercises for writing descriptions
You’ve probably heard of “show, don’t tell” but you might not know what it really means. Here’s a question that makes that bit of advice a bit more practical: how do you know?
Let’s say your character is angry. How do you know? Your character’s father has always been a bully. How do you know? You need to be able to prove to your readers that this is how things really are, otherwise they’d have to take your word for it. Just like you wouldn’t believe someone that they’re friendly if they’re not showing it to you. Now do these “show don’t tell” exercises:
- Think about your closest friend and tell me three things about them. How would I find out about these things if you never told me and I was hanging out with this person?
- How can you tell that someone has had a very long and hard day?
- If you had a crush on someone and you wouldn’t want them to know, what kind of behaviour would you avoid?
- Come up with a character and write a day in their life after they’ve won the lottery. Then write the same day with same events, except now they’ve lost their job. Highlight all the differences in your descriptions and see how you can add more.
- You’re writing from the point-of-view of one character who has a huge crush on another character. What kind of inner dialogue does your smitten character have about their love interest? How can we really see them?
When it comes to describing your settings, you need to remember that we’re seeing the story world through your characters. That’s why you need to employ all of their senses when you write your story. Try these writing exercises next:
- Close your eyes. What do your other senses tell you about your surroundings? (Maybe don’t taste the computer screen, though.)
- Think about a summer’s day in your childhood. What sights, smells and tastes do you associate with it? What does the day sound and feel like?
- Find a picture of your dream home. We can see what it looks like but now it’s your job to use other sensory details to describe what living there would feel like.
- Write about a really frightening place. What kind of sensory details does it include? How do people act in that place? Then do the same exercise with a comforting place.
Set-ups and pay-offs
Cause and effect is the most important building block of a story that just makes sense. We can believe even the most imaginative tales when they’re set up right and it’s your job as the writer to build logic into the story.
Whatever happens in your story, it needs a set-up so that it makes sense or else you have a plot hole in your hands. Readers also assume – either consciously or subconsciously – that everything you mention is relevant, so you don’t want to have a set-up without a pay-off. You might be worrying that this will make your story predictable, but it doesn’t mean your readers need to be able to see what’s coming. It only needs to make sense in hindsight.
Here are some writing exercises for practising this concept:
- Think about a time in your life when something really surprising happened. Unless it was a literal act of God, there must have been reasons for this incident, perhaps even signs. Tell us what they were and how it totally made sense that it happened.
- Write a paragraph about a person you dislike. Then write a series of events where everything you told us about this person becomes relevant in a dramatic way.
- Write down three most important things that have happened to you today. What happened previously that allowed them to happen today? Where will they lead to next week?
Get even more free writing exercises for beginners
I want you to be the best writer you can be, which is why I created this collection of my best 40 writing exercises. It’s got all the free writing exercises you can find in my blog plus a few extras from my paid products. Because no matter what I teach you about writing, it’s no use to you if you don’t apply it! Get your exercises today and start your journey to becoming an even better writer straight away.