Activities for Writing Groups
Mutual support can be one of the most important functions of a writing group. Sometimes encouragement and the knowledge that others are interested in and committed to your work and your progress as a writer can be just as helpful as feedback. To that end, your writing group may want to reserve some time in each session to “touch base” or “check in” with one another. During this time you could:
- Describe your writing activities since the last group meeting in terms of pages written, parts of a project completed, or hurdles overcome.
- If you haven’t written much since the last meeting, you could talk about the kinds of pre-writing activities you have undertaken (research, reading, editing previous work, meeting with a professor or advisor, etc.). Or you could talk about the obstacles to writing that have hindered your progress (writer’s block, having a big exam this week, needing to gather more data before you can write, etc.).
- Explain how work that was discussed during the last meeting is now evolving in response to group comments. You might explain which comments you chose to act on, or tell how a section of the piece has been reorganized or rethought in response to the group’s feedback.
- Share your writing plans for the coming week or two so that your group members will know what kinds of writing they will see and so that you can help one another stick to your goals.
- Decide, as a group, on a theme for the next meeting—brainstorming, drafting, proofreading, style, writer’s block, etc. Choosing a writing issue to tackle together will help you understand the challenges each member is facing at the moment and enable you to plan meetings that will help group members meet those challenges.
Systems for sharing work
Some writing groups ask members to distribute their work in advance of the group meeting, particularly if the piece of writing in question is lengthy. Internet-based file-sharing platforms make it easy to share files, and groups can choose a platform that will offer their members the appropriate level of access and security. Standardized file-naming conventions will help members locate documents easily, e.g., consistently naming folders by Date_Name of writer (11.14.20_Maria or Nov. 14 Maria).
Responding to work that you read outside of the group
The following ideas might help you respond to work that has been distributed beforehand:
- Group members could write comments and suggest editorial changes on their copies of the paper and give those to the writer during the group meeting.
- Group members could prepare a written response to the paper in the form of a letter to the writer, a paragraph, a written discussion of the work’s strengths and weaknesses, or on a form developed by the group. See the Responding to Other People’s Writing worksheet in this packet for a helpful model.
- Group members could respond verbally to the piece, each offering a personal, overall reaction to writing before opening the discussion to a broader give-and-take.
- You could go through the piece paragraph-by-paragraph or section-by-section, with each reader offering comments and suggestions for improvement.
- The author could come prepared with a list of questions for the group and lead a discussion based on those questions.
- One group member, either the author or (perhaps preferably) a different member of the group, could keep careful notes on key reactions and suggestions for the author’s future reference.
Responding to writing presented during the group meeting
Some groups prefer to bring writing, particularly shorter pieces, to the group meeting for immediate discussion. You might bring a draft of an entire paper, a section of a paper, or just a sentence or two that you can’t seem to get “just right.” Many of the above ideas will work just as well for writing that has been presented during the meeting of the writing group. However, since writing presented during the meeting will be new to everyone except the author, you might try these additional strategies:
- Read the paper aloud to the group before launching discussion. The author could read, or another member of the group could read while the author notes things that sound like they might need revision. You could either read the entire text or break it into chunks, discussing each after it is read.
- Group members could also read silently, making notes to themselves, before launching the discussion.
- Read the first paragraph or first section aloud and have everyone in the group briefly write down what he or she thinks the paper will be about or what he or she thinks the thesis of the paper is. Share those responses in discussion.
Sharing writing without the anticipation of feedback
Sometimes, especially with new writing or writers needing a boost of confidence, it can be helpful to share writing without anticipating feedback. This kind of sharing can help writers get over fears about distributing their work or being judged:
- For writers undertaking long projects, sharing a piece can serve to show the rest of the group the progress made since the last meeting, even if the author doesn’t need feedback right now.
- Sharing a piece of writing without expecting feedback can provide the writer with a deadline to work toward without generating anxieties over whether or not the piece is “good enough” to share.
- Sharing writing early in a writing group’s work together can be a no-pressure way to get to know one another’s projects and writing styles.
Brainstorming as part of the group process
Writing groups can provide not only feedback and a forum in which to share work, but also creative problem-solving for your writing troubles. Your group might try some of these brainstorming ideas:
- Have one group member identify a writing problem that needs to be solved. Ask each group member to free-write possible solutions.
- Cut up a copy of a paper that needs organizational changes so that each section, main idea, or paragraph is on its own slip of paper. As a group, move the pieces of paper around and discuss possible options for reorganizing the work.
- After reading a piece, generate a list of items that the group might like to know more about. Organize these questions into categories for the author to consider.
Writing during writing group meetings
Your writing group may choose to write during some of its meetings. Here are some ideas for what to write:
- If everyone in the group has a major deadline approaching, use one session as a working meeting. Meet in a computer lab or other location in which everyone can write and work independently, taking breaks periodically to assess your progress or ask questions.
- Use some writing group time to free-write about your writing project—new ideas, to-do lists, organizational strategies, problems, or sentences for your drafts would all be appropriate topics for free-writing.
- Free-write about the writing process (you could all write about “How I start to write” or “The writing environment that works for me” or “When I sit down to edit…”) and share your responses with one another.
- Write about the dynamics of the writing group as a way of getting everyone’s ideas out on paper. You could free-write about the kinds of feedback that help you, what you like about each other’s writing, your frustrations with the group, and your suggestions for improving the way the group works.
- Spend a few minutes of each meeting practicing a new writing or editing technique you would like to explore.
- See the Writing Exercises handout for more ideas.
Reading during writing group meetings
Just as writing during group meetings can prove beneficial, reading can sometimes help writing groups work together better:
- Pick a book on writing such as Bird by Bird, Writing with Power, Writing Down the Bones, Writing Without Teachers, or Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day and assign yourselves sections to read for each meeting. Discuss the reading during some part of the group’s meeting each time.
- Read about a particular writing topic such as editing techniques or writer’s block during the group meeting, and then spend the session working on that aspect of one another’s writing.
- Bring a piece of writing (an article in your field, an article from a journal or magazine that you enjoyed, or a piece of fiction) that you think is especially well-written. Read over it as a group and talk about what the author did in the piece that made it so effective.
- Bring pieces of data or evidence that you are using in your writing and share them with the group. If the group becomes familiar with the things that you write about, they may be better able to help you write about them effectively.
Bring in a guest
Just as guest lecturers in courses sometimes spice up the classroom experience, guests in writing groups can enliven the discussion:
- Invite a friend’s writing group to have a joint meeting with yours. Share writing from all participants and also talk about writing group strategies that have worked for each group.
- Invite a faculty member or other guest writer to your group to talk about his or her writing process and to offer suggestions for improving your own.
- Bring in a friend who is working on a project related to the project of a group member. This may help your group member develop a network of people interested in his or her particular topic and may also show your friend how helpful a writing group could be.
Your writing group can also help you plan your writing schedule for the week:
- Discuss your writing goals, both broadly and for the immediate future. Ask your group if those goals seem realistic.
- Ask group members to e-mail you with reminders of deadlines and encouragement.
- Create a group calendar in which you all set goals and deadlines for your writing. This calendar could be for a week, a month, a semester, a year, or more. The Writing Center publishes a planning calendar each semester.
- Give each other writing “assignments” for the next meeting.
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Home » Blog » 25 Creative Writing Prompts for Your Writing Group
25 Creative Writing Prompts for Your Writing Group
“Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” Mark Twain
The venerable Mr. Twain certainly had a sense of humor. If only it were that easy to be a writer! The real trick to creative writing is that there is no trick. Aside from having a story to tell, writing it down — and writing it well — the art of creative writing takes discipline, grit, thick skin, persistence, and lots and lots of practice.
Bring courage. Find trust.
Jot down your thoughts at home and then create stories free-form or with creative writing prompts. Once you’ve got a good start, look for a writers group of your peers. It’s OK if you’re reluctant to do it at first, but it may help to know that even seasoned wordsmiths feel the same trepidation when sharing their work with others. While writing is by nature a solitary activity, you’ll find it impossible to improve unless you take the plunge. Your bravery will be repaid when you find a group where you feel supported and where you can grow as a writer.
Look for a writers group that provides constructive feedback without pandering. If your senior living community hosts a writers group, that’s a good place to start. Everyone’s work should be treated with equal respect and value. There should be clear rules on how to deliver feedback. And because writers often share personal information, there should be an agreement that sensitive matters remain confidential.
Silence your inner critic.
Beginning writers often introduce their work with statements such as, “I’m not really creative,” “This isn’t very good,” or “I’ve never done this before.” Writing is an art form that belongs to everyone, regardless of their age, background or education level. Whether you’re choosing to express yourself artistically, pass along memories and stories to your children and grandchildren, dive into your inner life, or achieve recognition, give yourself permission to try, fail and succeed. It’s only when you believe in yourself as a writer that you can begin to strengthen and develop your voice as one.
Get ready, get set, write!
Now, grab your laptop or pen and paper. We’ve created a list of creative writing prompts guaranteed to help you hurdle writer’s block and get your creative juices flowing. Some of these exercises will tickle memories, some will engage your senses, and others will challenge your imagination. Do them quickly by setting a timer for 10 minutes, or give yourself longer if you find you have more to say. The more you practice, the better you will be.
Our 25 favorite creative writing prompts
- 1. Write your life story in 10 sentences or less.
- 2. Which is the oldest tree in your neighborhood, and what has it seen?
- 3. Tell the story of who you are, and start with “I am from …”
- 4. Look through the news and describe an hour in the life of someone who has had something unusual happen to them.
- 5. Find a photo and write about what can’t be seen in the picture.
- 6. You’re a fugitive from justice. What was your crime, and where are you headed?
- 7. Find a favorite paragraph in a book you enjoy and rewrite it in your own words while keeping the original meaning.
- 8. What piece of advice do you give most to people your age? Is it the same or different from advice you would give a younger or older person, and why?
- 9. You wake up and realize it’s 100 years in the future. Describe your remarkable new life.
- 10. Start a story with, “I picked it up to have a better look and …”
- 11. Describe the smell wafting from the kitchen that’s making your mouth water.
- 12. You’ve never seen a sunset like this before. Describe it so someone would want to be right there with you.
- 13. Describe the music and lyrics from your favorite song in a way that someone else would immediately want to listen to it.
- 14. Based on people in your life, create two or three characters, giving them names and personalities. Describe what motivates them.
- 15. Have two characters sit across from each other and capture their interaction entirely in dialogue.
- 16. Pick an object that is ugly and have a character see it as beautiful. Have them describe the object to someone else to convince them of its beauty.
- 17. Describe the loudest sound you can think of and have a character hear it for the first time.
- 18. Describe two people having a conversation but make it clear that they’re not talking about the same thing even though they think they are.
- 19. List five fears in your life. Create a story where a character is forced to confront one of those fears.
- 20. Create a character based on someone in your life whom you dislike. Now write about a situation where they’re shown in a sympathetic way despite their faults.
- 21. Write an argument where a spouse tells their husband or wife about a physical ailment, but the spouse refuses to believe them.
- 22. Write a funny to-do list to a teenager about how to attract a boyfriend or girlfriend.
- 23. Think of an illness someone you love has suffered from. Have a character respond when they’re told someone close to them has the same illness.
- 24. Have a character respond in an unusual way to the pandemic. Write two versions: one where they’re unselfconscious, and one where they’re aware of their behavior but hide it.
- 25. Describe a conflict you remember and how it ended. Now, write an ending that is different from what actually happened and leaves the reader wanting to know more.
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50 fun group writing exercises
Group writing exercises you can do with your writing circle or critique group are a fun ice-breaker and a way to get creative ideas flowing. Read 50 ‘fill in the blank’ creative writing prompts.
- Post author By Jordan
- 6 Comments on 50 fun group writing exercises
‘Fill in the blank’ writing exercises are fun to do in a group. Writing exercises with some set parameters highlight the diverse, interesting ways different writers interpret and respond to the same prompts. Try one of 50 ‘fill in the blank’ creative writing prompts below, and share your creativity in the comments or tag @NowNovel if sharing your version on social media.
The group writing exercises
The first prompt was a prompt for a contest to win a place on our Group Coaching writing course .
Every year, I’d made a resolution not to ever __ again. Yet by January 20th I’d already __ and __.
Entries were voted on blind by a panel of four from the Now Novel team, and the winner was Ethan Myers with this entry:
Here are 49 more prompts to enjoy and stimulate creative ideas:
Writing exercises featuring scene-setting
On leaving As soon as I turned 18, I left__. It was a town of__and__ .
On arrival I walked through the arched entryway and my jaw dropped. Everywhere you looked there were__. Marco Polo himself could never have imagined__.
The first time It was my first ever flight. I was__. Then a__ sat down next to me, turning to me and asking, “__?”
Compare and contrast My hometown was__. When I got to__, a college town, the first thing I noticed was__.
Use the senses The minute you entered, you could smell __. Paired with the sound of __, it was unmistakably home.
Be specific The home we’d rented for the holidays was neither__ nor__, contrary to the listing. Yet my younger brother was delighted when we found__.
Build a bucket list I’d always wanted to go to__. I’d read so much about its__, though nothing had prepared me for__.
Create a world In the books I had read as a kid, portals were gateways to worlds where __. Yet here, I was surprised to find a__.
Outside/inside Outside, the sounds of__ filled the air__. Yet inside, the 19th Century __was like another world, full of strange __.
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Group writing exercises featuring conflict
Lovers’ quarrel We thought it would be a romantic getaway to Rome. Then__. By the end of the day, hot and fed up, we__.
A troubling lookout He climbed the watchtower, yet when he turned to the window, what he saw made him tremble.__.
The duel Many had said that if they were ever to duel, no two could be more equally matched. But what his opponent didn’t know was__.
Alien invasion In alien movies, they always blew up The White House or__. So he hadn’t expected to be toe to toe with an extraterrestrial having a screamed debate about__.
An assassin As the most skilled contract killer in the kingdom, she knew how to__. Yet nobody knew that she__.
Warring nations It started with a trade embargo. Then the president said that our neighbors’ president was a __ with a __. Next thing we knew, __.
Difficult decisions I couldn’t decide whether to__ or to__, but it was 4:45 pm and the last train was leaving in five minutes.
Writing exercises using dialogue
Secrets and lies “I never__,” he said. Yet I knew he was lying because__.
Surprises “Guess what I have behind my back?” she said. “__?” I guessed. “No!” She held out__.
Confessions “I didn’t know how to tell you this … I__.” “I’m glad you told me, now we can__.”
Embarrassing family “Your son is very talented, Mr Jones,” the__ said. “You say that now. You should have seen when he was 9. He__ and we were told that__.”
Thinking aloud “You should__.” “What did you just say?” “Did I just say that out loud? I was thinking about__.”
Know-it-all “Bet you didn’t know__,” he gloated. “Bet you didn’t know__,” I clapped back, full sass.
Bad bard “Shall I compare thee-“ I married a thespian. “Shall I compare you to __?” I rolled my eyes.
Writing exercises using simile and metaphor
Wild reactions His face was as __ as a__ after the bug bite and we were all a bit worried.
Comparing the moon The moon is a__ tonight, its thin crescent glowing like a__.
Making abstraction specific My anxiety is like a__ on the first day of school. A__ with a __.
Sound and simile The first minutes the orchestra was like a __, the music shimmering like __. But in the allegro the principal violinist’s string broke and the conductor__.
Describing emotions Fear is a__ with a__.
Describing the human voice He had a voice like__, like a__ echoing in a __.
Degrees of comparison The mysterious drink they prepared was sweeter than__. But sweeter still was__.
Writing exercises using different POVs
Fugitive I had run all night, adrenaline keeping fatigue at bay. When I saw__ as dawn broke, I knew__.
Collective They had ways of dealing with dissent. If you dared to go against the clan, you would be__, God help you.
The reader as reader You decide to go to the library. You want to read a book about__. The librarian raises an eyebrow as they run the barcode scanner. “__?” They ask, as you blush.
The group as one That summer, we__ until we couldn’t__. We were all in our twenties, and the days were__.
Writing exercise using different moods of the verb
Future perfect tense, indicative mood In several years’ time, she will have changed, our__ changing like__.
Present tense, potential mood “They may change their minds,” the King says, scowling, “or else we may have to__ and__.”
Future tense, subjunctive mood If I should__, then tell everyone I never__.
[See a helpful explanation of verb moods and tenses in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Steering the Craft . ]
Writing exercises from creating blanks in books
Colum McCann – Let the Great World Spin We had a short driveway full of__. If we crossed the road, we could stand on__ and__.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Love in the Time of Cholera He had returned from a long stay in Paris, where he__, and from the time he set foot on solid ground he__.
Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake Jimmy’s earliest complete memory was of a huge__. He must have been five, maybe six. He was wearing__.
Virginia Woolf – Mrs Dalloway Her only gift was__. If you put her in a room with some one, up went her back like a cat’s; or she__.
Italo Calvino – The Complete Cosmicomics I thought only of the Earth. It was the Earth that caused each of us to__.
David Sedaris – Me Talk Pretty One Day When painting proved too difficult, I turned to__, telling myself__.
Eva Hoffman – Lost in Translation The library is located in a__ street, in an ancient building, which one enters through a__. It is Plato’s cave, Egyptian temple, the space of__.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Half of a Yellow Sun Richard said little at the parties Susan took him to. When she introduced him, she always added__. But they were pleasant to him; they would be to__.
Ursula K. Le Guin – The Left Hand of Darkness I’ll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught__.
Colson Whitehead – The Zone The reunions were terrific and rote, early tutelage in the recursive nature of human experience. “__?” the girlfriends asked as they padded in bearing__, and he’d say “__”.
Barbara Kingsolver – The Poisonwood Bible Once every few years, even now, I catch the scent of__. It makes me want to keen, sing,__.
Jorge Luis Borges – Labyrinths He opened a drawer of the black and gold desk. He faced me and in his hands he held__.
Emily Brontë – Wuthering Heights While enjoying a month of fine weather at the sea-coast, I was thrown into the company of a__, a real__.
Build focus and a steady writing routine, and get help from experienced coaches and editors while connecting with other writers on our 6-month Group Coaching course (starts 17th January). Learn more and save with early access until January 3rd.
- How to find a writing group plus 7 pros of workshops
- Writing exercises: 10 fun tense workouts
- 6 creative writing exercises for rich character
- How to develop a story idea: 7 essential exercises
- 10 writing resolutions for a novel year
- Your goals in writing: 10 ideas to keep them
- Tags writing groups , writing inspiration , writing prompts
Jordan is a writer, editor, community manager and product developer. He received his BA Honours in English Literature and his undergraduate in English Literature and Music from the University of Cape Town.
6 replies on “50 fun group writing exercises”
These exercises look like fun!
Sometimes there comes a point when you can’t think of anything worth writing. I guess every writer will know what I mean. But with these templates, I can get some inspiration and share whole stories with my friends.
Thank you, Jordan.
Hi Daisy, I’m glad that you found these ideas inspiring, it’s a pleasure. Thank you for sharing your feedback!
I love these! They’re inspiring (although I want to cheat and use them as-is). Lots of material for future fun 😉
Hi Margriet, thank you! I’m glad you find these writing exercises fun. We can share fill-in-the-blank exercises in the challenge group, that’s another idea.
Thankyou Jordan for these great points.
It’s a pleasure, Dave. Thank you for reading our blog.
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42 Creative Writing Exercises
This page contains a selection of fun creative writing exercises that can be completed solo, or with a group. Some are prompts to help inspire you to come up with story ideas, others focus on learning specific writing skills.
The sections are as follows:
A note on running exercises remotely
A letter from your character to you, the opening sentence, make your protagonist act, overcoming writer's block, character arc, giving feedback to authors, the five senses, show don't tell, world building.
- Easy gossiping exercise
Degrees of Emotion Game
Three birds, one line, blind date on valentine's day (exercise for adults), a success (works best for online groups), your dream holiday, writing a haiku, writing a limerick, time travel - child, adult, senior, focus on faces.
- Onomatopeai, rhyme and alliteration
The alphabet story - creating a story as a group
A question or two, murder mystery game, the obscure movie exercise, how to hint at romantic feelings, a novel idea, creative writing prompts, creative story cards / dice, alternative christmas story, murder mystery mind map.
- New Year's resolutions for a fictional character
- Stephen King - Using verbs & nouns in fiction
- It's the end of the world
- 7 Editing exercises (for your first draft)
How to run the writing exercises
While you can enjoy the exercises solo, a lot of writing groups have gone online during the coronavirus pandemic and are using Zoom, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or Skype to keep in touch with other writers during this time.
If you're running such a group and following a ' Shut Up and Write ' structure, I recommend connecting on WhatsApp (for example) first, doing the exercise together, with participants sending each other their writing samples where necessary as part of the exercise, then disconnecting to write in silence for an hour and a half, before reconnecting for a brief informal chat at the end. This works well with small remote groups and is a great way to gain some online support and stay productive!
If you have a larger group, it's worth looking into Zoom, as this has a feature called Breakout Rooms . Breakout Rooms let you split different writers into separate rooms, which is great for group activities. The free version of Zoom has a 40 minute limit, which can be restrictive, but Zoom Pro is well worth it if you're going to use it on a regular basis. In my experience, Zoom has a better connection than Skype or WhatsApp.
I hope you remain healthy and creative throughout this difficult time for us all.
I run a Creative Writing Meetup for adults and teens in Montpellier every week where we start with a 5 to 20 minute exercise, followed by an hour and a half of silent writing, where we each work on our own project. Each of these exercises has been used with the group and works well. Where the exercises below specify a number of people, if you have a larger group, simply split everyone up into smaller groups as appropriate.
The solo exercises are ideal if you’re working by yourself to help stimulate your mind before working on a larger project or to overcome writer’s block, or can be used with a larger group, where you simply ask everyone to share what they’ve written in groups of 3 or 4 people afterwards. Looking for something quick to fire your imagination? Check out these creative writing prompts for adults .
If your goal is to write a complete work of fiction, whether it be a novel, a play or a movie script, you will one day need to write to an agent or publisher to ask them to publish your work.
In this exercise, we turn this around and ask you to instead spend 10 minutes writing a letter from a character in your novel to you , the author, explaining why you should write about them! This serves three purposes:
If you're doing this exercise with a group of teens or adults, and some of the group haven't already started working on their masterpiece, they can instead choose any fictional novel that they love and imagine that a character within it wrote to the author in the first place to ask them to write their story. What did that letter look like?
- As you write, it helps you get into the mindset of the character. Ask yourself how they would language this letter and what they would consider important to include.
- It's motivating to know that your character wants you to write about them.
- It's good practice for when you will need to send a letter to an agent or publisher.
The opening sentence has to grab the reader's attention and make them want to keep reading. Many authors achieve this by starting with an action scene and avoid starting with someone waking up, or a description of the weather. In this exercise the task is to write an opening sentence either to a book you're currently writing, or simply for an imaginary piece of literature. Here are some of my favourite opening sentences to get you going:
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
George Orwell , 1984
The Golem's life began in the hold of a steamship.
Helene Wecker , The Golem and the Djinni
All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
Leo Tolstoy , Anna Karenina
It wasn't a very likely place for disappearances, at least at first glance.
Diana Gabaldon , Outlander
You better not never tell nobody but God.
Alice Walker , The Color Purple
The cage was finished.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez , Balthazar’s Marvelous Afternoon
Imagine that you are living your life out of order: Lunch before breakfast, marriage before your first kiss.
Audrey Niffenegger , The Time Traveler's Wife
Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.
Douglas Adams , The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
There are a plethora of ways that you can start a book, however two ways that help engage the reader immediately are:
Spend 5 minutes working on your own opening sentence, then share it with the other participants.
- Set the scene in as few words as possible, so that the reader immediately knows what's happening and wants to know what happens next. The scene must be original and create a vivid image in the reader's mind.
- Surprise the reader with an unusual event or usual point of view.
Exercise for 2 writers, or can be done solo.
According to John Gardner:
"Failure to recognise that the central character must act, not simply be acted upon, is the single most common mistake in the fiction of beginners."
Spend 5 minutes writing a scene where the protagonist is passive in a conversation with one other character. It could be that the other character says something dramatic, and the protagonist just listens, or it could be anything else of your choice!
Once the 5 minutes is up, swap papers with another writer. If you're using Zoom, or working online, send it to each other in a private chat. Now the other person spends 8 minutes rewriting the scene to make the protagonist as active as possible. This might include:
Read both scenes together. Which makes you want to keep on reading?
If you're doing this as a solo writing exercise, simply complete both parts yourself.
- Showing the emotion this evokes.
- Getting them to disagree with the other character.
- Showing how they respond physically (whether it's as a physical manifestation of how they feel, or a dramatic gesture to make a point).
Are you staring at a blank page or stuck for any story ideas? This exercise will help anyone who's experiencing writer's block with a particular piece of writing. If this isn't you, that's great, others will value your input!
If anyone has a particular scene that they're stuck with (a pool of blood on the floor that they have no explanation for, a reason why the rich lady just walked into a particular pub, etc.) then at the start of the exercise everyone briefly describes their scenes (if working online with a large group, typing it into the chat might be best). Everyone then chooses one scene to use as a writing prompt to write a short story for 10-15 minutes.
Afterwards, split into small groups if necessary, and read out how you completed someone else's writing prompt. As everyone listens to everyone else's ideas, this can be a wonderful source of inspiration and also improves your writing. As an alternative solo exercise, try free writing. With free writing, simply write as quickly as you can on the topic without editing or censoring yourself - just let your creative juices flow. If you're not sure what happens next, brainstorm options on the page, jot down story ideas, or just put, "I don't know what happens next." Keep going and ideas will come.
There are several different types of character arc in a novel, the 3 most common being:
- Positive - Where a character develops and grows during the novel, perhaps starting unhappy or weak and ending happy or powerful.
- Negative - Where a character gets worse during a novel, perhaps becoming ill or giving in to evil tendencies as the novel progresses.
- Flat - In a flat character arc the character themself doesn't change much, however the world around them does. This could be overthrowing a great injustice, for example.
For this exercise choose either a positive or negative character arc and spend 8 minutes writing a scene from the start of a novel, then 8 minutes writing a scene towards the end of a novel showing how the character has developed between the two points (obviously, we will have to imagine how this change has occurred).
The point here is to capture the essence of a character, as they will be the same, but show their development.
This is a fun writing activity for a small group. You’ve found a magic potion labelled ‘Cat Chat’ and when you drink it, you turn into whichever animal you’re thinking about; but there’s a problem, it also picks up on the brainwaves of other people near you!
Everyone writes down an animal in secret and then reveals it to the other writers. The spell will turn you into a creature that combines elements of all the animals. Each person then spends 5 minutes writing down what happens when they drink the potion.
After the 5 minutes is up, everyone shares their story with the other participants.
If you enjoy this exercise, then you may also want to check out our Fantasy and Sci-Fi writing prompts full of world building, magic, and character development prompts..
Joe Brainard wrote a novel called: I Remember It contains a collection of paragraphs all starting with “I remember”. This is the inspiration for this exercise, and if you’re stuck for what to write, is a great way to get the mental gears turning. Simply write “I remember” and continue with the first thing that pops into your head.
Spend 5 minutes writing a short collection of “I remember” stories.
Here are a couple of examples from Joe Brainard’s novel:
“I remember not understanding why people on the other side of the world didn't fall off.”
“I remember waking up somewhere once and there was a horse staring me in the face.”
If you're running a workshop for more experienced adult authors and have at least half an hour, then this is a good one to use (this is the longest exercise on this page, but I felt it important enough to include).
Give each member the option to bring a piece of their own work that should be double spaced and a maximum of 3 pages long. If you're running a workshop where not everyone is likely to bring a manuscript, then ask everyone who wants to bring one to print two copies each (If someone forgets but has a laptop with them, the reader can always use their laptop).
Print out a few copies and hand them around to everyone in the workshop of the guide on: 'How to give constructive feedback to writers'
Each author who brought a sample with them then gives them to one other person to review. They write their name on the manuscript in a certain colour pen, then add any comments to it before passing it to a second person who does the same (commenting on the comments if they agree or disagree).
Then allow 5 minutes for everyone to discuss the feedback they've received, ensuring that they are giving constructive feedback.
Painting by Giovanni Battista Manerius - The Five Senses
Choose a scene and write it for 5 minutes focusing on one sense, NOT sight. Choose between:
Hearing Taste Smell Touch
This can be internal as well as external (I heard my heartbeat thudding in my ears, or I smelt my own adrenaline).
After the 5 minutes stop and everyone reads it out loud to each other. Now write for another 5 minutes and continue the other person's story, but do NOT use sight OR the sense they used.
You can use any sense to communicate the essentials, just focus on creating emotions and conveying the story with the specific sense(s).
If you need some writing prompts, here are possible scenes that involve several senses:
- Climbing through an exotic jungle
- Having an argument that becomes a fight
- A cat's morning
- Talking to someone you're attracted to
2 or 3 people
A lot of writing guides will advise you to, "Show, don't tell," but what does this actually mean?
If you want to evoke an emotional reaction from your reader, then showing them what is happening is a great way to do so. You can do this in several ways:
Split up into pairs and each person writes down a short scene from a story where they "tell" it. After this, pass the description of the scene to your partner and they then have 5 minutes to rewrite it to "show" what happened. If there are an odd number of participants, make one group of three, with each person passing their scene clockwise, so everyone has a new scene to show. After the 5 minutes, for small groups everyone reads their new description to everyone else, or for large groups, each person just reads their new scene to their partner.
- Avoid internal dialogue (thinking), instead have your protagonist interact with other people, or have a physical reaction to something that shows how s/he feels. Does their heart beat faster? Do they notice the smell of their own adrenaline? Do they step backwards, or lean forwards?
- Instead of using an adjective like creepy, e.g. "Mary entered the creepy house", show why the house is creepy through description and in the way the protagonist responds - "The light streamed through the filthy skylight, highlighting the decomposing body of a rat resting on top of it. As Mary stepped instead, she felt a gust of freezing air brush past her, she turned, but there was nothing there..."
World building is the art of conveying the magic of living in a different world, whether it's a spaceship, a medieval castle, a boat, or simply someone's living room. To master world building, it's not necessary to know every intricate detail, rather to convey the experience of what it would be like to live there.
Choose one of the above images as a prompt and spend 10 minutes writing a scene from the perspective of someone who is seeing it for the first time. Now, move your character six months forward and imagine that they've spent the last six months living or working there. Write another scene (perhaps with an additional character) using the image as a background, with the events of the scene as the main action.
Click the above image for a close-up.
Gossiping about a character as if they're a friend.
Judy Blume says that she tells her family about her characters as if they’re real people.
Chris Claremont said, "For me, writing the 'X-Men' was easy - is easy. I know these people, they're my friends."
Today’s exercise has 2 parts. First, spend 5 minutes jotting down some facts about a character you’ve invented that might come up if you were telling your friends about them. Either choose a character in something you’ve already written, or invent one from scratch now.
Answer the questions:
What are they up to? How are they? What would you say if you were gossiping about them?
Then split up into groups of 4 to 6 writers. 2 volunteers from each group then role-play talking about their character as if they were a friend (perhaps another character in the story). The other participants will role-play a group of friends gossiping about the character behind their back and ask questions. If you don’t know the answer, invent it!
This is based on an acting game, to help actors understand how to perform with different degrees of emotion.
Ask everyone to write the following 4 emotions:
For groups of 5 or less, write down numbers starting with 1 and going up until everyone has a number, then give them out in order. For groups of 6 or more, divide groups into 3's, 4's or 5's.
Each person has to write a scene where the protagonist is alone and is only allowed to say a single word, e.g. "Banana". The writer with number 1 should write the scene with a very low level of the emotion (e.g. happiness), number 2 increases the intensity a bit and the highest number writes a scene with the most intense emotion you can possibly imagine.
Once each writer has written about happiness, rotate the numbers one or two spaces, then move onto anger, then fear, then sadness.
It can help to give everyone numbers showing the intensity of the emotions to write about at the start of the exercise, in which case you may wish to print either the Word or PDF file, then use the ones corresponding to 3, 4 or 5 writers.
Everyone shares their scene with the other course participants.
The first paragraph of a surprising number of best-selling novels serves multiple purposes. These are to:
- Establish a goal
- Set the scene
- Develop a character
Nearly every chapter in a novel also serves all three purposes. Instead of establishing a goal though, the protagonist either moves towards it, or encounters an obstacle that hinders them from achieving it.
Some books manage to meet all three purposes with their opening lines, for example:
Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.
J.K. Rowling , Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
A little more than one hundred days into the fortieth year of her confinement, Dajeil Gelian was visited in her lonely tower overlooking the sea by an avatar of the great ship that was her home.
Iain M. Banks , Excession
"We should start back," Gared urged as the woods began to grow dark around them.
George R.R. Martin , A Game of Thrones
For this exercise write a sentence or short paragraph that serves all three purposes. If you're already writing a novel, then see if you can do this for the first line in a chapter. If not, choose any combination from the following table:
In pairs one writer spends a minute or two describing a character they're writing about, or alternatively they can describe a celebrity or someone from a work of fiction. The next writer then describes their character.
The story is that these 2 characters (or in my case, person and alien, as I'm writing a sci-fi) have accidentally ended up on a blind date with each other, perhaps the waiter seated them in the wrong location, perhaps it's an actual blind date, or perhaps they met in some other fashion that the writers can determine.
Now spend 10 minutes discussing what happens next!
This exercise works best for online groups, via Zoom, for example. The instructions to give are:
"In a few words describe a success in your life and what it felt like to achieve it. It can be a small victory or a large one."
Share a personal example of your own (mine was watching my homeschooled sons sing in an opera together).
"Once you have one (small or large), write it in the chat.
The writing exercise is then to choose someone else's victory to write about for 10 minutes, as if it was the end of your own book.
If you want to write for longer, now imagine how that book would start, and write the first part of the book with the ending in mind."
In this difficult time, this is great for reminding people of a success in their lives, and also helps everyone connect and discover something about each other.
You’re going on a dream holiday together, but can’t stand conflict, so rather than discuss what you want to do, you’ve decided that each of you will choose a different aspect of the holiday as follows:
Decide who gets to choose what at random, then each of you write down your dream holiday destination/activity/travel/food & clothes in secret. Next spend 5 minutes discussing your dream holiday and add any other details you’d like to include, particularly if you’re passionate about doing something in real life.
Finally, everyone spends another 5 minutes writing down a description of the holiday, then shares it with the others.
- Choose where you’ll be going – your favourite holiday destination.
- Choose what your main fun activity will be on the holiday.
- Decide what mode of travel you’ll use to get there.
- If there’s a 4 th person, choose what you’ll eat on the holiday and what you’ll be wearing.
A haiku is a traditional Japanese form of non-rhyming poetry whose short form makes it ideal for a simple writing exercise.
They traditionally are structured in 3 lines, where the first line is 5 syllables, the second line is 7 syllables, and the third line is 5 syllables again and tend to focus on themes of nature and deep concepts that can be expressed simply.
A couple of examples:
A summer river being crossed how pleasing with sandals in my hands! Yosa Buson , a haiku master poet from the 18 th Century.
And one of mine:
When night-time arrives Stars come out, breaking the dark You can see the most
Spend up to 10 minutes writing a haiku. If you get stuck with the 5-7-5 syllable rule, then don’t worry, the overall concept is more important!
See How to write a haiku for more details and examples.
Unlike a haiku, which is profound and sombre, a limerick is a light-hearted, fun rhyming verse.
Here are a couple of examples:
A wonderful bird is the pelican. His bill can hold more than his beli-can He can take in his beak Food enough for a week But I'm damned if I see how the heli-can.
Dixon Lanier Merritt, 1910
There was a young lady named Bright, Whose speed was far faster than light; She started one day In a relative way, And returned on the previous night.
Arthur Henry Reginald Buller in Punch, 1923
The 1 st , 2 nd and 5 th line all rhyme, as do the 3 rd and 4 th line. The overall number of syllables isn’t important, but the 3 rd and 4 th lines should be shorter than the others.
Typically, the 1 st line introduces the character, often with “There was”, or “There once was” and the rest of the verse tells their story.
Spend 10 minutes writing a limerick.
Imagine that your future self as an old man/woman travels back in time to meet you, the adult you are today. Alternatively, you as a child travels forward in time to meet yourself as an adult. Or perhaps both happen, so that the child you, adult you, and senior you are all together at the same time. In story form write down what happens next.
Participants then share their story with other writers either in small groups, or to the whole group.
One challenge writers face is describing a character and a common mistake is to focus too much on the physical features, e.g. "She had brown eyes, curly brown hair and was five foot six inches tall."
The problem with this is that it doesn't reveal anything about the character's personality, or about the relationship between your protagonist and the character and your reader is therefore likely to quickly forget what someone looks like. When describing characters, it's therefore best to:
Here are 3 examples of character descriptions that leave no doubt how the protagonist feels.
“If girls could spit venom, it'd be through their eyes.” S.D. Lawendowski, Snapped
"And Ronan was everything that was left: molten eyes and a smile made for war." Maggie Stiefvater, The Dream Thieves
"His mouth was such a post office of a mouth that he had a mechanical appearance of smiling." Charles Dickens
Spend 5 minutes writing a character introduction that is animated, uses metaphors or similes and involves your protagonist.
If working with a group, then form small groups of 3 or 4 and share your description with the rest of the group.
- Animate them - it's rare that someone's sitting for a portrait when your protagonist first meets them and whether they're talking or walking, it's likely that they're moving in some way.
- Use metaphors or similes - comparing physical features to emotionally charged items conjures both an image and a sense of who someone is.
- Involve your protagonist - if your protagonist is interacting with a character, make it personal. How does your protagonist view this person? Incorporate the description as part of the description.
- Only give information your protagonist knows - they may know if someone is an adult, or a teenager, but they won't know that someone is 37 years old, for example.
Onomatopeai, rhyme and alliteration
Today's session is all about sound.
Several authors recommend reading your writing out loud after you've written it to be sure it sounds natural. Philip Pullman even goes as far as to say:
"When I’m writing, I’m more conscious of the sound, actually, than the meaning. I know what the rhythm of the sentence is going to be before I know what the words are going to be in it."
For today's exercise, choose the name of a song and write for 10 minutes as if that's the title for a short story. Focus on how your writing sounds and aim to include at least one onomatopoeia, rhyme or alliteration. At the end of the 10 minutes, read it out loud to yourself, or to the group.
An alliteration example from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”
The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew, The furrow followed free; We were the first that ever burst Into that silent sea.
Buzz, woof, quack, baa, crash, purr, beep, belch,...
This is a novel way to write a story as a group, one word at a time. The first person starts the story that begins with any word starting with “A”, the next person continues the story with a word starting with “B”, and so on.
Keep going round until you have completed the alphabet. Ideally it will all be one sentence, but if you get stuck, start a new sentence. Don’t worry if it doesn’t make complete sense!
It can be tricky to remember the alphabet when under pressure, so you may wish to print it out a couple of times, so the storytellers can see it if they need to, this is particularly helpful if you have dyslexics in the group.
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Here’s an example of an alphabet story:
A Band Can Dance Each Friday, Ghostly Hauntings In Jail Kill Lucky Men, Nobody Or Perhaps Quiet Rats, Still That Unifies Villains Who X-Ray Your Zebras.
As I mentioned, it doesn’t need to make sense!
Small or large groups
The standard format in our group is a short writing exercise followed by an hour and a half of silent writing on our projects.
At one point I felt like we'd done a lot of small group exercises, and wanted to gain an insight into what everyone was working on, so we did the following exercise instead:
Go round the table and ask everyone to briefly talk about their writing. Each person then asks one or two yes/no questions.
Everyone responds either by raising their hand for 'yes' or shaking their heads for 'no'. You can also leap up and down to indicate a very strong 'yes'.
Questions can be about anything, and you can use them either to help guide your writing or to help find other people in the group who have similar interests.
Here are some random examples you might ask:
This works best when you give participants some advance notice, so they have time to think of a question.
- I want to write a romance novel and am considering setting it in Paris, a traditional romantic setting, or Liverpool which is a less obvious setting. Who thinks Liverpool would be best?
- I need to know more about the life of a farmer. Has anyone got farming experience who I can interview in exchange for a drink?
- My character gets fired and that night goes back to his office and steals 35 computers. Does that sound realistic as the premise of a story?
Groups of 3 or 4
This exercise takes 20-30 minutes and allows participants to create a murder mystery outline together.
Phase 1 (3 minutes)
Phase 2 (10 minutes).
Each person then writes a police report as if they are either describing the scene of the crime, or recording the notes from their interview with a single suspect:
Write the following:
Write the following (from the perspective of the investigator):
Phase 3 (5 minutes)
See more ideas on creating murder mystery party games
- Split into groups of 3 or 4.
- Decide as a group where the murder occurs (e.g. the opera house, a bar, a casino).
- Decide one person who will write the details of the victim and the murder itself. Everyone else writes the details of one suspect each.
- The ‘victim author’ then invents a few extra details about the scene of the crime, who the victim was (a teenage punk, an adult opera singer, etc.) and the murder weapon and summarises this to the others.
- 1 line description of the victim.
- When they were last seen by a group of witnesses (and what they were doing).
- How the murder occurred in more detail based on the evidence available.
- 1 line description of the suspect.
- What they said during the interview (including what they claim to have doing when the murder occurs).
- A possible motivation (as determined by the police from other witnesses).
- Each person reads out their police reports to the other members of their small group.
- As a group, decide who the murderer was and what actually happened.
Pick a famous movie and spend 5 minutes writing a scene from it from an unusual perspective. Your aim is to achieve a balance between being too obscure and making it too obvious. Feel free to add internal dialogue.
At the end of the 5 minutes, everyone reads their movie scene to the others and all the other participants see if they can guess what the movie is.
Write a scene with 2 people in a group, where you hint that one is romantically interested in the other, but the feelings aren’t reciprocated.
The goal of this exercise is to practice subtlety. Imagine you are setting a scene for the future where the characters feelings will become more important. Choose a situation like a work conference, meeting with a group of friends, etc. How do you indicate how the characters feel without them saying it in words?
Some tips for hinting at romantic feelings:
- Make the characters nervous and shy.
- Your protagonist leans forward.
- Asks deeper questions and listens intently.
- Finds ways to be close together.
- Mirrors their gestures.
- Gives lots of compliments.
- Makes eye contact, then looks away.
- Other people seem invisible to your protagonist.
Take it in turns to tell everyone else about a current project that you’re working on (a book, screenplay, short story, etc.)
The other writers then brainstorm ideas for related stories you could write, or directions your project could take. There are no right or wrong suggestions and the intention is to focus on big concepts, not little details.
This whole exercise takes around 15 minutes.
Exercise for groups of 3-5
If you're in larger group, split up into groups of 3 or 4 people.
Everyone writes the first line of a story in the Zoom chat, or on paper. Other people can then choose this line as a writing prompt.
For this exercise:
Once everyone's written a prompt, everyone chooses a prompt (preferably someone eles's, but it can be your own if you feel really inspired by it.) Then write for 10 minutes using this prompt. See if you can reveal who the protagonist is, what their motivation is (it can be a small motivation for a particular scene, it doesn't have to be a huge life goal), and introduce at least one new character.
Take turns reading out your stories to each other.
- Write in the first person.
- Have the protagonist interacting with an object or something in nature.
- The challenge is to create intrigue that makes the reader want to know more with just a single line.
- Say who the protagonist is.
- Reveal their motivation.
- Introduce any other characters
Cut up a piece of paper and write one word on each of the pieces of paper, as follows:
Give each participant a couple of pieces of paper at random. The first person says the first sentence of a story and they must use their first word as part of that sentence. The second person then continues the story and must include their word in it, and so on. Go round the group twice to complete the story.
You can also do this creative writing exercise with story dice, your own choice of words, or by asking participants to write random words down themselves, then shuffling all the cards together.
Every Christmas adults tell kids stories about Santa Claus. In this exercise you write a Christmas story from an alternative dimension.
What if every Christmas Santa didn't fly around the world delivering presents on his sleigh pulled by reindeer? What if gnomes or aliens delivered the presents? Or perhaps it was the gnomes who are trying to emulate the humans? Or some other Christmas tradition entirely that we humans have never heard of!
Group writing exercise
If you're working with a group, then give everyone a couple of minutes to write 2 possible themes for the new Christmas story. Each theme should be 5 words or less.
Then simply shuffle the paper and distribute them at random (or everyone types the themes into a Zoom or group chat, if you're working online). Everyone then spends 10 minutes writing a short story for children based on one of the two themes, or their own theme if they really want to.
If working alone, choose your own theme and spend 15 minutes writing a short story on it. See if you can create the magic of Christmas from another world!
In a murder mystery story or courtroom drama, there's often conflicting information and lots of links between characters and a mind map is an ideal way to illustrate how everything ties together.
Split into groups of 3 or 4 people each and place a blank piece of A3 paper (double the size of A4) in the middle of each group. Discuss between you who the victim is and write their name in the middle of the piece of paper. Then brainstorm information about the murder, for example:
Feel free to expand out from any of these, e.g. to include more information on the different characters involved.
The idea is that everyone writes at the same time! Obviously, you can discuss ideas, but anyone can dive in and write their ideas on the mind map.
- Who was the victim? (job, appearance, hobbies, etc.)
- Who did the victim know?
- What were their possible motivations?
- What was the murder weapon?
- What locations are significant to the plot?
New Year’s resolutions for a fictional character
If you’re writing a piece of fiction, asking yourself how your protagonist would react to an everyday situation might help you to gain a deeper insight into who they are.
One way to do this is to imagine what their New Year’s resolutions would be!
If completing this exercise with a group, limit it to 3 to 5 resolutions per person and if some participants are non-fiction writers, they can instead pick a celebrity and either write what their resolutions will be, or what their resolutions should be, their choice.
Verb Noun Fiction Exercise (Inspired by Stephen King)
Stephen King said, "I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops."
He also said, "Take any noun, put it with any verb, and you have a sentence. It never fails. Rocks explode. Jane transmits. Mountains float. These are all perfect sentences. Many such thoughts make little rational sense, but even the stranger ones (Plums deify!) have a kind of poetic weight that’s nice."
In this fiction writing exercise, start by brainstorming (either individually or collectively) seven verbs on seven different pieces of paper. Put those aside for later. Now brainstorm seven nouns. Randomly match the nouns and verbs so you have seven pairs. Choose a pair and write a piece of fiction for ten minutes. Avoid using any adverbs.
It’s the end of the world
It’s the end of the world! For 5 minutes either:
If working as a team, then after the 5 minutes is up each writer reads their description out to the other participants.
- Describe how the world’s going to end, creating evocative images using similes or metaphors as you wish and tell the story from a global perspective, or
- Describe how you spend your final day before the world is destroyed. Combine emotion and action to engage the reader.
7 Editing Exercises
For use after your first draft
I’ve listened to a lot of masterclasses on writing by successful authors and they all say variants of your first draft won’t be good and that’s fine. Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman summarise it the best:
“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”
“For me, it’s always been a process of trying to convince myself that what I’m doing in a first draft isn’t important. One way you get through the wall is by convincing yourself that it doesn’t matter. No one is ever going to see your first draft. Nobody cares about your first draft. And that’s the thing that you may be agonising over, but honestly, whatever you’re doing can be fixed… For now, just get the words out. Get the story down however you can get it down, then fix it.”
Once you’ve written your first draft, it will need editing to develop the plot, enhance the characters, and improve each scene in a myriad of ways – small and large. These seven creative editing exercises are designed to help with this stage of the process.
The First Sentence
Read the first paragraph of the novel, in particular the first sentence. Does it launch the reader straight into the action? According to On Writing and Worldbuilding by Timothy Hickson, “The most persuasive opening lines are succinct, and not superfluous. To do this, it is often effective to limit it to a single central idea… This does not need to be the most important element, but it should be a central element that is interesting.” Ask yourself what element your opening sentence encapsulates and whether it’s the best one to capture your readers’ attention.
Consistency is crucial in creative writing, whether it’s in relation to location, objects, or people.
It’s also crucial for personality, emotions and motivation.
Look at scenes where your protagonist makes an important decision. Are their motivations clear? Do any scenes force them to choose between two conflicting morals? If so, do you explore this? Do their emotions fit with what’s happened in previous scenes?
As you edit your manuscript, keep the characters’ personality, emotions and motivation in mind. If their behaviour is inconsistent, either edit it for consistency, or have someone comment on their strange behaviour or be surprised by it. Inconsistent behaviour can reveal that a character is keeping a secret, or is under stress, so characters don’t always need to be consistent. But when they’re not, there has to be a reason.
Show Don’t Tell One
This exercise is the first in The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass. It’s a writing guide with a plethora of editing exercises designed to help you reenergize your writing by thinking of what your character is feeling, and giving you the tools to make your reader feel something.
- Select a moment in your story when your protagonist is moved, unsettled, or disturbed… Write down all the emotions inherent in this moment, both obvious and hidden.
- Next, considering what he is feeling, write down how your protagonist can act out. What is the biggest thing your protagonist can do? What would be explosive, out of bounds, or offensive? What would be symbolic? … Go sideways, underneath, or ahead. How can your protagonist show us a feeling we don’t expect to see?
- Finally, go back and delete all the emotions you wrote down at the beginning of this exercise. Let actions and spoken words do the work. Do they feel too big, dangerous, or over-the-top? Use them anyway. Others will tell you if you’ve gone too far, but more likely, you haven’t gone far enough.
Show Don’t Tell Two
Search for the following words in your book:
Whenever these words occur, ask yourself if you can demonstrate how your characters feel, rather than simply stating it. For each occasion, can you use physiological descriptors (a racing heart), actions (taking a step backwards) or dialogue to express what’s just happened instead? Will this enhance the scene and engage the reader more?
After The Action
Find a scene where your characters disagree – in particular a scene where your protagonist argues with friends or allies. What happens next?
It can be tempting to wrap up the action with a quick resolution. But what if a resentment lingers and mistrust builds? This creates a more interesting story arc and means a resolution can occur later, giving the character development a real dynamic.
Review how you resolve the action and see if you can stretch out the emotions for a more satisfying read.
Eliminating the Fluff
Ensure that the words used don’t detract from the enormity of the events your character is going through. Can you delete words like, “Quite”, “Little”, or “Rather”?
Of “Very” Florence King once wrote: “ 'Very' is the most useless word in the English language and can always come out. More than useless, it is treacherous because it invariably weakens what it is intended to strengthen .” Delete it, or replace the word after it with a stronger word, which makes “Very” redundant.
“That,” is another common word used in creative writing which can often be deleted. Read a sentence as is, then reread it as if you deleted, “That”. If the meaning is the same, delete it.
When talking about chapter endings, James Patterson said, “At the end, something has to propel you into the next chapter.”
Read how each of your chapters finish and ask yourself does it either:
- End on a cliff hanger? (R.L. Stine likes to finish every chapter in this method).
- End on a natural pause (for example, you’re changing point of view or location).
Review how you wrap up each of your chapters. Do you end at the best point in your story? Can you add anticipation to cliff hangers? Will you leave your readers wanting more?
The editing exercises are designed to be completed individually.
With the others, I've always run them as part of a creative writing group, where there's no teacher and we're all equal participants, therefore I keep any 'teaching' aspect to a minimum, preferring them to be prompts to generate ideas before everyone settles down to do the silent writing. We've recently gone online and if you run a group yourself, whether online or in person, you're welcome to use these exercises for free!
The times given are suggestions only and I normally get a feel for how everyone's doing when time's up and if it's obvious that everyone's still in the middle of a discussion, then I give them longer. Where one group's in the middle of a discussion, but everyone else has finished, I sometimes have a 'soft start' to the silent writing, and say, "We're about to start the hour and a half of silent writing now, but if you're in the middle of a discussion, feel free to finish it first".
This way everyone gets to complete the discussion, but no-one's waiting for ages. It's also important to emphasise that there's no wrong answers when being creative.
Still looking for more? Check out these creative writing prompts , or our dedicated Sci-Fi and Fantasy creative writing prompts .
If you've enjoyed these creative writing exercises, please share them on social media, or link to them from your blog.
Creative writing games
Writing prompts for adults
Fantasy and sci-fi prompts
Create a murder mystery game
Murder mystery riddles
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14 Fun Virtual Creative Writing Group Activities
Write a story collaboratively . I recently did this with my group for Halloween and it was a great success! One week before Halloween, we decided to write a ghost story collectively by opening a Google Doc and making a list of who would start the story, who would go second, third, etc. We each could write as much or as little as we wanted, but we had to make sure we all got it done by Halloween.
First Line Prompts . Basically, someone generates the first line for a story, like “It was a dark and stormy night.”, and everybody in the group writes a story including that first line.
Last Line Prompts . Like the first line prompt activity, someone generates a possible last line of a story, such as “She never went into that house ever again.”, and everybody in the group includes that line at the end of their story.
Weekly Draw: Poetry, Short Story, or Screenplay? Each person randomly selects (virtually) which type of writing they will pursue that week. Will they try their hand at a poem, a short story, or the first few pages of a screenplay?
Picture Prompts . Each person selects a picture from a random collection provided by the initiator and writes a story, movie, or a poem using the picture as their topic.
Collective submission for recent calls for stories . Each person writes and submits something to the same publisher’s call for writing. This activity gives members of the group practice submitting their work for publication.
Story-sharing . The initiator can set aside some time at the beginning or conclusion of the meeting where members can each share something they are writing or books they are currently reading. This is a good opportunity for people to get feedback for their writing as well as receive book recommendations to help inspire future writing. Reading is, after all, one of the best ways to become better writers (and vice versa).
Poetry Workshop : each person reads some poetry and then writes a free verse, haiku, sonnet, limerick, or a villanelle. This could be a good opportunity for those who are not very familiar with different forms/structures of poetry to learn different ways of writing it.
NaNoWriMo Workshop . This month a few members of my group are trying to write a certain amount a day so that their stories can be finished by the end of November. So far, we are communicating by giving feedback on their work via Google Doc comments and messaging. While this is a good opportunity for members to write, set deadlines, and strive to meet them, it’s also nice for those who are not necessarily in the mood to write to read others’ work and practice their editing skills.
Storyboarding . While this is ideal for helping screenwriters, who may use sticky notes with different scenes scribbled on them, find out where to put certain scenes in their film, this can work for stories as well. What comes first? Should the story start at the end? Or should it be told linearly?
A-Z Story . I did this once in a creative writing undergrad class. We were invited to tell a story starting each sentence with the next word in the alphabet. It was pretty instrumental in helping me to find different words to tell a story and it actually helped me to do what I was not very good at: finishing a story.
POV Activity . Tell a well-known tale from the point of view of a character other than the protagonist. For example: the view of the Prince in Sleeping Beauty, through the eyes of Voldemort from Harry Potter, the inner monologue of Jane from Pride and Prejudice, etc.
Tense & Narration Switch Up . Give everybody the same prompt, but they each need to write it in a different tense (past, present, or future). This would also be fun if each person writes it from a different type of narration (such as first person, second person, or third person).
Write a version of a popular story/fairytale in a different genre . For example, what if Snow White was a princess in a dystopian society? What if the tale of Dracula was a historical fiction story set during WWII?
For more ideas, visit the teacher resources page for Purdue’s website here .
Published by ashley weaver.
I am a writer, reader, student, and teacher of literature and the English language. View more posts
One thought on “ 14 Fun Virtual Creative Writing Group Activities ”
Collaborative writing sounds like a lot of fun, though I haven’t found someone I’d wanna do it with yet. First I’ll need to find a group lol. Thanks for this list, Ashley!
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11 Things To Do In Your Writing Group
by Jill Williamson | Oct 21, 2015 | Writing
Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy ( Blood of Kings trilogy ), science fiction ( Replication ), and dystopian ( The Safe Lands trilogy ). Find Jill on Facebook , Twitter , Pinterest , or on her author website . We’ve talked about critique groups before on the blog, but mostly from an online group perspective. Today I want to throw out some ideas for what you can do with an in-person writing group.
First, it’s always a good idea to see what people want from the group. Define expectations from the start so that everyone is on the same page. Perhaps the members all want to read and critique each other’s chapters and that’s it. If that’s the type of group you’re looking to set up, and you need tips on how to give a critique , how to receive a critique , or how to be a good critique partner , click on each link respectively. But if you’re looking for some other ideas, there are a lot of neat things you can do with an in-person group. Let’s look at a few.
Brainstorming If someone is stuck in their novel, often the best way to help them through it is to let them talk it out with a group of people who know the right questions to ask. You might even schedule brainstorming days where you each take a turn getting ideas for your work-in-progress, or working out a new idea that’s been stewing.
Guest Lecturers The longer you’re an author, the more authors you’ll get to know. If you live in a good-sized city, odds are high that there are a couple local authors your writing group could get to know. Invite one to speak at your group. You could suggest a teaching topic for them or let them choose their own. You might even be able to Skype an author in to your group.
Another idea is to let each member take a turn teaching on a topic or leading a discussion on said topic. If you’re not sure how to go about it, you could find a good blog post on the topic and have everyone read it, or if it’s short, read it out loud to the group. Then discuss.
Book Club You could get everyone to read the same book. This could be fiction or nonfiction. Or you could alternate. First everyone reads the same fiction book, then next time everyone reads a nonfiction writing craft book. Either way, the discussions can help you study different aspects of the craft of writing.
Writing Prompts Share a writing prompt and let each member write something. It can be a lot of fun to see how very different everyone’s pieces will be from the same prompt. You might also try throwing away your story at the end. Some people might cringe at this idea, but doing this can help you realize that you don’t need to hold onto your words so dearly. You wrote them, and you can write them again because you’re a writer, and that’s what writers do. That way, next time your computer crashes and you lose 10k, you might not also lose too much of your mind.
Practicing Craft Write up a schedule and choose a different craft topic to work on each week and discuss, like dialogue, action tags, punctuation, description, characterization, plot, etc.
Road Trip Keep your eyes peeled for awesome events that you can drive to. Go as a group to a writer’s conference, a book signing of an author you all respect, or a comic con-like event where you can attend panels and try to meet famous authors.
Book Party Have a book party where you all dress up as characters from a famous story and read a chapter or two out loud, each reading your part in character. A friend of mine did this with Harry Potter. She put character names into a sorting hat, had a box of costume items ready, and each guest drew a name. The person who drew Hagrid put on a bushy fake beard, the person who drew Harry wore a pair of broken glasses, Hermione put on a curly wig, etc. Then you find a fun chapter to read out loud that has most all of the characters in it, and each person has to read in the voice of their character. It’s pretty fun. (Check out my author picture today of me cosplaying as Éowyn.)
Support Group Sometimes you just need to vent about things. Rejection, maybe. Frustration over writer’s block. Discussions over major career decisions. Let each other share what they’re struggling with and be there for each other. Listen. It’s awesome to be with people who “get it.”
Word Wars Challenging each other to word wars is a great way to get a lot of writing done in a short period of time.
Writing Retreat Writing retreats are another way to get a lot of writing done in a couple days. Plus, being with other writers adds camaraderie to the aspect of setting and reaching writing goals. Everyone is working towards something and encouraging each other to succeed.
In-person writing groups are really just about hanging out with other writers, so have fun. Also, don’t stress if some people quit and new members join up. Writers are different and are looking for specific things. Some might like a more regimented, fast-paced, let’s-get-our-novels-written-and-critiqued-and-sold-asap type of group, while other seek something more casual. We each need to be in a group that meets our needs. One group can’t do that for every person.
Are you part of an in-person writing group? If so, how often does your group meet and what types of activities do you do? Share in the comments.
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Creative Writing Activities and Games
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How to Run a Successful Writing Group
So you’ve set up your writing group. Now what?
Whether your group is newly formed, or perhaps it’s been running for a while, here are some ideas that can help you inject creative energy.
1. Create the right atmosphere
In order to get into the right creative space, you need to feel at ease with your fellow writers. Make sure new members are welcomed and introduced. And get everyone to say something in the big group at the beginning of every meeting so all members feel involved from the start.
Beginnings to break the ice could be :
- One good thing that’s happened for me in the last seven days
- One thing I’m looking forward to this weekend
- One accomplishment achieved in the last seven days (could be anything from cooking a curry to climbing a mountain).
- One new thing I’ve tried – it doesn’t matter whether it succeeded.
2. Have an agenda
An agenda that roughly follows the same formula each time means people will know what to expect.
You have options but it could look something like this:
- Welcome everyone and do a round the table check in (see above) that allows everyone chance to say something. This could include brief introductions if there are new members.
- The secretary or person in charge of correspondence gives news of writing events, courses, competitions that have arrived via post or email. Members add whatever they have heard of or spotted in magazines.
- A short spontaneous warm up writing exercise with read backs
- Refreshment break for informal friendly chat
- Read backs and feedback of pieces people have written at home. Or a group exercise designed to develop some specific writing skill with read backs.
- Anything else anyone wants to raise and date and time of next meeting.
3. Start on time and end on time
This will encourage latecomers to be prompt and enable members to plan the rest of their day or evening.
4. Share the organising
If one person does everything, the burden is awesome. Eventually you might consider appointing different people to share out the tasks.
These might include
- Secretary – a named person to receive and deal with correspondence and prepare agenda
- Someone to send out reminders of meetings. This could be the Secretary or a different person
- Facilitator to set exercises (or this might change for each meeting)
- Refreshments organiser
- Membership organiser – the role could be combined with…
- Treasurer/Accounts organiser to open bank account and collect fees, pay venue hire if necessary. Some libraries may lend you a room without charge
- Resources and library manager to look after any writing books purchased and owned by the group
- Events organiser to plan days out, theatre visits, invite visiting speakers/tutors depending on how social you want to be.
5. Set stimulating exercises
Some sources of ideas
- Beg, borrow or buy writing books and look for exercises that will develop specific skills. Try the library, bookshops, charity shops, Amazon and writer friends who may be clearing their shelves.
- Google ‘writing exercises for groups’. There are lots of ideas available free on the internet.
- Use old photographs of places or people, song titles, imaginary dialogue between two characters drawn out of a hat to trigger a story. Be creative. And enjoy!
Recommended books for writing exercises:
The Five Minute Writer Taking Reality by Surprise What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers The Writer’s Block
6. Give honest feedback
One of the reasons people join a writing group is so they can have access to honest feedback. But they often report that their fellow-writers are either too nice or too negative about each other’s work. Both types of feedback can be equally unhelpful.
- Too nice is bland, boring and gives the writer no feeling of honest appreciation when they do produce something that is genuinely good.
- Too negative is discouraging and disheartening.
- What’s needed instead is a positive atmosphere in the sessions that evokes honest, sensitive and respectful feedback. Comments should be constructive and a good formula to follow is two positives and a negative.
- For instance, “I really liked the way your piece evoked atmosphere of the place (positive). And you built up a feeling of suspense and tension very well (positive). I think the dialogue could reveal a little more of the difficulties of the relationship, rather than using the narrative text to highlight the problems.
If people find it difficult to give feedback, brainstorm a list of criteria you might look at when evaluating a piece of writing and display it prominently. It might include:
- Does it begin well?
- What emotion/s does it evoke?
- What particular words or phrases do you remember?
- How do you personally relate to the piece?
You might consider appointing the two people sitting next to the reader to take responsibility for giving feedback before opening it up to the group.
Remember most writers have delicate egos and are fairly quick to criticise their own work. So you might introduce a ground rule that no one should be negative about their own writing, or apologise for what they read out. This will help generate a more positive atmosphere.
7. Celebrate your successes
When one of your members wins an award or a competition, or gets published in any small or major way, make it an excuse for celebration. A round of applause, a shared cake or bottle of bubbly. Do whatever works. And encourage your writers to aim for the stars. Who knows – one of them might be the author of the next best-seller.
For information on inviting Judi to run a session at your writing group, in person or online with Zoom click here
Activities for Writing Groups · Touching base · Systems for sharing work · Responding to work that you read outside of the group · Responding to writing presented
Writing Prompts · Story Chains · Tell Me a Story Inspiration Packs · Descriptive Writing Activities · Story Settings Activities · Short-burst Writing
25 Creative Writing Prompts for Your Writing Group · 1. Write your life story in 10 sentences or less. · 2. Which is the oldest tree in your neighborhood, and
50 fun group writing exercises · Every year, I'd made a resolution not to ever __ again. Yet by January 20th I'd already __ and __. · On leaving. As soon as I
Blind Date on Valentine's Day (Exercise for Adults); A Success (Works best for online groups); Your dream holiday; Writing a haiku; Writing a limerick; Time
14 Fun Virtual Creative Writing Group Activities · Write a story collaboratively. · First Line Prompts. · Last Line Prompts. · Weekly Draw: Poetry
11 Things To Do In Your Writing Group · Brainstorming If someone is stuck in their novel, often the best way to help them through it is to let
1) Free-writing: Free-writing is good as a warm-up exercise and as a strategy for overcoming fear or writer's block. · 2) Group stories: · 3) Found poetry
5. Set stimulating exercises · Beg, borrow or buy writing books and look for exercises that will develop specific skills. · Google 'writing exercises for groups'.
Oct 1, 2021 - Great for elementary teaching!. See more ideas about teaching, writing, teaching writing.