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How to Write a Book Summary

creative writing exercises book

When a teacher or anyone else asks you to write a book summary, he or she is requesting that you read a book and write a short account that explains the main plot points, characters and any other important information in your own words. The reader of your summary should have an understanding of the book without having ever read it. Many teachers and professors ask students to do this to ensure they read and understand the material they’ve assigned. If you’re currently working on your first book summary, here’s how to do it:

Know the Assignment and Choose a Book

Before you get started, you need to know what your teacher expects from you. Did he or she assign a particular book, or can you select you own? you’ll also need to know how long the summary should be. Your teacher may want it to be at least a page or two or so many words so that you can show that you really understood what you read.

Start Reading and Take Notes

As soon as you have the book in hand, whether your teacher assigned it or you chose it yourself, you should grab a pen and notebook to keep with you at all times. Anytime you read a chapter or two, you’ll want to take notes about what you read. Make a list of the characters and their problems and goals. Keep an outline of the plot. Remember, you’re not rewriting the book entirely — just picking out the most important details and retelling them in your voice. You can also make note when you find something interesting or you see something you need to understand better.

Create an Introduction

Once you finish the book, you should have a few pages of notes and a good understanding of what happened, who the main characters were and all of the important plot points. Now, it’s time to start writing the summary. you’ll want to start with a strong introductions that tells the reader exactly what you want them to know. Be straightforward about the title and author of the book and give a general idea in a sentence or two of what it’s about. You may want to introduce a setting here too. For example, if you read “Gone with the Wind,” you may start with something like “Set during the Civil War, Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell is an epic novel that tells the story of a young Southern woman in Georgia, her love affairs and her attempts to save her family plantation while the South burns down around here.”

Organize Your Notes to Create the Body

Once you’ve introduced the book with a few sentences, it’s time to write the body of the summary. This is where you’ll turn to your notes. If you didn’t create an outline before, now is the time to do so. Organize your points in order in paragraph form. The ultimate goal is for the reader to know exactly what the book was about, even if he or she has never read it. Try putting yourself in the reader of your summary’s shoes. What would you need to know to understand what the book was about? Once you’ve finished the body, add a conclusion that gives the reader an understanding of significance of the book. Did it teach a lesson, or was there a moral to the story? Were there themes present throughout the book?

Edit and Proofread

Once you’ve finished, read over your summary a few times to make sure it makes sense. Not only do you want to check for spelling and grammar errors, but you’ll want to make sure the description flows from point to point and makes sense. Try reading it out loud to yourself to see how it sounds when you hear it. Read it a friend or family member to see if they can provide any feedback. Once you’re certain it’s complete, you can turn it in to your teacher or professor.

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creative writing exercises book

Creative Writing Exercises For Dummies Paperback – September 26, 2014

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Creative Writing Exercises For Dummies is a step-by-step creative writing course designed to hone your craft, regardless of ability. Written by the founder of the Complete Creative Writing Course at London's Groucho Club, this activity-based guide walks you through the process of developing and writing in a wide range of genres including novels, short stories and creative nonfiction. The book includes writing prompts, exercises, mind maps, flow charts and diagrams designed to get your ideas flowing. You'll get expert guidance into character development, plot structure and prose, plus extensive insight into self-editing and polishing your work.

Whether you're a new writer with a seed of an idea you would like to develop, or are looking to strengthen your creative writing skills, this book has you covered. Covering every aspect of narrative, from setting initial goals to formatting a manuscript, Creative Writing Exercises For Dummies provides the tools and instruction you need to make your story the best it can be.

The rise of e-books has opened up the publishing world, even to non-established writers. If you have a story you're dying to tell but aren't sure how, Creative Writing Exercises For Dummies is the clear, concise solution you need.

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From the inside flap.

Whether you’re a new writer or looking to strengthen your skills, this step-by-step creative writing course is designed to help you hone your craft, spark your imagination and become your own ruthless editor. Inside, you’ll find writing prompts, exercises, flow charts and diagrams designed to get your ideas flowing – and put on paper.

From the Back Cover

Whether you’re a new writer or looking to strengthen your skills, this step-by-step creative writing course is designed to help you hone your craft, spark your imagination and become your own ruthless editor. Inside, you’ll find writing prompts, exercises, flow charts and diagrams designed to get your ideas flowing – and put on paper.

About the Author

Maggie Hamand, a novelist, journalist and nonfiction writer, is the founder of the popular Complete Creative Writing Course at the Groucho Club, London, and has been teaching aspiring writers there for 15 years.

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About the author

Maggie hamand.

Maggie Hamand is a journalist, novelist and non-fiction author. She was the winner of the first World One-Day Novel Cup and her novel, "The Resurrection of the Body", was first published by Michael Joseph and has been optioned for film and television. She has also had short stories published and shortlisted for prizes. She taught creative writing at Morley College, was Writer in Residence at Holloway Prison, London and a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at London University of the Arts. She founded and was director of the acclaimed small independent publisher The Maia Press. She runs the Complete Creative Writing Course at The Groucho Club and has published "Creative Writing For Dummies" and "Creative Writing Exercises for Dummies". Her novels, "The Rocket Man" and "Dr Gavrilov", are now available as ebooks.

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Unleash the Magic Within You

The Best Writing Exercise Books to Dust Off Your Creative Bone

best writing exercise books

Has your creativity been hibernating lately? Most days I do? some? form of writing, whether it’s a blog post, an email to my list, or a sales letter. Creativity, though, is rarely the main objective. Even when I’m working on my fiction, which is supposed to be creative, it often feels like I’m going through the motions: sprinkle in a description here, some conflict there.?Creative writing exercises can be an effective tool for rediscovering that spark. While you can find lots of free prompts online, I’ve found books help you really dig deep. The best writing exercise books have a precise purpose behind each prompt, whether it’s to eliminate overused adjectives, avoid cliches, or take your dialogue to unexpected places.

Now, when I say writing exercises, I’m not talking about the generic ones like, “Write about your happiest memory.” Over the years, I’ve found some truly inventive ones that have catapulted my writing into new dimensions. They’re also lots of fun!

Exercises aren’t just for fiction writers, either. If you’re a blogger or copywriter, they can help liven up your writing and set you apart from others in your niche.

How Exercises Make You a Better Writer

1. be more original.

When we first start writing, we mimic authors we admire. And there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, a great way to learn the craft is to copy a page from your favorite writer word-for-word (just don’t publish it under your name!). Or if you’re feeling uninspired, you might leaf through a book on your shelf to get in the mood.

But at a certain point, you must develop your own voice. Otherwise, you end up with a whole genre of books that sound like watered-down Hemingway or Steinbeck or (fill in the blank).

One way exercises help us find our voice is through sheer practice. Just as physical exercise builds muscle tone and chisels away at our body fat, writing exercises help us to refine our craft, peeling away the lazy metaphors and uninspired descriptions to reveal the crisp phrases and evocative imagery underneath — the writing we are all capable of.

Additionally, because exercises?provide you with a prompt to work with, you’re naturally more inclined to rely on your own writerly devices as a source of fuel.

2. Step outside of yourself

Many writers, whether directly or indirectly, write about their own experiences. Writing about real life can certainly lend an authenticity to your voice. And if you’ve got a great story to tell, by all means tell it! In fact, one of my favorite books of all time, Celine’s Death on the Installment Plan , is so raw and vivid precisely because of its autobiographical qualities.

But your writing shouldn’t read like a diary entry, either. Writing to strangers isn’t like telling like an inside joke to your best friend. You can’t assume your readers are going to find your story entertaining or moving just because it happened to you.

In order to realistically understand others and inhabit their world, whether these be fictional characters or your readers (if you’re a blogger/copywriter), you need to step outside of yourself. And this is where writing exercises come in handy.

3. Stop censoring yourself

We all have blockages. For instance, I grew up in a small town and have always avoided using the names of old classmates — even those I barely knew — for fear they’ll think I’m writing about them. Of course, many of us are hesitant to write about sex or violence or anything dark because we worry what our friends and family will think of us.

But these blockages can also occur on a subconscious level. In The 3 A.M. Epiphany (more on that below),?author Brian Kiteley explains how even the great Donald Barthelme , at the height of his writing career, feared criticism from his father. He’d dream of his father hitting him over the head with his books, telling him to “get a real job.”

Exercises can help us to break out of self-censorship mode because we are drawing from a depository outside of our usual collection of memories and associations.

4. Get out of your comfort zone

If you’re a fiction writer, this could mean exploring new genres. If you write nonfiction, this might mean writing in a different niche or simply trying out a new voice.

When I competed in the NYC Midnight Writing Challenge , which randomly assigns you a character, setting, and genre, I was assigned a comedy and given only three days to complete the story. This didn’t come naturally to me at all. But I got some help from my boyfriend, who encouraged me to watch I Love Lucy episodes.

In the process, I learned techniques that could be applied to the horror novel that I was working on. Really, any genre could benefit from more comedic elements, but in horror it’s particularly valuable as it provides relief from the tension.

5. Beat writer’s block?

Obviously, exercises cure blank page syndrome because they give you something to write about. Of course, you still have to get from Point A to Point B. But that’s where timers (10-20 minutes seems to be a good baseline, depending on the complexity of the exercise) and a group come in handy. Knowing that you’re going to share what you wrote with a group helps keep you accountable, and, from my own experience, elevates the quality of my writing immensely.

There’s something magical and super inspiring about writing in a timed setting and then sharing your writing with others. Normally for me, writing (as much as I love it) is a labor intensive process and everything seems to take quadruple the time I anticipated. In these group writing exercises, though, I’m always amazed by what my fellow writers and I can pull out of us in such a short period of time, given all the constraints.

Interestingly, constraints actually free up your mind in a way. Whereas normally you’d be racking your brain trying to come up with a storyline and characters, exercises take care of that part for you, giving you more time to work on the fun stuff — the details!

6. Be more playful

When I do writing exercises with my students — mostly in the 10-12 age range — they leave me in the dust every time.

It’s often said that children are naturally more creative than adults. Why?

Because they aren’t afraid to sound ridiculous, and they’re not under the illusion that they have? say something.

I remember the first “real” short story I wrote (the stories about talking animals didn’t count). It was a hybrid of Joseph Conrad and Kurt Vonnegut. The title was, “There Are No Smoothies in Murinosa.” I was very proud of it. On the last day of 12th grade English, we passed around our stories to share with the rest of the class. I expectantly gaged others’ reactions as they picked up my story, waiting for them to tell me how brilliant it was.

To my dismay, each of my classmates set my story aside before finishing the first page. “Too deep,” was one of their replies.

I reassured myself that they were too immature to appreciate my profundity. But looking back on it later, I realized “too deep” was a euphemism. In truth, it was boring as all hell.

The stories I wrote in my first writing workshop were similarly overwrought. I was trying so hard to make a profound statement that I ended up saying nothing at all.

It wasn’t until I took Aimee Bender’s writing workshop that I learned to loosen up. Her exercises thrived on randomness, like “pick up a green book on your shelf, turn to page 4, and the fourth sentence on that page is the first sentence of your story.”

My style became much more relaxed as a result of these exercises. While I’m not in love with every story I wrote, each one represented a move in the right direction.

And this brings up an important point about writing exercises. Not all of them are necessarily going to be publishable material. However, each one will help to unlock qualities that had?previously been latent.

My Recommendations for the Best Writing Exercise Books

best writing exercise books

1. Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction

This book is far from a run-of-the-mill manual on how to write fiction. With an abundance of stimulating illustrations, all I have to do is flip through the pages to get that jolt of inspiration I need to begin a new writing project or power through a difficult one. It’s more than a collection of pretty pictures, though. Each illustration has a precise instructive purpose.

best writing exercise books

The above illustration, for instance, shows how inspiration is a convergence of many factors, both internal and external. In addition to detailed instructional art on narrative design, world building, and characterization, the book also includes essays by Neil Gaiman, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Karen Joy Fowler.

One series of exercises, called “Cannibalism & Constraint,” involves chopping up the work of another writer to gain inspiration. For instance, you could “retype the passage from memory alone. Try to recreate its vividness using your own words. Compare the original to yours. What better choices did you make? What choices seem worse?” This is a great way to inhabit the mind of the author and absorb some of his decisions!

You can get it on Amazon below.

creative writing exercises book

2. The 3 A.M. Epiphany

What I love about this book is that the exercises are divided into categories, allowing you to finetune your craft. These include point of view, images, internal structure, and stories in progress. For each category, author Brian Kiteley provides an explanation of the category and its purpose. In the chapter on internal structure, for instance, he writes, “These exercises should help you to break with the tired idea of linear progression.”

My favorite exercise to do when I’m having trouble finishing a story is called “Outrunning the Critic:” “Write one hundred short sentences about a character in a piece of fiction. Don’t lift your pen from paper (or fingers from keyboard) for one hundred sentences (then go back exactly twenty-four hours later and revise). The sentences should not connect; nor do they need to follow one another logically. This exercise forces you to outrun your own thoughts, intelligence, and critical mind.”

This exercise has done wonders for my short stories and even novels!

creative writing exercises book

3. Naming the World

This book, edited by Bret Anthony Johnston, features a treasure trove of prompts from Joyce Carol Oates, Steve Almond, and Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, among others. Each writer provides the story that inspired his/her prompt. The book is divided into larger categories such as character, plot, and setting. The titles of the exercises have intriguing names like “Bullies I Have Known,” “Your Five Seconds of Shame!”, and “Destroying What You Love,” making you eager to dive into them.

One of my favorites, called “Thickening the Plot,” comes from Jacob M. Appel. It involves selecting a small group of people and having them describe “the strangest thing that has ever happened to them.” Next, you write another paragraph about what these strange events have in common. Finally, you write a short story incorporating these elements. The goal of the exercise is to find connections between seemingly random events or people.

creative writing exercises book

4. Unjournaling

This book is great for the classroom. Not only do the typical classroom writing prompts (“write about a time when you felt left out”) get a bit stale, but it can be uncomfortable for adolescents to write about personal experiences. Plus, I’ll always get the inevitable, “But that’s never happened to me.”

But I use the Unjournaling exercises with my students, and they’re always a hit! They may not be as in-depth as the exercises in the other books, but they still encourage you to stretch your craft.

Here are some of my favorites:

“Describe the gunky stuff that gets caught in the basket at the bottom of the sink. Don’t use the words disgusting or gross .”

“Chris walks into a room. By describing only the reactions of the others in the room, let us know something about him.”

“Some people can’t smell. In one paragraph, make them understand ‘skunk.'”

I can tell my students over and over not to describe everything as “good” or “nice,” and it all goes in one ear and out the other. But these exercises naturally get them to express themselves in more inventive ways.

Plus, us adults can get lazy with our words, too. These prompts challenge us to think outside the box. When I do them with my students, I often get stumped!

creative writing exercises book

5. Now Write!

Like Naming the World, Now Write! is a collection of exercises offered by a variety of respected authors and divided into categories. Featured authors include Jill McCorkle, Robert Olen Butler, and Amy Bloom. The main difference is that the explanations preceding the exercises are less in-depth, so if you’re ready to start writing immediately (true to the title), this is the book for you. Also, it’s great to have a back-up when you finish the exercises in the other books!

One exercise I’ve found particularly effective is David Michael Kaplan’s “Smushing Seed Ideas Together.” It involves taking three seeds — “things you’ve overhead, seen, been told, have happened to you, whatever” — and weaving them into a narrative. He advises you to avoid vague, abstract ideas like “man in a moral quandary.” This exercise helped me overcome the problems that plagued my early fiction and evolve as a writer.

creative writing exercises book

Tell me–what is your favorite writing exercise or book of exercises?

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Published by Kate Findley

I have long been a student of self-help and genuinely believe that our thoughts create our reality. As a freelance copywriter, I specialize in personal development and education. Want to work with me? Learn more at www.wordarcs.com. I also write fiction. My works are a blend of horror, sci-fi, slipstream, and magical realism. I?m particularly drawn to themes of mind control and magic portals. Check out my work at katefindley.authorreach.com. View all posts by Kate Findley

11 thoughts on “The Best Writing Exercise Books to Dust Off Your Creative Bone”

Really great Site.Thank you so much for sharing Insights with us.Trully appreciated.

Thanks, Sunil!

I love, love, love this post! I am always looking for the next creative spark and thrive on finding activities and experiences to re-awaken that muse inside?in fact, that IS the entire premise of our blog! ? I am pinning this post and subscribing! One activity that I just learned about this week is to write a response to a song?s theme. (we?re songwriters first, so this REALLY appealed to us.) For instance, if a song?s theme is ?Why don?t you love me?,? then your response would detail all the reasons you don?t love the person. I think that?s genius and will be trying it this weekend. Thanks so much for sharing! ?

Thank you so much, Vox! I’m so glad you found it helpful. And I love the idea about the song theme! The Unjournaling book I mention has several fun prompts dealing with songs lyrics and rhymes.

This was a great read. I am still in the process of finding my own voice and style of writing. I often find myself staring at a blank screen trying to come up with something good to write about for a new blog post. Writing prompt exercises never even crossed my mind so I may have to try a few of those just to get the juices flowing and try something new.

Thank you! Yes, writing exercises can be a great way to overcome blocks for sure. Many of the exercises in these books also involve drawing upon personal experiences which is why I think they can be suitable for non-fiction.

I absolutely love this! Saving it for when I truly need it. I haven?t felt too blocked lately but we all know that time eventually comes. Really great post with wonderful suggestions. Thanks for sharing!!

Thanks for reading! When the time does come, I hope you find the exercises helpful–and fun, because really, that should be the main goal!

Oh dear! I don’t do any of this. Maybe I ought to. Admittedly, being retired, I don’t ‘need’ to write full time – it’s more to stop me getting bored, so I only write when it’s a fun thing to do. Not good, I know.

I don’t think you should do exercises, or follow any writing “rule” (including the oft-quoted “write every day”) out of obligation. I mostly like exercises because they’re fun and a good way to get out of a slump when I’m feeling uninspired. I think the pieces you write for your own website, in a certain way, are structured kind of like writing exercises in that they adhere to a set of constraints: you base your writing off a photograph of nature and, if I recall correctly, limit yourself to 200 words. I’ve always found these pieces quite inspiring, so perhaps you should publish your own book of writing exercises!

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Video Review of 101 Creative Writing Exercises by ShadowCrowX

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creative writing exercises book

✍️ 100+ Creative Writing Exercises for Fiction Authors

This curated directory of creative writing exercises was conceived thanks to a collaboration between the top writing blogs of 2023. Use the filters to find and practice specific techniques — and show that blank page who’s boss!

We found 119 exercises that match your search 🔦

The Hammer and the Hatchet

A stranger walks into the general store and buys a hammer, a hatchet, some rope, and an apple. What does he do with them?

Writer's Block

Picket fence.

Describe your house - or the dream house you hope to get some day.

Telephone Directory

It is commonly known that a telephone directory might be the most boring text in the entire world. Here is your challenge: write a page of a telephone directory and figure out SOME way to make it interesting.

Pick a fiction book from your shelf. Go to page eight and find the eighth sentence on the page. Start with that sentence and write an eight-line poem that connects in some way to your work-in-progress. For instance, write from the POV of a character, or set the poem in a story setting. Don't worry about poetry forms. Just write eight lines of any length that flow and explore some aspect of character, setting, or theme.

Character Development

The ellen degeneres show.

A talk show is scripted to promote the guest and discuss topics with which the guest is comfortable. Imagine your protagonist on the Ellen Degeneres Show (or The Late Show With Stephen Colbert - whichever show you're familiar with). What questions would be asked of your protagonist? What funny anecdotes would your protagonist share? Write down the reactions of both your protagonist and the host.

Thank you to all our contributors: Almost An Author, Alyssa Hollingsworth, Anne R. Allen, Bang2Write, Christopher Fielden, Darcy Pattinson, Elizabeth S. Craig, Flogging The Quill, Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips, Helping Writers Become Authors, Katie McCoach, Lauren Carter, Insecure Writer’s Support Group, Mandy Wallace, NaNoWriMo, Nail Your Novel, Novel Publicity, One Stop For Writers, Pro Writing Aid, PsychWriter, re:Fiction, The Journal, The Writer’s Workshop, Well-Storied, Women On Writing, writing.ie, Writing-World.com!

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Table of Contents

1. Set Small Daily Goals

2. writing prompt: treasure hunt, 3. writing prompt: what are you holding back.

5. Structure Each Section Like a Presentation

6. give yourself permission to vomit your writing out, 7. exercise: self-care, 7 creative writing exercises that actually work (& which ones you should avoid).

creative writing exercises book

One of the biggest misconceptions about writing a book is what it takes to be a good writer.

People think that if they want to be a better writer, they’re supposed to write a certain way or follow certain writing rules.

They try countless writing prompts and creative writing exercises designed to help them “ find their voice ” (with little success).

Others will try to practice the mechanics of writing , hone their writing skills , and get their “creative juices” flowing—all before they even start their book.

But I’ll tell you right now: pretty much all of that is worthless . Or worse, it results in bad writing.

Why? Because most writing exercises make your writing worse. They make Authors sound like generic, fake-academic copycats. Or, at best, they waste your time.

But you don’t need to do special exercises to find your writing style .

Writing “problems” like voice, mechanics, and style are all solved once you focus on 1 thing: ​clear, simple writing that’s focused on the reader.

Being a good writer is being a good communicator. It’s about making sure you’re being heard the way you intended.

And the best way nonfiction Authors can do that is by—I’ll say it again—being clear, simple, and reader-focused.

That said, there are a few practices you can follow that will help you communicate your ideas clearly and simply.

In this post, I’ll give you 7 exercises and practices that can actually help you write a great book. They’ve worked for hundreds of Scribe Authors, and they’ll work for you.

7 Writing Exercises That Will Help You Write a Great Book

When you sit down with the intention to write thousands of words at once, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

It’s easy to feel intimidated when you think, “I have to write a whole book.” And that kind of anxiety is the quickest way to hit writer’s block .

Don’t do that to yourself.

It’s called a “writing process” for a reason. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

If you want to finish your book, my best advice is to create a writing plan and set small daily goals.

Psychology research shows that the most effective goals are ones that are achievable. Set a 250-word per day minimum and start writing. It’s a relatively easy goal to reach, so you’re less likely to ignore it.

Plus, with 250 words, you don’t have any excuses—you can type that much on your phone while waiting for your coffee to brew.

It may not sound like much, but it adds up. If you keep up that pace, you can write a 40,000-word draft in less than 6 months. And if you happen to write more, you’ll feel motivated.

But if you set a high goal (like a thousand words per day), you’re more likely to end up discouraged when you fall short.

Remember this for the rest of the exercises in this post. Always approach your writing with a small, easily achievable minimum.

For many Authors, there’s nothing more frightening than a blank page. If that sounds like you, give yourself an easy first assignment to get going.

Run through your house (or office), and find something that’s associated with your book journey.

There are 2 basic kinds of nonfiction books .

Knowledge-share nonfiction is what it sounds like. You’re writing to share your knowledge. This might come in the form of a how-to or thought leadership book.

The goal with any knowledge-share nonfiction book is to help people solve a problem or create a transformation.

The second type of nonfiction is memoir. A memoir is always about you, and its intent is to tell the reader about your life. Readers read memoirs because they want to learn about themselves through your story.

If you’re writing a knowledge-share nonfiction book, collect objects related to your work. This could include product samples, promotional materials, or reports from completed projects. Or, maybe even a memento from a mentor or client.

If you’re writing a memoir , go through photos or objects from your past. Try writing about the emotions or memories that come up when you look at them.

I mentioned that a lot of writing prompts are worthless, but this one can work.

That’s because, unlike many other creative writing prompts, this one encourages you to write material that can eventually go into your book.

black and white images taped to background

Objects connect us directly to the memories and stories that happened throughout our development.

Sharing these stories can create a powerful connection between you and your reader. Chances are, they’re experiencing something similar to what you went through.

You want to write a book because you want to share your wisdom with readers. So why waste time on random words or writing exercises that have nothing to do with that mission?

The best way to practice writing is to actually start writing your book.

What is the one fail-safe way to be interesting to your reader?

Tell the truth. ​

Maybe that’s the truth about your younger self, your relationship with a family member, what’s happening in your industry, or mistakes you’ve made.

Whatever it is, be honest. Readers can smell bullshit a mile away. But when an Author is vulnerable and authentic, that’s when their books make an impact .

Telling the truth might sound easy, but a lot of Authors struggle with it. They don’t want to tell the world about their failures. Or reveal their most radical ideas. Or share their most painful moments.

But that’s exactly what readers want when they pick up your book. They want to read about real life, not a picture-perfect version of the truth.

If you find yourself struggling with honesty, here’s my advice: write about whatever it is you’re struggling with.

You don’t have to publish it. You can always decide on that later.

But write it.

The most valuable books are the ones that are willing to go there.

If you’re writing a memoir, here’s your homework assignment: write 3 pages of any story that you’re afraid of or that feels uncomfortable to tell.

If you’re writing a knowledge-share nonfiction book, pick 1 thing to teach your reader that breaks the rules of your industry.

For example, you could pick a lesson you learned by making a big mistake. Recount that mistake in all its grisly detail. Don’t hold back.

4. Writing Exercise: Tell Your Avatar’s Transformation Story

This exercise will look radically different for memoir-writers, so I’ll focus on knowledge-share writers first.

Think about who your primary audience is, and write it down.

Within that group, isolate one person. Be specific. It’s even better if you know this person in real life.

Take a moment to describe what’s going on in their life, in at least one paragraph. What’s the hurdle in their life you could help them solve, and what are all the pain points around that? Is work stressful, and it’s bleeding into their home life? Are they sacrificing their health by spending all their time in front of the computer? Really try to get into this person’s point of view.

Now, flesh out the transformation they’ll get after they know what you’re going to tell them.

What ripple effects will flow into their personal life and their sense of self?

The answers you come up with during this writing exercise are going to be integral to your book introduction .

One of the main things a good introduction does is connect to the reader’s pain and tell them what you’re going to do to help. By completing this writing exercise, you’ll be able to do that in a super personalized way.

You also get the added benefit of having this document to refer to when you’re writing. Anytime you get a little lost, come back and remind yourself who you’re writing for, what matters to them, and how you can help.

If you’re writing a memoir, ignore everything I just said.

Don’t write to anyone else at first. Just write for yourself.

Before you publish your book, you’re going to have to decide who you’re sharing it with and why. But that’s a later decision your future self will handle.

Anne Frank did nothing but write to her journal, and it ended up being one of the most powerful memoirs in the world.

She was totally honest and wrote it only for herself.

The best way to make sure you’re being honest and telling the deepest, most important parts of your story is to dig deep into yourself and then put that on the page.

This writing exercise is tied to the psychology of small, achievable goals I mentioned earlier.

Tackle one section of your book at a time, and structure each section like a presentation.

First, outline the major points of the presentation. What are the takeaways you want your audience to have?

Write through that content as if you’re speaking directly to the person you’re teaching. This is a place where the earlier avatar exercise can come in handy.

When you’re giving a presentation, you’re always limited by time. But in writing, you have more leeway to dive into things.

So, ask yourself, “What do I leave out of my presentations that might still be useful to my reader? If I had more time, what else would I say?”

If you’re writing about something that feels too personal for a presentation, you can frame this exercise differently. Think of the book as a private space between you and your reader. They’re by themselves with your words. It’s one-on-one.

That gives you more leeway to be vulnerable. You can think about a single person you trust and write directly to them.

Instead of imagining an “audience,” like you might when you’re blogging, imagine writing an email to your closest confidante.

What information would they need to be able to follow along on your journey? And how can you tell it in a way that draws you closer together?

I know this sounds gross. But I’m serious.

The best thing you can do if you want to write a great book is to start writing and let it all come out.

Nobody expects vomit to look good. It’s supposed to be bad. The first draft of your book should be the exact same way.

Every great book starts with a terrible first draft. Some people call this free writing. I call it the vomit draft.

Why am I encouraging you to puke on a page? Because a lot of first-time Authors get hung up on trying to write the perfect book.

They write a section, scrap it, rewrite it, scrap it, and rewrite it again. They agonize over every single word. Three weeks later, they’re staring at a blank page for the fiftieth time.

That’s why many writers give up the first time they try to write a book.

But if you know in advance that you’re going to write badly, it takes the pressure off.

You can let stream of consciousness be your guide without second-guessing how great your writing skills are, whether you’re keeping a consistent point of view, or whether it’s good enough to be an Amazon bestseller.

Like I said earlier, it’s called a “writing process” for a reason. Bad writing is all part of the process.

Your vomit draft isn’t the final product. It’s a work in progress. It’s much easier to edit and improve a bad draft than a nonexistent one.

I know a lot of writers understand the concept behind the vomit draft but have a hard time putting it into practice. The delete key is too tempting.

Here are some tactics you can try to remind yourself TO NOT EDIT:

This might sound a little “woo-woo,” but the fact that I’m the person talking about it should tell you how important self-care is for writing.

If you want to be a published Author , self-care is important.

You are about to go on a journey, and you are going to be using your brain a lot.

Writing is hard. Books take an emotional and mental toll.

If you don’t take care of yourself, it’s not impossible to finish your book. But it will be much, much harder.

The writing process is long, and it’s easy to get discouraged when things aren’t going well. In order to help mitigate this, you can take care of yourself. For example, you can:

There are a million different ways to take care of yourself. Listen to what your body and emotions tell you. Go with whatever method works for you.

This may not seem like a writing exercise, but it is.

Even if the content of your book doesn’t seem emotional, the writing process itself will be.

You’re stepping up and putting yourself out there. It will have an effect on your emotions.

You will be a better writer if you make time to take care of yourself.

Self-care has the power to recharge and revitalize you so you can come back the next day, fresh and ready to go.

Read This Next

How to Choose the Best Book Ghostwriting Package for Your Book

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How to Choose a Ghostwriter for a Finance Book

Jane Friedman

5 Remarkable Writing Prompt & Exercise Books

After working at Writer’s Digest for a decade-plus, I saw more than my fair share of writing exercise/prompt books—plus I also acquired and edited quite a few. Writing prompts have always been an ever-popular topic of discussion (and usefulness) for writers, regardless of stage of career.

Here I’d like to share what I found to be the most remarkable books—a mix of Writer’s Digest titles and other publishers’ titles.

Also: Over at the VQR blog, I’m looking for writers to share their favorite writing exercise or prompt . One random commenter will win a selection of Miro journals in a nifty canvas tote. Click here to go comment with your favorite prompt. (Don’t do it here or it won’t count toward the drawing.)

The Pocket Muse by Monica Wood

What makes this book so special is the small size, vivid images and playful design, and high-quality production. It’s now out of print, though you can get copies used–or opt for the sequel, The Pocket Muse 2.

Read more at Amazon.

The 3 A.M. Epiphany by Brian Kiteley

3 A.M. Epiphany & 4 A.M. Breakthrough by Brian Kiteley

I rarely find the time to use writing prompts, but if I did, these are the books I’d use. Very sophisticated and thought-provoking, I do put them to work in the classroom—for brainstorming nonfiction ideas to write about. Highly recommend to both writer and teacher. (I know both books are popular in MFA programs.)

What If? by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter

This is one of the original exercise books for writers, published in 1991. It has since been updated (and has a textbook price to match), but you’re safe sticking with the original.

The Practice of Poetry

If you’re a poet, this is the one to grab. It’s another one that’s been around forever and doesn’t go out of style.

Read more at Amazon. 

The Writer's Idea Book by Jack Heffron

Last but not least, one of the best-selling titles of all time from Writer’s Digest was this exercise/prompt book, authored by one of its editors. It was just released this year in a 10th anniversary edition.

What are your favorite writing prompt books? Plus, don’t forget to share your favorite writing prompt over at the VQR blog.

Jane Friedman 2020

Jane Friedman ( @JaneFriedman ) has nearly 25 years of experience in the media & publishing industry. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet , the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

In addition to being a professor with The Great Courses ( How to Publish Your Book ), she is the author of The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), which received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as Digital Book World and Frankfurt Book Fair, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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50 Fantastic Creative Writing Exercises

creative writing exercises book

Good question.

Creative writing exercises are designed to teach a technique. They are highly specific, more specific than creative writing prompts, and much more specific than story generators.

Creative writing exercises for adults are not designed to lead the writer into crafting a full story, but are only designed to help them improve as a writer in a narrow, specific category of writing skills.

I’ve broken the exercises below into categories so you can choose what category of skill you’d like to practice. Can you guess which category in this list has the most prompts?

If you guessed characters, then you’re right. I think characters are the heart blood of every story, and that a majority of any writing prompts or writing exercises should focus on them.

But I also think any of these will help you create a narrative, and a plot, and help you generate all kinds of dialogue, whether for short stories or for novels. These writing exercises are pretty much guaranteed to improve your writing and eliminate writer’s block. 

Also, if you’re a fledgling writer who needs help writing their novel, check out my comprehensive guide to novel writing.

Enjoy the five categories of writing exercises below, and happy writing!

five senses

1. Think of the most deafening sound you can imagine. Describe it in great detail, and have your character hear it for the first time at the start of a story.

2. Have a man cooking for a woman on a third date, and have her describe the aromas in such loving and extended detail that she realizes that she’s in love with him.

3. Pick a line from one of your favorite songs, and identify the main emotion. Now write a character who is feeling that emotion and hears the song. Try to describe the type of music in such a beautiful way that you will make the reader yearn to hear the song as well.

4. Have a character dine at a blind restaurant, a restaurant in pitch blackness where all the servers are blind, and describe for a full paragraph how the tablecloth, their clothing, and the hand of their dining partner feels different in the darkness.

5. Select a dish representative of a national cuisine, and have a character describe it in such detail that the reader salivates and the personality of the character is revealed.

Dialogue exercises

7. Describe two characters having a wordless conversation, communicating only through gestures. Try to see how long you can keep the conversation going without any words spoken, but end it with one of them saying a single word, and the other one repeating the same word.

8. In a public place from the last vacation you took, have two characters arguing, but make it clear by the end of the argument that they’re not arguing about what they’re really upset about.

9. Write a scene composed mostly of dialogue with a child talking to a stranger. Your mission is to show the child as heartbreakingly cute. At the same time, avoid sentimentality. 

10. Have two character have a conversation with only a single word, creating emphasis and context so that the word communicates different things each time it is spoken. The prime example of this is in the television show “The Wire,” where Jimmy and Bunk investigate a crime scene repeating only a single expletive.

creative writing exercises book

11. Pick an object that is ugly, and create a character who finds it very beautiful. Have the character describe the object in a way that convinces the reader of its beauty. Now write a second version where you convince the reader (through describing the object alone) that the character is mentally unstable.

12. Write down five emotions on slips of paper and slip them into a hat. Now go outside and find a tree. Draw one emotion from the hat, and try to describe that tree from the perspective of a character feeling that emotion. (Don’t mention the emotion in your writing — try to describe the tree so the reader could guess the emotion).

13. Describe a character’s bedroom in such a way that it tells us about a person’s greatest fears and hopes.

14. Root through your desk drawer until you find a strange object, an object that would probably not be in other people’s drawers. Have a character who is devastated to find this object, and tell the story of why this object devastates them.

15. Go to an art-based Pinterest page and find your favorite piece of art. Now imagine a living room inspired by that flavor of artwork, and show the room after a husband and wife have had the worst fight of their marriage.

16. Pick a simple object like a vase, a broom, or a light bulb, and write a scene that makes the reader cry when they see the object.

creative writing exercises book

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Sign up for my writing course “ Writing Techniques to Transform Your Fiction .”

Learn more by clicking the image or link above.

creative writing exercises book

17. Make a list of the top five fears in your life. Write a character who is forced to confront one of those fears.

18. Write an entire page describing the exact emotions when you learned of a happy or calamitous event in your life. Now try to condense that page into a single searing sentence.

19. Think about a time in your life when you felt shame. Now write a character in a similar situation, trying to make it even more shameful.

20. Write a paragraph with a character struggle with two conflicting emotions simultaneously. For example, a character who learns of his father’s death and feels both satisfaction and pain.

21. Write a paragraph where a character starts in one emotional register, and through a process of thought, completely evolves into a different emotion.

Characters:

creative writing exercises book

22. Create a minor character based upon someone you dislike. Now have your main character encounter them and feel sympathy and empathy for them despite their faults.

23. Have a kooky character tell a story inside a pre-established form: an instruction manual, traffic update, email exchange, weather report, text message.

24. Write about a character who does something they swore they would never do.

25. Have a character who has memorized something (the names of positions in the Kama Sutra, the entire book of Revelations) recite it while doing something completely at odds with what they’re reciting. For instance, bench pressing while reciting the emperors in a Chinese dynasty.

26. Write a paragraph where a character does a simple action, like turning on a light switch, and make the reader marvel at how strange and odd it truly is.

27. Have a couple fight while playing a board game. Have the fight be about something related to the board game: fighting about money, have them play monopoly. Fighting about politics, let them play chess.

28. Write about two characters angry at each other, but have both of them pretend the problems don’t exist. Instead, have them fight passive-aggressively, through small, snide comments.

29. Describe a character walking across an expanse field or lot and describe how he walks. The reader should perfectly understand his personality simply by the way you describe his walk.

30. Write a first-person POV of a character under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and try to make the prose as woozy and tipsy as the character.

31. Describe the first time that a character realizes he is not as smart as he thought.

32. Describe an hour in the life of a character who has recently lost their ability to do what they love most (a pianist who has severe arthritis; a runner who became a quadriplegic).

33. Write an argument where a husband or wife complains of a physical ailment, but their spouse refuses to believe it’s real.

34. Write a scene where a stranger stops your main character, saying that they know them, and insisting your main character is someone they are not. Describe exactly how this case of mistaken identity makes your character feel.

35. Describe a small personality trait about a person you love, and make the reader love them, too.

36. Write a personality-revealing scene with a character inside a public restroom. Do they press a thumb against the mirror to leave a subtle mark? Do they write a plea for help on the inside of the stall door? Do they brag about the size of what they’ve just dumped off?

37. Give your character an extremely unusual response to a national tragedy like a terrorist attack or natural disaster. Maybe have them be aware their response is unusual, and try to cloak it from others, or have them be completely unaware and display it without any self-consciousness.

38. Have one of your main characters come up with an idea for a comic book, and tell a close friend about the idea. What about this idea would surprise the friend, upsetting what he thought he knew about your main character? Also, what would the main character learn about himself from the comic book idea?

39. Think of an illness someone you love has suffered from. How does your character respond when someone close to them has this illness?

40. Have your main character invent an extremely offensive idea for a book, and show their personality faults through discussing it with others.

41. Have your character write down a list considering how to respond to their stalker.

42. Write a scene where a man hits on a woman, and although the woman acts repulsed and begs her friends to get him away from her, it becomes apparent that she likes the attention.

43. Write about a 20-something confronting his parents over their disapproval of his lifestyle.

44. Have your character write a funny to-do list about the steps to get a boyfriend or girlfriend.

45. Have a risk-adverse character stuck in a hostage situation with a risk-happy character.

46. For the next week, watch strangers carefully and take notes in your phone about any peculiar gestures or body language. Combine the three most interesting ones to describe a character as she goes grocery shopping.

47. Buy a package of the pills that expand into foam animals, and put a random one in a glass of warm water. Whatever it turns out to be, have that animal surprise your main character in a scene.

48. Have your character faced with a decision witness a rare, awe-inspiring event, and describe how it helps them make their decision.

49. Imagine if your character met for the first time his or her long-lost identical twin. What personality traits would they share and which ones would have changed because of their unique experiences? 

50. If a character got burned by a hot pan, what type of strange reaction would they have that would reveal what they value most?

Once you’ve taken a stab at some of these exercises, I’d recommend you use them in your actual writing.

And for instruction on that, you need a guide to writing your novel . 

That link will change your life and your novel. Click it now.

Creative Writing Exercises

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30 comments

John Fox, you have some excellent resources, and I thank you. I read your comments, then scrolled down to glance at the list of 50 exercises. The FIRST one, “loud noise’ is already in my head. My Hero is going to be side swiped in my Cozy. I was side swiped on a state highway here in Virginia a couple of weeks ago and, although the damage was minor, the sound of that big SUV “glancing” off my little car was SCARY!!! I once heard a fast-moving car REAR-END is stand-still car; that sound was something I’ll never forget. So, your exercise is very timely. THANK YOU!!!

This is a great list! Thanks!

You know what would be motivating? If we could turn these in to someone and get like a grade lol

I’ve been thinking a lot about “how to master writing,” and this is the first time that I found an article that makes it clear the difference between prompts and exercises. I fully agree with you. These are bound to make you a better writer if you focus on doing a variation of them daily.

An excellent list – thank you very much. I run a small writing group and we’ll be trying some.

Yes, thank you. I too run a small writing group and you got me out of a slump for tomorrow’s group!

yes,thank you . It’s good for improve your writing skills.

What a lovely list! I am working on the final draft of my very first novel, and am constantly working at improving the final product. Your exercises are just what I need to kickstart my writing day. Thank you so very much.

Thank you very much When I turned50 I received my diploma from Children’s Institute in West Redding Ct I got my inspiration from being near water however now that I am in Oregon I have had a writing block thanks to your list my creative juices are flowing

I suppose I better have good punctuation, seeing this is about Writing. Thank you for this great list. I am the Chair of our small Writing group in Otorohanga and we start again last week of Feb. I have sent out a homework email, to write a A4 page of something exciting that has happened over the holiday break and they must read it out to the group with passion and excitement in their voices. That will get them out of their comfort zone!

A formidable yet inspiring list. Thank you very much for this. This is really very helpful. I am from India, and very new to writing and have started my first project, which I want to make it into a Novel. This has been very helpful and is very challenging too. Prompts look sissy when compared to this, frankly speaking. Thank you very much again.

Where can I get the answers for these?

There aren’t “answers.” You create responses to these exercises.

Thank you so much for the detailed suggestions focusing on HOW to put the WHAT into practice; really helpful & inspiring.

Just started rough drafting a story I’ve always wanted to write. Do you have any advice for someone writing their first real story? I’m having trouble starting it; I just want it to be perfect.

I consider this very helpful. Just started my journey as a creative writer, and will be coming back to this page to aid my daily writing goal.

I have always loved writing exercises and these are perfect practice for my competition. I have tried lots of different things that other websites have told me to try, but this by far is the most descriptive and helpful site that i have seen so far.

This is really a creative blog. An expert writer is an amateur who didn’t stop. I trust myself that a decent writer doesn’t actually should be advised anything but to keep at it. Keep it up!

I’ve always enjoyed writing from a little girl. Since I’ve been taking it a bit more seriously as does everybody else it seems; I’ve lost the fun and sponteneity. Until now…..this is a marvelous blog to get back the basic joy and freedom in writing. Or should that be of?:) These exercises are perfect to get the creative juices flowing again…..thank you:)

These are interesting exercises for writing.

These are fantastic! I started reading a really awesome book on creative writing but it just didn’t get any good or easy to follow exercises. So I found your site and having been having a lot of fun with these. Exactly what I was looking for, thank you!

creative and inspiring, thank you

I always wanted to have an exercise where a friend and I each wrote a random sentence and sent it to each other to write a short story from that beginning sentence, then exchange the stories for reading and/or critique. Maybe both writers start with the same sentence and see how different the stories turn out.

Thanks for these exercises. Some are really challenging. To truly tackle them I’m having to spend as long beforehand thinking “how the HECK am I going to do this?” as I do with ink on paper. Would be a great resource if other authors submitted their replies and thoughts about how they went about each exercise.

Start the conversation: submit one of yours.

I think I can use these to inspire my students.

Hi there. Thank you for posting this list- it’s great! Can I ask you to consider removing number 42 or perhaps changing it somewhat? I teach sex ed and every year am shocked by how many young people don’t understand issues around consent. Stories about woman who ‘say no but really mean yes’ are deeply unhelpful. Really appreciate your post but felt I had to ask. Thanks.

What’s wrong with the number 42?

I just make this list a part of my teaching in Creative Writing Classes. Very good list of ideas!

creative writing exercises book

Every writer NEEDS this book.

It’s a guide to writing the pivotal moments of your novel.

Whether writing your book or revising it, this will be the most helpful book you’ll ever buy.

creative writing exercises book

Books to Get You Writing

Is 2017 finally going to be the year when you start that novel, finish your memoir, or journal with more regularity? When I started writing seriously, I found books of prompts invaluable in getting both my pen and my ideas flowing. Maybe you will too.

a-writers-book-of-days

This was the first book I used consistently and it was so helpful. I highly recommend it if you’re just starting out and wanting to make writing a daily practice. Each chapter talks you through a different aspect of learning to be a writer, like writing from the senses or what to do when your writing bores even you. The tone is nurturing and encouraging, which is so important for many of us when we’re just starting on a new journey. The chapters are arranged by month  and contain prompts for each day of that month.  “It rained for three days.” “Write about the black-winged moth.” “It’s what was whispered about.” The idea is you take those prompts and just write for fifteen minutes or so, without censoring yourself. I did some good writing that way and some of it even fed into the novel I was working on.

the-five-minute-writer

This was also one of the books I used at the beginning. Its writer designed it to “practise the kind of thinking that has been known to foster creativity”. It certainly worked on me! Most days, there’s a page or two to read on a particular subject – writing with colour, how to plump up “thin” characters – and then a thoughtful exercise that is directly related to that topic. Unlike A Writer’s Book of Days , this is one where you’re encouraged to think as you write rather than just let the words flow. (Both are valuable in different ways.)

the-writers-idea-book

I recommend this one for beginners, too. It includes more than 400 prompts, organised into themed chapters — like secrets, or your fifteen minutes of fame. Some are designed for you to mine your own life for material; others for developing fictional characters or plots. The first few chapters aim to make you think about your own writing practice and goals, which can be a great way to begin a journalling habit. This book also has a sequel of sorts,  The Writer’s Idea Workshop , which takes the prompts one step further and helps you develop your ideas rather than just come up with new ones.

the-3-am-epiphany

I’d been writing a little longer when I bought these, and I fell in love with them. I’d often spend an hour or so on each exercise, because they require more thought, as they’re often very prescriptive and detailed, down to the number of words you should write. I find that works well for me — boundaries can, paradoxically, be so helpful to creativity as our brain tries to work around them. Here’s an example from the 3 am Epiphany:  Write a fragment of a story that is made up entirely of imperative commands: Do this; do that; contemplate the rear end of the woman who is walking out of your life. This exercise will be a sort of second-person narration. 50o words.

the-daily-writer

I admit it: I’m not sure I’ve ever done prompts from these books. But I also look at them periodically and remind myself that they’d be great ones to go through, not just for my own development as a writer but because they could result in good stories to pitch to magazines and websites. The exercises are highly specific and sometimes require a lot of research – Find out all you can about your earliest ancestors , for example, though not always: compose a romantic scene in which food or drink is integrated with the expression of love between two persons.

There are countless examples of such books. There’s the general prompt books which cover various genres and aspects of the life and craft of a writer, like Susan M. Tiberghien’s One Year to a Writing Life ,  and  Naming the World , which is edited by Bret Anthony Johnston and includes exercises by Elizabeth Strout, Ann Packer, Katherine Min ( Secondhand World ), Thisbe Nissen ( Osprey Island ) and Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, author of the wonderful collection of inter-related short stories,  The Ms Hempel Chronicles . (Anthologies like this are your best bet if you want to find prompts by authors of colour — the offerings are otherwise overwhelmingly white.)

now-write-non-fiction

Books of writing prompts seem to multiply every time I make it to the bookshop to browse for them. (I actually probably have enough prompts at this point to do ten a day for the rest of my life, so I’m trying my best not to buy any more.) If you’re lucky enough to live near a bookshop, that’s probably the best way to get a feel for what works best for you. Otherwise, I highly recommend the top four on this list in particular.

creative writing exercises book

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10 Books Like LEGENDS AND LATTES

 Toni Morrison in 1979.

Top 10 books about creative writing

From linguistics to essays by Zadie Smith and Toni Morrison, poet Anthony Anaxagorou recommends some ‘lateral’ ways in to a demanding craft

T he poet Rita Dove was once asked what makes poetry successful. She went on to illuminate three key areas: First, the heart of the writer; the things they wish to say – their politics and overarching sensibilities. Second, their tools: how they work language to organise and position words. And the third, the love a person must have for books: “To read, read, read.”

When I started mapping out How to Write It , I wanted to focus on the aspects of writing development that took in both theoretical and interpersonal aspects. No writer lives in a vacuum, their job is an endless task of paying attention.

How do I get myself an agent? What’s the best way to approach a publisher? Should I self-publish? There is never one way to assuage the concerns of those looking to make a career out of writing. Many labour tirelessly for decades on manuscripts that never make it to print. The UK on average publishes around 185,000 new titles per year, ranking us the third largest publishing market in the world, yet the number of aspiring writers is substantially greater.

Writers writing about writing can become a supercilious endeavour; I’m more interested in the process of making work and the writer’s perspectives that substantiate the framework.

There’s no single authority, anything is possible. All that’s required are some words and an idea – which makes the art of writing enticing but also difficult and daunting. The books listed below, diverse in their central arguments and genres, guide us towards more interesting and lateral ways to think about what we want to say, and ultimately, how we choose to say it.

1. The Hatred of Poetry by Ben Lerner An intellectual meditation on the cultural function of poetry. Less idealistic than other poetry criticism, Lerner puts forward a richly layered case for the reasons writers and readers alike turn to poetry, probing into why it’s often misconceived as elitist or tedious, and asks that we reconsider the value we place on the art form today.

2. Find Your Voice by Angie Thomas One of the hardest things about creative writing is developing a voice and not compromising your vision for the sake of public appeal. Thomas offers sharp advice to those wrestling with novels or Young Adult fiction. She writes with appealing honesty, taking in everything from writer’s block to deciding what a final draft should look like. The book also comes interspersed with prompts and writing exercises alongside other tips and suggestions to help airlift writers out of the mud.

3. Linguistics: Why It Matters by Geoffrey K Pullum If language is in a constant state of flux, and rules governing sentence construction, meaning and logic are always at a point of contention, what then can conventional modes of language and linguistics tell us about ourselves, our cultures and our relationship to the material world? Pullum addresses a number of philosophical questions through the scientific study of human languages – their grammars, clauses and limitations. An approachable, fascinating resource for those interested in the mechanics of words.

4. Madness, Rack, and Honey by Mary Ruefle The collected lectures of poet and professor Mary Ruefle present us with an erudite inquiry into some of the major aspects of a writer’s mind and craft. Ruefle possesses an uncanny ability to excavate broad and complex subjects with such unforced and original lucidity that you come away feeling as if you’ve acquired an entirely new perspective from only a few pages. Themes range from sentimentality in poetry, to fear, beginnings and – a topic she returns to throughout the book – wonder. “A poem is a finished work of the mind, it is not the work of a finished mind.”

Zadie Smith.

5. Feel Free by Zadie Smith These astute and topical essays dating from 2010 to 2017 demonstrate Smith’s forensic ability to navigate and unpack everything from Brexit to Justin Bieber. Dissecting high philosophical works then bringing the focus back on to her own practice as a fiction writer, her essay The I Who Is Not Me sees Smith extrapolate on how autobiography shapes novel writing, and elucidates her approach to thinking around British society’s tenuous and often binary perspectives on race, class and ethnicity.

6. Threads by Sandeep Parmar, Nisha Ramayya and Bhanu Kapil Who occupies the “I” in poetry? When poets write, are they personally embodying their speakers or are they intended to be emblematic of something larger and more complex? Is the “I” assumed to be immutable or is it more porous? These are the questions posited in Threads, which illuminates the function of the lyric “I” in relation to whiteness, maleness and Britishness. Its short but acute essays interrogate whiteness’s hegemony in literature and language, revealing how writers from outside the dominant paradigm are often made to reckon with the positions and perspectives they write from.

7. Mouth Full of Blood by Toni Morrison An urgent set of essays and lectures from the late Nobel prize winner that collates her most discerning musings around citizenship, race and art, as well as offering invaluable insight into the craft of writing. She reflects on revisions made to her most famous novel, Beloved, while also reflecting on the ways vernaculars can shape new stories. One of my favourite aphorisms written by Morrison sits on my desk and declares: “As writers, what we do is remember. And to remember this world is to create it.”

8. On Poetry by Jonathan Davidson Poetry can be thought of as something arduous or an exercise in analysis, existing either within small artistic enclaves or secondary school classrooms. One of the many strengths of Davidson’s writing is how he makes poetry feel intimate and personal, neither dry or remote. His approach to thinking around ways that certain poems affect us is well measured without being exclusive. A timely and resourceful book for writers interested in how poems go on to live with us throughout our lives.

9. Essays by Lydia Davis From flash fiction to stories, Davis is recognised as one of the preeminent writers of short-form fiction. In these essays, spanning several decades, she tracks much of her writing process and her relationship to experimentalism, form and the ways language can work when pushed to its outer limits. How we read into lines is something Davis returns to, as is the idea of risk and brevity within micro-fiction.

10. Essayism by Brian Dillon Dillon summarises the essay as an “experiment in attention”. This dynamic and robust consideration of the form sheds light on how and why certain essays have changed the cultural and political landscape, from the end of the Middle Ages to the present time. A sharp and curious disquisition on one of the more popular yet challenging writing enterprises.

How to Write It by Anthony Anaxagorou is published by Merky Books. To order a copy, go to guardianbookshop.com .

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Writing Forward

101 Creative Writing Exercises

creative writing exercises book

If you’ve been searching for a goldmine concerning all-things-writing you need look no further.

Really, working through this book in what ever order will best serve your learning or practicing needs is certain to improve your skills. I love writing and participate in writing in one form or another almost every day. Yet, as I recently spent time working through just two different exercises as set forth in this book I learned new skills.

The author suggests that moving out of one’s comfort zone is a good way to improve skills and gain writing experience. At first I wondered why I would try something that I’ve believed would be too hard for me. My writing typically focuses on the here and now, facts and information. Yet, I took pen in hand (later went to the keyboard) and began the first exercise in the beginning section of Writing Fiction.

My first hesitant steps were soon overcome by the exhilaration I felt when I began to realize that my imagination was kicking in. I was beginning to see scenes in my mind which I could translate to paper. I was setting the scene for a fictional account which I could make “real” by continuing to follow the steps as laid out in this book.

As another part of my experiment I followed one of the prompts which was more suited to what I usually write about. Once again, I felt as if I had found gold. Ms. Donovan’s simple step by step system and suggested tactics do indeed serve to make the writing experience quite productive. With these easy to follow instructions and suggestions long time writers and beginners alike are given ways to improve their writing. Period.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who really wants to learn more about the art and science of writing.

This book could well be used as a course study…

“…for anyone who wants to try a hand at writing or to improve writing skills. The book is broken down into several topics including freewriting, journaling, fiction, storytelling, etc. Along with each topic discussed there is an exercise to complete. Great for anyone who wants a new twist on just about every type of writing there is.”

“I was researching books to use as a resource for an online creative writing resource that I teach, and I found this one to be most helpful. If I run the class again, I am considering adopting this as the primary text.”

Doing the exercises in this book made me enjoy writing again..

“I am working on my first novel and ran into some serious writers block. My story was going nowhere. I hated everything I wrote. I was going to give up and quit writing forever. 101 Creative Writing Exercises helped me get over my writers’ block.

The exercises gave me inspiration for my novel. I found the character freewriting to be very helpful. I could not find my characters voice. The solution freewriting exercise was also very helpful. This helped me work out key plot issues. Instead of sitting and staring at a blank computer screen and getting nowhere, I came up with ideas when I wrote with pen and paper.

I would recommend this book to any writer who has writers block and wants to give up writing.”

I was in a slump and couldn’t think of what to write about, so I purchased 101 Creative Writing Exercises.

“I found so many ideas there that I had trouble deciding which one to try first. So, what I’m working on now is as a result of one of the exercises in this book. I now have a way to come up with new writing ideas when writer’s block sticks its ugly head into my life again.”

101 Creative Writing Exercises only pushed me further in my writing journey.

“I look back to it from time to time, whenever I’m feeling a little dull in my ideas and it is always there to spark my mind and allow my brain and heart to work together to create something magical. If you’re looking for fun, thorough and honest writing advice, this is an awesome place to start! No regrets with this purchase!” 

I really enjoyed 101 Creative Writing Exercises

“I read the book first and noted specific exercises that interested me. The practice work and discipline required for each activity carried over to other writing tasks including our writing group. Good for experienced or novice writers. In summary, it really is a writing coach and a lot of fun.” 

Get Your Copy of  101 Creative Writing Exercises  Today

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  4. 50 Fantastic Creative Writing Exercises

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COMMENTS

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  2. How Many Books Did Shakespeare Write?

    Although William Shakespeare did not write actual books, he wrote 38 plays during his career as a playwright. His earliest written plays included “Richard III” and “Henry VI.”

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    Others will try to practice the mechanics of writing, hone their writing skills, and get their “creative juices” flowing—all before they even start their book.

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    5 Remarkable Writing Prompt & Exercise Books.

  11. 50 Fantastic Creative Writing Exercises

    It's a guide to writing the pivotal moments of your novel. Whether writing your book or revising it, this will be the most helpful book you'll ever buy. Learn

  12. Books to Get You Writing

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  14. 101 Creative Writing Exercises (Adventures in Writing)

    “…for anyone who wants to try a hand at writing or to improve writing skills. The book is broken down into several topics including freewriting, journaling