Free Writing Exercises to Make You a Better Author

Doug Landsborough
July 5, 2023

Your imagination is a muscle: let it sit still for too long and it will seize up. But if you get that muscle moving—hit the author gym, so to speak—then you can make it stronger than ever.

No protein powder required.

One of the best ways to strengthen your imagination is through writing exercises, which is exactly why we’re here. In fact, even better than writing exercises are free writing exercises.

But, just like working out your muscles, there are a lot of options out there. Where the heck do you start? 

Don’t worry, we’ve got your back. In this article, we’re going to talk about:

  • All the different types of writing exercises
  • Common questions authors have about writing exercises
  • Tips to get the most out of your word workouts

I hope you’ve done your warm-up. Let’s get going.

This is you coaching your imagination.

Types of Writing Exercises

When it comes to developing your writing skills and nurturing your creativity, finding some fun writing exercises is just what your personal writing trainer (I’m not stopping with these jokes) ordered. They help you break through writer's block, spark inspiration, and improve your overall writing practice.

But where do you start? What kind of exercises are best for your writing muscles? Let’s break it down.

Writing Prompts

One of the most popular and versatile forms of writing exercises is a good ol’ writing prompt. Writing prompts are ideas that serve as a starting point for your next writing project.

The goal of a writing prompt is to provide a spark to stimulate your creativity, but it offers a couple additional benefits for fiction writers. 

Most importantly, prompts help overcome writer's block by giving you a specific direction to start writing. Instead of staring at a blank page, a writing prompt ignites your imagination. 

Writing prompts can also inspire new ideas, spark unique story concepts, or challenge you to explore different genres or perspectives. They encourage you to think outside the box and can lead to unexpected and exciting outcomes in your writing.

How to Use Writing Prompts Effectively

To make the most of writing prompts, it's important to approach them with an open mind and willingness to explore. Here are some tips to get going:

Interpret and expand: Consider different angles you can use to approach a prompt to develop characters, plotlines, or settings.

Time constraints: Set a specific time limit, like ten minutes to half an hour, and challenge yourself to write continuously during that period. Embrace the spontaneous nature of word vomiting.

Quantity over quality: In the initial stages of using a writing prompt, focus on generating as many ideas and words as possible. Don't worry about perfection or crafting a masterpiece—just let your ideas flow and capture them on (digital) paper.

Examples of Writing Prompts

To give you a taste of what writing prompts can offer, here are a few examples:

  1. Begin a story with the sentence: "The clock struck midnight, and everything changed."
  2. Imagine a world where time travel is possible. Write a scene where a character discovers this ability for the first time.
  3. Write a dialogue between two characters who are complete opposites in terms of personality and beliefs.

Creative Writing Exercises

Unlike seemingly random prompts, creative writing exercises focus on specific aspects of storytelling and help you strengthen particular skills or explore different narrative techniques.

These imagination workouts will challenge you to approach storytelling in a different way and allow you to hone your craft, experiment with different writing styles, and push your boundaries. 

By focusing on specific aspects of storytelling, such as character development, setting description, or dialogue, these exercises help refine your skills and expand your writing toolkit.

How to Use Creative Writing Exercises Effectively

When bench pressing with creative writing exercises, it's important to approach them with the desire to grow. Here are some tips for using creative writing exercises effectively:

Identify areas of improvement: Reflect on your strengths and weaknesses and identify specific areas you'd like to improve. Do you struggle with writing realistic dialogue? Are your descriptions lacking depth? Choose exercises that target these areas and tackle them head-on.

Focus on quality: Unlike writing prompts that prioritize quantity, creative writing exercises emphasize quality. Take your time and strive to produce polished pieces that showcase your growth and mastery of specific techniques. Feel free to experiment with different styles, perspectives, tones, etc.

Seek feedback: After completing a creative writing exercise, consider sharing it with trusted peers, writing groups, or online communities. Embrace the opportunity for growth that feedback offers.

Examples of Creative Writing Exercises

Here are a few creative writing exercises to get you started:

  1. Write a scene using only dialogue.
  2. Describe a familiar place from the perspective of a new immigrant or recruit.
  3. Rewrite a famous fairy tale from the villain's perspective.

Stream of Consciousness Writing

Stream of consciousness writing, also known as freewriting or brain dumping, taps into the unfiltered thoughts, emotions, and associations of your mind. It involves writing continuously without interruption, allowing your thoughts to flow freely onto the page. 

Freewriting can be liberating and access your subconscious mind, leading to surprising discoveries and creative breakthroughs. At the same time, it helps bypass self-censorship and critical thinking, allowing raw ideas and emotions to surface. 

It also lets you embrace the spontaneous and unstructured nature of your imagination to uncover hidden insights, develop authentic character voices, and explore the depths of your creativity.

How to Use Stream of Consciousness Writing Effectively

To engage in freewriting effectively, follow these guidelines:

Set a time limit: Freewriting is mentally exhausting. Commit to a small period of time that encourages you to keep your pen or fingers moving.

Write without judgment: Embrace the freedom to write without judgment or the need for coherence. Allow your thoughts to flow naturally, even if they seem disjointed or nonsensical. Don't worry about grammar, punctuation, or structure.

Follow associations: As you write, follow the threads of your thoughts and associations. Don't censor or redirect your mind. Trust the process and let your subconscious guide you.

Examples of Freewriting Exercises

Here are a few prompts to practice your freewriting:

  1. Write about the first vivid childhood memory that comes to mind.
  2. Describe a significant life event from the perspective of an inanimate object witnessing it.
  3. Write a stream of consciousness monologue from the perspective of your protagonist during a moment of intense conflict.

Character Development Exercises

Character development exercises are specifically designed to deepen your understanding of your fictional people. 

By engaging in these exercises, you can breathe life into your characters, make them more three-dimensional, and enhance their believability within your stories.

By delving into your characters' backgrounds, motivations, and desires, you can develop more compelling narratives and foster a deeper emotional connection between your readers and your imaginary creations.

How to Use Character Development Exercises Effectively

When conducting character development exercises, keep the following tips in mind:

Explore backstories: Dive into your characters' pasts and uncover formative experiences that have shaped who they are. Ask yourself questions about their upbringing, relationships, traumas, and pivotal moments. All of that will create their motivations and provide a rich foundation for their development.

Conduct character interviews: Imagine yourself interviewing your characters as if they were real people. Ask them probing questions about their beliefs, fears, dreams, and values. Allow their responses to inform their actions and shape their personalities. (Psst… click here for a character interview that isn’t boring.)

Write character profiles: Create detailed profiles for your characters, including physical attributes, personality traits, quirks, and preferences. Consider their strengths, weaknesses, and how they interact with other characters in your story. Here’s a character profile template for you with more than 100 details to fill in!

Examples of Character Development Exercises

Here are a few character development exercises to help you flesh out your fictional creations:

  1. Write a letter from one character to another, expressing their deepest secrets and fears.
  2. Create a collage or Pinterest board that represents your character's desires and aspirations.
  3. Write a short scene from your character's childhood, showcasing a formative experience.

Plot Development Exercises

To no one’s surprise, plot development exercises focus on strengthening the structure and coherence of your story. They help you generate new ideas, overcome writer's block, and ensure that your plot progresses in a compelling and engaging manner.

Doing these author workouts will help organize your story, identify plot holes or pacing issues, and spark creativity to generate fresh and exciting plot twists. 

How to Use Plot Development Exercises Effectively

Here are some tips to effectively utilize plot development exercises:

Identify plot weaknesses: Assess your current plot and identify any weaknesses, gaps, or areas that need improvement. Are there moments where the story feels stagnant? Are there unresolved conflicts or loose ends? Pinpointing these areas will help you choose exercises that address those specific challenges.

Experiment with structure: Use plot development exercises to experiment with different story structures. If you aren’t an expert on story structure, do we have a great guide for you. Picking the right structure can help you understand pacing, story beats, and what your story should look like before you try writing exercises.

Generate new ideas: Focus on exercises that encourage brainstorming, such as creating mind maps, listing potential plot twists, or exploring "what if" scenarios. Embrace the freedom to think outside the box and let your imagination run wild.

Examples of Plot Development Exercises

Consider trying the following plot development exercises to enhance your storytelling:

  1. Write a synopsis of your story in just three sentences.
  2. Take a pivotal moment in your story and imagine an unexpected turn of events.
  3. Map out your story's structure using a visual diagram or storyboard.

Common Questions About Writing Exercises

People who regularly use writing exercises know how valuable they can be. They provide those ah-ha moments, unlock a part of your imagination you didn’t know existed, or get you over a hump.

But I know they’re are some skeptics out there, so let’s cover a few common questions many writers have about writing exercises.

What are the benefits of writing exercises? 

Writing exercises enhance creativity, improve writing fluency, develop a deeper understanding of characters and plot, overcome self-censorship, and explore new ideas and perspectives, all while you practice writing itself.

So just a few little things, right?

How can I use writing exercises to improve my writing skills? 

You can wield writing exercises to buff up your sweet word skills by practicing different writing techniques, experimenting with various genres and styles, honing your descriptive abilities, refining your dialogue, and exploring new narrative structures. 

Honestly, they just make you a better writer.

Can I overcome writer's block with writing exercises? 

Getting some time on the literary treadmill allows you to write without judgment or expectations, use prompts to spark inspiration, embrace stream of consciousness writing to bypass self-doubt, and warm-up to get your creative juices flowing before a writing session. 

All of that serves to help your writing.

But if you’re really struggling with clogged imagination pipes, learn how to defeat writer’s block in other ways by clicking here.

How can I make the most of writing exercises to improve my craft? 

To make the most of writing exercises, treat them like you would training for any sort of skill set:

  • Establish a regular writing routine
  • Set specific goals for each exercise
  • Explore different types of exercises to diversify your skills
  • Reflect on your writing afterwards
  • Seek feedback from others
  • Use the exercises as an opportunity for self-expression and personal growth

We’re going to dive into some specific tips in the next section.

Tips to Use Writing Exercises to Improve Your Writing Skills

To make the most of your writing exercises and maximize their impact on your craft, try following these guidelines. The goal is to create a focused and productive environment that nurtures your creativity and boosts your writing skills.

Set Specific Goals

Setting specific goals for your writing practice is crucial, not just for writing exercises but writing your novel, too. 

For your author workouts specifically, clear goals provide a sense of direction and purpose, allowing you to tailor your exercises to address areas of improvement. Whether it's enhancing dialogue, refining descriptive skills, or exploring new genres, having specific goals will help you stay focused and track your progress.

But understanding why goal setting is important is the first step. 

Goals provide clarity and motivation, give you a sense of achievement when accomplished, and allow you to measure your growth as you become a better writer yourself. If you need a hand setting goals for your author journey, click here.

To set specific goals for your writing practice, break them down into manageable and measurable targets. For example, instead of setting a vague goal like "Improve dialogue," specify it as "Write three dialogue-heavy scenes with distinct character voices this week." 

This will help you create actionable steps and allow you to track your progress much more effectively.

Create a Writing Schedule

Establishing a consistent schedule is key to making the most of your writing exercises. Having dedicated time for writing creates a routine and trains your brain to be more productive during those designated periods. 

Whether you choose to write daily, a few times a week, or on specific days, establishing a schedule also helps you prioritize your writing practice, which is the bane of most authors.

Consider your personal preferences and commitments when creating your writing timeslots. Choose a time of day when you feel most alert and creative, whether it's early morning, late evening, or during your lunch break. And find a quiet and comfortable space where you can focus without distractions.

For a full guide on creating a writing schedule, click here.

Take Breaks

While it may seem counterintuitive, taking breaks during your writing sessions is essential for maintaining productivity and avoiding burnout. Pushing yourself too hard without breaks can lead to mental fatigue and really mess with the quality of your writing. 

By incorporating short breaks into your writing routine, you allow your mind to rest, recharge, and return to the task with renewed energy and fresh perspectives.

Experiment with different break durations and intervals to find what works best for you. Some writers prefer shorter, frequent breaks every 30 minutes, while others opt for longer breaks after an hour or two of focused writing. 

During your breaks, engage in activities that help you relax and clear your mind, like stretching, going for a walk, listening to music, or literally anything that isn’t writing. The goal is to give yourself some mental and physical rejuvenation before diving back into your story.

Don't Edit While Writing

While this is true when writing your book’s first draft, it’s extra true when doing some writing exercises. 

It's essential to resist the urge to edit or revise your work in progress. Editing prematurely can disrupt your flow and hinder the creative process, which is the opposite of what we want. Writing exercises are meant to be spontaneous and exploratory, allowing you to generate ideas without judgment or self-censorship. 

Embrace imperfections and let your ideas flow freely onto the page without the pressure of perfection.

By refraining from editing while writing, you create a safe space to experiment, take risks, and discover new possibilities. 

Remember, the purpose of writing exercises is to generate raw material that can be refined later during the revision stage. Allow yourself the freedom to make mistakes, explore different narrative paths, don't worry about word count, and let your creativity flourish without the constraints of self-criticism.

Experiment with Different Exercises

To keep your writing practice engaging and dynamic, don't be afraid to experiment with different types of exercises. Variety is a vital ingredient for stimulating your creativity and expanding your writing skills. 

Explore prompts, character development exercises, plot development exercises, or freewriting to explore new ideas and challenge yourself in different ways.

In turn, this helps you break out of your comfort zone and discover hidden strengths and interests. It allows you to explore various writing techniques, genres, story ideas, and perspectives, helping you grow as a versatile writer. 

Want Some Free Writing Exercises?

After checking out these writing workout ideas, which ones stand out? Which do you want to tackle first? Which seemed like a complete snooze fest?

I won’t take your answer personally, I promise.

Because it’s all about finding what works best for you and which writing exercises will help your journey.

To help you out, check out all these free writing exercises. Combined with what you’ve learned here, you’re well on your way to becoming an imagination bodybuilder.

And if you want more inspiration, subscribe to our newsletter here. We don’t spam you, because nobody wants that, but will provide you with articles just like this one to help you get your dang book done.

Doug Landsborough

Doug Landsborough can’t get enough of writing. Whether freelancing as an editor, blog writer, or ghostwriter, Doug is a big fan of the power of words. In his spare time, he writes about monsters, angels, and demons under the name D. William Landsborough. When not obsessing about sympathetic villains and wondrous magic, Doug enjoys board games, horror movies, and spending time with his wife, Sarah.