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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Working out is always worth it

The workouts I'm referring to are, of course, writing exercises.  I'm always impressed with how refreshed I am after such work, and even if it takes me away from the big WiP, the effect of my increased enthusiasm on the work rate demonstrates that it's worth it.  Without fail.

I think sometimes we can be too focused on our word counts, targets and long term plans.  We daren't take away our writing time to play - yet often it's the very thing that would invigorate both us and the current WiP.

Some of the exercises I've had fun with have come from:
The Five-Minute Writer, Margret Geraghty
The Writer's Idea Book, Jack Heffron
The Write-Brain Workbook, Bonnie Neubauer

It can also be good to do exercises based on your current WiP.  You can write extra episodes in a character's life to help you understand them - or to exorcise an idea that just doesn't fit in the novel.  Or you can try out different scenarios for getting your characters where you need them to be.

So, to stretch (sorry ;-)) the metaphor to its fullest, writing exercises can be like a warm-up, flexing your creative muscles and easing you into the real work.  They can also help you to avoid burn-out by adding variation to your schedule.

Here's a couple of fun exercises I devised with my creative writing group for Hallowe'en:

  • Practice 'show, don't tell' by writing a paragraph in which a character is scared.  You must demonstrate their fear as many ways as possible and avoid the word 'scared' and its synonyms.
  • Write a poem, a brief monologue or a flash fiction piece inspired by an unusual phobia.  A handy list of phobias is available online at the phobia list.


  1. They don't have my phobia up there: a fear of buttons.

  2. You're right - there's only belly buttons. How odd! Mine is there: chionophobia (snow). I'm not very happy at the moment...


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