How do beginners practice writing?
Here you are as an adult who’s decided to make writing an essential part of your life.
However little practice you’ve had until now, it’s not too late to become a writer.
It’s as simple (and challenging) as showing up every day to write something.
Getting started on your daily writing can be tricky, though–especially if it’s not a habit yet.
That’s why we’ve rounded up this collection of 35 fun writing exercises for adults.
What Exercises Can I Do to Improve My Writing Skills?
We’re not talking about writing prompts (which are also helpful). Writing exercises usually focus on a specific type of writing to help you develop your skills.
The list in this post offers a variety of fiction writing exercises, each dealing with one or more of the following:
- Sensory Description
- Character Development
Since there’s plenty of room for overlap with these types, the list below doesn’t separate them. You can choose, though, to focus on one specific type for each exercise.
If you’re still wondering, “How do I start writing as an adult?” the answer is to do just that: start writing. We all have to start somewhere. The older you are when you begin, the more experiences you can draw from for your writing material.
35 Writing Exercises for Adults
What better way to get started and build a daily writing habit than with some easy writing exercises?
Look through the list below and start with the one that gets your mind immediately working on ideas. Don’t worry if those ideas quiet down the moment you begin.
Take a deep breath (or two) and write whatever comes to mind.
1. Write up to ten emotions on as many strips of paper and put them in a container. Choose an object, and then pick out one of the pieces of paper. Write about the object from the perspective of a character feeling that emotion. Or write a journal entry for a character, expressing that emotion and explaining why they feel it.
2. Start with a blank page and whatever is on your mind, and just write. This is a stream of consciousness exercise where you just let the thoughts pour onto the page without worrying about grammar, spelling, or technique. The point is to just get the words flowing without interruption. Choose the topic, and run with it.
3. Take one of your works in progress or a story you’ve enjoyed reading, and write from the perspective of one of its characters. It can be the protagonist, the chief antagonist, or anyone else. Get into the character’s head and write freely about the story or another character from their point of view.
4. Choose a creative writing prompt for the day and write for a solid five minutes using whatever comes to mind. Don’t worry about how it sounds or whether you think it’s bestseller material. The point here isn’t to write something masterful; it’s to help you get used to writing without a filter. Editing is not part of this.
5. Imagine you’ve gone back in time, and you have the opportunity to say something to your younger self. Write about how that encounter would go and what, if anything, you would say to warn them about a pivotal decision you remember making. Would you encourage them to choose differently? Or would you just be there for yourself?
6. Write a fake advertisement for a roommate, a job, a product of your own making, or whatever you want. Have fun with it. You can even advertise yourself, offering your services as a memoir writer, a food tester, an interior designer, or whatever. It doesn’t have to be something you’re good at.
7. Write a short blog post from the perspective of one of your story characters — or any character you choose from a TV series, a movie, or a story you’ve enjoyed reading. Write about something they’ve learned, something they want to do, or someone who’s on their mind a lot lately.
8. Describe your ideal home office using as much sensory detail as possible. Include the color scheme, the decorating style and type of furniture, the smells from candles or fresh flowers, the taste of your favorite working beverage and/or snacks, and the tactile sensations you experience while working in that room.
9. Pick a number between one and ten. Choose a book from your shelf and go to that number page and to that number line on the page. Use it as a prompt for a poem and take it in whatever direction you choose. Don’t worry about technique. Write the words that come as a sort of free association exercise.
10. Your character comes to you with a problem. Your job, for this exercise, is to keep asking the question, “Why?” and writing down whatever they give as their answer. If they get exasperated (and rude), you can go with that, too. Make the words fit your character. And don’t be afraid to go deep.
11. Pretend you’re a talk show host, and your special guest is the protagonist or antagonist of a favorite story or your own work in progress. Record your conversation as a dialogue, and don’t be afraid to ask personal or challenging questions. Let your guest answer in a way that fits their character.
12. You’ve gone to a party with a favorite story character, and they’ve had a bit too much to drink. What might they say or do when they’re less inhibited? Record a conversation you have with their drunken self or describe a scene they create while under the influence. And what are the consequences?
13. Describe an unexpectedly romantic scene between two characters. Start with something mundane and have one of the characters say something unexpected — either from a sudden rush of emotion or because they’re distracted and not thinking about the words coming out. Write about what happens between them.
14. Write a detailed description of the room you’re in right now. What details stand out for you, and why do they matter? What would you change if you could? What can you do today or this week to make this room better for writing in? Or what do you love about this room that no other room has?
15. Your character steps through a portal into a place of your choosing. Describe it using words to set a particular mood. How does your character feel as they walk deeper into the scene? Are they afraid, curious, hungry, sad, or something else? And how does that emotion affect their perception of their surroundings?
16. Write a dialogue between two characters who keep misinterpreting each other’s words and nonverbal cues, thanks to their own distorted self-perception. Is one of them convinced the other finds them unattractive or annoying? Is the other trying to work up the nerve to ask them out? Add descriptions of body language.
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17. Use your phone or computer to record yourself talking about whatever is on your mind, either from your perspective or that of a favorite character. When you’ve done this for at least five minutes (set a timer), use the text-to-speech function to transcribe what you’ve recorded.
18. Recall your text-to-speech exercise and pretend you’re taking down your thoughts (or your character’s thoughts) from mental dictation. Use a prompt, if it helps, and record their stream-of-consciousness thinking process without editing or filtering any of the content. Write exactly as you (or they) talk.
19. Imagine you’ve just inherited or won a huge, life-changing sum of money, and you’re discussing it with someone close to you. What ideas do both of you have for its use? Do you disagree on how best to manage the money? Or are you both finally able to do something you’ve wanted to do — together or separately?
20. Find the day’s Twitter #vss word prompt (140 characters or fewer) and write something using that word — a brief dialogue, a pivotal moment, a shocking advertisement, etc. Write as many as you like, and, if you have a Twitter account, share one with your followers, making sure to include #vss and other relevant tags.
21. Choose a character and write about something they’re ashamed of. How did they learn to be ashamed of it? Who in that character’s past contributed to that? And what could another character do to help them confront that shame and heal from it? What, if anything, does this character need to hear, admit, or do to overcome it?
22. If you or one of your characters becomes physically ill at the prospect of doing something or going somewhere, what’s causing this immediate onset of physical symptoms, and how exactly do they manifest? What could you or your character do to change the way you respond to this perceived threat?
23. Write a letter to yourself to read a year from now. Write as if you’ve accomplished all the things you want to do over the next 12 months. Describe how your life has changed and what you love about it. What changes have you made and undergone that you’re proud of? Where did you begin with the changes?
24. Write about a dialogue between you and an important person in your life. Add any sensory details and body language you remember. What emotions did you feel, and how did this conversation affect you? What did you realize that you expressed to the other person—or that you couldn’t put into words?
25. Put yourself in a character’s shoes and write about the moment they realized they were in love with someone. What were they thinking and feeling in that moment? What did they do with those feelings? And how did it affect their next interaction with that person? Were they free to express what they were feeling?
26. Find a small box and tape it securely shut. Let your imagination run loose and write about what’s in the box and why you can’t risk opening it (at least not until the time is right). Or write about what will happen when the box is opened and its contents revealed. What or whom are you protecting?
27. Describe your perfect bedroom down to the smallest sensory detail. What do you love most about it—the colors, the bedding, the furniture, the closet, etc.? What descriptive words come to mind when you think of that space? Whom do you allow to enter that room (as long as you’re there and they knock first)?
28. Create a timeline of important moments in a character’s life. What experiences shaped them as a person? What pivotal moments have contributed to the life they live now? What choices have they made that led them to where they are? How might you explain their biggest fears or characteristic tendencies?
29. If you’re writing a story, describe a pivotal moment from the perspective of an outsider who witnessed that moment but is not part of the story. What do they notice that your characters do not? How do they interpret the situation since, as an outsider, they’re not privy to important background information?
30. Take a character of your own making (or someone else’s) and put them through something that pushes their limits and deeply affects them, leaving them uncertain as to how to make sense of it. Show how it changes their perspective and their behavior from that point forward.
31. Brainstorm a list of at least five ideas for something related to a story you’re writing: five surprising or defining facts about your main character, five things your antagonist would do to mess with your protagonist, five important details about your story’s setting, five ways your main character could get what they want, etc.
32. Choose a book written by an author you admire and write about an important moment in your life using the voice from a particular character in that book (protagonist, villain, etc.). How would they express what they’re feeling or how they’re inclined to react? What would they do that you would not—or vice-versa?
33. Describe in detail the kind of relationship you want for yourself. Make a list of must-haves and of nice-to-have qualities in a partner. You can also pretend you’re writing a profile description for an online dating site. Or write a letter to your current or future partner about what you really want to have with them.
34. Pick one of your characters and describe the best day of their life in detail. What made it their best day ever? When did it happen, and how? Have they tried to recreate that day more recently? And if so, how did it go? What (if anything) went wrong? Or what happened as an unintended consequence?
35. Write down three random nouns, four adjectives, two verbs, and one adverb for a Mad Libs exercise. Now, write at least 500 words of a story that uses all ten of those words. It doesn’t have to make sense. In fact, the goofier, the better. This can be a self-contained story or the first chapter of a longer one.
Now that you’ve looked through all 35 creative writing exercises, which ones stood out for you? And which one will you try today? The goal here is to get you so comfortable with writing it becomes second nature.
You don’t need perfect; you just need to start somewhere.