Whether you’re an established professional or a wordsmith in the making, writing exercises are hugely beneficial.
In fact, as a professional writing agency, we’ve seen firsthand how writing exercises can help you master your craft and write with greater confidence.
That’s why we put together this list of our favorite and most effective exercises for writers.
Think of it like a full-body workout routine for your creative muscles. Different exercises target different skills, building them up and keeping them strong. Below, you’ll find writing exercises to break through writer’s block, boost your creativity, develop your voice, and master the fundamentals of writing — all while having fun. We’ve even included “Level Up” challenges to push your writing skills even further.
Before you get started
Here are some tips to help you get the most out of writing exercises:
- Exercise during your “prime writing time,” before other writing tasks. This is when you’re most focused and productive — whether that’s the early morning, middle of the day, or late evening. You’ll harness your peak creativity and get a nice warm-up.
- Write in a designated space. This can be anywhere you’d like — your bedroom or home office, a local café, or a park nearby. Having a designated space for writing makes it easier for your brain to switch into creative mode.
- Set clear goals. Think about what you want to achieve and choose exercises accordingly. You might want to practice explaining complex topics in simple terms, for example, or using descriptive language.
- Keep an open mind. These exercises are meant to push you out of your comfort zone. Stay open to unexpected ideas, go with the flow, and be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Just as muscles grow through resistance, your skills will develop as you challenge yourself and try new things.
- Don’t overexert yourself. You may be tempted to tackle multiple exercises at a time, but be careful to avoid burnout. If you're doing an exercise before paid work, it's important you don't use up all your energy. Take short breaks between exercises, and only do a few at a time.
Best exercises to improve your writing
Now, let’s enter the “Writer’s Gym” and explore 16 exercises to improve your writing.
1. Freewrite, then condense by half
How it works: Ignites creativity and strengthens concision and self-editing skills.
Pick any topic you like, set a five-minute timer, and write whatever comes to mind. Don’t stop until the timer goes off.
Once time’s up, read through your free-written text and reset the timer. Rewrite your text in half as many words, conveying the same message or theme.
2. The noun + verb exercise
How it works: Provides a launchpad for new work and teaches simplicity in storytelling.
“Take any noun, put it with any verb, and you have a sentence. It never fails.” — Stephen King
Inspired by a quote from Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, this exercise is simple but effective: Pair a random noun with a random verb to form a sentence. Then, use this to begin a new piece of writing.
Here’s an example:
• Marienne [noun] + panicked [verb] → Marienne panicked. She felt her heart beat hard, blood rushing to her face, as the detective approached her. Did he suspect she was guilty?
3. Use random words, prompts, or plots
How it works: Encourages creative thinking, expands your vocabulary, and improves your ability to overcome writer’s block.
One of the best ways to get your creative juices flowing is to use random words, prompts, or plots as a starting point.
Many writers do it — and one even got a Grammy-winning result! When music producer Rick Rubin was working with the band System of a Down on a song, they were stuck on lyrics. Rubin told lead singer Serj Tankian to grab a book off his bookshelf, open it to a random page, and say the first phrase he saw. Tankian did, and the phrase became a key part of the band’s smash hit, “Chop Suey!”, which won a Grammy in 2002.
Here are a few of our favorite resources and generators for random words, prompts, and plots:
- Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day: Write a paragraph using the word of the day, or build an entire scene around it.
- WordCounter’s Random Word Generator: Request a string of random words and create a custom list of the ones you like most. Then, incorporate all your chosen words into a new piece of writing.
- Reedsy’s Plot Generator: Pick a genre — or let Reedsy choose one for you — and get details about a protagonist, secondary character, plot, and plot twist. Craft a short story using this information.
- ChatGPT: Ask the AI tool, “Provide me a list of 5 random writing prompts.” See what it generates, and write in response to the most interesting one.
- Squibler’s Random Prompt Generator: Generate a writing prompt, select how many minutes (3-60) or words (75-1,667) you want to spend writing, and write directly within Squibler. There’s even a “hardcore mode” that hides your text until you reach your time or word goal.
4. Adopt a new perspective
How it works: Expands your narrative range and lets you see your writing from other perspectives.
Write in a perspective you don’t usually use.
For example, if you usually write in the first person (using I/me/my pronouns), challenge yourself to write a scene or explain a topic in the second person instead (from the reader’s point of view, using you/your/yours pronouns).
Or, if you normally write in the first or second person, try writing in the third person, using he/her/they/it pronouns as a narrator separate from the text.
5. Write a letter
How it works: Encourages clear, concise expression and gets you comfortable with more personable writing.
Select a person you’re familiar with — a friend, relative, or even your past self — and write them a letter. Tell them a story, explain your viewpoint on a topic, or share a recent experience. Limit yourself to a single page.
6. The “I remember…” exercise
How it works: Lets you access deeper emotions and personal experiences, which can make your writing more authentic.
We discovered this exercise through memoirist and novelist Dani Shapiro. She shared it after reading Joe Brainard’s memoir I Remember, in which every paragraph (usually a single sentence) begins with “I remember.”
In this exercise, you’ll mirror Brainard’s method: Begin with “I remember,” write a sentence, and then build off it with another sentence beginning with “I remember.”
“We discover what we know through what we write on the page,” Shapiro explains. “Every single time you do this exercise, it’ll come out differently.”
7. Write your dialogue like a script
How it works: Hones your ability to create distinct voices and teaches you good conversational flow.
Craft a conversation between two characters without using dialogue tags — e.g., “I said,” “James whispered,” “you answered,” etc. — as if you were writing a script.
“Invent whatever you want. Write a speech for each [character]. … Make each speech sound different from the other so you can instantly know just from the words [who’s speaking],” Martin instructs. “If they all sound the same, you have a problem.”
8. Constrain your word count
How it works: Promotes concision and clarity by encouraging you to choose your words wisely.
Embrace the art of microfiction by writing a complete story in under 500 words.
9. The “ELI5” exercise
How it works: Strengthens clarity, improves your skills in expressing complex ideas simply, and encourages you to think of your audience.
“ELI5” stands for “Explain Like I’m 5” and comes from the subreddit of the same name. There, users explain facts and ideas as if they were speaking to a five-year-old — or, more practically, the average person.
For this exercise, take the ELI5 practice and apply it to your writing: Describe a concept, scene, or event in a way a layperson could understand. Follow the official ELI5 rules: “Avoid unexplained technical terms,” “don’t condescend,” and “keep it clear and simple.”
10. Avoid adjectives and adverbs
How it works: Trains you to avoid writing “crutches” and use stronger nouns and verbs instead.
Create a scene, explain a topic, or describe an event without using any adjectives (words that describe nouns, like “beautiful dress”) or adverbs (words that modify verbs, adjectives, other adverbs, and sentences, like “sang loudly”). Use strong verbs and nouns in their place.
“The moon was snow-white [adjective] and bright [adjective] against the inky [adjective] sky.” → “The moon glowed against the sky.”
“The cat ran [verb] quickly [adverb] into the house.” → “The cat darted into the house.”
Sci-fi author Ursula K. Le Guin recommends this exercise in her book Steering the Craft. “The point is to give a vivid description of a scene or an action using only verbs, nouns, pronouns, and articles,” she writes.
11. Rewrite a Wikipedia article
How it works: Lets you practice adjusting tone and adapting writing for different audiences.
Wikipedia articles are pretty to the point — but they can also feel somewhat stiff or formal in tone. That makes them the perfect starting point for an exercise in adjusting tone.
Head to Wikipedia, click the menu on the left-hand side of the screen, and tap Random article. This will generate a completely random article. (You can keep clicking Random article until you land on one that interests you.)
Select a few paragraphs from the article and rewrite them in a friendly, casual tone. Think, “How would I describe this information to a friend?”
12. Complete the Proust Questionnaire
How it works: Fosters a deeper understanding of your narrator and your audience, which can help you write more authentically and better connect with readers.
French essayist and novelist Marcel Proust popularized the Proust Questionnaire after answering a series of questions in a parlor game called a “confession album.” The questionnaire is like a personality quiz, meant to reveal the answerer’s true nature. These days, it’s commonly used as an interview tool and writing exercise.
For a writing exercise, complete the Proust Questionnaire as your work's narrator (even if it’s you!) or target audience. This will leave you with a “character sketch” for your narrator or a “persona” for your audience.
You can find the Proust Questionnaire here.
13. Write mock advertisements
How it works: Sharpens your persuasive writing skills and lets you practice using different tones.
In this exercise, you’ll write two ads for a fictional product. Your goal is to persuade your reader to buy it. Think of your own imaginary product, or use an online product name generator if you get stuck.
First, write an ad that would appear in print, like in a magazine or newspaper. These charge per word for ads, so you’ll need to make every word count. Try limiting yourself to 100 words or fewer, and use a more direct, professional tone.
Next, create an ad that would be shared online, such as on social media. For this one, aim for 250 words maximum and use a friendlier, more relaxed tone.
14. Focus on a single sense
How it works: Develops your descriptive language skills and encourages you to make your writing more engaging.
Pick one of the five senses — smell, sight, taste, touch, or sound — and describe how you’re experiencing it in the moment. What can you smell, see, taste, feel, or hear? Spend five minutes freewriting, using as much detail as possible.
15. Start at the end
How it works: Improves your understanding of good writing structure, logical flow, and impactful introductions and conclusions.
In this exercise, you’ll write out of order, starting with the conclusion and working backward until you reach the introduction.
To begin, find a piece of writing — a blog article, news piece, research paper, short story, novel, etc. — and go to its ending. Copy its final paragraph. Think of how the text might have progressed to reach this conclusion. How did it begin? What unfolded along the way?
Then, reverse engineer the text in 10 paragraphs or fewer. Consider how each paragraph builds on the previous one and supports the argument or narrative.
16. Create a reverse outline
How it works: Refines your skills in structure, organization, and coherence and encourages you to critically evaluate your work.
You’ll need a finished draft to complete this exercise. Carefully read your draft and, on a new page, write a one-sentence summary of each paragraph. Then, turn your list of sentences into a bulleted or numbered list. Voilà — you have a reverse outline.
Next, read your outline and ask yourself, “Are my ideas well-organized? Do all my points relate to my main argument? Is there no repeated information?” Revisit your draft if you answer “no” to any of these questions.
All writers can improve their skills with practice and dedication. By completing writing exercises, you can develop creativity and confidence in your craft — without it feeling like a chore.
We’ve shared our picks for the best writing exercises so you can start flexing your creative muscles today. Remember to write when you’re most productive, in a designated space, at a comfortable pace, and with an open mind.
• To learn more about improving your writing, visit Eleven’s Grammar Hub and explore our writing and editing guides. You can also sign up for Eleven’s Freelance Writing Mastery course.
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