Two Writing Exercises From a Guy Who Never Uses Writing Exercises
Updated: Nov 23, 2017
I never use writing exercises...except when I feel like my writing is getting turgid and heavy, laden with extra crap that I don't need. That tells me I've gotten lazy and need one of these two "palette cleansers." I share them with you in the hopes that they will help improve your writing as they have mine.
I like them because they reflect two of my key beliefs about successful writing and writers: that the best writing is concise and stripped of excess, and the best writers can write fast without sacrificing quality. So, without further ado...
The best writing is concise and stripped of excess, and the best writers can write fast without sacrificing quality.
Exercise #1: Reduction Reps
Pick a story, any story. A story from your childhood, an account from a trip, your first date, whatever. Write it in 500 words or less. The next day, write the same account in 250 words or less. Day 3, write it in 100 words or less. On the fourth day, write it in 50 words or less. I'm not talking about editing the previous day's work but writing the story from scratch each day. This helps you slash and burn extra junk that slips into your writing: adverbs, adjectives, details that don't further the plot, "throat clearing" phrases like "In any case," and so on.
Exercise #2: Speed Writing
One of the big reasons I can write 6-8 books a year is that I write really fast. That's a skill. This time, the target is 1000 words, but now you're going to remove time, not words. Pick a topic you want to write about and write 1000 words on it (give or take 50 words here or there) in an hour. That's fast. The next day, try to write 1000 words on another topic in 50 minutes. On Day 3, try to do it in 40 minutes, and on Day 4, try to hit 1000 in half an hour. What makes this really powerful is that you choose a new subject each day, so you're not rehashing but creating new ideas...FAST. This actually makes your writing better because you don't have time to self-edit, one of the worst bits of self-sabotage writers commit.
Bam. Go write. Peace.