Writing Exercises: Writer, Know Thyself

writing exercises to help writers understand themselves

Writing exercises: Writer, know thyself.

Today’s writing exercise is an excerpt from 101 Creative Writing Exercises, a book packed with writing exercises and ideas. Enjoy!

Writer, Know Thyself

This exercise asks you to look in the mirror and ask yourself a critical question:

Why do I write? Read More

From 101 Creative Writing Exercises: You’re the Expert

creative writing exercises

From 101 Creative Writing Exercises: You’re the Expert.

Here’s a creative writing exercise from 101 Creative Writing Exercises, a book that takes writers on an inspired journey through different forms and genres of writing while offering comprehensive writing techniques, practical experience, and ideas for publishable projects.

Each chapter focuses on a different form or concept: freewriting, journaling, fiction, poetry, creativity, and article writing are all covered.

Today, we’ll take a peek at “Chapter Ten: Article and Blog Writing” with an exercise called “You’re the Expert.” Enjoy!

You’re the Expert

You know a little bit about a lot of things, but there are a few things you know a lot about. And knowledge is power.

One of the traditional duties of a writer is to collect and redistribute knowledge and information. After all, writers are responsible for textbooks, instruction manuals, and reference collections, like encyclopedias.

The Internet has made this type of material more accessible than ever before. People no longer have to trudge down to the library or buy expensive sets of encyclopedias (which quickly become outdated) to research and learn. They just log in and look it up.

The Exercise

Choose something you know a lot about. In fact, choose the one thing you know the most about. It could a subject you studied in school. It could be a video game you’ve played for countless hours. It could be something simple, like the parts of speech in the English language, or it could be something complicated, like how photosynthesis works. Write an informative article explaining this thing to a layperson—someone with zero experience or knowledge about the topic.

Tips: Assume your reader is ignorant about the subject. If you’re doing a piece on photosynthesis, assume your reader doesn’t know what carbon dioxide is. If you’re doing a complex piece, break it down into simple steps and definitions.

Variations: If you’d rather not get into the nitty gritty about your subject matter, write a statement explaining your own expertise. Why are you qualified to write about photosynthesis?

Applications: Many writers have built careers around writing about what they know best or what they can research and explain to readers.

Don’t forget to pick up a copy of 101 Creative Writing Exercises, available in paperback and ebook.

101 creative writing exercises


From 101 Creative Writing Exercises: Haiku

101 creative writing exercises - haiku

Haiku, from 101 Creative Writing Exercises.

Today’s writing exercise comes from my book, 101 Creative Writing Exercises, which takes writers on an exciting journey through different forms and genres while providing writing techniques, practical experience, and inspiration.

Each chapter focuses on a different form or writing concept: freewriting, journaling, memoirs, fiction, storytelling, form poetry, free verse, characters, dialogue, creativity, and article and blog writing are all covered.

Today, we’ll take a peek at “Chapter Seven: Form Poetry” with a poetry exercise simply called “Haiku.” Enjoy!


Although haiku appears to be one of the simplest poetry forms, it’s actually quite complex. To truly understand haiku, you need to know a little bit about the Japanese language, or more specifically, some key differences between Japanese and English. Also, traditional haiku adhere to a few pretty strict rules regarding form and content.

A haiku consists of seventeen moras or phonetic units. The word mora can loosely be translated as syllable.

A haiku is a seventeen-syllable verse. Traditionally, haiku were written on a single line, but modern haiku occupy three lines of 5-7-5 syllables.

Haiku also use a device called kireji (cutting word). This word breaks the haiku into two parts, which are distinctly different but inherently connected. The kireji is not a concept used in English, so poets writing haiku in English often use punctuation marks instead of kireji, usually a hyphen or ellipses.

The kireji provides structure to the verse and emphasizes imagery used on either side. It may not always be easy to identify the kireji in a haiku, but if you look for a word or punctuation mark that abruptly breaks the train of thought and severs the haiku into two parts, you’ve probably found it.

Another basic element of haiku is the kigo (season word). A true haiku is set in a particular season and is fundamentally concerned with nature. The kigo might be an obvious word like snow (indicating winter) or it could be vague as with a word like leaves (which can be present in any season).

Contemporary Haiku

There is much debate (and some controversy) over what technically qualifies as a haiku. Some poets merely adhere to the 5-7-5 syllabic and line structure and disregard the kireji and kigo elements. Purists insist that a poem is not haiku if it does not meet all of the traditional requirements.

Additionally, many modern poets do not write haiku that exclusively focus on nature. Contemporary haiku explore just about any subject imaginable.

The Exercise

Try your hand at writing a few haiku. For this exercise, focus on writing a poem that is seventeen syllables on three lines with the following meter: 5-7-5.

Tips: The most captivating haiku are quite lovely and use imagery that is almost tangible. Many haiku have an element of surprise or use turns of phrase that are clever, reminiscent of puns.

Variations: Write a few haiku that follow stricter, more traditional rules. These haiku are concerned with nature and include the kireji (cutting word) and kigo (season word).

Applications: Haiku remain popular and can be found in literary and poetry journals. They are also ideal for social media (especially Twitter) and are fun and quick to write. They promote clear, concise writing and can help you cultivate the art of using vivid imagery.

Give it a Try

Feel free to write a haiku and share it in the comments. Don’t forget to pick up a copy of 101 Creative Writing Exercises, available in paperback and ebook.

101 Creative Writing Exercises


From 101 Creative Writing Exercises: What’s Your Superpower?

creative writing exercises - your superpower

Discover your superpower by doing creative writing exercises.

Today, I’d like to share a fun exercise from my book 101 Creative Writing Exercises.

The book is packed with writing exercises that encourage you to explore different forms and genres while you discover useful writing techniques. You’ll find plenty of inspiration throughout the book with ideas for projects you can eventually publish.

Today’s exercise is from chapter 11, “Creativity.” It’s called “What’s Your Superpower?” Enjoy!

What’s Your Superpower?

What if you could fly or make yourself invisible? What if you could heal with a touch or read minds? Superpowers like these are the stuff of science fiction.

Savants and prodigies are superheroes in their own rights, and they exist in the real world.

A prodigy is someone (often a young child) with an extraordinary talent or ability: a twelve-year-old college graduate or a fifteen-year-old Nobel Prize contender.

A savant is someone who is an expert whereas someone with savant syndrome (savantism) is a person with a developmental disability who also has superhuman expertise, ability, or brilliance in a particular area.

Prodigies and savants are real-world superheroes!

The Exercise

Create a new superpower. Write a clear description of it, and make sure you include the following:

  • Explain how the superpower is obtained.
  • Anyone with that superpower also has a specific weakness (like Superman’s kryptonite).
  • Describe how someone might use this superpower for good or evil.

If you’re so inclined, create a character who possesses this power and write a story about it.

Tips: Stay away from overdone powers like flight, invisibility, and super strength. Avoid psychic powers like telepathy and telekinesis. Think up something fresh: for example, someone who can breathe in outer space.

Variations: If science fiction isn’t your thing or if you’re tired of superheroes, then come up with a character who is a prodigy or who has savantism.

Applications: Many stories, both real and fictional, feature ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. In this exercise, you flip convention on its head and create a character who is extraordinary. How does an extraordinary person fit into the ordinary world?

Don’t forget to pick up a copy of 101 Creative Writing Exercises, available in paperback and ebook.

101 Creative Writing Exercises


From 101 Creative Writing Exercises: Body Language

101 creative writing exercises - Body Language

Take a peek at “Body Language” from 101 Creative Writing Exercises.

101 Creative Writing Exercises is a collection of creative writing exercises that takes writers on a journey through different forms and genres while providing writing techniques, practical experience, and inspiration.

Each exercise teaches a specific concept, and each chapter focuses on a different subject or form of writing: journaling, storytelling, fiction, poetry, article writing, and more. Every exercise is designed to be practical. In other words, you can use these exercises to launch projects that are destined for publication.

Today, I’d like to share one of my favorite exercises from the book. This is from “Chapter Four: Speak Up,” which focuses on dialogue and scripts. The exercise is called “Body Language.” Enjoy!

Body Language

Sometimes what people say without actually speaking tells us a whole lot more than what comes out of their mouths. Using body language to communicate is natural. We all understand it intuitively—some better than others.

As a writer, you can closely observe people’s body language and learn how humans speak without words so you can bring unspoken communication into your writing.

Imagine two characters, a man and woman, who are complete strangers. They are in a bookstore. Their eyes meet across the room. You wouldn’t write “Their eyes locked. They were instantly attracted to each other.” That would be boring and unimaginative. Instead, you would let the scene unfold and describe it to the reader—how their eyes met, how he gulped and she blushed, how they both suddenly felt warm, how the two of them slowly worked their way toward the center of the store until they finally met in the horror section.

The Exercise

Write a scene between two (or more) characters in which there is no dialogue but the characters are communicating with each other through body language. You can also write a nonfiction piece. Surely you have experienced nonverbal communication. Take that experience and describe it on the page.

Your scene can be a lead-in to two characters meeting or conversing. The scene should comprise at least two pages of non-dialogue interaction with two or more characters. Here are a few scene starters:

  • A cop, detective, or private investigator is tailing a suspect through a small town, a big city, a mall, amusement park, or other public area.
  • Strangers are always good for body language exercises. Think about where strangers are brought together: public transportation, classes, elevators, and formal meetings.
  • Kids in a classroom aren’t supposed to be speaking while a teacher is giving a lecture, but they always find ways to communicate.

Tips: What if one character misinterprets another character’s body language? That could lead to humor or disaster. Maybe the characters are supposed to be doing something else (like in a classroom where they’re supposed to be listening to the teacher) but instead, they’re making faces and gestures at each other. One helpful technique might be to go inside the characters’ heads, but don’t get too carried away with he thought and she wondered as these constructs are basically inner dialogue.

Variations: As an alternative, write a scene in which one character speaks and one doesn’t: an adult and a baby, a human and an animal.

Applications: There are depictions of nonverbal communication in almost all types of storytelling from journalism and biography to memoir and fiction.

101 creative writing exercises


From 101 Creative Writing Exercises: Couplets and Quatrains

Couplets and quatrains

Couplets and quatrains, a poetry writing exercise.

Today’s writing exercise comes from 101 Creative Writing Exercises, which takes writers on an adventure through different forms and genres while offering tools, techniques, and inspiration for writers.

Each chapter focuses on a different form or writing concept: freewriting, journaling, memoirs, fiction, storytelling, form poetry, free verse, characters, dialogue, creativity, and article and blog writing are all covered.

Today, we’ll take a peek at “Chapter Seven: Form Poetry” with a poetry exercise called “Couplets and Quatrains.” Enjoy!

Couplets and Quatrains, a Poetry Writing Exercise

Poetry may not be the most widely read or published form of writing these days, but it’s probably the most widely written.

Despite the lack of enthusiasm for the form among readers and publishers, poetry still has a traditional place in our culture. You’ll hear poetry read at most significant events, such as weddings, funerals, graduation ceremonies, and presidential inaugurations. Poetry is the foundation for most children’s books, and it’s so closely related to songwriting that in many cases, it’s hard to tell the difference between a poem and a song lyric.

Couplets and quatrains are two of the most basic building blocks of poetry.


A couplet is a pair of lines in a poem. The lines usually rhyme and have the same meter or syllable count. Contemporary couplets may not rhyme; some of them use a pause or white space where a rhyme would occur.

Couplets can be used in a number of ways. Some poems are simply a couplet. Other poems are composed of a series of couplets. Stanzas can end with a couplet, or an entire poem can end with a couplet.


A quatrain is either a four-line stanza within a poem or a poem that consists of four lines. Many modern song lyrics are composed of quatrains.

A quatrain may contain one or two couplets. The nursery rhyme “Humpty Dumpty” is a quatrain of two couplets:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

The Exercise

This is a three-part exercise. First write a couplet (two rhyming lines with the same meter or number of syllables). Then write a quatrain (it doesn’t have to include meter or rhymes). Finally, write a quatrain that consists of two couplets.

Tips: Keep your language and subject matter simple. Aim for catchy language and vivid imagery.

Variations: Mix it up—write a poem that consists of a couplet followed by a quatrain and then another couplet. Try using couplets and quatrains to write a song lyric.

Applications: Couplets and quatrains have an infinite number of practical applications for a writer. Couplets are ideal for writing a children’s story, because kids gravitate to simple language and rhythmic rhymes. You can also use couplets and quatrains in songwriting and greeting-card poetry.

From 101 Creative Writing Exercises: Rock and Rhyme (Poetry)

101 creative writing exercises - Rock and Rhyme

From 101 Creative Writing Exercises: Rock and Rhyme Poetry.

Today’s post features an exercise from my book, 101 Creative Writing Exercises, which is filled with exercises for various forms of writing, including fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. It will inspire you while imparting useful writing techniques that are fun and practical.

This exercise comes from “Chapter Eight: Free Verse.” The creative writing exercises in this chapter focus on free-form poetry writing.

I chose this exercise because it’s fun and inspiring. It asks you to use a song as a foundation for writing a poem. Many song lyrics are poems in their own right. This exercise focuses on rhyming, but it also shows you how to look at your writing’s musicality and encourages you to think about rhythm and meter in your work.

Give it a try, then come back and tell us what you learned. Feel free to share the poems or lyrics that you write from this exercise in the comments section.

Rock and Rhyme Poetry Writing Exercise

Rhyming poetry goes in and out of vogue all the time, except when it comes to children’s poetry, which is almost always packed with fun and clever rhymes.

Some poets take to rhyming rather easily, and sound-a-like words roll off their tongues like butter. Other poets struggle, dancing through the alphabet and flipping through rhyming dictionaries just to find a rhyme as simple as bat and cat.

Poems that rhyme may be a challenge for some, but they’re still fun to write and a blast to read (they are especially fun to read out loud). Rhyming is good practice for exploring musicality in language and experimenting with word play.

The Exercise

All you need is a song. A rhythmic and rhyme-y song without a lot of fancy runs. You’ll want a relatively simple tune. A short pop song will work well. Forget about classical music because most of it doesn’t have lyrics, and what we’re doing requires words. We’re writers, right?

Rewrite the lyrics but keep the rhythm and rhyme scheme intact. You don’t have to replace the rhyme ring and sing with a rhyme like thing and bling. But you do need to find another rhyming pair (like dance and pants). Your rhymes can be as strict or as loose as you want.

If you do just a few of these, rhyming will start to come more naturally to you, and your rhymes will flow with greater ease.

Try to rewrite the song on your own, but if you’re really struggling, hit up a rhyming dictionary or a thesaurus.

Tips: You might want to start with a short, three-chord pop song. Then, graduate yourself to longer and more complex tunes. If you know all the lyrics to your song, that will be immensely helpful. If not, do an online search to find the lyrics to the song you want to work with.

Variations: Here are a few variations that you can use for this exercise:

  • Try it with nursery rhymes: Hey diddle diddle.
  • Try it with a famous poem: Shakespeare anyone?
  • Try it using a song without lyrics: You’re on your own!

Applications: Working with rhyme helps you think more carefully about word choice and points your focus to the sound and rhythm of a piece of writing. This is also an excellent exercise for anyone who has thought about writing song lyrics or children’s poems and stories.

I Rocked Some Poetry

Here’s my attempt with the first chorus from 80s one-hit wonder “99 Red Balloons” by Nena.

The Original Verse
You and I in a little toy shop
Buy a bag of balloons with the money we’ve got
Set them free at the break of dawn
Till one by one they were gone
Back at base, bugs in the software
Flash the message: something’s out there
Floating in the summer sky
Ninety-nine red balloons go by

My Attempt to Catch the Rhyme
Shoes untied at a little bus stop
Sigh and whistle a tune ’cause it’s all you’ve got
Set your feet on the tired green lawn
Tie your shoe, stretch and yawn
Five o’clock, the bus should be here
Time is precious, the deadline is near
Waiting till the bus comes by
Ninety-nine cents just for a ride

Are You Ready to Get Down?

Try it for yourself and post a verse or a chorus in the comments! If you’re looking for a song lyric resource, then check out 99 Red Balloons and 100 Other All-Time Great One-Hit Wonders, which is packed with awesome song lyrics that are ideal for this exercise.

101 Creative Writing Exercises


Poetry Writing Exercises: Alliteration and Assonance

poetry writing exercises

Poetry writing exercises: alliteration and assonance.

Today’s poetry writing exercise is an excerpt from 101 Creative Writing Exercises.

The exercises in 101 Creative Writing Exercises encourage you to experiment with different forms and genres while providing inspiration for publishable projects and imparting useful writing techniques that make your writing more robust.

This poetry writing exercise is from “Chapter Eight: Free Verse.” It’s titled “Alliteration and Assonance.” This exercise covers two literary devices that make your writing more rhythmic and memorable. Enjoy!

Poetry Writing Exercise: Alliteration and Assonance

Developing a vocabulary of poetry terms and literary devices will help you better understand the writing techniques and tools that are at your disposal. It may not occur to you that you can build rhythm by repeating consonant sounds. When you know the meaning of alliteration, then this idea is more likely to influence your work.

Poetry terms, such as alliteration and assonance, show us how clever, creative word arrangements add musicality to any piece of writing, making it more compelling and memorable. These terms and the concepts they represent apply to all types of writing, not just poetry.

Alliteration is the repetition of the initial consonant sounds of words in close proximity to one another. Examples of alliteration include black and blue, we walk, and time after time.

In some cases, alliteration is used to refer to any repeated consonant sounds, even if they don’t occur at the beginning of words. An example of this would be “blue notebook,” where the b sound is repeated at the beginning of blue and in the middle of notebook.

Alliteration might also be used to describe the repetition of a consonant sound nestled in the middle or even at the end of words. Blueberry, for example, contains alliteration within a single word.

Assonance is similar to alliteration, except it deals exclusively with vowel sounds. Assonance occurs when accented vowel sounds are repeated in proximity:

Assonance allows literary writers to create fun phrases.

In the example phrase above, there are several runs of assonance. The opening a sounds in the words assonance and allows demonstrate one run of assonance. This run is marked with underlining. A second run is marked with bold lettering and occurs with the a sounds in create and phrases. Can you find a third run of assonance in the sentence?

Assonance often evokes a sense of rhyme without serving up a direct or technical rhyme. The phrase “fancy pants” is an example of this.

So, how are alliteration and assonance used for effect? Well, think about repetition in general. When you repeat something over and over, it becomes embedded in memory. Alliteration and assonance work the same way. If used correctly, these devices enhance the rhythm of a piece, making it more memorable.

The Exercise

Go through a piece of writing (your own or someone else’s) and look for instances of assonance and alliteration.

The material you work with can be poetry, fiction, a journal entry, or a blog post. Any form of writing will do.

Mark the runs of assonance and alliteration with bold, underlining, italics, or highlighting. When you’re done, read the piece aloud to get the full effect.

Tips: Double-check the runs you’ve identified for assonance to make sure they mark stressed (or accented) syllables. Watch out for sounds that are different but use the same letter (such as the a sounds in cat and cape).

Variations: As an alternative to identifying alliteration and assonance in a piece of writing, try writing a short piece with several runs in it. Or revise a page from an existing writing project to inject alliteration and assonance into it.

101 Creative Writing Exercises


Applications: Musicality and repetition enrich any piece of writing. Too often, writers focus on content and not language. The study of poetry, poetry terms, and literary devices like alliteration and assonance reminds us to work on our language, word choice, and sentence structure.

From 101 Creative Writing Exercises: Report It

101 creative writing exercises - Report It

“Report It” from 101 Creative Writing Exercises.

Today, I’m sharing an excerpt from my book, 101 Creative Writing Exercises. It’s packed with writing exercises to help you explore all forms of creative writing: fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. The book is designed to inspire you while imparting useful writing techniques that are fun and practical.

This exercise comes from “Chapter Two: It’s Personal.” The writing exercises in this chapter focus on writing of a personal nature: memoir, journal writing, and personal essays.

I chose this exercise because it’s challenging and fun. It asks you to look at your own life from a fresh perspective and make yourself the subject of a news report.

Give it a try! Then come back and tell us what you learned and how this exercise worked for you.

Report It

Is your life newsworthy? Have you ever witnessed, committed, or been the victim of a crime? Have you ever participated in a protest or a performance? Have you ever had an odd or unusual (paranormal or supernatural) experience?

Traditional and professional journalism is concise and factual. It adheres to a set of journalistic ethics, focusing on the facts and details of the story and presenting those facts thoroughly and honestly. True journalism is objective. The ethical journalist does not inject his or her feelings or opinions.

But journalists are human. The news media in general is increasingly accused of using a variety of creative tactics to spin the news in favor of their own religious, political, or philosophical beliefs. For example, in a report, a journalist should not badmouth a suspected criminal, but that journalist can include a quote from a witness who has badmouthed the criminal while intentionally not including a positive quote from some other witness.

Journalists can pick and choose quotes, facts, and even which stories to report.

When you think about the fact that journalists and reporters are responsible for feeding us information about what’s going on in the world and then consider that they are mere human beings, flawed, emotional, and opinionated just like the rest of us, you can only begin to imagine and wonder just how spun all the news actually is.

The Exercise

Your challenge is to revisit your past and write a news report about something you experienced firsthand.

The rules are simple: straight journalism. What does that mean? True journalists are not allowed to include personal emotion or opinion in their writing. Be as objective as possible. Don’t take sides!

Write about the event or incident as if you are a journalist looking in on your own story from the outside. Make sure you include a headline that will attract readers’ attention.

Tips: To get a feeling for how journalism is written (its tone and style), visit a reputable news site and read a few articles.

Variations: Instead of reporting on a story, write a paparazzi piece. Were you spotted while out on a hot date? If you’re at a loss for subject matter, get creative and write a fictional news story; make up something or change something from your past or better yet, write a news story from your future (maybe you win the Pulitzer Prize in ten years).

Applications: The most obvious application is that you could, someday, become a journalist. Journalism in general is an objective style of writing (at least, it’s supposed to be), and this is a style that is difficult to achieve. This exercise encourages you to write about something you care about but to refrain from including your feelings or personal views.

101 Creative Writing Exercises


From 101 Creative Writing Exercises: Titles and Headlines

101 creative writing exercises - titles and headlines

From 101 Creative Writing Exercises: Titles and Headlines.

101 Creative Writing Exercises takes writers on an adventure through the world of creative writing.

The book is packed with writing exercises that are fun and practical. Not only will these exercises inspire you, they’ll impart helpful writing techniques and offer valuable writing practice.

Try your hand at fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction, including freewriting, journaling, memoir, and article writing.

Today, I’d like to share an exercise from 101 Creative Writing Exercises. From “Chapter Ten: Article and Blog Writing,” this creative writing exercise is called “Titles and Headlines.”

Titles and Headlines

A title or headline is the first point of contact that a reader will have with your writing. It’s your introduction, a chance to entice and intrigue readers so they want to buy your book or read your article. An effective title piques a reader’s curiosity and provides some idea of what the piece is about.

Some authors use titles as part of their brand. Sue Grafton is working her way through the alphabet with her Kinsey Millhone series (A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, etc.). Many romance novelists use words like kiss, love, or dance in their titles. In the sci-fi realm, anything associated with space is fair game: galaxy, universe, Mars, and stars. And a well placed mythological term, such as dragon or wizard clearly marks a fantasy novel.

In addition to book titles, many authors have a separate title for a series. This allows the author to use two different titles on a single piece of work. New readers will be drawn in by the book title while existing fans will gravitate toward the series title.

In poetry, titles can be more abstract. A poem’s title may seem irrelevant to the poem. Many poets take a word or phrase from the poem and use it as a title. Others will use a title that functions as part of the poem. The best poem titles evoke an image and give the reader an indication of what the poem will feel like.

Magazines use headlines prominently displayed on the front cover to entice customers. Newspapers use them to draw readers into a story, and bloggers, as many of you know, use headlines to generate buzz, links, and tweets.

The Exercise

Choose one of your writing projects or ideas and make a list of possible titles. Don’t run off a quick list. Take some time to contemplate each title and consider how it will resonate with readers and impact your project’s success. Make sure the titles and headlines you write represent the piece accurately. Avoid labels, words, and phrases that are misleading.

Tips: Look to some successful works by authors you admire to get ideas for titles. Peruse magazines, newspapers, and blogs for headline ideas.

Variations: If you don’t have any writing projects that need titles, then make a list of alternative titles for some of your favorite books, magazines, movies, TV shows, articles, and poems.

Applications: Every piece of writing has to be titled, and a title or headline is essential in selling the piece to its audience. Developing catchy, intriguing titles is an essential writing skill.

101 creative writing exercises