Bloggers are writers. Some might just have humourous thoughts they want to share with the world. Some might be passionate about gardening or cooking and use a blog to share this. Others may just be opinionated about current affairs, news and the world around them and have nowhere else to air these opinions but on their personal blog. However, many of these bloggers, along with many others that don’t fall into any particular category, want to write. Be they journalists, columnists, artists, poets or novelists, they are often one of these things or perhaps aspire to be. Or they just like to write as a hobby. I am several of these things. A journalist and an aspiring author and I just can’t stop writing. I wrote this post for those who write anything and everything as a hobby, for aspiring authors or fiction writers, or just for anyone who likes words and the English language. They’re a mixture of story-generating exercises, writer’s block de-cloggers or just something to fine-tune your creative brain. I have found them to be relaxing, inspiring and good for passing the time. They also give my creativity a bit of workout when I’m a bit out of practice. I highly recommend them. The first two I’ve mentioned before.
Blackout Writing – For those of you who haven’t gone back to check what I’ve written on this before, it’s simply a matter of taking a black marker to a newspaper (yes you will ruin it so make sure it’s ok to do that) and blacking out all but certain words and see what “story” comes out of the words that are left. With practice, you’ll get sharper at spotting verbs and nouns in the right place that will make sense. It might lead to some inspiration for an actual story.
Six Word Stories – Once again, I’ve explained and attempted this before but, briefly, Hemingway is said to be the creator of the six word story, when his friends bet him that it was impossible. They’re a good exercise and can often be far more powerful than longer works of fiction. You can read six word stories for inspiration here.
50 Word Stories – You’re probably thinking, “You can make any writing challenge by putting any word count limit on it”. This is true, smart arses. But six word stories and 50 word stories are both very different and well-known challenges. You’d be surprised by both how quickly you will get to 50 words and how much of a story you can get into 50 words.
Flash Fiction – Flash fiction word limits vary hugely depending on who you talk to or what website you go on. 50 word stories count as flash fiction, but they can often go up to 1000 words. Personally, I would cap it at 500-700 words because I think any longer is a regular short story and I wouldn’t classify anything longer than 700 words as ‘flash’ fiction. Flash implies very, very short/fast.
Dictionary Drawing – Open the dictionary on a random page and pick a word. Repeat ten times. Now try to form a story using the words. This is not a ten word story, you do actually write a story that makes sense but you have to use the ten words as the basis of your story.
Colour-coding – Mostly for fun, but it gets your brain working like a thesaurus to describe things. Write a paragraph that describes a scene/mood/situation. The story has to start with a colour. In the rest of the paragraph you have to suggest the colour as much as possible, but you can only mention the actual colour once. Confused? Here’s an example from Be a Better Writer.
“The world had turned grey. Nothing but mud and asphalt surrounded the unpainted house, little more than a box made of concrete blocks. Charlie, dressed in faded work pants, rubber boots, and a thick wool sweater, steadied himself with a hand on the top rail of a weathered cedar fence. Behind him, nothing but ash-coloured sky, bare trees, and plumes of smoke belching from the factory in the distance. A lone sparrow rested on a branch, one beady eye watching.”
There are also some great sites for writing inspiration or just a few generators that cure writer’s block:
Flash Fiction Online is a good place to submit flash fiction that you’ve written. Their guidelines say your stories must be 500-1000 words in length.
WritingExercises is a generator that selects a subject to write about, a first line to start with, a character, a plot or simply first and last names at random so you’re not sitting there with a pen in your mouth pensively trying to come up with a place to start.
Creative Writing Challenge is just one of many on the internet but similar to a Blog Everyday in May challenge, It provides one challenge for every day of the month. (If you do it for a month with 31 days be sure to find an extra one elsewhere as there are only 30 here.) I hope to do this at some stage and will post them here. Maybe.
Language is a Virus is probably one of the best sites for this stuff, it has seemingly meaningless word and story games but it also has helpful tips, story generators, articles and exercises.
Write or Die is a web application (also available to download to your PC or iPad for a price) that, eh, encourages you to keep writing no matter what. Based on a theory that a tangible consequence is more motivational than an intangible reward, you can set your own, time limit, the number of words you want write how strict you want the app to be and how harsh if you procrastinate. There is even a setting that if you stop writing for more than the grace period will allow, your work so far will unwrite itself.