Like physical exercises, which are beneficial for your body, writing exercises are beneficial for developing your skill as a writer. While exercise is seldom pleasant, it is a wise and worthy pursuit. Here are some exercises to consider in developing your craft as a wordsmith:
- Revise something you wrote to hit a specific word count. This could be to expand it or condense it. Both are helpful skills to have. Editors appreciate it when you can hit a target length.
- Completely rewrite something without referring to the original. Then compare the two. Note what is the same, what is different, and what is better. Now merge the two into a third — and hopefully superior version.
- Taking a 1,200-word article or essay that you wrote, condense it into a 600-word version. Then revise it to a 300-word blog post. Finally, turn it into a 140-character tweet.
- Do the reverse, taking someone else’s tweet, expanding on the concept (don’t plagiarize) to make a blog post. Then expand it further to become an article, essay, or short story.
- Write a short story using only one-syllable words (or any other creative restriction you can concoct).
- Write a 26-sentence story where each sentence starts with a successive letter of the alphabet, A through Z.
- Subscribe to A Word A Day. Each weekday they will email you a unique or interesting word. Use that word in conversation or writing that day.
- Rewrite something you wrote, adding alliteration to the text.
- Write metered poetry, song lyrics, or haiku. All of these force writers to fit cogent ideas into a certain rhythm or number of syllables.
- Often writing magazines will suggest a writing exercise. These add variation to your writing workouts. Some also have contests. Even if you’re not ready to submit your work, it is great practice.
- Come up with an interesting or catchy title — now write to that title. The same can be done writing to reach a predetermined, pithy conclusion.
Personally, I have done most of these at one time or another. What I find most helpful are those that affect word count, helping me to be more concise or more inclusive in what I write. I’m also a big fan of alliteration, but need to guard against going overboard with it.