When I hit upon the idea for Camp NaNoWriMo of not working on a specific project, but rather choosing a random writing exercise for every day, it was a great idea. Something fun and completely random. It would keep words flowing onto the page and hopefully, restore a sense of fun to my writing. And, if I could make some progress on one or more of my current projects, that would just be a bonus.
With these thirty writing exercise prompts chosen at random, I ended up writing scenes for three separate projects. I learned more about my characters by having them write poetry. I discovered what really happened to Elvis Presley. I got one of my main characters fired from his job and arrested for murder all on the same day. I went rafting, wrote a fortune cookie and created a new holiday. In short, I had a lot of fun.
Maybe, like me, you are stuck, overwhelmed and discouraged with your writing. Maybe you just don’t know what to write about and are in need of some inspiration. To help you break out of that, here are thirty days of writing exercises. Most, if not all, of these prompts came from various issues of the Writer’s Digest magazine from several years ago.
1. Everyone has heard that somewhere in the world there is someone who looks like you. Write a fictional account about this person. Where would your “twin” be?
2. Assess where you are in life. Are you on the road to becoming the person you want to be? Leading the life you want to lead? Write about that person or place you aspire to reach.
3. Prepare and consume a hot drink—cocoa, tea, coffee. Describe how it feels going down, warming you from head to toe.
4. Write a song, a poem—any piece of writing you have never attempted before.
5. This year being the official “first” of the next millennium, reflect on the concept of “time.” Can you find a metaphor for the last 1,000 years?
6. Check the day’s forecast first thing in the morning. When you get to your desk, write a page explaining why this is the perfect weather for writing (even if it isn’t).
7. Go out on the town tonight, but carry a notebook with you. Write down any intriguing turns of phrases, jokes or ideas that you encounter.
8. Your agent just called and said the movie rights to your novel have been bought. What movie would you most like yours to be like? How so?
9. Start with this: “As the judge entered…”
10. Write about white water rafting for the first time.
11. List the subjects and themes you care about most (e.g. being a good parent, equal rights for all, paying off credit cards). Will these themes be present in your writing?
12. Find ten words in a foreign language that are the same or similar to English words. Use them in a creative writing session.
13. You’ve lost electricity at your place of residence. What are you going to do?
14. Pretend you are a philosopher in ancient Greece. What would your theory of the universe have been in those days when the world was flat and the earth was the center of the cosmos?
15. Develop a newspaper story about an Elvis sighting, one similar to those that run in the tabloids. Be as humorous—yet convincing—as possible.
16. Write from the point of view of your pet (or any animal), and describe the experience of a single day.
17. You’ve won a shopping spree to your favorite store. What would you buy?
18. In Peter Pan, the children can fly by thinking happy thoughts. Take time to write down some happy thoughts, perhaps it will free you up as well.
19. If you could take an all-expense paid trip for one night to anywhere in the world, where would you choose to go?
20. It’s been said that a person’s favorite color describes his personality. What kind of person likes blue? Red? Make a list using all the colors of the rainbow.
21. Some say Sunday is a day of rest. Think about what the ideal relaxing day would be for you.
22. Imagine the world in the year 3002. Write a sketch of what Earth will be like. Describe everything from the environment to the breakdown of nations to daily life.
23. Choose a classic fairy tale, but rewrite it from the villain’s point of view.
24. Change one scene of your favorite movie. Write what you want to happen.
25. Make a list of your favorite holidays. Why are they your favorites?
26. You were recently fired with no explanation. How do you feel?
27. Isolate the fear. Every character in your story should be afraid of something—success, failure, loss, a neighborhood bully or even heights—and a good story will make your characters confront these fears. Write a scene where this happens.
28. Relax today. Snuggle up under a blanket on a comfortable couch or chair, and write freely in your journal.
29. Could you fly a kite today? Play Frisbee? Look out the window and survey the weather conditions. Then, write a scene in which two people are participating in a weather-appropriate activity.
30. Are you always satisfied with the fortunes you receive from fortune cookies? Rewrite your own fortune, and post it in a visible place near your writing spot.
Not all of the prompts worked well for me. Some surprised me with the direction they took me. I made some interesting discoveries about my worlds and my characters. I wrote every day, and that was the primary goal.
Have fun with the writing prompts! I’d love to hear if any of them worked for you.