Archive | writing exercises RSS feed for this archive

Writing Wonder: Riff on a random Word

I’d like to share my ultra-favorite writing exercise with you. Pick up any book that’s close at hand. Close your eyes. Open the book and place your finger randomly on a page. Write a story using that word as inspiration (or move your finger until you can). Alternate: Start your story with an eye-catching phrase […]

Continue Reading

Summer writing prompts

I’ve been enjoying reading Abilgail Thomas’ book, Thinking About Memoir. It offers many succinct and thought provoking observations as well as a boat load of compelling writing prompts, and all in a slim 108 pages. One reviewer writes this perfect assessment: “If [you] aren’t afraid to dig deep, zero in on details, write an honest […]

Continue Reading

Pros & cons of present tense in memoir

Have you tried to write a memoir in present tense? It’s a perfect fit for many memoirs, but can be challenging for the writer. I recently attended a panel discussion on this topic at the 2014 AWP conference, presented by Kate Hopper, Hope Edelman, Bonnie Rough, Marybeth Holleman, and Ryan Van Meter, and they had […]

Continue Reading

Writing Wonder: Letter to a Friend

This writing exercise teaches you how to skip the preamble and background detail, which you so often don’t have room for in a flash story, and head directly into the intimate detail that makes the story most interesting. … Think of a significant personal event that you shared with a good friend or family member. […]

Continue Reading

Writing Wonder: Wandering List

With this one very easy exercise, you can grab hold of memories you didn’t know you had and generate many flash stories.  It’s also fun to do this exercise in a group well-known to you – they will add flavor to your entries, and vice versa, and remind you of things you had forgotten about. […]

Continue Reading

How to craft the twist

Aside from word count, the most distinctive trait of a flash story is the twist. You know, that sudden change in meaning or surprising detail that makes you smile or gasp or read out loud to the nearest bystander. The twist is arguably the toughest part of the story to craft. One way to create […]

Continue Reading

Holidays make great flash stories

From snowy heights to palmy beaches, and the chemo chair to Santa’s lap, the holidays provide great fodder for flash story writing. You can get a lot of mileage out of the oddest family members, the best presents, the unforgettable faux pas, and the magnanimous surprises if you pay attention. Take notice of the rare […]

Continue Reading

Writing Wonder: The Scramble

I asked my friend Cathy to write-up this exercise she introduced me to because it produces such surprising results. We use it often in class, and I also frequently modify it by simply cutting paragraphs and sentences apart to a) find a more compelling start for a story and/or b) to show that story structure […]

Continue Reading

11 editing tips

Early drafts are notorious for repetition, indirection and overdevelopment of the trivial. ~Pamela Erens in The Joy of Trimming Now that you’re done free-writing your first draft, you’re ready for more writing – yes, revising is writing. Does the first sentence grab your reader? Beginning with action or a compelling piece of dialog is a […]

Continue Reading

Writing prompts that always work

I recently wrote a guest post for YourStoryCoach.com that gathers together a few of my favorite writing prompts, which coincidentally all contain the word “always.”  I hope you’ll take them for a test drive and share your thoughts and/or results. For extra credit, here’s another great writing prompt: Write about the person who has always […]

Continue Reading

How to write about family & friends

“What a character!”: How to write about loved ones in your life stories Guest post by Tami Koenig I find the most powerful personal stories are about emotionally compelling relationships. When writing the stories from our lives, we naturally focus on our primary relationships—those with our mother, father, brothers, sisters, lovers, partners, children and friends. […]

Continue Reading

From journal entry to flash memoir

I recently wrote a guest post for Mary McCarthy’s Personal Growth Journaling Blog that discusses the value of your journal to provide raw material for your flash stories. The in-the-moment account of your thoughts, feelings, and experiences are the key to the richness of your personal stories. The post also outlines my favorite exercise for […]

Continue Reading