Outlining

Lists Are Your Friend

If you have 5 minutes, prep for your outlining by making a list of lists. This could include:

  • 5 possible endings for your book
  • 5 twists
  • 5 possible subplots
  • 5 ways the subplots could tie into the main plot
  • 5 ways the character could grow
  • 5 surprising things that we could learn about a character
  • 5 ways to add some unexpected elements to the book (humor, suspense, sadness, fear)
  • 5 ways to describe the main setting/another setting
Writer's Block

Beginnings

Getting started is one of the most difficult tasks that faces every writer. Julie Parsons is an international bestselling author. For this exercise, she's giving you the opening lines from some of her books. Take the following lines and use them to write the beginning of your own chapter:

  1. You could say it began with a phone call."
  2. Michael had watched them both for weeks."
  3. She remembered the way it was the first time she saw the prison."
  4. Midsummer, no time to be in New Orleans."
  5. With the dawn came the light."
Writer's Block

Eight

Pick a fiction book from your shelf. Go to page eight and find the eighth sentence on the page. Start with that sentence and write an eight-line poem that connects in some way to your work-in-progress. For instance, write from the POV of a character, or set the poem in a story setting. Don’t worry about poetry forms. Just write eight lines of any length that flow and explore some aspect of character, setting, or theme.

Setting

Room

Write a description of the room you are in from the point-of-view of a character in your work-in-progress. If the character is from another time or place, so much the better. What would the character notice first? What would she find odd? What would she love about the room? What would she dislike? Go beyond describing the physical space and capture her attitude about what she sees. Let her be snarky or wax poetical. Whatever captures her emotions about the space.

Character Development

Shopping Trip

Looking for a writing exercise that gets you out of your chair? Decide what kind of store your main character likes to shop at. Go to that store and wander the aisles, looking for items your character would most be tempted to buy. Create a list of at least ten items, explaining why each caught your eye, and why you think your character would want the item. Bonus points for identifying your character’s guilty pleasures and how she would justify buying those items.

Setting

Mood Swings

I recommend starting this exercise with a travel magazine packed with lots of interesting photos. Select an image that appeals to you. Now, write a short scene from the viewpoint of a character who has just arrived at this location and is seeing it for the first time. Describe the setting through the character's eyes, paying particular attention to the mood that this image evokes in you. Evoke this mood in your readers through the reactions of the character — look for sensory images!

Now, write a second scene, with the same or a different character — and evoke just the OPPOSITE mood. If your castle seemed tranquil and romantic, set a scene in which the mood is menacing or sorrowful. If the image of that tropical beach made you feel relaxed and happy, create a scene in which, instead, it is causing your character to feel angry or anxious. Again, look for sensory details and impressions that will convince your reader and evoke that same mood through your words — regardless of what mood the picture alone might have evoked!

Character Development

It's All About Your Point of View

Write a pivotal scene in your novel from a different character’s POV. For instance: at a funeral, you may have written the grieving widow’s thoughts and feelings. Write about that funeral from the deceased husband’s POV, the eldest son’s, or the step-sister’s.

Character Development

Put Yourself In Someone Else's Shoes

Choose a character and think of ways they’d react to things that happened during your (the writer’s) day. Use your experiences, think how you reacted, and then how your character would have reacted. Possible events: cut off in traffic, caught in the rain, missed an important meeting, lost a valuable item.