Plot Development

Grab Your Red Pen

Pick a scene or passage you've written that you feel dissatisfied with. Take a short time — maybe 10 or 20 minutes — to read the passage as though it were someone else's work. Take a red pen and make notes in the margins. If you didn't know anything else about the story, where else could this scene go? Try to get a feel for how malleable the words and the story can be.


From The Ground Up

Choose a place you've never been to. (If you have a map, you can close your eyes and pick a random spot for an extra challenge!) Do some research and try to learn everything you can about that location and make it the setting for the next scene you write. Try to include as many details as possible to make it seem like you've actually been there. For example, what does it smell like? What kind of people would you see there? What is the climate like?


Hearing Voices

Think about how your writing voice has changed since you began writing — then, try writing in the voice of Past You. Growing older, trying new experiences, and learning more about writing can all be factors that influence your voice. For example, you could write a chapter in the style of an elementary school diary entry, or look up an old writing assignment and use it to draft your project.

Character Development

Journaling From Your Characters' Perspectives

Set a timer and start free-writing from one of your character's perspectives. Try to really get inside their head — what do they want, what ticks them off, what do they feel passionate about? Are they writing in a diary, telling a story to a friend, or dictating a formal letter?

Plot Development

Lost The Plot?

How do you start a story — or get a story back on track? If you’re feeling lost or blocked, try templating to get your plot on course.

Here’s what to do: bullet point your initiating incident, your rising action, your crisis, and your resolution for both your main plot and subplots. Make a table to see events running parallel, remembering subplots exist to enhance, complicate – ultimately, compliment – your main action. Listing like this highlights any irrelevancies, keeping your tale on track, and makes all you write intertwined and significant to your protagonist’s journey. Plan out using this framework as your reference.

Writer's Block

The 81-Word Story

This exercise encourages you to write a complete story using very few words, and helps you learn how to avoid overwriting. When undertaking this exercise, it’s essential to edit your work carefully. Strip out anything unnecessary and make every word count. Here’s how it works:

  1. Take any novel from your bookshelf
  2. Turn to page 9
  3. Take the 9th word from the 9th line on the page
  4. Use that word to start a story
  5. Write a story that is exactly 81 words long
  6. If you’re feeling particularly clever, use 9 sentences that are 9 words long

You can also feel free to visit this website and submit your story to the 81 word writing challenge.

Character Development

Go The Other Way

Choose a random occupation, a random personality trait, and the trait's opposite. Now, outline a train of events that explains how a person of your chosen occupation changes from having the random trait to having its opposite. Let's take, for example: “martial arts teacher,” "shy," and "confident." What would make a shy martial arts teacher change into a confident one?

Care for a double challenge? Try plotting the opposite path, too: a confident martial arts teacher turns into a shy person. What would cause that? Experiment with unusual occupations and traits to challenge yourself.

Find a collection of traits for download at the end of this article.

Writer's Block

The Box

As a visual reference, select a box that has dimensions under 12X12 inches. Tape the box closed. Set the box in front of you. Write a story or poem based on what is inside the box.

Writer's Block

Break Through The Block

Think of writer's block as a symptom, not a condition that can’t be remedied. When we’re stuck and can’t get to our creative work, there’s usually a reason — and therefore a way to move forward.

If you’re experiencing a block and can’t seem to work on your novel, try the following:

  1. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths. Connect.
  2. How do you feel?
  3. Nervous because you’re coming up on a tough scene?
  4. Starting to wonder why you embarked on this project?
  5. Bored with sticking to your thorough outline and not wanting to admit it?

Feel what you’re feeling without attaching or rationalizing or arguing. Now, refocus on your breath. Imagine gentle snow or waves. When you’re calm inside, grab a notebook and pen (computers can amplify pressure instead of opening room for free scribbling) and write without stopping for three minutes, starting with the prompt, “I’m not blocked because…” After that, go for another three minutes, using, “The path back to my writing looks like…” Let yourself go. Let your hand tell you whatever you need to hear.