#10 Ten Ways To Practice Writing Under Ten Minutes
A Kryptic Blog Post?
The Writing Practice Rut
If you’re like me, on rare to the semi-rare occasion, you may find yourself in a writing practice rut of your own making. In this article, I will share a collection of the finest writing practice techniques I picked up over the years. These practice techniques will inspire you to practice like never before, fuelling ideas for future practices. These techniques are a sure way to break any slump and get you back on track to becoming the great author I know you can be.
Why Writing Practice is So Important
Anyone who has achieved anything of substance has worked very hard for it. No magic bullet or shortcuts exist. Many ignorant fools have wasted their lives in these childish pursuits, but it always comes down to this: practice makes perfect. Great athletes practise religiously. Navy SEALS, though they are masters of combat, run practice drills continuously. All that practice helps them hone their craft. Great writers are not exempt. You can find many stories of the greatest writers of history practising as though their lives, and livelihoods, depended on it because it did. Therefore, a fantastic writing practice horde is essential. You can check out more details on how to build a sustainable writing practice?in a previous blog post of mine.
“When you get right down to the absolute basics, writing is pretty simple: Have something to say, and say it as well as possible.” Barbara Baig, How To Be A Writer
Ten Ways to Practice Writing in Under Ten Minutes
1. The Flash Freewrite
Open up your word processor or your notebook. Modern or traditional ? it’s up to your preference. Set your timer to ten-minutes and once ready start writing without stopping about the first things that pop into your mind. If you make mistakes, ignore them and just keep writing. The goal is to see how many pages you can fill within the ten minutes. This activity gets the creative juices flowing and is something I incorporate to my daily writing discipline before engaging in any writing I do. Psychologically you are preparing the mind to write creatively.
2. The Stranger Danger: A Character Profile
Think about the last person you met in life, especially before quarantine and self-isolation. Imagine you are their therapist, and you have concocted a powerful truth serum. You slip it into their tea, and they lap it up. Now they must answer you truthfully. Set a timer for 10 minutes and begin the interview. Write down your questions and then write down their honest answers. Continue asking questions and follow-ups until the time runs out. You have just prepared a character sketch and practised characterisation. For more details on developing characters, read this fantastic article by Reedsy.
3. The Word Horde
A Word Horde is an extensive collection of words, and every great author has one that he or she builds over a lifetime. It is vital to bring to bear the exact right word at precisely the right time. Spend 5 minutes collecting the strangest ensemble of random words from the English dictionary. Ensue to find words that you were never aware of before, write them down and understand their meaning as best as you can. For the remaining five minutes write a dialogue between two characters which incorporates all five of the words you just learnt in their correct context.
When your time runs out, go back and analyse the text and revise it so that it shines and make sure you used the words correctly. Here you are performing double duty on your practice. You are learning to write compelling dialogue and how to collect words that will help your writing be more precise.
4. The Quickie Plot
This is a favourite. Once again, set that pesky timer to ten minutes and start planning your novel against the best practice plot structure by Ellen Brock. You can use any other structure you can find, but I find Ellen’s breakdown the most helpful. Once this is primed, write your story as quickly as possible and don’t stop, edit or fix anything. Just keep moving. After your time has run out, see how far you have mapped your plot.
The first time you do this exercise, you may not finish your story, but with practice, you will get there. This technique really helps you hone the skill of plot. The time constraint moves you out of your head and only allows room for creativity to flow.
5. The Copy-Cat
Take any aspect of writing you want to improve and go find a great example from literature, or at the very least, from your favourite books. In the case provided by Shaelin Bishop on her vlog How to Write Physical Descriptions of Characters she focuses on characterisation. Look at the beautiful character description examples she cites. This is what you are looking for, as preparation for this exercise. Once you have this, take the descriptions and copy them to the best of your ability replacing it with different details while keeping to the same structure.
And you guessed it, do this all within ten minutes. Here you practice imitating exceptional writing which exercises your writing creativity as well as the aspect of story building you chose, for example, dialogue, characterisation or setting. As children, we learn using the principle of monkey-see-monkey-do. As an aspiring author, it is no different. This practice technique will catapult your writing forward by leaps and bounds with an added bonus of helping you find your own voice.
6. The Silent Observer
As a student, I loved watching The Fox Network’s Fringe television series. The strange bald men in suits that mysteriously appeared throughout the show fascinated me. They called themselves observers and were time travellers that went back in time to watch key historical events unfold. This is what you will do, as well.
There are two approaches here. If you are stuck in COVID-19 lockdown, then you can use your powers of imagination. You are a time-travelling observer sent back to any moment in history to observe and write down the events as they occur from your unique perspective. If you struggle with imagination, and you are somehow able to do so, go somewhere public to people-watch and imagine you are observing a crucial moment in history.
Either way, take ten minutes and write down what you see, smell, hear, who is present, why they are essential, what they are doing, and how they impact the future of the world. The deadline makes it exciting and forces you to get creative quickly.
You are practising either your power of imagination or your power of observation, both crucial skills for an aspiring author to have. Don’t waste your potential. There are stories everywhere, and opportunities to practice abound.
“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.” Orson Scott
7. The First Rule of Fight Club?Is Write About Fight Club
Find your favourite fight scene from a movie. Some ideas are Achilles versus Hector in Troy, Neo versus agent Morpheus in the Matrix, or any of the scenes from the classic Fight Club. Take two to three minutes to watch the scene and then pause the movie and spend the rest of the time rewriting that fight scene is as much detail as you can manage.
After ten minutes stop, go back and analyse the fight scene and see how much of the detail, the grit you captured. For tips on how to write kick-ass fight scenes check out my blog post on the same topic. Here you are mastering writing the action scene and descriptive writing ? both essential to the aspiring author.
8. The Final Destination
Google an exotic destination that resonates with you. For me, something about the rugged Icelandic landscapes sings to my soul. Once you have your destination, imagine a character and give them a short back story. An example could be Jessica Lancaster, an eighteen-year-old ballet dancer from Wisconsin on holiday with her parents. Now describe the setting from that character’s POV using sight, smell, sound, touch, and hearing.
If you need help in this arena, I would recommend Rayne Hall’s Describing Vivid Settings. This practical guide will help you get the most out of your descriptions. As usual, after ten minutes of describing the location from your character’s point of view, analyse your text and see what worked well and what did not. Eliminate the bad, keep the good and carry that forward to your next practice.
9. The Poet
Take a piece of your writing or a snippet from another author that you adore and find something that you, he or she describes. An example could be Megan Marshall describing a creepy old house at the end of her street which is rumoured to be haunted. Take five minutes to come up with at least five metaphors or similes you can think of to describe the house. The key is to use speed to coax the creative juices to flow. Some figures of speech for the above example are:
- The house smelled like death (simile)
- The ancient walls watched her walk through the house (personification on the walls, and alliteration on the w sound)
- The chandelier was a stalactite of fake diamonds (metaphor)
Choose two of the most unique figures of speech and spend the last few minutes writing a descriptive flash scene weaving these poetic devices into the text. Here you are practising using descriptive language and the poetry of language which gives an author their unique voice and style.? If you need assistance using figures of speech, I highly recommend the Novel Writing Help article titled, The Art of Descriptive Writing. It helped me tremendously, and I am confident it will do the same for you. This is an advanced technique but will improve your writing and make it stand out from the crowd.
10. The Dinner Party
I love writing interesting scenes. This technique helps you do just that and at the same time allows you to practice dialogue and writing unique character voices, so they don’t all sound like you. Identify five guests who are attending a dinner party. Give them names and create relationships amongst them – perhaps two married couples and a waiter. Give each character a different objective.
For example, Let’s say Brian and Joanna are married, and Sean and Cara are as well. Brian is having an affair with Cara. Cara wants to call it off. The waiter wants a good tip and saw Brian and Cara kiss in the hallway. Now write the scene with dialogue and action tags where we observe how the characters respond given their motivations. Let the tensions rise and raise the stakes. You have ten minutes. Have fun with it. I often do. Make those characters squirm. Check out my article on writing compelling dialogue and definitely invest in purchasing Rayne Hall’s Writing Vivid Dialogue.
The Big Takeaway
Writing practice is fundamental for the aspiring author. Without it, you will never improve. Most people dread practice because it reminds them of school, but it does not need to be painful. You can have a lot of fun while growing your authorial toolset. Use the ten practice techniques to start your writing practice horde and keep finding new and exciting ways to practice and improve your writing. It is an investment in yourself you will never regret. Best of all, it only takes ten minutes a day.