skip to Main Content

6 Novel Writing Exercises

Writing a novel is one part endurance, one part creativity, and one part planning. Sometimes the stories can write themselves, but you still need to have an idea about the characters you want to include and the places you wish to take them. These novel writing exercises will help you to practice the skills you’ll need to bring that novel to its exciting conclusion.

#1. Practice Your Time Commitment

If you’re writing 120,000 words, they aren’t going to write themselves. You’ve got to sit down and write out every single one of them. This takes time. One of the most effective exercises to practice this commitment is to keep a log of how you spend time during the day. How long are you on Facebook? How many TV shows do you watch? How often do you play video games?

By tracking this data, you can then reduce some time on each item and put that time into your novel writing. Then you’ll need to practice having this time in your schedule for 1-2 weeks so you can get used to it.

#2. First Line Majesty

Many novels can be defined by their very first line. It’s like the thesis statement for the entertainment the novel is about to provide. There are numerous great first lines in literature out there today. One of the best is by William Goldman from The Princess Bride.

The year that Buttercup was born, the most beautiful woman in the world was a French scullery maid named Annette.

This is the hook that brings readers into the rest of your novel. Practice a few first lines each day to see what comes to mind. You may just discover a creativity spurt that allows you to craft a story around that one line.

#3. Word Association Exercises

In the world of writing, the words that are used are incredibly important. Without variation, you end up giving readers boredom because there is nothing new. Take Fifty Shades of Grey as an example of this. Christian Grey almost always uses the word “Come.” Ana is constantly referring to her “inner goddess.” If you say, “You’re always ready,” fans of this novel will know what you’re talking about.

The fact is that you can say the same thing, but express it in a different way thanks to the complexity of language. Using word association exercises can help you do this. What would be another way to have Christian Grey say “Come” and still be demanding? Could Ana describe her subconscious in a different way? The more you practice these exercises, then the more versatile your language skills will be, and that will generate the variation your novel needs.

#4. Read Your Notes

One of the issues that authors run into is being unintentionally repetitive. This is because they pick up their writing without reviewing what they’ve previously writing. You may not have time to re-read 14 chapters of work on your novel, but you could re-read the words you wrote the day before. It’s an exercise that Hemingway always performed before writing new material, so the value in it is proven.

And if you haven’t written anything in a day or two, then go over the novel notes you’ve jotted down to refresh your memory. That way your words have consistency.

#5. The One Chapter Per Day Exercise

If you’ve every read a James Patterson novel, then you’ve seen a very unique structure. His chapters are very brief – sometimes only half a page in length. This lends to a book that has 100+ chapters almost every single time. Now maybe you want to write longer chapters than that or maybe you don’t. If you have a 30 chapter book you want to write and you write one chapter per day, you’ll have that novel finished in a month.

The average chapter length in words is about 2,500 words. This is because a chapter is a scene for your novel. Although there are no set rules for chapter length, if you follow this length as a guideline, you’ll find that you’ll begin to look forward to each new scene every day you write.

#6. The Interview

Experiences bring a novel to life. One way to gather these experiences is to head out in public and ask random people some questions. It can be awkward at first and there will always be people who avoid you, but the responses you’ll receive are worth the time and possible embarrassment. Interviews don’t have to be long. Just a simple question or two that can help you round out your characters can make all the difference in the world.

Novels tend to fail because they aren’t as authentic as they could be. These novel writing exercises will help you reach that needed authenticity while staying consistent, allowing you to craft the tale that has been in your mind all this time.

Melissa G Wilson

Melissa has been a leader in the book writing, publishing and marketing arena for the past two decades. To date, she has helped more than 100 thought leaders write, publish and market their books. Her clients include executives such as Dan Weinfurter a seven-time Inc 500 winner and Orlando Ashford, President of Holland Cruise Lines.

Back To Top