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5 Tactical Writing Exercises that Will Have Your Pen Asking for a Break

By Jameson Brown · September 7, 2014

Writing is tough. It’s the easiest hard thing there is to do. So, how can you train your brain to get better? It’s just like any other exercise – practice and repetition make [almost] perfect. 


5. Sketch a Web

Remember sketching out a character / story web in grade school? Well, they work. And they work well. Not only does this tactic help incubate your characters and story visually, but it instills visual structure and allows you to see every moving piece. 


4. Stream of Consciousness

Sit down. Put your hands on the keyboard. Now, type. And not only do you need to not lift a finger, but think of only what is coming to your head. Yes, these can be ideas that have nothing to do with your story. The goal here is A. to relieve yourself of built up content in your brain and B. get that content on paper so you can pick and choose what might work and what might not work. Doing this exercise will unveil some ideas you didn’t know were options in the beginning.  


3. Card Crafting 

Many writers do this to some degree. Card crafting is breaking out every beat and checkpoint in your story into index cards (NOT sticky notes). You then systematically spread them out on a table and structure your story. Doing this allows you to see holes in your story, while also showing you that one scene might fit well somewhere else. For all you structuralists out there, this is your ticket. 


2. Character Sketching 

This falls in line with sketching a web, but focuses much more on the characters and their relationships with each other. Sketch out who is who, what they do, their pet peeves, their mannerisms, etc. Allow them to grow on paper. Then, once this is done for all your leading and supporting characters, write out how OR if they could be connected. 


1. Timeline Illustration 

Literally, draw a line across an entire piece of paper. Then segment it off based on our five plot points. Once you have done this, create five to ten minute mini-stories within that overarching five plot point structure. Remember, a film is a story made of smaller stories. When it is all put together, the final “start to finish” will drive much smoother.