You're stuck in lockdown with more time on your hands than ever before – so why can't you write a single word? With so much negative energy swirling around, it's easy to develop writer's block, but the good news is that you don't have to struggle – there are hundreds of exercises you can try to kickstart your creativity.
In the spirit of our free competition Staying Home, which we hope gives writers a goal to help them through this crisis, we've decided to compile a few of our favourite writing exercises to help you out of your writing slump.
If you're anything like me, you spend 90% of the time surrounded by books. If you're stuck, you could pick a book, flip to any page, and pick a sentence at random. Now try to turn this sentence into its very own story. It's a challenging technique, but a fascinating exercise.
Hold The Front Page
The news is full of doom and gloom these days...but it can inspire some interesting stories! Perhaps there's a headline that intrigues, or an ongoing story that fascinates you. You could even use some of the more outlandish stories from magazines.
A wedding becomes a war zone. A friendly conversation becomes a bitter argument. A shopping trip becomes a fight for survival. Stories are driven by change. Try and think of two polar opposite situations. How do you get from A to B? What causes this change, and how do the characters react to it?
Random Word Generation
Story ideas don't have to come from a muse - they can come from three simple words. Random word generators, such as this one, can be a great way to kickstart your creativity. You can use three words to come up with a beginning, middle and ending to your story, or you can try and turn them into a sentence and see where it takes you. Or you can use them to simply jog your creativity.
First Line Generator
A first line must grab the reader instantly and draw them in. They're also infamously difficult to come up with. If you want a nudge in the right direction, you can use a Random First Line Generator like this one. It does what it says on the tin, and can produce some very intriguing openers. Consider how the story can unfold from here.
Pick An Object
It could be a baby's dummy, a coin you found on the pavement, or even a peculiar-looking building you see on your way to work. You can use that object to conjure up a story: how did the object get there? Why is it there? Who uses the object, and for what purpose?
Send Lord Voldemort To A Charity Gala
Yes, this one sounds a bit silly, but it's true: characters are more interesting when they are placed somewhere completely alien to them. Put a well-established character – fictional or otherwise – into a situation or place they wouldn't usually be in. How do they react? How do others react? See what happens.
We've all heard that overused phrase before: "Pictures tell a thousand words". But when you're struggling to generate ideas, they truly can! Choose a picture or painting. It can be from a newspaper, the Internet, or even from your family photo album. What's happening in the picture? If there are people, who are they? What are they doing in the picture, and why? What's happening off-camera? A whole complex story can unravel from a simple image.
The practise of free-writing is becoming very popular amongst writers, with websites like this one helping writers to get started. Simply pick up a pen, or set up a blank word document – and write. You can use a random generated sentence to start you off if you like. Simply write whatever comes into your head first. Don't stop to think about it and don't worry about grammar or spelling – you can always come back to these things later. Let your mind take you to some weird and wonderful places and you might be surprised at what you come up with.
And remember, your writing doesn't have to be perfect on the first go. Give yourself permission to write badly. It's often more fun that way, and you can always come back and polish it later. We're all stuck in a strange and unprecedented situation – it's important to relax and do what we enjoy.
We'd love to see what you've come up with using these techniques. Why not enter our free 500-word writing competition, Staying Home? With free entry and the chance to be published in our annual anthology, it's the perfect way to give yourself a goal to aim for.