Craft,  Observation,  Twitter

50 Cheap And Easy Ways To Improve Your Writing This Summer

At the beginning of every summer, I post this little gem. If you need a way to improve in your craft, without breaking the bank, these this will surely help! 

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How Can I Be A Better Writer?

Can’t afford to take a summer writing class? Never fear! All you really need is a library, internet access, Instagram, Netflix, Facebook and Twitter! YOU can improve your writing skills by doing these 50 things. I admit, some of these aren’t exactly writing activities, but if you do them, and you practice observing with all five senses and spend at least ten minute writing about the experience, you will improve. YOU WILL!

My kids say that there are 104 days of summer vacation, so that gives you something to do, every other day, with four days off for good behavior.

  1. Read Victoria Mixon’s blog — all the back entries. (My all-time favorite writing blog!)
  2. Get Instagram and write haikus for all of the photos in your feed.
  3. Challenge yourself to write a comment for ten of your friends daily on Facebook. Don’t overthink it. Just do it!
  4. Watch a movie with the sound off. Write as much dialogue as you can while you watch.
  5. Tweet this: Every new follower I get today will receive a personalized haiku. Then be prepared to write them.
  6. Buy this game and play it often: Story Cubes.  
  7. Go to Storybird. Choose artwork. Make yourself write an 8 page story in a half hour.
  8. Set a timer for ten minutes and describe all of the sounds that you hear.
  9. Set a timer for ten minutes and answer this question: I write because I  . . ..
  10. Read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. 
  11. Watch your favorite TV show, then spend 20 minutes thinking what conflicts your favorite character should get into. For example:  Peggy Olson’s mother should get seriously ill and need Peggy to take care of her. Peggy’s boyfriend, Abe, reconnects with an old girlfriend, a Jewish one, and Peggy is threatened. The priest from Season Two shows up at Peggy’s door because he’s left the priesthood and now he’s homeless.
  12. Go on Pinterest and pick a craft — you don’t even have to like it — in which you have all the stuff on hand. Make the craft. The act of making it will spurn your creativity elsewhere. And observe with all five of your senses! 
  13. The seven deadly sins are: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. Write for ten minutes about how your character(s) or even someone you just made up, is guilty of each of these. Be specific.
  14. Give all your characters this narcissism quiz.
  15. Go to Bartlett’s book of quotations and open it to a random quote. Write for 10 minutes on how this truth affects the life of your character.
  16. Read Stephen King’s On Writing.
  17. Go to your local library and check out the 15th work of fiction from the first five rows of books. Don’t even look at the titles. Go home and read the first hundred pages of each one. Do it again for the second five rows.
  18. Write a limerick about the things that happened to you today.
  19. Set a timer for ten minutes and decribe everything that you see right now.
  20. Read Rachelle Gardner’s blog.
  21. Read Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White.
  22. Play Mad Libs. (There’s an app for that!)
  23. Rewrite a local news story but make it about vampires.
  24. Take a walk in your neighborhood and create stories about the people you see.
  25. That guy/girl that gave you so much trouble in high school? Look them up on Facebook (if you can) and spend ten minutes writing about the life they’ve had since you saw them last.
  26. Go to and do a search on your favorite (or even least favorite genre). Read the 40th book’s description. Then, set a timer for 20 minutes and write your version of what should happen in the story. Do not publish this. It is only for practice.
  27. Let’s say the characters of The Simpsons were stuck into Pride and Prejudice. Homer is Darcy. Marge is Lizzie. Patty and Selma are Kitty and Lydia and Mr. Burns is Lady Catherine Deburg. Write for 10 minutes about what they could do or say.Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 9.19.12 AM
  28. Make an entire meal from scratch. The creativity and mental energy you use will stimulate your writing. If you have guests over to eat it, the conversation will help too. If not, oh well. You had to eat anyway.
  29. Read K M Weiland’s blog.
  30. Follow the Twitter hashtag #amwriting. Follow ten new writers. Introduce yourself. Ask them about their writing. Click their links. Share the love.
  31. Read all of these bad opening lines. Set your timer for ten minutes and write the succeeding sentences for at least five of them.
  32. Reheat those leftovers from #29. Spend ten minutes describing what everything tasted like.
  33. Read STORY by Robert McKee. 
  34. Watch 1st season episodes of 30 Rock  or How I Met Your Mother  or Parks and Recreation  and when your done, spend ten minutes writing about each of the main characters. What do they look like? What are their greatest desires? What would they say?
  35. Pretend your childhood hero contacts you because he/she has read your work and loves it. You decide to meet for lunch. Spend ten minutes writing about what you would say to them.
  36. Read Writing The Breakout Novel  by Donald Maass.
  37. Read the archives from Etiquette Hell for a half hour. Then, spend ten minutes rewriting one of these anecdotes in your favorite genre. (And if you get stuck, add a zombie.)
  38. Write for 10 minutes where you think a pair of working boots, a football, a black dress shirt and a crock pot disappeared to. These are real life items from my household that we’ve lost. We need a clue.
  39. Play Apples To Apples. Draw three red cards (for example, mountains, cheesecake, Bill Cosby) and three green cards (for example, crunchy, peaceful and uninteresting) and spend ten minutes writing a story about them all.
  40. Read On Writing Well by William Zinsser.
  41. Read The New Yorker magazine. (Your local library probably has a copy.)
  42. Read anthologies of your favorite comic strips from your childhood, such as Peanuts, Bloom County, Calvin and Hobbes  or The Far Side. Look at them not just as comic, but as stories with rich characters and complex plots. And don’t drink and read at the same time.
  43. Have you ever served on a jury? Do you know someone who has? Write for ten minutes about what actually happened at the crime scene.
  44. Read the personals on Craigs List. Spend ten minutes writing a story behind the drama.
  45. Let’s pretend the Disney Princesses are all in their mid-40’s and have opened  accounts on Facebook. Write for ten minutes about their interests, education, employment and their latest status updates.
  46. That embarrassing moment you had in high school? Rewrite the account of it, only make it worse. You have ten minutes. Go.
  47. Rewrite your favorite fairy tale in an altogether different style. Say, in King James English or as a gossip columnist.
  48. Take a very familiar mystery and rewrite the ending so that someone else was guilty. Then, instead of being caught, have them kidnap the sleuth. Write for ten minutes about what happens next.
  49. Ask you local librarian what they have read and liked. Then check it out and read the first hundred pages.
  50. And finally, leave a lengthy comment sharing what you’ve learned, what you’ve liked, what you’ve disliked and any other suggestions.

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Katharine Grubb is an author, poet, homeschooling mother, camping enthusiast, bread-baker, and believer in working in small increments of time. She leads 10 Minute Novelists, an international Facebook group of time-crunched writers. She lives with her family in Massachusetts.