Fiction exercises

Snippets I’ve written as writing exercises.

When I originally posted these, in the 1990s, it seemed perfectly reasonable to post timed-writing exercises on the web. My site was certainly not a Professional Fiction Writer’s website; it was just a collection of stuff I had created.

Here in 2023, posting writing exercises seems, I dunno, amateurish, I guess. But these have been online for nearly thirty years now, so I’m a little reluctant to take them down.

Below is the original introduction for these pages.

(Written 1/92 for SWAPA; lightly modified and Webbed 10/12/95)

At Clarion, I began to like the concept of timed writings, in which you just keep writing no matter what (Donna Jo Napoli, at Swarthmore, always told us to write “um” or “I can’t think of anything to write” if necessary) for ten minutes. There are a lot of possible goals for such activity: Emma Bull said it taught her how to open the door to the writing part of her brain on demand, while others have indicated it’s a good way to practice just writing without worrying about quality or polish. The first few times I tried it, I hated it; but it seemed like a good way to get back to writing after months of avoiding doing so, so on the bus on the way to work around the end of October of ’91 I did a couple of them. The results were not anything I have much attachment to, which makes me secure enough about them to be able to put them on the Web. The only editing that’s been done on these is what I did as I wrote them, crossing out a word here and there and replacing it; I didn’t change anything while typing it in from the handwritten pages.

Mykle Hansen told me, many years ago, that having ideas for fiction was something you could practice and get better at. To the extent that I believe that, I think timed writing is a pretty good way to practice.


A ten-minute timed writing about the aftermath of a relationship. (Content warning for ominous hints at domestic violence.)

Read More