On Writing

On this page you will find an ongoing list of creative writing exercises and prompts for writers. You will also find links to my book reviews, which are written from a writing perspective (focusing on the mechanics and elements of writing).

Creative Writing Exercises & Prompts

Turn on the radio and listen to the first few lyrics of a song. Write down your first thoughts, emotions, feelings and then turn this into a piece of flash fiction. What does this lyric from ‘Nightswimming’ by R.E.M say to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts…

The photograph on the dashboard taken years ago,
turned around backwards so the windshield shows.
Every street light reveals a picture in reverse
Still it’s so much clearer

How many words can you use to describe one colour? What do you think about when you think of this colour? How can you incorporate this into a piece of writing?

Take ten random words from the dictionary. Analyse them for 30 seconds and let them form a picture, a story, in your mind. Then free write for ten minutes, trying your best to include each word in the piece. Don’t over-analyse at this stage – just free write! Then edit and edit it into a piece of fiction, ensuring every word counts.

Mix the five senses around! The five senses are smell, touch, taste, sound and sight. Can you describe a smell through taste? a sound through sight? a touch through smell? Try to form some short sentences using this technique – it spices up description!

Take a word from a dictionary and write down 30 words associated with or inspired by that word (i.e. orange>satsuma>juice>drink>glass>straw>hat> etc). Next write a piece using all associated words.

Find a painting or photo that inspires you. Why are you drawn to it? Spend ten minutes writing your thoughts to this question. Now try to write a story using these thoughts.

Here are six photographs taken by me (not including the last one). Do any of these trigger an idea for a story? I’d like to hear your thoughts and read your stories…

Wild Dog - Photo by Donna Henderson - 2013Flower on a Dashboard - Photo by Donna Henderson - 2013Camden Lock - Photo by Donna Henderson - 2013

Brighton Sunset - Photo by Donna Henderson - 2013The Butterfly - Photo by Donna Henderson - 2013Me at Brighton - Photo by Donna Henderson - 2013

Find a newspaper or magazine and scan to see if you can find ideas for stories. Create fifteen word (or less) sentences or ‘blurbs’ (i.e. woman discovers she is a twin after 40 years and sets out to find her). Write these in a notebook – you may not use them now but you may be inspired later.

Create your own plots by mixing up films you have seen. Mix a horror film with a romance, a sci-fi with an historical drama. See what you can discover! Try to switch the viewpoints of the story to give an interesting angle.

What if Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction had special powers and used them to try to win Dan’s love?

What if The Terminator’s goal was to fall in love with Sarah Connor?

Imagine if Rainman had been a serial killer and had hid behind his condition so that he wasn’t discovered?

Imagine if Norman Bates in Psycho had existed during Victorian London, alongside Jack the Ripper?

Try writing when you are in different moods. Write when you are tired, intoxicated, sad, happy, excited, emotional! It’s amazing how, in your different moods, you will see the world through different eyes. The mind also seems to conjure up different words dependent on mood, I find. Pacing can also alter.

Listen out for dialogue! From family, friends, colleagues, strangers. Capture them in a notebook and use them to inspire character development.

Rather than mentally visualize your protagonist, antagonist and minor characters when you write, how about flicking through magazines and newspapers to try to find a photo of someone who looks like them? You can put these photos in your character files for referencing, or even better place them on the fridge so you can get to know them each day!

Interview your characters to get to know them better. Place them in different situations and ask yourself ‘how would they react?’. Would they get angry or stay cool? Would they flee the scene or put up a fight? (you can get situations from everyday life, scenes in movies and books).


My Book Reviews

The Book of You, by Claire Kendal

Daughter, by Jane Shemilt

Death on the Nile, by Agatha Christie

The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien

Instructions for a Heatwave, by Maggie O’Farrell

Life Expectancy, by Dean Koontz

The Little Old Lady who Broke all the Rules, by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg

The Memory Game, by Nicci French

The Miniaturist, by Jessie Burton

Never Tell, by Claire Seeber

My Reading Lists

My 2016 Reading List

My 2015 Reading List

Books read in 2014, with reviews

The Rickmansworth Writer’s Group


On the first Sunday of every month I attend a writing group at Costa Coffee in Rickmansworth. Here I discuss and critique literary works with other writers, undertake timed writings, read aloud and share ideas. Every month I will post a an article about the session. You can find the links here;

02/03/2014 – The Rickmansworth Writer’s Group

02/02/2014 – The Rickmansworth Writer’s Group

@alittlebirdtweets2016. Please ask permission if you would like to use my work – or please link back to me. Thanks!

27 thoughts on “On Writing

  1. agjorgenson says:

    Thanks for stopping by stillvoicing. Some great ideas here!

  2. Hayley Henderson says:

    Well done, a nice piece of creative writing and some awesome ideas…..esp for people who have creaters/writers block!

  3. supernova1c says:

    Hi Donna, great to meet you on here, my name is James. I like your writing idea’s and find them very helpful and encouraging, good job! I look forward to sharing idea’s with you in the future, take care and thank you. James 🙂

  4. Lee Roy says:

    You had me hooked at REM’s Nightswimming. 🙂
    I love writing prompts, practices & exercises, so thanks for these!

    • Aw you’re very welcome, I hope you find them useful 🙂 Nightswimming is such a beautiful song isn’t it. I have been a fan of R.E.M a long time – they’ve always inspired me with their lyrics.

  5. Good tips and exercises. Thank you for stopping by my blog again. I appreciate it.

  6. Thank you for sharing these useful tips to aid in the process of writing! Will try them out sometime.

  7. Lucy says:

    Writer’s groups can be great 🙂 I really like the one I go to, small and informal, and I really enjoy the exercises they set. Some nerdy part of me really likes having homework!

    • They are wonderful, aren’t they Lucy! I have learned so much from these writing groups. Before, I had always seen my work from only my viewpoint; and these groups taught me to look at stories and poems from every posdible angle (for reading and writing). I agree with the homework. I don’t think there is anything better than a deadline to meet 🙂

  8. All solid advice. You never know where the mind is going to take you just by looking at something!

    • Thank you. Definitely! I have often wondered that if I were to look at an image today as a prompt and created a story, whether it would have been the same story had I looked at that same image two weeks, months, years down the line. Have a great Sunday!

  9. mamalisa4 says:

    I am so happy to have found your blog!! 🙂 You are very resourceful and full of ideas! Glad to follow! 🙂

    • Thank you, Lisa. It’s lovely to meet you and I can see you are in love with writing from the energy of your words. I look forward to following your posts. Have a lovely weekend. Best Wishes to you.

  10. Thanks for the ideas and the free tacos.

  11. Catherine says:

    I love the ideas you have to inspire writing. I’ll be sure to try some of them out, as I need all the help I can get! Thanks for following my blog. I’ll be following you right back.

    • Thank you so much, Catherine 🙂 I hope that you find some inspiration in the ideas. I love finding out ways to trigger writing…as that blank page can often be a scary place. Thank you for writing. I look forward to following your work. Have a great weekend 🙂

  12. Great writing prompt ideas. I teach creative writing classes and have used many of these over the years. My favorite one (for me and my students) is to come up with five very divergent words (like talisman, specialist, gruesome…etc.) and then write a story incorporating those words in 10 minutes. We come up with great stuff! 🙂 Nice meeting you here thanks to C. J.

  13. […] Continue Dan Alatorre – 3 Steps To Writing An Effective PLOT TWIST Donna Henderson – On Writing J. S. Malpas – Planning Your Novel in Three Steps Abbie Lu – Top Five Fiction Favorites […]

  14. Agboola Adeyemo says:

    I need advise/guidance on writing my autobiography.

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