Archive for the ‘Writing Exercises’ Category

Nature Journaling

Best of the Brave Writer Blog: Nature Journaling

The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful. ~e.e. cummings

Nature Journaling is an important part of the Brave Writer Lifestyle. Turn the exploration of the great, messy outdoors into a joyful writing opportunity!

The Basics

  • Walk together.
  • Collect little rocks, leaves, twigs, mosses, acorns, flowers, and feathers.
  • Bring them home.
  • Set a few of them on a large sheet of white paper in the center of the table.
  • Using drawing pencils and paper, sketch one or more of the items.
  • Then record a few details about the object or the day. One good sentence about the color, or texture or the memory of collecting it or what it looks like, or what it reminds the writer of, is perfect.

Branch Out!

Here are three blog posts full of tips that will enhance your nature journaling experience.

If You are New to Nature Journaling

Nature Journaling Wherever You Are

Writing Exercise: Make Your Nature Walk a Color Walk!

Also, Brave Writer offers an online class each spring and fall that is designed to make nature journaling a natural part of your life. Click on the image below to learn more.

Brave Writer Online Writing Class Nature Journaling

On your mark, get set, GO! Ten 30-Second Writing Exercises

Ten 30-second writing exercises

Here are ten writing exercises that will take about thirty seconds each. The aim is not to create a masterpiece or change your entire writing life–the aim is to write for at least thirty seconds.

Also, for children in the Jot It Down or Partnership Writing stages, parents should feel free to transcribe their kids’ thoughts for 30-seconds.

Pick an exercise, set the timer, and let’s get started!

1. One Sense

Sit down and pick ONE of your senses–sight, smell, hearing, taste, or touch. Then describe everything you feel with that sense, right now. Do you see the sky out of the window and your dogs on the sofa? Do you hear the clock ticking and traffic outside? Whichever sense you choose, write down as much detail as possible in thirty seconds. Go!

2. Song

Put on a song you love and write as the first thirty seconds play. How does it make you feel? Happy, sad, moved, inspired, impassioned? Why do you like it? Do you have strong memories linked with that song? Jot it down.

3. One word

Open a dictionary, close your eyes, pick a random word, and write about it. Go on, see how much you can write about one word in thirty seconds. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s great or silly or you think it’s a beautiful word that everyone should use in every conversation. Write it!

4. Special memory

Pick a favorite memory, a day that was special to you. Why was it special? What did you do? Who was there with you? What was the best moment? List those out.

5. Sum it up

Think about the previous day of your life and sum it up in one phrase. Something like “Best day ever,” “A total drag,” or “Dull but productive.” Then do the same for the day before yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that, until you run out of time.

6. Alteration

Write a sentence of five words. Now quickly change the sentence one word at a time. For example:

“I love my fluffy cat.”
“I love my fluffy slippers.”
“I lost my fluffy slippers.”
“I miss my fluffy slippers.”

See where it takes you in half a minute!

7. A conversation

Pick up two nearby objects, put them side by side, and write a short conversation between the two of them. What would your pencil case say to your hairbrush if they were in love? What would an argument between your pen and your eraser be like?

8. Forward in time

What do you plan to do as soon as you’re done writing? Then what after that? And after that? Keep going till the timer stops.

9. One letter

Pick the letter of the alphabet that your name begins with then write down ten different words that begin with that letter. Give your vocabulary a 30-second workout!

10. Three facts

Write three facts about yourself–the more interesting, the better. Then change ONE word in each fact. For example, “I love wearing hats” could become “I hate wearing hats,” or “I love wearing dangling earrings.” Once you’ve got your new facts, write down a name you like that’s not yours. This is the name of a character you’ve just created.

Enjoy! Later you might expand some of these freewrites into writing projects!

Freewriting Prompts

A word play tip

Does it smell good?Image by Savannah Lewis (cc)

Ask your kids to find the nuance differences between synonyms.

Example— all the words for “smell”


How are they used? Can you use ‘odor’ for flowers? Can you use ‘scent’ for a skunk’s spray?

Can ‘aroma’ be paired with anything besides food? Why or why not?

What’s the difference between a ‘bouquet’ and ‘perfume’? Which is lovelier, easier to breathe in?

How much worse is a ‘stench’ than an ‘odor’? Can you think of two different items and why one would be paired with ‘stench’ and another with ‘odor’?

This is how you build vocabulary far better than using a workbook that makes kids identify definitions or put the words correctly into sentences.

Focus on complexity—nuances, subtlety, relationships, contexts, situations, habits, contradictions in language. These practices help the words “stick” and enrich a child’s writing as you find that some of them will “pop through” to their own work.

Cross-posted on facebook.

Keen Observation

TomatoImage by Steve Hankins

Here’s a fabulous description of the Keen Observation process! This is precisely what is supposed to happen when you use the exercise.

Brave writer mom, Kellie, writes:

Hi Julie,

I’m new to BWL, just printed Writers Jungle Sunday and read through to chapter 6, prowled your website and blog and am now dabbling in some of your recommended pre-free-writing exercises. I’m blown away with the keen observation exercise experience that we had today and felt like I needed to express my gratitude for your insightful, common sense approach to breaking the writing process down into manageable, fun activities.

My daughter 8, and I explored a garden tomato today. She has never been a lover of this fruit mind you. Ketchup and spaghetti sauce, forget about it. But, for some reason she was looking forward to slicing it open and sampling it’s flavor. Maybe it has something to do with the theory she’s subscribing to about how every 7 years you grow new taste buds so your taste in food may change. Whatever her reasons, I’m glad she was a go.

She was so quick to start describing the ruby red tomato with super tiny yellow dots on top that makes it golden red with “green crown  that I didn’t get to ask her the first few questions you supply us with.  Okay, so she was excited to play this “game” but the kicker was after she took a considerable sized  bite out of it and tasted the seeds separate from the flesh. The bite was described as “Yuck it tastes sour and tart”  the seeds as “at first it’s the yuck of the tomato but then it’s a little burst of sweet” There was a goodly amount of juice left on the plate “juice went flying out of it” when sliced, so I asked her to slurp some up.  Moments later she was sprawled on the ground with a puckered up face declaring “I thought it would be bland but it was so powerful it blew my head right off.  My tongue was bursting with strong tart and sour”  She was such a good sport that even after the assault on her mouth she was game for tackling the skin which was “smooth and tough with a bland flavor”.

We thoroughly enjoyed this exercise. We laughed, we joked, we bonded, we praised. Thank you for your courage in sharing.


Adverbially speaking, use them sparingly


Brave Writer mom, Tara, shared how her kids put a Daily Writing Tip into practice. The tip was:

Adverbs (those “ly” words – and others – that dress up your verb and take it to dinner) ought to be used about as often as an evening gown: special occasions, or special sentences. But on the whole, go for a more direct description.

It’s too easy to slap on a descriptor and give up the hard work of making the image, event, idea, or person spring to life through action or concrete language.

For instance, if you write:

She cuddled the dog gently.

The reader is left to imagine what you mean by a gentle cuddle. If you instead SHOW me the cuddle, I create a firmer image in my mind:

She cuddled the dog, stroking his soft ears with her fingertips and resting her tummy on his back.

Each time you write an adverb, ask yourself if you are “showing” or “telling.” Then choose to “show.” You’ll be glad you did.

Tara emailed:

Julie –

Loved yesterday’s Daily Writing Tip. Here are the sentences we started with…and our modified sentences:

I loudly said to my brother, “Get off the computer!”
I said to my brother in my loudest inside voice, “Get off the computer!”
I said to my brother in a voice loud enough for him to hear with his headphones on, “Get off the computer!”

She walked quietly into the room.
She tiptoed into the room, trying not to make any sound at all.
She came into the room, her feel making no noise as she walked.

I carefully walked on the balance beam.
I top toed across the balance beam, trying my best not to fall.
I walked across the beam, using my balance so as not to fall off.
I walked across the balance beam, each heel landing directly in front of the other toes.

I threw the ball quickly.
I there the ball with such a ferocious speed the bater saw only a blur whizzing by his face.

My two youngest were totally engaged. Fun stuff.

Thanks for the great ideas. We are using and loving them.


That’s exactly how it’s done! Bravo!

Also, if you haven’t already, check out our new product, 100 Writing Tips: Volume 1!

Image above created using