I don’t always rely on books for writing exercises.  Sometimes I google them.  It depends where I am.  If I’m in a cafe, or when I was bored at work, I’d find web sites that listed some.  Since I prefer writing non-fiction, I searched for memoir-type exercises, but usually without success.  So now I rely on fiction writing exercises, replacing "two characters" with "two people" in the instructions.  Sometimes the fiction exercises just free my writing up.  Here are some of the books I’ve used…the list is not expansive.  These aren’t books on writing, or the writer’s way.  They aren’t about morning pages or artist dates.  I’m only listing the ones I find really helpful:

In truth, though, I rarely use those anymore, though they are helpful when you’re stuck or feel like everything is turning out dull.  The memoir book doesn’t really tell you how to write an autobiography, but it does offer you good memory-inducing questions, lists, and spaces to answer childhood questions.  Aside from these books, I read poetry, and sometimes will pluck a word or turn of phrase, and make it my own, weaving it into a story, or imagining what it must be like to live in the narrator’s head.  Sometimes it’s a phrase, like, "faute de mieux" which Crosby, Stills, & Nash turned into "Love the One You’re With."  So I decided to write as if I were in that position.  Or what it must be like to be Ibsen’s Nora.  I like taking someone I know and imagining what it must be like to be them, growing up.  Look at Wicked.  I love the idea of taking the side of a typical villain and showing how they’ve been wronged, but these things take time.  I like the exercises in the first two books I’ve mentioned because they limit how much time you should spend on each exercise to a few minutes.  It’s just to get your brain lubricated.  They aren’t supposed to be sensational works of art.  It’s why I laugh when anyone comments that I could "try harder."  I think people forget that I don’t TRY to put my best foot forward when writing this blog.  They forget I’m writing a television show and another book right now.  They forget that I do it for fun, and that for the most part, this blog is where I dump my days.  It’s my "today I…" place.  And I’m keeping it that way.  If an entry is labeled "writing exercise," try to understand, I’m not always writing from my own point of view.  That’s what all the other categories are for.



  1. I admire your devotion to writing. I guess i'm looking for the thing that I will be as passionate about. Till then, i'll live vicariously.

  2. I had no control over the UK book cover. What can I tell you. It's funny because in my first post ever on this subject, I told one publisher, "whatever you do, don't make my book cover pink or have an image of shoes." Of course, my UK publisher is different from my US publisher. I imagine the Italian, German, and Russian covers will look like the US cover, but who knows.

  3. I don`t like the UK version either, the US one is so much better. It has more style and its fresh

  4. Perfect post for me today.

    I spent last night filtering through the 'writing exercise' texts on Amazon UK.

    I need something to do when I'm bored and tired of writing about Cousin Dewey and Old Lady Pucketts death curse.

    Erm. Yes.

  5. I really enjoy reading your work. I noticed that Cat said you shared your curly hair products..what do you use? Your hair is fab!
    Thanks and good luck!

  6. People complain that you don't try hard enough?

    1) the post below this is brilliant and gorgeous

    2) It's your blog

    3) A blog is a blog is a blog. No matter how much most bloggers would like it to be, it's usually not the exact way a person would write for publication.

    That takes revising until it's impossible to anymore, and many exercises before and during the writing process.

    love blogging but am so happy that blogging wasn't around when I was younger. Wouldn't have understood the difference between blogging and writing

    I dump the days feelings into my blog.

    Truly admire the way you even keep your blog up while so much else is happening to you.

  7. Photography books? Well, this is harder for me to answer. I took classes for photography. Any basic book which teaches you how to push or pull film and about exposure, should suit you fine. The most important part of photography is understanding how your camera works. Knowing what all the buttons of your SLR do. And get a camera where you can control shutter speed manually… I use a Nikon D100.

    As for exercises, my first exercise in photography was to photograph a pepper. Look back in my photography archives for that. There are many assignments you can give yourself. "Only photograph reflections," "photograph a yellow object on a yellow backdrop… or color subject on same color background," photograph shadows… you get the idea. Does this help?

    It also helps to look at a lot of photography. Comb the stock sites, corbis & getty, and just start to understand modern crops and general composition. You'll learn what you like, then, on the streets, you'll look for it to replicate… that's what I did when I began in advertising, choosing the art work for my clients.

  8. Thanks for the tips, Stephanie. I have been feeling a little uninspired lately. Your post today = my spree tomorrow.

  9. will the canadian cover be the same as the u.s. version? i like the american one much better … it would catch my eye at the book store. the u.k. cover is too chick-lit-esque … looks like a million other books about single girls who love shoes! :)

  10. When I'm stuck I come over here and read your stuff. I admire the way you use words like paintbrushes.

    Do you have any recommendations for PHOTOGRAPHY? Or is that something that comes to you totally naturally?

    I once asked about your curly hair products and you shared, so I'm hoping for the same.


  11. So funny you mentioned WICKED! I just saw it in Atlanta on Sunday. Amazingly wonderful….loved it! Worth the fortune I paid for them on Ebay. (they were sold out)

  12. Yes, that does help. I like the 'exercises' idea.
    Thank you.

    Keep posting photos. I like 'em more than the writing…..What?! ;)

  13. I think I like your U.S. version better because it is more intriguing. You seldom see book covers filled with pictures of a person (with the exception of autobiography's and the such). Anyhow, I think the photos make it person and draw you in. Bait and hook. It's great.

  14. Hey the space in between where there is something (a pic perhaps) is empty.
    From the cooments it seems i ve a problem with my browser.
    i'm dyieng to see what it is though.
    i keep refreshing the page every 5 mins.

  15. Thanks for the links! I'm always trying to figure out new ways to whet the writing whistle!

  16. Funny to see Brian Kiteley's book up there. I'm enamoured of his fiction writing, especially "Still life with Insects"

    A writing exercise I've liked in the past is to take the headings from "The Pillowbook of Sei Shonagon" and write one's own essays. I don't know if you've read her, she's an 8th century Japanese writer who wrote a collection of little essays on a variety of topics. The best known translation is that of Ivan Morris.

    The link below is to a description of Shonagon's book

  17. I agree with Cat, when I'm stuck sometimes I feel unstuck after reading something of yours. We should all be so lucky to have landed a book/tv deal with our writing, but then I just do this to get things off my chest and accomplish something. Really I'm an actress. Seriously, I should play you in your show! When are the auditions? :) ~Jodi

  18. I'm working on a screenplay so I completely understand the need for help in getting unstuck. That people would tell you to "try harder" just shows how little they know about facing the blank page and trying to make it look easy.

  19. Stephanie's writing= Lea's vocabulary

    That's where a lot of things come from I have noticed.

    "Yeah, whatever Lea…"

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