Writing Exercises

Writing exercises are good tools to help any author improve. This week’s exercise is designed to teach you to use only the adjectives you need. We’ve all heard the advice: Paint a picture with your words. Describe the scene. Be creative with your words…

Many first time authors take this advice a little too far and over use adjectives when describing something, because let’s face it–the more descriptive words used, the better the picture, right?


We’ve all read passages that over use adjectives, for example:

Mary’s smooth, silky, luxurious mane of riotous curly hair tumbled in undulating cascading waves down her back, shimmering with brilliant highlights that were neither gold, red or brown, but something wholly unique.

(I know, it’s quite awful right? It’s okay to agree.)

Most of the time one or two adjectives are enough  to create an image, but instead of overusing adjectives, authors should strive to use better adjectives. The following is an exercise to help authors practice this skill.

  • Select a scene from something you’ve written.
  • Rewrite it without any adjectives. Remove every last one and list them on a  separate paper.
  • Read the scene without the adjectives.
  • Review the list of removed adjectives and replace each one with an adjective not already on the list, using lesser known adjectives or better word choices.
  • Using the new list of adjectives, put back only the adjectives that are necessary for clarity. Nothing more.
  • Read the scene again.
  • Did you need all those adjectives? If the passage needs a few more, add them in but limit yourself to one per noun, two at the most and only occasionally. Never three.
  • Read the scene again.
  • How does it compare to the way it read in the beginning?

 The idea here is to give enough description to give your readers’ imaginations flight to create the scene in their head without directing every minute detail. The more ownership a reader has in creating the scenes and characters in their imagination, the more invested in the  story they will become.

Additional Writing Exercises

Writing Exercise: Inanimate Object


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