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Arvon Friends Writing Tips and Exercises

Writing Exercises

Poetry: taking a different view

Genre: Poetry

Read a poem by another writer. Then set yourself the challenge of writing that poem anew from a different perspective, in a completely different voice. I’ve used this challenge with Sylvia Plath’s famous poem ‘Mirror’. Plath’s piece is written from t...

Helen-Mort Helen Mort

Writing Tips

Write about things that deeply connect with you

Genre: Poetry

In ‘Poetry in the Making’ Ted Hughes said: you write interestingly only about the things that genuinely interest you…in writing, you have to be able to distinguish between those things about which you are merely curious things you heard about last week o...

Helen-Mort Helen Mort

Writing Tips

Balancing Control with Chaos

Genre: Poetry

When we’re learning to write, we expend a lot of effort on control: how to make poems more unified, more consistent; how to home in on the ‘real’ subject or central emotional concern. This is all useful and valuable. Poems do not work if they...

Frances Leviston-101-BW-Crop Frances Leviston

Writing Exercises

Plaiting Disparate Elements Together

Genre: Poetry

Often poems have one dominant subject, and other subjects enter and leave the poem only as corollaries to that central concern. This exercise is about a different kind of poem – one that keeps three or more subjects in play, each of them equally weighted, an...

Frances Leviston-101-BW-Crop Frances Leviston

Writing Tips

Character – building, the art of psychometry

Genre: Fiction

One way of creating character, and/or teasing out some psychological depth, is to find for them a resonant object – an object associated in some way with your character, or an object that your character covets or loves. It might be a piece of furniture &...

Jane-Feaver Jane Feaver

Writing Exercises

Burning chair

Genre: Fiction

Imagine that there is an armchair smouldering outside on the street. Begin by describing the chair in precise, physical, concrete detail. How big is it? What is it made of? With what sort of material is it covered in? (Think pattern, texture, wear). What are i...

Jane-Feaver Jane Feaver

Writing Exercises

Shall we dance, fight or both?

Genre: Fiction

STEP 1:     Cut small squares of paper or card. Divide these into three stacks of up to 20: A (NAMES) B (ACTIVITIES) C (PLACES) STEP 2:     For stack A: write the names of your characters For stack B: write the names of activities (e.g dance, fight, driv...

Selma Dabbagh Selma Dabbagh

Writing Tips

Get them out of there

Genre: Fiction

This is a suggestion for writers of fiction, particularly long fiction, who feel that their characters are not as dynamic, quirky, well rounded or interesting as they would like them to be. The idea is to put two or more characters together in a random situati...

Selma Dabbagh Selma Dabbagh

Writing Exercises

Repurposing language

Genre: Poetry

Take an article in a newspaper: you could choose one deliberately (for example, it might be interesting to use an especially contentious example from a newspaper or magazine that you loathe!), or at random. Either way, find one that is relatively short. Now wr...

Paul Batchelor Paul Batchelor

Writing Tips

Restricted diction

Genre: Poetry

You can learn a great deal about how language works, and about the sort of poetry you want to write, by stretching yourself, and trying to be more resourceful in your choices of diction. (Read some poems by Wallace Stevens if you want to see where this can lea...

Paul Batchelor Paul Batchelor

Writing Exercises

Getting started on your novel

Genre: Fiction

The Simplest Exercise in the World Switch off the Internet. Set a timer for 15 minutes.  Open an exercise book or use sheets of paper. Use a pen. Remember those? What I want you to do is imagine a carousel at a fair. The horses are motionless. Then you hear a...

Tiffany-Murray Tiffany Murray

Writing Tips

Starting your novel

Genre: Fiction

You have been thinking about your novel for the longest time. You have taken notes. You have a line of notebooks, possibly arranged by colour, by date and time. In any case, you’ve been thinking, researching, noting; dreaming characters’ lives until you ar...

Tiffany-Murray Tiffany Murray


Testimonial Read More

As a Friend of Arvon and with all my friends from Arvon – I am confident that I will never lose that confidence and motivation to use my voice and achieve that first novel. — Chris Metcalfe, Friend

I became a Friend as I wanted to support the great work Arvon does, having got so much out of my course last year, and also to have the chance to book onto courses earlier. — Mark, Friend

The “Friends” scheme is perfectly-named – it’s how I feel towards Arvon. They’re a friend I’ve turned to at tricky, self-doubting points in my writing life and I know they are there if I need them again for time, space and inspiration. — Julie Mayhew, Friend