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Arvon Friends Writing Tips and Exercises

Find writing tips and exercises from our Arvon tutors here, to develop your craft and inspire your imagination. Each writing tip comes with a related writing exercise, and a new tip and exercise are added every fortnight.

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Writing Exercises

Write towards the discomfort

Genre: Poetry

A very simple act of reversal: conventionally we might begin a writing exercise with a prompt given to us and write from there- I want to do something slightly different. We write best when we’re uncomfortable (a notion I much prefer to that idea that you h...

Andrew McMillan

Writing Tips

Poetic truth

Genre: Poetry

Once, when I was reading a Selima Hill collection, I noticed that she’d used an epigraph by the poet Rita-Ann Higgins; it’s a piece of wisdom I’ve carried with me ever since: “To get to the poetic truth, it is not always necessary to tell that what-act...

Andrew McMillan

Writing Exercises

Let the place do the talking

Genre: Non-Fiction & Life Writing

It is tremendously difficult to write about a place you know as if you are a travel writer. I have tried it and it is almost impossible: there are too many layers of knowledge and association and – possibly mixed – feeling between you and your subj...

Horatio Clare

Writing Tips

Tips for Travel Writing

Genre: Non-Fiction & Life Writing

First, you need to find a subject that lights you up. If beach resorts are not your thing, then a stretch of dully gleaming sand on the Costa is not going to inspire your best piece. Great travel books come from the writer’s desire to find out about some...

Horatio Clare

Writing Tips

Writing in a Spoken Voice

Genre: Fiction

If you find the point of view in your stories tends to wander around the place (sometimes very informal and close to the character, sometimes quite formal and distant) write in a more spoken voice. Choose a voice you can hear in your head, perhaps even one bel...

Toby Litt

Writing Exercises

The Gap Between

Genre: Comedy, Fiction, Short Story, Speculative & Theatre

I’d like you to do something very simple. Sit back, close your eyes, and try to remember an entire conversation you’ve heard or been part of in, say, the last year. By this I mean, remember in detail exactly what A said to begin with and exactly what B rep...

Toby Litt

Writing Exercises

Find the shape of your story

Genre: All

Pick up one of the books you really like – it doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or non-fiction. Skim through it again, or just refresh yourself by looking at the table of contents or chapter headings (if applicable). Think of the shape and try out various s...

David Bodanis

Writing Tips

Shaping the flow of writing

Genre: All

This is very odd, but when it comes to non-fiction I like drawing little pictures of the inner dynamic or flow of my books. These pictures only become clear once I’m a little way into the writing, but they help terrifically in finishing off, and also in ...

David Bodanis

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