Note from Wonder Woman... Eventually I will link these to the corresponding threads... eventually.

Exercises adapted from Michael Stackpole's 21 Days to a Novel.

Day One - Five Sentences

This one's simple, and you'll be building on it for the next few days.

Five simple sentences, no more than a dozen words each, describing five different aspects of a character's circumstances. It may be something about the character's work, or romantic life, or any number of things.

5 sentences, no more!

Day Two - Five Paragraphs

Day Two - Write two more sentences to add on to the sentences you wrote for Day 1, to turn them into five short paragraphs.

Day Three - Five Contrary Sentences

Okay, here we go! On Day Three, we're keeping our original paragraphs, but then start a new paragraph to continue each thought. Write one sentence that introduces a contrary thought - showing the dark, or the light side of things, in contrast to what you have already written in the first paragraph. Five sentences, one for each paragraph!

Day Four - Five More Little Paragraphs

Yep, you guessed it! Continuing on with the paragraphs you've started with the contrary sentences - finish each of them with two more sentences, to create 5 sets of two contrasting paragraphs.

Day Five - New Kid In Town

New character time! Repeat exercises from Days 1 - 4 for a new character!

Day Six - When I Grow Up....

Day 6, here we go: Your character has goals and aspirations, in fact both of them do! Provide two short-term goals, and one long-term goal at a minimum - for each character. Ideally, some of their goals will conflict, which can provide drama between the two. Nummy plot hooks, away!

Day Seven - It's the Man, Keepin' Me Down...

Okay. Day 7 is about fears and obstacles that prevent our intrepid characters from achieving their goals. So - the idea is to write one sentence per goal that explains why your character hasn't achieved each goal you wrote about yesterday. Try to make the obstacle or fear or problem something from the first 10 paragraphs you wrote. Basically, the character getting in his/her own way, which creates the impetus for change.

Day Eight - Once More, With Feeling!

Do exercises 1-4, and 6 and 7 again - for a third character! When you get to exercises 6 and 7, try to tie in goals or obstacles to the other two!

Day Nine - Dear Susan...

Write a letter from Character A to Character B asking for help, offering a warning, apologizing, or explaining something that has happened. Before you do that, however - step one is describing the letter, if only to yourself. Think about what type of paper it is - pencil, pen? Ink? Is it ragged, crumpled, or folded neatly? That's a start to describing state of mind. This is a really neat exercise.

Day Ten - He Said, She Said

Have a conversation between characters A and B about the contents of the letter. Dialogue only! No "he said, with a sly grin." No dialogue tags. The focus is on developing a unique voice for each character, so that a reader could identify your character without difficulty, based on the way you write their dialogue.

Day Eleven - Body Language

Over halfway there!

Today, your third character is watching yesterday's conversation. First, write the language you would use to describe the speakers as they're having the dialogue. Then, braid it into the dialogue itself.

For extra credit, have the third character join the conversation and expand it into a three-way discussion!

Day Twelve - Where Are You From?

What roots your characters in the world? What in their lives is a reflection of the world they grew up in? You may need/want to adjust your character descriptions a bit to reflect this. Basically - use their characterizations to help you figure out what kind of world would create these aspects. What is the world's impression of your character? What does your character think about that, the world, and him/herself?

This is theoretically a 60 minute exercise.

Day Thirteen - It's a Cold, Cruel World

How does the world help or hinder your characters' achievement of their life goals? How does the world exacerbate their fears and/or encourage their hopes?

Like yesterday's, this is a 60 minute exercise.

Day Fourteen - Making the World a Better Place

If the characters succeed in attaining their life goals, how will the world be changed? What happens to the world if they fail? What are the points where the world will push back against them, and how?

Another 60 minute exercise.

Day Fifteen - A Day in the Life

Write a scene with your characters in a shared location. Each scene should only have one of your characters in it, but use the same physical setting/scene for each of your characters. They shouldn't interact with each other, unless they're thinking of each other - but no direct interaction. They can interact with other NPCs in that area, if there are any. Each scene should be a minimum of 500 words.

Day Sixteen - White Knuckles, Brass Knuckles

Write up a tag-line and back-cover blurb for your book. It sounds deceptively simple, but can make or break a book. Don't focus on how things will happen - focus on what will happen. This should be a paragraph or two - but should entice readers to want to read your book, out of all the other books that are on the shelf next to it.

Day Seventeen - You Break It, You Fix It

Today we're developing a character's story arc. Every problem has five steps:

1) Show us the problem.
2) Have the character realize there is a problem.
3) Show the catalyst for change/solution to each problem.
4) Show development of resources to facilitate change/success.
5) Show success or failure of effort to resolve problem.

Limit yourself to three lines to describe each of the above steps for a problem for each character. The paragraphs should sketch out scenes to be written in the story.

Extra credit: You get extra credit if the solutions to different characters' problems are mutually exclusive (e.g. solving the problem for Character A prevents the solution to Character B's problem from coming to fruition).

Day Eighteen - He Did WHAT?

Identify the correspondences and conflicts between the storylines for each character. See where any single scene will serve two storylines. See where any action or scene for one character will create repercussions for another. Expand scene inventory and descriptions to account for these links.

Note - hold yourself to three line descriptions if you can. If you go over, look at breaking things down into multiple scenes that accomplish what you were thinking of doing in a single scene.

Day Nineteen - Again, In Slow Motion and Reverse Angle

Go back through days seventeen and eighteen. Identify where you want the character to end up, then break the progression into problem and solution sequences. Ideally, each character should end up with 10-20 sentences that detail his growth. This will likely require two passes, since comparing elements among the characters will generate more scenes, and these will have to be adjusted or refined from each character's point of view.

Day Twenty - What a Tangled Web We Weave

Braid the scenes together into a single timeline. This will become the outline for your novel!

Day Twenty-One - Start Here, Go 'Til It Ends

Start writing your novel!

Some suggestions from Stackpole:

1) Every word you put down is one closer to the end.
2) Make a note, edit later. Period.
3) Make copious notes, from detailed descriptions, to things you want to consider using later.
4) Make hard copy and back up your files.


Shoot for short chapters (2500-3000 words) and a total novel length of approximately 90k-115k words.

Good luck!