One thing is common in great books, radio plays, movies, and videogames: a good story. Good stories come from good writers whose works are found online or on the shelves. Even amateur writers can put their stories into physical or pdf and e-book format, thanks to free online book publishing services.

But before you can write the next book or story, you need to warm your brain up with good writing exercises. Writing exercises can help you develop your writing process and style through practice. Get started with these creative writing activities:

Maximize a Limited Word Count

Keeping to a word count is a challenge. Writers find it challenging to limit their words or struggle to make it to a certain number. Either way, writing to a word limit can help you use words meaningfully and economically. Readers also appreciate a definite word count. Those who have limited time are more likely to read something that is short, while those who take long commutes might want something substantial that doesn’t go on for too long.

Flash Fiction to the Future

A form of fiction with strong relations to word counts, flash fiction are stories under 2,000 words. They test a writer’s capability to create effective narration in just a few paragraphs. Every line is loaded with meaning—after all, you’ll probably only have a sentence or three to convey a full story.

Writing flash fiction is the same as writing short fiction—just a lot shorter, of course. It may be easier if you write without restraint at first, and then edit it to a flash fiction length. You may be surprised at how much of your words are really needed to reach your desired writing effect.

Of course, flash fiction isn’t just a writing activity. It’s a fiction genre in its own right, and there is a debate about the distinction between flash fiction and prose poetry. You can turn the flash fiction you wrote to warm up into a finished piece with the same polish and patience you would accord a novel or a short story.

Plot Backwards

Female taking a break from writing

Plotting a story is straightforward: Detail how the story begins, write what the hero does to resolve problems, and the tie it all together for an ending that makes sense. For this writing exercise, do the opposite: Decide on an ending first, think about what could have happened for the ending to take place, and walk back to the moment where everything was still in status quo.

Reverse outlines help you develop your narrative sense and by sticking to main points, you can check if your plot adheres to the internal logic you created for the story. This process also works for your existing stories. Take a story you’ve written and then create an outline from the ending to the beginning. You may find inconsistencies that you haven’t thought of before.

Writing stories and telling them to an audience is a process made more democratic with each passing day. Publishing online is the most common method of getting your story out there to be consumed by the readers, but there are ways to get your books published and professionally bound.