Keep Going, Keep Writing: Week One – Short-Story Tennis

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I think we can all agree that these days we need things in our lives to keep us going. Things to fill great swathes of time that we now have on our hands.

With that in mind, I think now would be a really good time for us to share writing exercises and prompts that can help get our creative juices flowing, and that will also give us all some much needed entertainment.

For however long the lockdown continues for, I am going to throw out weekly writing exercises/prompts for anyone and everyone to respond to.

Here’s how it’ll work:

  • I’ll post a prompt on Fridays and you just let your imagination take over from there.
  • When you have a story you’re happy with, post it to your own website with a link back to whichever post on here prompted the story.
  • OR – If you don’t have a website, feel free to send the story to me via my Contact page and I’ll happily host it on here with full writing credit and copyright to you.

So Let’s Get Started!

Week One: Short-Story Tennis

This week, I’d like to introduce you to something that I call Short-Story Tennis.

Tennis players playing a match on the court

For this, you will need:

  • A completely warped and over-active imagination
  • A writing partner with a similarly affected imagination
  • A word-processing programme on your laptop
  • Access to email
  • A little extra time on your hands

This is what you do:

  • You write the first 100 words of a story – exactly 100 words (no cheating!), so if that means you stop mid-sentence, then so be it.
  • Pick a colour/font for it when it is typed up.
  • Send it to your writing partner, who then writes the next 100 words (again, exactly 100 words, just like before).
  • They then pick their own colour/font to differentiate their work from yours and send it back to you.
  • You then add the next 100 words.
  • And so on, and so on, until you have a completed (and hopefully very random) short story written between you.

You and your writing partner can also agree on some more ground rules in relation to genre, narrative voice, or anything else you think would help. You can make this go on for as long or as short as you like, and given that we’re all in lockdown for the foreseeable future, having something that can keep you occupied indefinitely can’t be a bad thing!

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I started this with my writing partner, Sarah Jayne Tanner, a few weeks ago (a little before the lockdown took effect actually), and it is a lot of fun! Sarah and I are very different writers. I am an underwriter, she is an overwriter. I plan and map out my stories before starting them, she (for the most part) lets the story unfold at the end of her pen – I wish I could do that!

We have wanted to work together on something for a while, but given our different styles and approaches to writing, and the fact that we live at opposite ends of the country, it has been difficult to find something that works for both of us. This seemed like a good idea that we could share between us.

As we both gravitate towards Fantasy and Science Fiction, and have similarly expansive imaginations, I knew I could count on her not only to follow the bizarre wanderings of my own brain, but also add in her own twists and turns for me to react to along the way.

The point of this exercise is not necessarily to come up with the greatest work of fiction in the world, but to test your own boundaries for inspiration and spontaneity in fiction.

And also to have fun! Have lots of fun with this.

So, who’s up for a spot of Short-Story Tennis? Grab your partners and off you go!

If you start something up and decide to share your progress as you go, please link back to here so I can have a read as well! I’d love to see how your stories pan out!

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If you feel you need a jumping off point, below is the first 100 words that I sent to Sarah that started our great (mis)adventure. Maybe it will help you on your way.


The train passes me twice a day, every day – 8:46am heading north, and 3:57pm heading south. No matter where I am, no matter what I’m doing, it’s there. 

I hear the calliope organ in the back carriage first, playing its optimistic, jaunty music. Then the click of its wheels on the track. Then the horn blast, loud in my ears as it hurtles by. Most days, it passes slowly with barely a stir of wind, its music distorting as it fades into the distance. Some days it whips past in a fury. 

Today it stopped. Today, I got on board. 

© Rachael Farrimond 2020

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