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Digital Subscriptions > Writing Magazine > August 2016 > Be yourself

Be yourself

Write just 500 words to help you discover your inner writer. Author and lecturer James McCreet introduces a practical exercise and considers why it works

As part of my MA Novel course, I often ask the students to do a short writing exercise that always has interesting results. It’s quite simple. All they have to do is write 500 words about a book from the wider-reading list, explaining why they love it as a piece of writing.

I am clear on one very important point: this shouldn’t be a review. I don’t want to read a summary of the story. I don’t want to enter into value judgements or star ratings. The piece is intended for an audience of one – me – and has no other purpose than to show me how the reader has engaged with the book as a piece of writing. I don’t want to know about the author or the book’s history or the reputation of the title. I just want to know how the reader felt and why. No mark is given. It counts not a jot towards the final degree.

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Earn from your writing and get published: Cash prize competitions, calls for submissions and writing opportunities in 20 pages of Writers' News Discover your inner writer Cut to the heart of your novel – without losing the plot Social skills: Learn to use your online time to the max 10 top tips to get your book published and keep it selling Reader successes: Readers share their success stories Meet our publishing deal competition winner Star interview: Prize-winning poet and author Kei Miller on writing without boundaries

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