mini writing workshop – rewrite the rules

This is an exercise from ”Play-Full Writing’, a workshop I gave in March for Touchstones Creative Writing Group. Full blurb for that workshop is on the sporadically updated Writing Rochdale blog.

This is a fifteen – twenty minute (or however many minutes you would like!) exercise that I’ve written up as a self-led activity. Any questions please drop a message in the comments box below and if you’d like to share your work I’d love to read it. One of my favourite things about running creative writing sessions is the magic that comes from a blank page to a page full of ideas, potential, and wonderful words.


You will need something to write and record your ideas and work with – PC/laptop/phone/tablet, paper and pens/pencils, audio recorder.

Part One: the games we played

I’d like you to think about what games you played as a child. At home, at school, in parks, elsewhere. I’ve offered some suggestions below but feel free to add yours. If possible, think about games that either had rules with them or rules that you made up. Jot these rules down as you go. Set a timer for 2 – 5 minutes for this or just go until you can’t think of any more.

  • Tag (run!)
  • British Bulldog (run FASTER!)
  • What time is it Mr Wolf? (“DINNERTIME!”)
  • Football / netball / anything with rules plus a ball
  • Elastics/Jumpsies (one of many primary school chants: “Eng-land, Ire-land, Scot-land, Wales / in-SIDE, out-SIDE, donkeys’ tails”)
  • Card games (playing cards, Top Trumps, Pokémon, Magic the Gathering…)
  • Board games (sometimes it’s wet so chess seems a good option until you realise that the lad from the year below has demolished your King in five moves… just me?!)
  • Clapping games
  • Roleplaying games (let’s pretend we’re aliens)
  • Computer games (Pong, Space Invaders, Mario Bros., Sonic, Tony Hawks Pro Skater, Assassin’s Creed, Nethack etc.)
  • It’s all about tree climbin’, mud slidin’, brook leapin’ action
  • I’m sure you can think of some more – have a think! Give yourself a few moments and list them.

Part two: the fun we had(?)

Now, delve deeper into your own experience. I would like you to think about how the games made you feel. Pick one, or two of the ones from your list and jot down your memories. Have a think about the others that were around to if any, think about them too. Again give yourself two – five minutes to think about this.

Part three: put it all together

This final part is all about freewriting. So give yourself ten minutes minimum on a timer and consider the following within your piece that you’ve already considered above:

  1. What are the rules of your chosen game?
  2. What are your memories of the game?
  3. How could you change the rules?
  4. What could be the effects of this on the game / on other players / on you?
  5. What happens next?

Write a poem or piece of prose, if you get stuck, write the name of the game over and over until you can carry on. This is your first draft so don’t worry, it won’t be the final piece if you want to give it a polish.

To set you off here’s a slightly more polished draft of a poem I wrote using this exercise that you can download here: British Bulldog, March 2020 and you can hear me reading the poem on Soundcloud via this link. This is the third draft of what was a ropey first draft with lots of repeats. If you would like to polish your work, give yourself a further twenty or so minutes for the next draft. And then the same for the next draft. (Because writing is rewriting!)

Good luck, and if you do give this a go, and want to share it, please do so in the comments below :-) If you’re commenting on someone else’s piece, please be kind and constructive. Remember: it’s not the person, it’s the work you’re critiquing!