Beyond Free Writing

Letter-texture-imagination-43303-lI'm a huge fan of free writing ( writing to prompts, when you set a timer and write, not stare off into space, not think deep thoughts, write, just letting your hand move across the page), and I recommend it as a practice all the time.

I even have a page on my blog devoted to prompts.

And yet….

Sometimes free writing does not serve writers well.

Sometimes free writing can take you away from the subject at hand.  Sometimes free writing is hard to reconcile with your work in progress.  Sometimes it can feel silly.  And when writing time is so precious, who wants to take time to write on some random topic?

Or what if you're a new writer, free writing away, and suddenly you feel the desire to shape one of your free writes into a story?  What then?  How do you move beyond free writing?

Here are some suggestions:

–Use a sentence, line of dialogue or description from your current WIP (work in progress) as the prompt.  This can open up all kinds of avenues for your story.

–Use a random prompt, but hold the idea of your WIP in your head as you write.  I find that when I'm engrossed in a WIP, I automatically default to writing about it when free writing.

–After a free write, go through and highlight all the sentences you like.  Then use these as prompts. (Alternatively, you can cross out everything you dislike and use what's left.)

–Try transferring your free writes to the computer.   I always find this step pushes me to rewrite, revise and shape.  Before you know it, a story might emerge.

–Challenge yourself to write flash fiction during your free writes.  By letting the words flow freely and attempting to create a full story, you'll train yourself to think in story.

–Do a free write in the voice of your character.  Pretend it is her writing to a prompt instead of you.

–Free write a description of something in the room you're sitting in.  This marries free flowing words and directed writing.

That's all I've got for now.   But I bet my wise and wonderful readers have some good ideas.  How do you move beyond free writing to crafting your words?

My students and clients use free writing and all kinds of other exercises to get words on the page.  And it works!  I've got people ripping through books and stories at the moment, writing like crazy.  Wouldn't you like to be one of them?  Email me and let's talk.

Photo by svilen001.

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2 Responses to Beyond Free Writing

  1. Jessica Baverstock 10/16/2012 at 21:09 #

    I really like the idea of highlighting sentences. I’m going to try that sometime!

    I love free writing, and there are times when my fingers/hand just cannot keep up with my thoughts and it’s a beautiful (if painful) feeling.

    But I find there are times when I need to stop and think. This, to me, is where the usefulness of free writing ends. If I need to mull over something to get the right word or to decide which path I’m going to take, I think it’s better to stop writing for a minute or two and allow my mind to catch up than to keep going at full pelt just because that’s what you’re supposed to do when free writing.

    The point of free writing is to keep you moving, even (especially?) when you don’t feel like writing any more. So I figure if I don’t feel like writing or don’t have any ideas I will keep on writing without stopping. If I have an idea and feel the need to *stop* and *think* about it, that’s when I stop writing. I only stop when I *know* I’ll be writing again in a couple of minutes.

    Sometimes I’ll transfer to brainstorming instead until I have my words back or my idea straightened out.

  2. Charlotte Dixon 10/17/2012 at 08:24 #

    You make an excellent point about the various points of the process, Jessica.  The point of free writing is to be, well, free, with your writing, to let it all out no matter how "bad" it might be.  And then there are times when you really need to think.  What I try to remember is that spirit of free writing, and the ideas I know it will bring me.  Thanks for making this excellent point, it is good to have you back!

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