Wednesday, June 13, 2012


This morning on my CaymanSummer blog, I was reminiscing about the very first free write I ever wrote and decided to share my favorite writing technique with you. I adore free-writing. I try to include a free write exercise in every class I teach--from grade school to high school to SCBWI! Everyone who has to write anything can free write. I'd never heard of free writing until I went to Vermont College of Fine Arts. I wish I would have heard about them when I was six and crazy to be a writer.

Whenever I get stuck with a scene--especially if it's something difficult or emotionally powerful or painful--I write what I've got to do at the top of a blank piece of pink paper, put it on my nightstand table, sleep on it, and as soon as I wake up, I pick up the paper and scribble away. I have a lap desk that I've used for years to make scribbling in bed easier. It feels so much less like work if I'm still in bed propped up by feather pillows. You don't have to free write in bed or first thing in the morning. This works anywhere. Anytime.

And you don't have to write on pink paper. White intimidates me. Pink works for YA romances. Pale pink. When we lived in Switzerland, I found this lovely ballet pink A-4 size paper that made me feel poetic every time I touched it. The pastel pink I use now isn't quite as inspiring, but it works for me--unless I'm trying to write for middle grade boys. I basically free write my entire first drafts so pens and paper are critical. (I'll have to devote an entire post to black Zebra gel pens with cushioned barrels.)

The book I just finished, The Order of the Flick, is a middle grade sci-fi adventure for boys. Big shift from "luminous" YA romances. I was having a horrible time getting the first draft going. Stuck all the time. I kept researching and putting off writing. Not good. Then I realized, I was trying to write it on pink paper. I went to my favorite store on earth, Staples, and perused the stacks of colored paper. Big sale!! So I had to stock up on extra reams of pink, and the peach was so pretty, and I couldn't resist the lilac. I bought a lovely yellow, too. The yellow worked for Flick. I got the draft finished. My agent has it. Next step, revision.

Okay, back to free writing. Bonus points if you've made it this far through my rambling. Here's a crash course.

rules for free writes

  • it must be done by hand
  • the leader will give you a prompt or give yourself a prompt (I like to make up my own.)
  • when the leader says, "go," start writing
  • you cannot lift your pen from the pad until the timer goes off (you decide 3-5 min.)
  • don't worry about spelling, grammar, punctuation--just scribble away
  • use unlined paper if you can--lines can restrict your creativity
  • writing, "ummmmmmmm," or "I hate this" is allowed--just keep writing
There are all kinds of writing books full of prompts, but I prefer to come up with my own. Students, if you have an assignment to write something, use that as your prompt. You'll be amazed how much you get done. Teachers, try free writes during journalling time. Give them a prompt and set the timer. Be sure to let the kids share what they've come up with. That's my favorite part when I'm in a classroom.

Writers, try a "what if" question relating to whatever is percolating in your brain today. Free write to get it on the page. You'll be so excited. I promise. I always am. Every time. I no longer time my own free writes because once I get going, I don't want to stop. Try it with or without a timer. What works best for you? 

Free writes can be transformed into free verse poems . . . but that's another post! 

Thanks for dropping by.

Happy writing,


No comments:

Post a Comment