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Freewriting starting points

Writing Prompts

Freewriting is a writing technique that involves writing without stopping, without editing and without necessarily making sense. I’ve written more about it in this post. Some people hate it, some find it revolutionary, especially if they’ve never tried it before. Freewriting is good for:

  • Getting in touch with your creative side
  • Meeting (and then ignoring) your internal censor
  • Coming up with ideas
  • Warming up
  • Creating characters and stories (if you keep going for long enough)
  • Bypassing the need to spell or punctuate correctly, because you can do that in your subsequent edits.

When you first start freewriting

When you first start, do the following:

  • Find a time when you can focus and a place you can write.
  • Set a timer for 1 to 5 mins. (Gradually increase this as you get used to it.)
  • Write until the timer goes off.
  • There are no rules really, other than don’t stop and don’t edit as you go
  • To spice things up a bit, go somewhere with plenty to observe and try freewriting wherever you end up.

So those are the basics. If you’ve never tried it before, give it a go and see what happens. Let me know in the comments what you think about the technique.

Here are some freewriting prompts

Sometimes it’s good to have some starting points for freewriting so you’re not staring at a daunting blank page before you start, so here are some that I use. It helps to go through the senses you have available to you when you use these, to avoid focusing only on the visual aspects. In other respects, you’re like an impressionist painter, working quickly, jotting down your sense impressions.

1. A quirky or old building. This could be a picture of a building, or I might write on a site visit, or use a building from my past. Use all of the senses available to you to describe it and then imagine it populated.

2. Water. Any body or water will do. It could be natural or man-made. A river, the ocean, a bath or a puddle. Start by describing it in as much detail as possible and then introduce people who interact with it.

3. Freewriting as word association. Use a starting word. A colour is good for this. Then write down what that makes you think of, then repeat. After you’ve done this a few times, start to describe what the trigger word makes you think of in sentences rather than single words.

4. Method freewriting. I’ve written about method writing in this post. Method freewriting is where you set up an environment (like you’re on stage) so that you can deliberately experience something. When I wrote my second novel, I created the environment of the café in my spare room by playing 1920s music and burning joss sticks to create smoke.

5. Writing walks. Walk for a bit, find a bench and write for a bit, describing what you experienced, then repeat the process. Do this somewhere interesting or somewhere related to your current work in progress or treat it as a creative thinking exercise.

What to do next

Once you get really good at freewriting, try using the technique for longer, perhaps for half an hour or forty-five minutes or even an hour at a time. Carry a notebook and record things you might use as a freewriting starting point, like ephemera, interesting objects, overheard dialogue or interesting buildings.

More soon. Until then, happy writing,

Lou xx

P.S. If you’d like more tips like these, take a look at the Small Steps Writing Guides. How to Think Like a Writer has a whole chapter on freewriting.

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