Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere

The Freedom of Free-writing


Often when a writer is stuck–blocked–we hear the suggestion to “just start writing, it doesn’t matter what, just write.” In my experience, there’s something to that. For me, the very act of putting pencil to paper (as opposed to fingers to keyboard, which works, but not as well) seems to kickstart my stalled creative energies.

“…the backup seminar director–former classmate that gave Sierra a hard time? … no, friend. So, would he know about the FBO? What would he know? maybe he’d be able to give some insight.

Remember, keep conflict w/ Chief. Have to show he’s a dick, and make sure wife (PD clerk) behavior changes when he’s in the room. Need to have some PD harassment when Sierra alone. What would Quinn do while Sierra is at airport?

Sierra and Quinn to PD. Is teacher’s daughter in waiting area? or waiting area empty so they can talk to PD clerk, see her behavior b4 Chief enters waiting area, escorts teacher and daughter into waiting area. Conflict between Chief and Sierra

…AgCat? Pawnee? Cessna 188?…turbine–which? JT8D? naw, probably PT6. What other plane would FBO have? 182? Seminole? Cherokee? 310? probably single engine–turbine? Or maybe Cessna 210? don’t do lessons, so wouldn’t need to keep it down to 172 or 182… What about …”

Pretty disjointed, right? Every writer has a way to brainstorm, but whether they write the ideas down or just talk them through, the storm is messy. Necessarily so–if it wasn’t messy, we’d probably call it something like “stream of consciousness” or “conversations with one’s self.”

Free-writing allows you to just write through your ideas without any constraints. I find as I free-write I’ll make notes I go back to later on, like the note about changing a character name, or the other note about checking on BCA offices in northern MN. It’s the lack of structure, I think, that encourages idea-generation. I don’t have to worry about complete sentences or even spelling (except I still have to read it 🙂 ). It’s like throwing ideas against the brainstorming wall, but without the goopy mess.

I’ve been working on an outline for my next book. Any good story has conflict, suspense, chase scenes–wait–no, that’s TV shows from the 80s. I end up writing a sentence or three about each scene conflict, then bridge them–sort of. My process has evolved from typing the mind dumps into the computer (at least in the beginning) to using pencil and paper, because I’ve discovered the act of writing helps me work through the story. Once I have a pretty good idea about the outline, I’ll enter it into the worksheets I’ve got in the computer (I use Karen Wiesner’s worksheets from her book First Draft in 30 Days).

Of course, everything is fluid. An outline for me isn’t set in stone; it’s more a series of guideposts through the story. The more I free-write through the major scenes, the more I refine them. For instance, the victim in the book is the son-in-law of a favorite teacher, but the teacher must be a suspect. So, there has to be a reason he’s a suspect. At first, I had one idea, but it seemed a little weak. As I wrote, I added another reason. Better, but still not quite there. Ooo, I’ve got it. The idea I finally hit on makes the conflict more personal, and raises suspicion to the point where when he is taken into custody, it makes more sense.

Each writer works through planning (or pantsing) differently. The more you write and the more you learn about the process and practice of writing, the more fine-tuned your process will become. It’s like gardening every year. What works one year may work the next year, but maybe not. Then you try something new, and it either works well, sort of works, or bombs. You adjust for the next year. Each year you get better, because your process evolves.

If something works for you, by all means, keep it going. But don’t hesitate to try something new for a project. You might discover it works really well, or at least well enough to give you options when one method isn’t working for that particular project.

Do you free-write when you brainstorm a project? What works for you?

Have a great writing weekend!


Author: Julie Holmes, author

A fiction writer since elementary school (many years ago), and NaNoWriMo annual participant for a decade, I have been published in small press magazines such as "Fighting Chance" and "The Galactic Citizen". I write adult mystery with a touch of romance, mystery with extrasensory elements, contemporary fantasy, and epic fantasy, and I'm represented by the fabulous Cynthia Zigmund of Second City Publishing Services. My debut novel, "Murder in Plane Sight", has been released by Camel Press (an imprint of Coffeetown Press/Epicenter Press). In real life, I am a technical writer and empty-nester with a wonderful hubby, one cat (what writer doesn't have cats??), two dogs, seven chickens, and more chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits than any garden should have to deal with. My garden, our hobby farm, and Nature's annual seasons are some of my muses.

14 thoughts on “The Freedom of Free-writing

  1. Julie, I had a eureka moment reading this post!!😀 You describe exactly what I used to do but haven’t for ages and I think it is this freedom I’ve been missing. Despite personally knowing it is better for me to write by hand, freely as you describe, I have stopped and used my computer/ipad+keyboard. Thank you so much for your reminder…this has given me a real boost and I’ll go back to this. I love your actual examples you have used, very useful and readable…I get a real sense how your mind works from this!😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • OMG! My mind working??? LOL–just kidding 😀 I’ve thought about using my iPad to hand-write notes, but when paper and a pencil are so handy, it just seems unnecessary, especially when the notes are such a mess I wouldn’t want to save them as-is. There were a number of years I did all my brainstorming on the computer when I put together outlines for NaNoWriMo, but I usually had an idea of the whole story going in. This time, no such luck.

      Hope you get back to writing by hand. I know I can tell the difference in my own creative processes 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I do exactly the same thing, Julie. All my rough story ideas and outlines are handwritten. You’re so right that there’s something freeing in that process. It is messy. I have arrows all over the place and notes in the margins, references to inserts and cross-outs. Not until that brainstorming step feels solid, does it go into the computer. Good luck with the next book!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I work a lot like you, Julie–jotting out story ideas and notes longhand to get the creative juices flowing. Then when I’ve got a lot of those “guideposts” down, I’ll transfer them to computer in various worksheets. I also ask myself questions as I write (like in your examples above) when I’m trying to work something through. The initial process is always messy and uncontained, but it usually scares up some kind of results!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Messy is right! I always like how those questions lead into other questions. It always seems somewhere along the way a question will pop out that has an answer that solves another question. Walking helps too, when I stumble even with the brainstorming. Invariably, though, I don’t have a notebook with me when I come up with answers during my walks 😀 Someday I’ll learn…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post, Julie. Thanks for the information on “First Draft in 30 Days.”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Good stuff. I wonder if writing by hand instead of typing works better b/c it’s slower and enables you to think a little more as you go. Typing quickly could be more frustrating b/c you get to a standstill of thoughts more quickly. Just a thought–that I typed. Ha!
    P.S. There was a distinct lack of fur in this post. Don’t think I didn’t notice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good point–I never really thought about it that way. It also might have something to do with the motion, kinda like when I take a walk my mind wanders (I just can’t keep up with it 😀 )

      As for the fur, I’ll tuck something in to this week’s post just for you 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • Extra like! BTW, how long do you suppose I have to wait until the agent comes back with a yeah or ney for my full? Her agency site gives no indication. Grr! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, man, the waiting is the hardest part. In my experience, it could take up to 6 weeks to hear back from an agent. And then, if they do ask for a full, it could take another six weeks. Usually they say on their website how long, but if not, I think the typical is about 6 weeks. If you haven’t heard back one way or the other by then, you can nudge them–send a reminder with the same stuff you sent the first time. I always put a reminder on my calendar so if I don’t hear from an agent by a certain date I can either write it off as a rejection or nudge them.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks. I’m going to check when I sent her the full and mark my calendar accordingly! Looking forward to hearing back from some of those publishers for you! Not like you’re not eager yourself to hear, but I’m joining you in spirit!

        Liked by 1 person

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