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February 28, 2011 / Angela Sylvia

Stuck on Plot? Free-Write it Out

When you don't know what to do with your story, free-writing can help you figure out the plot.It’s common for me to get stuck on a plot point when I’m writing a story. This is especially true towards the end of the novel, when I don’t have as clear of an idea of the direction my plot is taking me. This is frustrating, with the feeling of pulling teeth as I struggle to get each new word on the page. Being stuck like this can be fatal to the novel, as this frustration leads to a break that you never come back from.

But free-writing can help. Free-writing is when you give yourself a set amount of time, and in that time write without stopping your pen (or typing, if you’re using a computer). It’s a great way to get out ideas, as I’ve been learning through my MFA. And it’s a good way to plow through your plot.

When I’m trying to figure oWrite down everything you think of, when you think it. You can always cross it out later.ut what happens next in a story, my thoughts can jumble together. I’ll come up with a good number of ideas, but they’ll all get discarded as unusable before you even write it down. When free-writing, though, I have no time to judge my ideas, and I find that they aren’t quite so silly as I thought.

Here’s what I do when free-writing my plot:

  • Start at the place where you’re stuck. Write down what you want to happen next. Don’t worry if it’s the most bare-bones of plot outlines, just get it down.
  • Try to get down what sort of emotion you want to get across. For mine, I wanted my main character to be reaching a horrible realization as another character explained something. I free-wrote by interspersing the information with little gasps or denials so I would remember to attempt writing it that way.
  • If you think of it, write down dialogue, or even whole sentences or paragraphs. If it’s in your head, get it on paper, or you’ll find you won’t remember it later.
  • Write down everything. Even if that voice in the back of your head is telling you it’s stupid, write it down. If you don’t like it later, you can cross it out or throw it away. If you do like it, you’ll be glad you didn’t let your inner censor win.
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2 Comments

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  1. Grant / Mar 1 2011 8:14 pm

    This is a fantastic suggestion! The funny thing is that I have my students do this all the time when I teach creative writing, but I’ve never thought of turning around and using it for my own writing.

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