How To Run a Free Write

What is a Free Write?

A Free Write is an informal gathering of writers who meet to practice their writing. Free writing can help you discover new story ideas, dissolve writer’s block, or move forward on a work in progress.

Some Free Writes are guided, using prompts and round robin sharing of what was created during the session. Other Free Writers meet in a specified location, fire up their laptops, and work on individual projects in a quiet, supportive atmosphere.

Some writing organizations hold regular Free Write sessions for their members and visitors. One group in my area, the Rehoboth Beach Writers Guild, posts prompts via a Facebook page. Both organized and informal groups hold Free Writes during intense writing times, such as November during NaNoWriMo.

To host an unguided Free Write is simple: select a space (library meeting room, coffee shop), invite people, and show up to write.

A guided Free Write requires a little more work. It needs a plan, a program, and a facilitator.

A Free Write plan includes the purpose of the session and how that will be demonstrated. Will the Free Write focus on one area of writing, such as sensory details; story openings; colors; encounters both hostile and friendly? Will there be a theme, with specific prompts from broad categories such as holidays, childhood, marriage?

A Free Write’s program is like a meeting agenda: the order of business and length of each prompt session. For a guided Free Write, the program should include time to write but also time to read aloud if the group includes sharing as part of the experience.

A Free Write facilitator is the person who runs the meeting: she states the rules, offers the prompts, watches the clock, and guides the sharing sessions.

Here’s a sample 2-hour, Free Write program based on a Memorial Day theme:

Arrival and welcome by the Facilitator- 15 minutes, which includes:

…the purpose of the Free Write (to have fun and explore ourselves as writers)

…the theme of the day (Memorial Day)

… the guidelines about the Free Write (prompts will be offered, time given to write, and round robin sharing to follow. Sharing is optional. Anyone who wishes to pass on a particular prompt or share can simply say, “Pass.”)

Prompt #1 : “in the trenches” – 5 minutes to write, 15 minutes to share

Prompt #2: “poppies” – 5 minutes to write, 15 minutes to share

Free writing time: Unguided time for writers to expand on prompts or write on any subject of their choosing – 20 minutes

Prompt #3: “parade” – 2 minutes to write, 10 minutes to share

Prompt #4: “picnic disaster” – 2 minutes to write, 10 minutes to share

Prompt #5: “sacrifice” – 5 minutes to write, 15 minutes to share

Free writing time – whatever time is left over from prompts and sharing

Memorial Day was used as a Free Write theme a year ago, at a local Get Out & Write Free Write. Click here for a sampling of what writers created from the “poppies” prompt.

Free Writes can be a boon to a writer’s creativity as well as an introduction to other writers. Try one!


Tomorrow’s Topic – How To Choose Strong Verbs

5 thoughts on “How To Run a Free Write

    1. Do it, Kaye! Invite me! A writers’ retreat in a cute antiquey town sounds like heaven. I have been to all sorts and styles of retreats and love each one. In fact, maybe I should do a post on How To do a retreat?


      1. You’d really want to come clear to Texas? I’ve just been thinking local writers, no speakers, no classes, no form, just get away and write. You’d leave your WIP at home, right?


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