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