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Sep 07
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Free Write -- Tips

A note from Geoffrey Gevalt, YWP Founder and award-winning journalist:

Sometimes, when you sit down to write, you can't see the trees for the forest. When, in fact, you're looking for the light. That one sparkling idea.

And it doesn't come. 

And that's why Young Writers Project has long believed that challenges, or prompts, offer you, the writer, a safety net. Can't think of something to write about? No burning issue? No startling thing you noticed and remember? No particular drama in your life? Not to worry. We have ideas. For 12 years YWP has been providing daily and weekly prompts. In fact, you've probably responded to some over the years. And your teacher provably provides you a bunch more and some are on this site. (And, perhaps, you can talk to your teacher and get the class to dream up some ideas together.) 

But even with a challenge, an idea that makes you think, you may still find it hard to write. Because ... there are lots of things in your way that you may not even realize. Like:

  • SELF DOUBT: What if it's no good? What if I'M no good at writing? Oh, gosh, I am no good at it. This is dumb.... You know the drill. Self-doubt. It's a crusher. And it pops up sometimes when you least expect it.
SOLUTIONS: Don't worry about it. Yes, I know, easier said than done. But, actually, throughout my 33 year career as a journalist and thorughout my time writing in the last 12 years, I have watched as self-doubt crept into my brain. So I tell myself not to worry. And, sometimes, I've resorted to assigning my doubt to one of my Peruvian Worry Dolls (mine are not as fancy as the ones to the left) and I tell it: There YOU worry about it.
More to the point, you are among friends here. Your classmates will support you.
  • DON'T KNOW WHERE TO BEGIN: I'm just going to jump to the solution here which is equally simple. Just begin. AND, if you are writing a story, start much LATER than you think you should and end it SOONER than you think you should. And, another tip, think of the most dramatic moment or idea; start there.
    • ​​​​SOLUTION2: A friend of mine, a wonderful writer, used to say that writing is easy: Just write one sentence at a time and relate your new sentence to the one before, so your second sentence relates to the first, your third to the second and so on. The difficulty, he said, is coming up with that first sentence. So make your first sentence punchy, catchy, eye-grabbing. Draw the reader in. Draw yourself in.
  • I DON'T HAVE ENOUGH TIME: Of course you don't. None of us do. And as one famous writer said (it's often ascribed to Mark Twain, but there's some uncertainty about that), I would have written it shorter if I had more time.
    • SOLUTION: Write as fast as you can. And write as short as you can. And don't think too much. In a "free write" you are supposed to let go, you are supposed to not plan out. In a free write you are supposed to discover and, even, surprise yourself. 
    • SOLUTION2: And if you like what you write, then come back to it later and work on it, edit it, add to it, develop it, make it better. And get your buddies to give you some suggestions.

But whatever you do, have fun. 

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