Weekend Writing Workout: the old standby

It’s my birthday and anniversary, so Baby and I are off for a romantic weekend (he never forgets, since they’re both right after ValEntines Day. See how easy I made it for him?

I’m literally on my iPhone on the way to Harrison Hot Springs. And no, I’m not driving.

So I’m posting for you one of old standby exercises for when you get stuck. I know that probably rarely happens, but just in case … And you can certainly use his one even if you’re not stuck. It’s a good one to have in your back pocket.

I’ve gotten to what I call the SLOGGY part of my story.

I’ve lost my way, it doesn’t seem to be moving anywhere significant, and my characters don’t seem motivated (i.e. I’m pushing them through the story instead of them leading me through it).

This is about the time when I look at every other idea I have and think… hmmm, maybe I should be working on that instead? Look, shiny object!

But I don’t think switching stories is a good idea. I think it’s best to push through the slog to the end and see what you’ve got.

It’s time for some good old fashioned spontaneous writing. Writing from the gut. The wilder the better. When the inspiration seems to have left and I have to drag myself to the page, it’s time to think outside the box.

(even if you’re not in the slog, you can still play along)

Pick whatever piece of writing it is you’re going to work on. See where you are and think about what comes next.

Step 1) Set your timer for 5-7 minutes. At the top of your page, write the start: The scene that needs to be written is… because…

After you finish with that thought, write This scene needs to be written because… and start the next thought. Keep writing This scene needs to be written because… until you hit something, an idea, and then take off! At this point, no more punctuation. Just write in one long stream of consciousness. REMEMBER to write without stopping, without crossing out, without editing. If you get stuck, you can always start again with This scene needs to be written because…


The scene that needs to be written is the scene where Mabbe confronts Croilus because it gets Mabbe outside of her burl. This scene needs to be written because it’s where Zhay learns that Brigitta was telling the truth. It needs to be written because it’s where Zhay loses it and all his anger about being abandoned by the Ancients bursts forth and he attacks Mabbe but she’s too strong for him and she strikes him down and when that happens the spell seed falls to the ground and they…

Step 2) Set your timer for 5-7 minutes. Pick one of the following as your start line:

In this scene my protagonist learns…
In this scene my protagonist reveals…
In this scene my protagonist proves…

You can also put in another character if that works better for you. In this scene my villain, my antagonist, my protagonist’s mother… feel free to make it work for you.

The important thing is that a character learns or reveals or proves something. This will help move your story forward.

Again, total stream of consciousness, no punctuation, no editing, no stopping. Allow yourself to write the first thing that comes out of your pen. It’s not permanent! We’re getting ideas


In this scene Brigitta proves that she can fight the force of the green zynthia and she believes it has to do with her having both air and water elements now and she discovers that she is more powerful than before and the extra element has made it easier to manipulate her environment and there is no way to give it back and maybe it was her first true element…

Step 3) Set your timer for 3-5 Minutes. It’s time for a “What if” wild flow! By wild I mean don’t discount any thought or idea. Let the What Ifs fall where they may. This is a list that you write as fast as you can. You can simply start with What if… on each line, or use any of the following prompts:

During this scene, what if…
After this scene, what if…
After my protagonist reveals ____, what if…
After my protagonist learns ____, what if…
After my protagonist proves _____, what if…


After Brigitta reveals that she can overpower the zythia…
what if Croilus realizes the prophesy is coming true?
What if Devin and Ferris attack Zhay?
What if Brigitta thinks Croilus is going to attack the White Forest?
What if Zhay tries to kill Croilus?

Usually at least one lightbulb goes on during this exercise. But you’ve got to just let go and allow it to happen. Write as fast as you can, keeping pen on the page. Afterwards, you can go back and mark items that you like.

You should now be sufficiently pumped to write the next scene! I know I am. I learned at least three things about where I’m going next.

Excuse my typeo’w – I am typing with my thumbs.


Filed under weekend workout, writing exercises

12 responses to “Weekend Writing Workout: the old standby

  1. You have the best weekend ever! Happy B Day and Happy Anniversary…cheers to you both!

    I love this exercise…have it pasted inside Scrivener and believe me it helps with the slaggy parts.

  2. nikewrites

    I have several stories that have come to a standstill due to excess “slogginess.”. I’m going to give this try! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Love this post! I’m going to leave it in my inbox for a while so I don’t forget to try it!

  4. Enjoy your romantic giveaway!! Thanks for the encouragement!!

  5. It’s nice to know I’m not the only writer to be distracted by shiny things when the WIP is uncooperative or the creativity fails to show up for work. Great writing exercise. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

  6. Oooh thanks this is a good exercise!!! I’m working on a final revision of my WIP and I’ve been over some of the scenes so many times that I am just…well…SICK of them. And something like this (especially #1) would help me recall why I want it to exist….

    Stopping by from your Fantasy Campaign group. 🙂 Nice to meet you! And I hope your weekend was lovely!

  7. Happy Birthday and Anniversary! These are wonderful writing prompts! Love them! I’m stuck in a sloggy part of revision, and am making some huge changes . . . so these are a huge help!

  8. Happy belated birthday and anniversary! I like the guidelines you laid out for establishing the necessity of a scene. I might try that out sometime. Also, thanks for visiting my blog and commenting. I just subscribed to your blog.

    • Thanks, Cynthia. Another good start line if you don’t have a particular scene you’re working on is: The scene that needs to be written is . . . (I usually repeat this line over and over until the scene that DOES need to be written jumps out at me)

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