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Speed Writing August 9, 2006

Posted by Myke Bartlett in CSC 2006 Classwork Archives.

Download the worksheet for Speed Writing here 

The purpose of speed writing is simply to get something down on the page. Often the hardest part about writing a story is running out of steam or getting something down on the blank page. Speed writing will give you a complete chunk of something that you can then go back and fix up. You might find this much easier than stopping and starting on your way to finishing something.

After a speed draft is done, you’ve got something you can either work with or throw away — a choice you didn’t have before.

Here are the rules:

• You must not interrupt the flow of words upon the page, even if it means taking up space with things like “OK, I’ve run out of something to say, I really don’t know where to go next, let me think, what if I tried…”

• You must not stop to reread or edit what you’ve written until the speed session is over.

Some writers, including Stephen King, like to listen to loud rock music when speed writing. Some do it standing up. Some like the feel of a number two pencil, some love the sight of a yellow legal pad. Whatever. Just start writing and don’t stop. Don’t edit. Don’t try to think about what comes next. Don’t evaluate. Don’t do anything but listen to that little voice inside your head and write down everything it says.

Do this for an entire novel and you’ve got your first stab at a plot summary. Do it for a short story or a book chapter, and you’ve got a first draft. Very rough, but very important.
This speed draft serves three distinct purposes:

1 It lets ideas connect to each other where it counts — on the page in actual sentences and paragraphs.

2 Because several speed drafts can be done in one morning, you can play around with different organizational structures without committing serious composing time to any one.

3 With the work’s overall structure in front of you, albeit in rough form, you have slain the monster of the blank page and the work now exists at least in some form. All you have to do now is to refine it and have fun playing with it.

With thanks to Beating Writer’s Block


According to the tapes, my father, then about as run-of-the-mill as Joe Blow himself, didn’t want to see the thing.

Lee K. Abbott, The Talk Talked Between Worms [1996],

Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy [1979]

This is a story about a man named Eddie and it begins at the end, with Eddie dying in the sun.

Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven [2003]

She was dead. What did it matter if icy needles of freezing rain flayed her skin raw. The young woman squinted into the wind, pulling her wolverine hood closer. Violent gusts whipped her bearskin wrap against her legs.

Jean M. Auel, The Valley of Horses [1982] (ch. 1)

It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills.

Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep [1939]

The pebbled glass door is lettered in flaked black paint: “Phillip Marlowe . . . Investigations.” It is a reasonably shabby door at the end of a reasonably shabby corridor in the sort of building that was new about the year the all-tile bathroom became the basis of civilization. The door is locked, but next to it is another door with the same legend which is not locked. Come on in–there’s nobody in here but me and a big bluebottle fly. But not if you’re from Manhattan, Kansas.

Raymond Chandler, The Little Sister [1949] (ch. 1)

It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not. Paul Auster, City of Glass [1985]

Of all the people that ever went west that expedition was the most remarkable.

Irving Bacheller, Eben Holden [1900]

Pop! A dart flashed in the sunlight and popped a red balloon.

Len Bailey, Clabbernappers [2005] (ch. 1)

Download the worksheet for Speed Writing here



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