Freewriting Exercise: Quickly Sketch Out Plot Points

This writing exercise takes you from a very general idea to a more fleshed-out draft or outline.

What you need to begin

  • A rough idea of what you’d like to write
  • Twenty minutes or so
  1. If your rough idea is a single statement, break it into three parts.
  2. Use these three plot points to freewrite a scene sketch

For example, let’s say your idea is:

  • a down-on-his-luck detective investigates a risky lead

The first step asks that you break that into three parts, which could even be as basic as:

  1. he came
  2. he saw
  3. he conquered

The exercise: variation 1

Use each of those elements as a plot point in a scene or series of scenes

What that might look like

Scene 1:
He came
description of setting
what brought character1 here
what character1 wants

He saw
meeting with character2
revelation of undermining infrormation
character2 advances

He conquered
character1 brings out special weapon
special weapon fails
character1 tries tried & true method
character2 is temporarily bested

This option gets you to develop an outline for a single scene. This means setting aside enough time to generate the necessary word count for however long your scene needs to be. The level of detail in this variation is not that of an overview or outline, but that of a full scene (albeit a roughly drafted one). As you write, you develop the scene in full detail and with any specifics necessary.

Exercise Variation 2: Make an overview into an outline

The above exercise is geared towards fleshing out the sketch of a scene.

If you’d like to use this exercise to develop the plot of an entire story, try this:

  1. Start with a summary statement for your entire story
  2. Break that summary statement into any additional number of pieces.

The requirement is to develop each of these pieces evenly. You might choose three, then basically what you’re doing is developing your overview into three acts.

If you choose thirty, then you could think of the exercise as basically a way of breaking down the various main events of each chapter in your book (supposing it becomes a thirty-chapter book).

  • Freewrite to develop your summary to the point of being an outline — don’t flesh everything out in perfect detail. At this stage, it only needs to be an outline.

Your outline might be 1000 words long if you have twenty minutes to spend on this freewriting exercise. Your outline can grow to be however long depending on how much time you want to spend (and how quickly you write).


Leave a comment