How To Freewrite

January 03, 2024 | 4 min read

Freewrite was designed to separate the drafting process from the editing process and encourage a writing method called freewriting, or forward drafting. In this type of writing process, the first stage (drafting) has one goal only: to get words on the page. Or, as some call it: the messy first draft. Revision comes later in this writing process, when drafting is complete.

Why? Well, drafting and editing are two different activities requiring different things from your brain. The division of these tasks reduces anxiety from your inner critic during the drafting phase and frees up your creativity so that thoughts can flow organically. Many people haven’t written this way since childhood!

While Freewrite facilitates this flow by removing all distractions from your writing device, there are several key habits you can practice while writing to optimize your forward-drafting experience.

 

How to Freewrite instructions

How To Freewrite

Practice these six core freewriting rules during your next writing session to see how this method can streamline your drafting process and increase your productivity.

1. Resolve external distractions.

We’ve done the hard work for you by creating Freewrite and eliminating all the pesky distractions of the internet and modern technology. Now, all you have to do is turn off the TV and put your phone in a different room. Block out your writing time on a calendar so that loved ones know when exactly you will be unavailable.

2. Don't stop to Google.

Research is important across many writing industries and genres. However, it has the potential to become one of the worst forms of procrastination. It's extra tricky because it convinces you that you're actually being productive. If it's eating into your writing time, however, it's not productive. So how do you prevent this?

If you're a plotter, complete the majority of your research prior to drafting. Some Freewriters start with an outline, or plot points jotted on sticky notes. If you're a pantser, you can reserve research for later, once you know what you need to know.

While drafting, if you reach a point requiring a fact-check or additional information, simply leave a prompt for yourself right there within the text and proceed with drafting.

3. Tell your inner critic you're writing a messy first draft.

We all have an inner voice that guides our actions. When you write (or create anything) that inner voice turns into a critic. This inner critic is the most common reason authors experience debilitating doubt or anxiety and never finish a draft. It is critical to your writing success that you silence that inner critic.

This won't be easy, but it can be done, with practice. Start by avoiding the urge to critique or edit your work as you go. Instead, concentrate on getting your thoughts down without judgment. To help the transition, we recommend stating it outright: “My goal is to write a messy first draft.” Write it down, stick it on your wall, and embrace the imperfection. This is critical to being able to write freely.

4. Turn off your inner spellcheck.

Freewrite has no spellcheck and no grammar check for a reason. Every squiggly line is a distraction, a moment that breaks your writing flow, and refocusing takes time and energy. We recommend you resist backtracking to fix typos while you draft. Even if your eyes recognize typos, train your brain to ignore it!

Yes, this is difficult, due to the way we've been taught in school (especially for writers). But we highly recommend dedicating the time to un-learn this and train your brain not to stumble on typos while drafting. With all the editing software out there these days, cleaning up a messy first draft is easier than ever!

5. Write fast and avoid overthinking.

Did that last sentence sound stupid? Who cares?! Anything goes in a messy first draft. You’ll refine and revise later! Trust your instincts and write without overanalyzing each sentence. Aim for a state of flow where your typing pace matches the natural rhythm of your thoughts.

Trying to "write fast" (whatever that means to you) serves as an additional technique to coax your mind into tapping into writing flow. Should you experience writer's block or find yourself grappling with a challenging section, avoid the urge to stop and ruminate on it. Instead, move on to a different part and revisit the troublesome section later. We personally find it beneficial to insert a note directly into the draft, serving as a reminder to revisit that particular spot during the editing phase.

6. Use placeholders instead of backtracking.

We’d like to challenge you to use the backspace key as rarely as possible. Or not at all. Remember: Text can be fixed later. But your writing flow is fragile.

If you find yourself struggling to find the perfect word or need to verify a fact, simply insert a placeholder and continue writing. A preferred placeholder for us is "xx," as it can be easily searched using editing software. Alternatively, some prefer placeholders like "[INSERT QUOTE]" or "[CHECK SOURCE]." These gaps can be filled in during the editing phase.

 

John Steinbeck quote

Have technical questions about using Freewrite? Visit our support page for links to Quick Start Guides, our online Knowledge Base, and more.

You can also reach out to our customer support team at hello@getfreewrite.com to chat about writing process and best practices for forward drafting.

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Other Drafting Resources

Here are some of our favorite additional resources about forward momentum in drafting and how to cultivate this writing practice within your own creative process.

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