A Free Writing Exercise Unleashes Lovely Loralee

by Kelly on September 11, 2008 · 16 comments

in Creativity. Writing. Blogging,Kelly's Fiction


I have been a passionate reader ever since I was a child. Opening a book for me is like stepping into another world, slipping on someone else’s wardrobe and checking in their cupboards for naughty secrets.

And if I’m going keep reading there better be lots of secrets! I may not want tension, conflict and despair in my own life, but I definitely want to see my characters go to hell and back.

Of course, once I started writing myself, I realized it’s easy to be a critic, but not so easy to be the writer delivering ongoing conflict, coherent plot, compelling prose and a strong sense of character, while following that Golden Rule of Writing: SHOW. DON’T TELL.

Find your Writers Voice and Shut Down Your Internal Critic With A Free Writing Exercise

Free writing exercises are a crucial weapon in the writer’s arsenal. There are many variations, but they all have one thing in common.

Writing Exercises free up your mind and your narrative, and they stir up your creative juices.

I find it helpful in writing to distinguish between my right and left brain. My creative right brain is my intuitive story teller. It has access to the brilliance within – the best language skills, original plotlines and unique solutions to my character’s problems.

My logical left brain, on the other hand, is a natural editor. It knows what isn’t working and can analyze the strengths and defects of the narrative with alarming efficiency. In creative writing we need both brains at different times of the writing process. You can’t find your story with your thinking left brain, but it’s great for critiquing and editing a rough draft.

The problem is that the creative right brain can be an temperamental beast. Sometimes, it’s there and the magic flows. Then, even our first rough words have a certain quality. We can hear our unique writer’s voice and our characters, and there is an exciting foundation from which we can build.

Other times, the right brain locks up. It’s there, but we don’t have the key. We look at an empty page and the knot starts in our stomach. We start writing but all we can think as we type is “this is such shit”. Hardly encouragement to keep going.

Free Writing Exercises…

kick your authentic writer’s voice into gear

are a great way to warm up before starting on a long project like a novel

provide new possibilities for a short story

help you nut out plot problemsare a god-send for beating the dreaded writer’s block and throwing you back into your story

My novel has been sitting around waiting for my attention lately and so I thought a free writing exercise on something completely different might get my excitement back for story telling.

First, get a pen and paper. Don’t do this on computer. Now:

Create a name, a job, marital status and location.

Lie back, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths. Really fill your lungs with air and then exhale until there’s nothing left. Return to normal breathing, feel the peace spread through your body.

Now pick up write for 5 minutes. Go with the first ideas that come to mind. Whatever comes out is okay. First person, third person, whatever. Don’t judge.

I have no idea how this is going to turn out, but here are the results of my latest free writing exercise. I’ve fixed the typos, but other than that there’ s been no editing (it kills me to say that – what am I thinking exposing myself this way?):

The Tale of Lovely Loralee

Lovely Loralee, Porn Star, married, from Mackay in North Queensland, Australia

“I remember when I was a little girl, all I wanted in the world was an antique dolls house. You know, one of those traditional two story English Tudor houses where the back opens up and you can get into all the rooms inside. There used to be this one that was always advertised in the Readers Digest.

My dad had it delivered by mail every month for pretty much my entire childhood. In fact, it was the only reading my dad ever did. Never read the paper, and mum always said he didn’t know what was what in the world and didn’t much care. Dad used to tell her he was a sugar farmer and it weren’t none of his business what people did in other far off parts.

Anyway, the Readers Digest advertised this dolls house every month and god it was beautiful. But so damn expensive. Like more money than my parents would spend on me for ten birthdays! Not that my parents didn’t love me, or want me to have nice things, but money was as rare as snow on palm trees in my household. We never had any.

Christmas time brought presents, but second hand stuff mostly. Things like old bikes repainted and given new tyres or sometimes I’d get a barbie and my mum would sit up late sewing these tiny clothes for her by hand. My brother Gary used to get model aeroplane kits. So dorky. But that’s what he liked. You’d never think it though if you’d seen him then. Real handsome Gary was. Strong build, blond, and with the greenest eyes you’ve ever seen. Real tall too, a footie player and one of the most popular boys in school.

It’s not like I ever thought I could have the dolls house. But even so, every month I’d wait for the magazine to arrive. I used to collect the mail; that was one of my chores. All kids need chores my mum used to say. So I’d collect everyone’s mail and we had a special wooden rack with mail slots for everyone and that’s where I’d put the mail every afternoon when I collected it. My mum made the mail rack ‘cause she was real handy and she painted it bright blue and put rose stencils on the corners, and it hung from a brass chain in the kitchen. It was real beautiful, just like my mum.

When the Readers Digest would arrive, dad would come by after tea and collect it from the rack. Then he’d sit in his tatty brown easy chair with the coffee stains on the armrests, and smoke his pipe and read that magazine so slowly I swear it fucking near killed me in the waiting. It was unusual for him to take two nights to read it, or sometimes more. But until he finished it and slid it into the magazine rack by the telly I couldn’t take that Readers Digest. So, I’d watch him like a hawk and lunge on it the minute he was done.

I’d pore over the pictures of that dolls house, dreaming of what it’d look like in my bedroom. They always showed you a big picture of the front of the house with the peaked roof and Tudor style wooden panels, and it had those lovely criss-cross windows that always made me think of royalty. And there’d be little pictures of what was inside each of the rooms. Man if that dolls house weren’t posher than any real house I’d ever seen. I couldn’t imagine a world where people lived in houses like that. The furniture was so fine and modeled off real “Edwardian design” they said. Chairs with clawed legs and maroon velvet covers; so delicate they’d probably break if you touched them. And there was real wallpaper and tiny little paintings of landscapes and stuff. It was amazing.

Every birthday and Christmas ‘till I was ten I asked for that dolls house, and after that, well let’s just say that my birthday wasn’t exactly a cause for celebration. My mum died on my tenth birthday you see. Tried to bake me a cake in a dodgy oven and there was a gas explosion. They say she died instantly. It near blew her face off.

I wasn’t around luckily. Think I’d gone to swimming practice that afternoon, so it was Gary who found her. It was the strangest thing because the oven blew up and the kitchen caught on fire, but somehow it fizzled out before the whole house burnt down.

Gary said he never even knew anything was wrong until he opened the door. Even walking up the front path past the kangaroo paws. Even as he was standing on the broken front porch taking his shoes off just like mum taught us, he couldn’t smell the fire, couldn’t see it, felt nothing.

They say people have a sixth sense but I don’t believe it. If Gary hadn’t felt anything when he was not more than a few feet away from my dead mother, with the chocolate cake splattered around the burnt kitchen tiles, how can people sense anything?”


My first thought is it’s clunky and long winded, but there’s something there I could work with if I wanted to. I also never expected the beginning to end where it did, so I think this is a perfect example of freeing up your creativity.

What do you think?

And does anyone else fancy having a go? You can email it your writing to me and I’ll tell you what I think, if you like. You never know, you could find a seed for a future novel.

Photo by Louise LeBourgieos

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Urban Panther 09.11.08 at 11:13 pm

How was it? I want more! That’s how it was!

I claim that I can’t write fiction. I can only write what I directly experience. I think, though, this is a self-imposed constriction, or my Internal Editor. I really should try this exercise. If nothing else, it will help me be more creative in my non-fiction writing. Very cool! Thanks for sharing this technique and your results.

Urban Panther’s last blog post..The Panther gets primal

2 Terence Chang 09.12.08 at 1:20 am


Love that image. I can never write as good as you in English. I am not a bad writer in Chinese though. :-)

I saw your comment on Mark’s site and was wondering where you are up to these days. Anyway! I subscribe to Readers Digest (Chinese Edition) since I was a little kid.

I love reading great stories.

Terence Chang’s last blog post..Entrepreneur Story – Bloggers Launch TrainforHumanity.org Humanitarian Initiative

3 Vered - MomGrind 09.12.08 at 1:40 am

I love it, Kelly. I started reading and HAD to keep going. When it ended, I wanted MORE. I am now curious to learn more about Lovely Loralee, about her childhood, and how she ended up where she is now.

I agree that it’s still a little rough around the edges and could use some refining – but it’s very, very good.

Vered – MomGrind’s last blog post..Almost-Wordless Wednesday: Correct Your Nose Without Operation!

4 Evelyn Lim 09.12.08 at 1:47 am

Wow!! This is pretty amazing! You managed to write that in how long? I love the story you’ve shared. It is so engaging and one that I would have also enjoyed reading while I was a little girl.

I’m not sure I can churn a fiction story from scratch though.

Evelyn Lim’s last blog post..My Abundance Mind Movie

5 Chris 09.12.08 at 3:00 am

Can you fly out to Chicago and teach my writing class?

Chris’s last blog post..A Friend In Need…, Part 8

6 Lance 09.12.08 at 3:43 am

Well, Kelly – based upon the title and occupation – this is not where I say the story going. I’m not sure what I expected…

Anyway, it’s not what I expected — but it’s even better. I like how you’re leading up (I’m guessing) to where she is today. You’ve set the stage for what is to come. I think it’s great. So much detail in where she is at as a child.

And now, I’m wondering if I should try your little free writing experiment … I’m definitely tempted…

Lance’s last blog post..Fog: Does It Slow You Down?

7 Barbara Swafford 09.12.08 at 5:52 am

Hi Kelly,

This is good stuff. There is a writer inside of you, for sure.

I like how you said to do this exercise with by hand, and not on the computer. There’s something to be said for handwritten “stuff”. Although I do so much of my work on the computer, I still love to write long hand.

Barbara Swafford’s last blog post..You Have The Whole World In Your Hands

8 Kelly 09.12.08 at 8:54 am

@Urban Panther
I definitely think this is a self imposed restriction. Creation is creation – it doesn’t differentiate. Try this exercise and see what happens. In my family there are a few painters and I have always said I don’t paint, but lately I’ve started to think, “Who says I can’t? I’ve never tried.”

Thanks, glad you liked it. And it must be hard to write just as well in a second language. I’m a trained ESL teacher and you do pretty damn well writing in English over at your blogs.

Thanks. Not sure if I’ll write more. I have a novel begging to be written! But I’ll keep it. I keep every writing exercise I do. You never know when you might want to elaborate on a character or a piece.

Same as I said to UP. Try, you might be amazed. And my brain thinks so fast I write like a demon in a writing exercise. My words are illegible to anyone other than me and my wrist ached like hell, but yes, I wrote that in 5 minutes. Then went back and changed typos, of which there were many.

Sure. Send me the ticket :)

Go for it! And this is what I love about writing exercises. You never know where you’re going to go or what’s going to flow out of the pen. When Loralee kept going on about this dolls house and childhood, my brain was thinking “Get to the porn!” but I know better than to interfere and tamper with the process so I just trusted and kept writing and then when she got to the mum dying from the oven exploding, I was like “Yay, pay dirt!”

Thanks for coming by. Good to “see” you. Writing by hand is a powerful way to connect to your right side of the brain. I don’t know why, but it works much easier than the computer and you often get better results. If I am especially stuck with a plot point I will always write by long hand and just write, write, write until a realization pops out.


9 Cath Lawson 09.12.08 at 3:06 pm

Hi Kelly – I love these type of exercises. But I don’t think I come up with things as interesting as you just did. That’s a brilliant seed for a novel.

I hate sharing my freewriting though. When I’ve had to read it out on courses, mine always seems less polished than the rest. I don’t know if it’s just me, or maybe I’m just bad at first drafts.

Cath Lawson’s last blog post..7 Questions To Ask Before You Launch A Business

10 Kelly 09.12.08 at 3:22 pm

It doesn’t matter what your first draft is like. And if you keep doing free writing exercises you’ll see your first draft writing improves. I started with a group called The Writers Studio three years ago and when I read back over the work I created then, I can’t believe how much I have improved. Keep writing and don’t analyze your work until you’ve got a story and are ready to edit it. This is very important.


11 MizFit 09.13.08 at 12:19 am

forget flying out to chicago for chris’ class (sorry chris :))
come to my house for some one on one tutoring please.


MizFit’s last blog post..Friday Poetry Link Love. Short, sweet & a smidge offbeat.

12 Charlie Gilkey 09.13.08 at 12:51 am

Because she’s a porn star, I thought this would end up with something more…exotic. But I think, in the end, that that’s what I like about it, for it shows that even more exotic people have mundane beginnings and mundane interests.

I really appreciate you being so open about the work. This is a great post for its instructiveness and its honesty.

I tried the exercise and ended up talking about a Swiss stock-broker-turned-Bum by the Enron fallout. I didn’t get into any action, but instead spent it just on developing the character and milieu.

This definitely has potential.

Charlie Gilkey’s last blog post..How to Stifle A Good Idea

13 Kelly 09.13.08 at 5:25 pm

Well, I have been thinking about starting an on-line mentoring program…

I hadn’t thought about that Charlie, but you’re right everyone has mundane stories and many people have mundane backgrounds which are not a sign of where they will end up in life. And that’s great you did the exercise. A Swiss stockbroker who ends up a bum has great potential for a story.


14 SpaceAgeSage 09.13.08 at 11:17 pm

Sheesh, if that was just an exercise, I can’t wait to read your novel!

SpaceAgeSage’s last blog post..SpaceAgeSage joins 9rules Blog Network

15 Kelly 09.14.08 at 10:36 am

Thanks, but the exercises don’t always turn out so interesting. Sometimes sweet bugger all happens, but your right brain kicks into gear and you get an idea for another piece you’re working on.


16 Diana Rupert 11.03.08 at 11:40 am

Wow I love the way you deliver your every words. You convey them very precisely. I just wish I could write the way you do. Not every person or writer can write the way you do.

Diana Rupert’s last blog post..Drinking Water and 5 Weight Loss Tips

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