Posted in On Writing

Slow Writing

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Slow Writing is an idea dreamt up by David Didau and can be found on his excellent blog ‘The Learning Spy’.

“Over the past few years I’ve been experimenting with what, for want of a better idea, I’m calling Slow Writing. The idea is to get students to slow the hell down and approach each word, sentence and paragraph with love and attention. Obviously they’ll write less but what they do write will be beautifully wrought and finely honed.” – David Didau

David talks about the need for writers, of all ages, to be aware that they need to think not only about what they write but also about how they write it.

He does this by giving them a series of questions around a particular theme or prompt.

“We have the ability to matacognitively engage with our writing and make decisions about what is likely to sound best. Often we do this at a level beneath consciousness; the questions we ask about our writing are automatic and so well stored in long-term memory that we’re not really aware of what we’re doing.” – David Didau

For many writers we are sometimes so busy thinking about what to write that there’s little space in working memory to consider how it might be written. Having these sentence prompts frees up working memory so we can shape our work in a more sophisticated way.

So a set of ‘slow writing sentence prompts’ might look something like this:

  • Your first sentence must start with an emotion.
  • Your second sentence must include at least three adjectives.
  • Your third sentence must contain a simile.
  • Your fourth sentence must be exactly 15 words long.
  • Your fifth sentence must begin with a verb.
  • Your sixth sentence must end with the word ‘sleep’.

Another set might look like this:

  • Your first sentence must contain two adjectives.
  • Your second sentence must contain only three words.
  • Your third sentence must include speech marks.
  • Your fourth sentence must be a question.
  • Your fifth sentence must start with an adverb.
  • Your sixth sentence must be exactly 22 words long.

The scope of what you put into your sentence prompts is endless.

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I thought I might try the second set of sentence prompts using the picture Angela, at Vis Dare, put up on her blog last week as a writing prompt.

 I opened the dusty, old cabinet.
The hinges creaked.
“Hello young man,” whispered the fourth skeleton along.
“Why don’t you come a little closer?”
Hesitantly I climbed into the cupboard.
Long, slender, bony fingers wrapped themselves around my entire body and I felt myself go weak as my skin and tissue disintegrated.

This could be left as it is or be used as a starter and words added or changed to improve the story. I quite like the idea of using these six sentence prompts as a challenge in themselves.

Mike Jackson


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