Linda’s June Blog

Try a Nifty Fifty

The other day I came across a writing device that I thought could be useful. I’ve tried it out and it works for me! I think it could work for many writers, for different reasons:

  1. You might have had a break from writing and are finding it difficult to get back into a routine
  2. You might be stuck in the middle of a story
  3. You might WANT to write a novel but are daunted by the size of the task
  4. You might know your weaknesses and want to do something about them.

I shall confess straightaway that I have “borrowed” this idea from a favourite author and writing tutor, James Scott Bell. In his book The Mental Game of Writing, he recommends getting into the habit of writing every day.

“First, think about allowing yourself to write something, anything, first thing in the morning. I’ve used the trick I called the Nifty 350 for many years. That is, I try to get down 350 words before I do just about anything else. For you it might just be 50 words. You can do that. Anybody who wants to be a writer can do that much. Try it, and I think you’ll find yourself wanting to continue.”

I am suggesting that 50 words is a good starting point. What is 50 words? Four or five sentences, that’s all. And even if you’re a bit bleary-eyed first thing, 50 words, on absolutely anything you want, is not too much of a stretch. It might be what you remember of a dream, it might be a snatch of conversation from yesterday, and it might be the opening of a new story.

The first time I tried the Nifty Fifty, I wrote 154 words without stopping. It got me going and I carried on. The trick is not to judge your writing. Just write. Ignore typos, misspellings, bad grammar, haphazard punctuation. Just get the words down. And if 50 words is all you do, then that’s at least 50 more than you might have done!

I want to take this idea a little further. I tried this out when I was on holiday last month and it had two, very positive outcomes. One, it got me writing after a rather busy time of my life when I just couldn’t find the time to write regularly. Two, it got me thinking about aspects of my writing that I knew needed work.

Here’s what I did:

I went out for the day to a beautiful garden, taking my IPad with me (and my camera: never go anywhere interesting without my camera.) I knew there were seats all over this garden where I could perch and write 50 words and then move on to the next seat.

The first seat I chose proved a bit of a surprise – it was a swing! But I sat and I swung and I wrote my 50+ words. I moved around the garden, stopping at convenient seats, swinging or not, and wrote my 50+words each time. I only stopped when dark clouds appeared and I took shelter in the café to wait for the downpour to pass.

At the end of the morning, I found I’d written nearly 1000 words! They weren’t joined up words, as in the continuation of a chapter or the start of a short story. They were just 50+ words each time on some aspect that I had decided needed improving. It felt good – writing – and I felt it had a purpose too.

So, perhaps give it a go. It doesn’t have to be a morning’s outing like mine. It can be whenever you have the time to write 50 words or more. Try it. A Nifty Fifty might just work for you.

Happy writing


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