3 Steps to The Ultimate Writer’s Training Plan

    writer's training plan - jogger

    Have you ever thought you need a Writer’s Training Plan?

    Well, imagine somebody who’s halfway through a 5K race. His chest is heaving, his stomach is tight, he can barely lift his feet off the ground. His body slouches, and he stops running. Frustrated, he thinks to himself, I wasn’t cut out to be a runner, and he quits the race.

    Sounds pretty common, right? Those of you reading who may hate running might feel this is a very relatable story. You might even feel sorry for a guy who has worked so hard to race and failed.

    Okay, but how does this change your perspective? Imagine a guy who quits a 5K race halfway through it, going through the exact same scenario as the guy above, but he never trained a day in his life? How does your opinion change?

    See, when you decide to run a race, there is an implication that you’re going to train. It’s the same for anything else – a girl who wants to play the guitar, or a newlywed that wants to cook dinner. Every one of those activities implies a certain amount of practice to get it down. That means training your body to do something it’s never done before – like running a 5K – or teaching your brain how to do something correctly without thinking – like playing an instrument.

    And yet, so many people get frustrated with writing that we quit – and we never really train for it.

    Writing prompts are a writer’s training plan. For those of you unfamiliar, writing prompts are a series of statements or topics that are designed to drop you into freewriting. Sometimes they are fiction-based, and sometimes they are to bring out personal reflections. But by going through those writing exercises, your brain learns how to write better and stronger pieces, which pushes you further towards your writing goals.

    You may even be surprised at how writing prompts teach you different ways of organizing your thoughts. That change in perspective can help you find that story idea or blog post topic you were looking for.

    Find a book of prompts.

    On my bookshelf in my office, I have several books of different kinds of writing prompts – like The 3 A.M. Epiphany or The Pocket Muse. Some are more lighthearted, like The Write-Brain Workbook and The Writer’s Book of Matches. When I’m ready to do a little freewriting to help train my writing brain for the longer pieces I’m working on, I’ll grab one of these off the shelf, open it to a random page, and pick a prompt to write about for a bit.

    Schedule a time to do it regularly.

    Just about any exercise program you tackle will recommend that you set aside a specific time every day (or every other day) to get into the habit of exercising. You also need to do this for writing. Starting a new habit is hard to do, so schedule it. Pick a time where you have no distractions and can sit and write, uninterrupted, for a specific period of time.

    Set a target word count (or time).

    When you go out for a run, you try to plan how long you’re going to be out there. Maybe you’d like to knock out 3 miles, or just see how far you can get in 25 minutes. The point of setting those goals is to push yourself farther than you did the previous day. That’s how you get in shape. When you write, set a goal for yourself, and make it a little uncomfortable. That way, you know you’ll be pushing yourself to be your best.

    Find a favorite method of publishing your freewrites.

    It could be public or private. You might just want to hop over to WordPress or Blogspot and strike up a small blog. Maybe you feel at home with a pen and a nice notebook. Perhaps you enjoy the simplicity of a Word document. The correct method is one that you are going to use on a consistent basis. For me, I like my Tumblr blog for simple freewriting exercises. I’m okay with making them public. You might prefer to keep them private – and that’s okay too.

    Remember, the point of a training day isn’t to run a 5K at race pace – it’s to get your body used to running and building up your endurance. By that same token, a freewriting session isn’t there to force you to crank out the works of Shakespeare – it’s to help your brain think of new ways to write, and to help you discover how to organize your thoughts better. Some days will look like rough masterpieces. Other days will be ridiculous and disorganized. But every day is useful, and they will all work together to make you a better writer in the end.

    About the author

      Tom Meitner

      Tom Meitner blogs about reaching your goals at The Practical Nerd, and publishes a monthly digital magazine on chasing your dreams at HustleLife. He feeds himself and his wife with his freelance writing work, and dreams of publishing a book someday.

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    • Kristen B. says:

      Although I like writing and making a lot of free verses, I haven’t spend so much time in planning. I guess I ought to plan my routines so that I could budget my time and discipline myself. I didn’t have formal training for writing but your advice about planning makes sense. I have previous simple freewriting exercise in blogger site but I already stopped doing so when I started my freelancing gigs. Perhaps I should continue freewriting habit.

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    • Liz says:

      Prompts are all around us. It’s the responding to them that is magic. Excellent article!

    • Free Sky says:

      How does a writer use language to captivate another’s imagination so entirely that the reader sees, hears, and smells what the writer wants him to experience?

    • I need to come up with 3 topics to implement in a staff training program for preschool teachers. This for a college course and I’m stuck.My plan must include goals, costs, type of training ,lenghth of training etc… any ideas would be great or references of resources I could go to.

    • Hey Tom!

      Thanks for the great piece. I’m a lifelong athlete who’s in the process of becoming a writer, so the analogy really struck a cord with me.

      I’m currently writing my first eBook, a Strategy Guide to Increasing Energy, Happiness, and Mojo, and I’m at that point where I’m seeing the finishing line, but somehow it’s scaring me off.

      So to overcome the resistance, and strengthen my writing muscles, I’m committing right now to working 30 minutes a day on the book, and build 5 minutes per day until the book is complete.

      Time to make this thing happen 🙂

    • Hi Tom. I will go against the grain here, so hear me out! I like your runner’s analogy (btw, a marathon would really have painted a better picture), but not sure if it translates well into writing (for me). I think most people find writing prompts very useful, but I see them as (for lack of a better word), pointless. I think any amount of consistent writing will improve how you write (Feedback is a MUST), but I prefer to spend my time writing more goal-oriented pieces. This keeps me focused, but it sometime requires more edits to get the quality up to scratch. What I would ask is, how much writing is enough? I think I write nearly 10,000 words a week (all kinds of writing), would really like to increase it to 20,000.
      Anyway, that aside, this is a very useful post.

    • Jean says:

      Excellent post, Tom. Most people just get into writing without any real training so to speak, compared to other tasks that they definitely seek out some sort of basic training atleast. As for me, I have tried to maintain a certain flow of paragraphs every week based on the topic I pick for that week. If I feel it is of a good quality, I post it on one of my blogs for everyone to read also. Writing prompts however are a very good idea, even though I had never tried them out myself but I know a lot of people for whom it has been a huge help in getting them somewhere with writing regularly and efficiently.


    • Sam says:

      Hey Tom, well written post. I think the best way to enrich a particular knowledge is to read more on that subject. I have basically wrote many great guest post by reading the style of their writing from many blogs. Cheers.

    • PJ Kaiser says:

      Excellent post! Now that my daughter has started preschool I hope to get into a daily writing habit. One site that I’ve used is 750words.com – it’s excellent to help develop a routine.

    • I love writing and am retired so it seems like I should have all the time in the world, but I am finding that my life is still not my own. My family lives far away in different directions and I am on the road a lot. I find myself with scattered time to write on the road, but without enought direction. I love the prompts. I also need help in setting up a blog because I would enjoy sharing my writing. Does WordPress or blogspot guide one through the process? Thanks for the encouragement in my older age and my willingness to learn more about something I enjoy.

    • Love love love the idea of writing prompts! I just found a few writing prompt sites (simply googled) which look like they’ll be a great start to get the creative thoughts in gear. My blog is mainly about my crazy NJ Italian family (non-fiction) but it’s that variety of little writing ‘exercises” about many different subjects that will help me be a better storyteller in general. Thanks for this post!
      The “me” in the madness 🙂

    • Free Sky says:

      I need to come up with 3 topics to implement in a staff training program for preschool teachers. This for a college course and I’m stuck.My plan must include goals, costs, type of training ,lenghth of training etc… any ideas would be great or references of resources I could go to.

    • jkworthy says:

      I resist being confined to a routine, much less one involving writing, but when it’s not scheduled…it loses importance. Accountability (even if no one else knows about it) makes such a difference.

    • Great advice about how to build writing stamina. Robert Boice’s research backs you up. He found that researchers who wrote whenever they felt like it averaged about 17 pages a year. Those who kept to a regular schedule, even if they wrote for less than an hour a day, had an average output of 64 pages a year. And those who wrote regularly and reported their progress (to anyone) turned out an average 157 pages a year. Boice advised writing regularly for short periods of time to build up stamina and to make writing a routine event rather than a nerve-wracking challenge.

    • Faye says:

      Thanks for getting me thinking about how to get started in the writing area. One that I am very uncomfortable about. However, i love a challenge and will certainly put theses action steps into place. Thanks

      • Good luck Faye! It’s nothing to be uncomfortable about – just get in there, be yourself, and let the creativity flow. The rest will take care of itself. 🙂

    • Tom excellent advise. I strongly believe in doing writing as a schedule. My writing improved a lot when I made it a practice to write a specific amount of words everyday. Now recently due to hectic schedule with moving my blog to a new domain (and tying up those loose ends) I had to give up daily writing; although I am doing it every other day. I can see a bad difference – sure sign that I should get back 🙂

      • Totally agree, Jane! When I schedule writing, I get far more done and all my work improves. I’ve been off my schedule for a few weeks now, so I need to get back on that horse!

    • This is such a great suggestion! I have two of the Pocket Muse books and get excited just opening them! (My only complaint is that I can never find my way back to favourite pages because they’re not arranged in any particular order.)

      I’ve also got ‘Write Starts – Creative Prompts to Get You Writing’ published by Running Press which is like a journal with pictures and prompts on every page to get you started. (Unfortunately it’s in black and white but it’s so much fun!)

      • Thanks Jessica! Glad you like them. I’ll have to add that book to my list of ones to get. Thanks for reading!

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