Writing prompt…story prompt…quick write…free write…writing exercises…journal…brainstorm…All these writing terms and strategies can make a person crazy, right? What do they mean and when should you use them?

Basically, they’re all strategies to get the “black on the white,” the ink on the paper, or text on the document (if you can’t bear to write without a keyboard). They make up the most basic writing strategies that every writer should have in their writer’s “toolbox.” There’s lots of overlap between each of these strategies and sometimes they’re used interchangeably.

I’ll give you the WhereTeensWrite definitions of each of these terms to help clear up some confusion.

1. Writing Prompt/Story prompt – these are pretty much the same thing. A writing prompt will hopefully get ideas flowing to write an entire story or to begin a story. These often provide some sort of character, setting, or plot element to jump start your creativity. Some examples:

Single Syllable Story Prompt, First Line Prompt, Focus on Character Photo Prompt

2. Quick Write – a quick write is generally done in response to some sort of prompt, but it’s used just get you writing or to break through writer’s block. A quick write might lead to a story idea or the beginning of a poem, or it might just be a ramble of words that don’t really end up being anything other than your thoughts. Some examples:

Name Calling Quick Write, Focus on Setting, Blueprint Quick Write

3. Free Write/Journaling – free writing and journaling don’t require any kind of prompt, instead, you just start writing about…whatever. Maybe you write about your day as you would in a diary, or perhaps you sketch a character, or describe a setting. Free writing is just that…free. This is the kind of writing I do in my notebooks early in the morning when the house is quiet and everyone is asleep. Perhaps you keep a journal or diary. If so, you probably free write in it. There are no prompts for free writing, just open up your notebook or a clean file on your computer, and write.

4. Brainstorming – Any of these strategies could be considered brainstorming because brainstorming is the act of getting as many ideas as you can down on paper. Whether you’re responding to a writing prompt, a quick write prompt, or free writing, you’re getting your brilliance out of your brain and down on paper.

5. Writing ExercisesA writing exercise is where you give focused attention to improving one element of your writing. You’re not so much focusing on getting words down or breaking through writer’s block, instead, you focus is on skill and the craft of writing. Some examples:

Choosing Your POV, Write Outside the Box, Show those Details

The “rules” for any of these strategies are pretty simple: keep writing, don’t censor yourself, ignore grammar and spelling, write what’s important, and have fun. I explain these rules in a little more detail here.

Some teen writers love prompts and come up with amazing poems and stories in response to them. Others struggle as they feel a prompt constricts their creativity. Either is perfectly fine. As a writer, your job is to figure out what works for you.

Now You Try
1) Choose one of the strategies from the above list that you’ve NEVER used before or one that you don’t use often.
2) Then, use one of the suggested examples or visit the Writing Prompts or Writing Exercises pages to find a prompt that you like.
3) Open your notebook and go!
4) If you come up with something amazing, share it in the comments below, on the Forums, or submit it here.