Writing Spontaneously: How to Let Your Stories Surprise You

with Jessie Roy

spontaneous writing course

In this live workshop, I’ll walk you through the techniques I use to build a scene sentence by sentence, incorporating all the elements of fiction into one seamless and compelling whole. You’ll learn to cultivate spontaneity, allowing your characters to have “minds of their own” and your scenes to resonate with the infinite potential of real life. And you’ll practice immersing yourself in the present moment of your story, alert to all the weird and wonderful details that give great fiction its delicious texture.

Getting from a beat in an outline to a full scene of lively, surprising prose can feel like a magic trick, but fortunately for us, it’s a skill—which means it can be taught, learned, and practiced. Whether you’re starting from scratch or adding to a work in progress, you’ll finish the workshop with two partial scenes and a concrete writing practice that you can use in the future for every scene that you write.

Learning and Writing Goals

In this workshop, you will:

  • Learn the principles of fictional ‘flow’—what makes scenes feel immersive, natural, and as if they are ‘really happening.’
  • Learn how to use surprise as a driving element to keep the reader moving through the story.
  • Learn how to balance structure with spontaneity in your writing practice.
  • Practice controlled immersion to harness the power of your imagination and discover details you could never have invented.

And you will walk away having written:

  • Two partial scenes, and
  • A freewrite brainstorming future ways to use the new writing techniques you’ve just learned.

Workshop Schedule

This workshop will meet from 2-4:30 P.M. U.S. Eastern Time.

2:00 – 2:15 – Introductions, overview.
2:15 – 2:30 – Opening freewrite: reflect on your current writing practice. Discuss.
2:30 – 2:45 – Lecture and demonstration
2:45 – 2:55 – First writing exercise.
2:55 – 3:05 – Sharing and discussion.
3:05 – 3:15 – Ten-minute break.
3:15 – 3:30 – Second writing exercise.
3:30 – 3:45 – Sharing and discussion.
3:45 – 4:00 – Closing freewrite: generate ideas for future writing. Discuss.
4:00 – 4:30 – Q&A and wrap-up.

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Jessie Roy is a fiction writer, teacher, and editor whose work has appeared in American Literary ReviewThe Journal, and Cream City Review. She holds two advanced degrees in creative writing: an MFA from Syracuse University and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Among many other awards and honors, Jessie has been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and her novel Brides took second place in the 2020 James Jones First Novel Fellowship. In between teaching and studying creative writing, she has also worked in libraries, archaeological museums, fashion retail, and various parts of the bridal industry. Jessie grew up in Kentucky and now lives in New York City with her spouse. You can find her online at https://jessie-roy.com/.