Sunday, June 9, 2013

Guest post - Order out of Chaos: A Sketch and Write Exercise

I’m sure many of you keep a writer’s notebook, that wonderful place where you can keep all your ideas, brilliant shining gems and half-formed potential lumps alike, a place where—best of all—no one has to see them unless you want. (Sometimes the gems turn out to lumps when you see them a few days later. Happens to us all.) I keep two such books, my writer’s notebook and my sketchbook.

Now, much of what I draw is—how do I say it?—crap. (But, hey, how many first drafts are glittering, literary gold?) Still, I find the exercise to be meaningful, not only to me personally but also to my writing life. My sketches inform my writing and vice versa. Today I’m sharing a sketching exercise that is also a wonderful way to generate a writing prompt. You’ll need a piece of paper or a sketchbook page, a pencil, and a pen. Other tools, like an eraser or watercolors, are optional.

Step One: Without looking at the page, take your pencil and scribble all over it for as short or long of a time as you wish. Make whatever kinds of strokes feel right to you. The important thing is to resist the urge to try to draw a particular object.


Step Two: Look at your scribble and find a picture in it. Trace it with the pen. It doesn’t have to be realistic. My mermaid chicken certainly isn’t. Start with your scribble lines and add detail if you like.


Step Three: Freewrite for 10-20 minutes about the thing you drew. Clean up your drawing and add color if you like. Be amazed at your creativity!



Connie B. Dowell tutors and is assistant director at a university writing center. She writes for the full age-range of children’s literature, from picture books through YA. Connie puts her tutoring skills to work for fellow fiction writers through her editorial services. She lives in Virginia with her husband and an overly clingy cat. Find her online at


Connie is giving away a big picture evaluation of the first 10K of a manuscript. Comment on this post with your email address to enter. On June 16th, she will use to pick the winner.



  1. Mermaid chicken for the WIN! This seems like a great idea, although I'm sure I'll never think up something as awesome as that.
    For the giveaway:

  2. As kids, we used to play a simlar game we called "7 dots", in which we'd randomly make 7 dots on a page, connect them and make a picture out of the resulting odd shape. Never thought to use it as a writing prompt; cool idea.

    greysond (at) gmail (dot) com

  3. Ha so cool! I remember doing this in middle school in art class mine really didn't turn out this good LOL

  4. Nice blog!


  5. Greysonwrites wins!! I'll be in touch soon.