Five Strategies for Writing

One of my objectives as a teacher is to have my students write every single day.

It’s also one of my goals as a writer. Even if I don’t hit publish on it, I sometimes need to “empty out the trash” in my head to get to the story “behind my eyes.”

Over the years I have used a bunch of things to generate content–including prompts–but I have found giving students (and myself) a strategy instead of a topic opens up the gates for MORE content and better content because it’s self-generated. This means that whatever it is that gets written about is something that the writer wants to write about and is personal.

Below are five strategies* I use often with my students…and for myself.



Write from a List

Many of us do this, right? Some of us keep little notebooks or scraps of paper or we use our drafts folder, but we have a list somewhere of possible blogging topics. Sometimes I just sit down and make Top Five Lists: five best experiences of my life, five worst experiences of my life, five things that surprise me, five things I love about my husband, five things I’ve done lately, five places I’ve been, etc.

After making a list I choose something to just freewrite about. You should see my draft folder. It’s a hot mess. There are started posts, there are posts that have lists in them with freewriting with them. I go to those posts and read around for something that inspires me and I often cut/paste stuff into a new post and boom! Something to hit publish on!

Writing off Literature

This is one I use with my students a lot and have recently found works well for me too. Writers are readers…at least they should be. I think it was Stephen King who said that if you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write; his point being that you can’t be a good writer without reading.  Writers live and breathe via words both taken in and written out.

“Good readers are thinking while they read,” and not just about the plot, but about the ideas. “Stories inspire stories.” Ideas inspire ideas.

You could even expand this to be Writing Off Lyrics or Poetry or Articles.  I get inspired by speeches and sermons and news clips.

Again I have quotes from these sources in draft–some with freewriting, some not–just waiting to be fleshed out.

Writing from a Word

This one is fairly simple: you pick a word, write it down and freewrite about it. I give my students a part of speech to pick like, “choose a verb, write it at the top of your paper.  Now write.”  It sounds so elementary, but when I do it myself (usually I pick a FEEEEELING word, but sometimes I choose something a students said, or a word I read, or something one of the boys said, whatever), I find I can get some of my best writing.  I’ve even written some not too shabby poetry that way.

Lifting a Line

This is one I have already alluded to in previous strategies. The idea is to go back through your writing (could be published or not) and “lift a line” that jumps out at you. Take that line and write it at the top of your entry. I’ve had students (and myself) do two things with this. Either write from that line as inspiration OR use that line exactly somewhere in a new piece.

I’ve also used this in class (and on my own) in conjunction with Writing off Literature. Pick a line from a text and either use it as inspiration or quote it in your piece.

Three by Threes

Choose a noun and give yourself three minutes to write as many three-word phrases about that noun as you can.  For example “School” could be the noun and a three-word phrase would be “seven period days”. The idea is to focus on the subject. It narrows down broad subjects.

Sometimes as writers we know we want to write about a big topic, but if we just start writing, soon we have 1,00+ word posts that no one will want to read! If you want to write about pregnancy, maybe give yourself three minutes to come up with as many three-word phrases about pregnancy as you can.  This will help you find a more focused subject for a post.


Hopefully you will find that these strategies help you if you get stuck. I have great success with them producing better writing from my students than just handing them a generic prompt that they may or may not care about.  All of these strategies start from personal choice and head into personal writing.

Have you used any of these strategies before? How do you come up with your blogging/writing content?

*Names for strategies and quotes come from the book Notebook Know How by Aimee Buckner (not an affiliate link). I have used all of these strategies myself and with my students.

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About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.


  1. I love this, Katie! Lifting lines and three by threes are new to me – I want to try them.

  2. I echo what Alison said, and God knows I need this because my blog has been barren and dying and boring and OMG, where did my WRITER go?

    And now I’m officially crying and going to take a short nap before carpool/kiddie pickup, etc. begins.

    Thanks for these tips, I hope I can get it together and put some of them into place. And practice. And get back to reading more. I keep buying more and more books, but am not reading them all as quickly as I want to/could be….


  3. I have never heard of lifting a line or words of three either. I immediately thought “yes!” – I can really see how those could inspire the words to flow.

    I have a lot of posts in my drafts folder, too. Some almost finished but just lacking “something” and others with just snippets of words or a quote that I want to revisit. Usually if I am stuck, I go back through and see what jumps out at me.

  4. Katie, I read lots of articles about writing and finding things to blog about, but I have to tell you this is one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever read about this subject!
    Thank you.
    Kerstin recently posted…ZwetschgenknödelMy Profile

  5. I definitely do the list thing. But new to me is the three words one. I will try it! Great ideas, Katie. This is a great series!
    Elaine A. recently posted…My Day. How Was Yours?My Profile

  6. These are really great tips. I often wish I had things to write about, and I know I do… somewhere buried in my brain. I’m going to try some of these to dig those ideas/stories out.
    greta recently posted…First Grade Hoops #iPPPMy Profile

  7. I LOVE this advice. This is all things that I’ve never thought of before, but that seem like they would be great jumping off points.
    Jennifer recently posted…Pumpkin Pie with PAM Cooking SprayMy Profile

  8. Thanks, Katie.

    I sometimes find inspiration while filling out a crossword puzzle. A single word will prompt an idea. I’ve made reading every day a priority as well.
    Kathy Steinemann recently posted…Accidents Happen: Flash FictionMy Profile

  9. I felt my head nodding as I read this. Reading does inspire stories, I get soooo many ideas! From rants to posts to new books to new hobbies.. ahh yes.
    The Many Thoughts of a Reader recently posted…Thankful – BooksMy Profile

  10. This was such a great post! My 12 year old is a great writer if it’s a subject he cares about. Sometimes you have to write about things that don’t interest you. I like to have him “argue” both sides of a point. So if he thinks pizza is the greatest food in the world then he will have to tell me why it is not the best food in the world. Sometimes we can be so opinionated that it is hard to disagree with our own opinion. I find this exercise helps a lot.
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  11. This is such a good list, Katie – thank you!! I’m saving it for when I run out of ideas. 🙂
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