#WritingPrompt: Loop Writing

LOOP WRITING is a technique developed by Peter Elbow that involves underlining striking or important lines. Then those lines become starting points for going even deeper into a topic to gain new insights. It is a great way to develop your line of thinking on any topic, but especially useful when you aren’t sure what direction you want your writing to take.


picture of purple light swirls

Inevitably you will write a lot of material that won’t be useful, but loop writing can unearth insights and innovative phrasing that would never make it to the page otherwise.


Depending on where you are out in your writing process, you may or may not need to do the first step.


1. Make an inventory of topics by listing or making a cluster diagram. Then freewrite for 3-5 minutes on a few promising topics.


2. Pick the topic that seems to have the most potential. Freewrite for at least 15 minutes on everything you already know about the topic.


3. Read what you just wrote. Underline what you feel is the most important line.


4. Use that line as the start of another freewrite. Write for 5-15 more minutes.


5. This process can be repeated indefinitely.


Loop writing is also an awesome technique to getting the writer to make connections between seemingly unrelated topics. Happy writing!!!


What techniques do you use to generate ideas and deeply explore potential topics?


Image Credit: Purple Fractal by Steve Gibson

Author: Jeri Walker

Freelance Editor. Affordable Rates. Incomparable Quality. Make Every Word Count. Author of short stories and creative nonfiction.

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  1. Jeri — I think loop writing is probably a variation on mind mapping. I’ve tried that a couple of times but it didn’t seem to work for me. I’ll try loop writing – always looking for new creative approaches. Thanks.

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    • I don’t take to mapping/clustering very well, but I do better with loop writing because it’s in paragraph form.

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  2. I love this suggestion. I will use this. I am not a trained writer. My sum total in writing has been in the business world where reports or recommendations for something new were done in a very formal and formulated way. Blogging has changed that and I now am writing in a way I never thought I would and it is quite an adventure.

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  3. Wow, I really like this. So many times I’ve started writing on a topic only to realize half of my writing is just filler! The loop technique really helps you focus on what’s important… I’m going to give it a try, thanks!

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  4. I should try this. Usually my writers block technique is to try to learn something new. It can get the creative juices flowing, but there’s a fine line between that and burning too much time on distractions.

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  5. eri, you are my new favorite blogger because you are providing me with a lot of new techniques to write. Notice how I like to tweak my writing style on my blog…

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  6. Cool! I really like the idea of loop writing! Have never heard of that before.

    And I LOVE that Purple Fractal illustration. Beautiful and inspiring.

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  7. I think I’ll give this a go as my current method of notepads and sticky notes is not working. Not a great fan of the mind map either, I like creating them but get a bit lost in them when referring back.

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  8. I love free-writing, so loop-writing seems like a natural next step. I’ve used something similar with free-writing trying to write a poem. It filters down the important aspects. But I really like this idea for prose. Thanks for the tip Jeri.

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  9. What a great way to overcome writer’s block! I’ll often just start writing with just a vague notion of what I want to say – this seems like a more focused approach. Writing exercises are always appreciated. Love the image, as well.

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  10. I just stumbled upon your blog. Firstly, I have to say thank you for the fabulous insight into the writing loop. I’ve been struggling with my own Young Adult novel, and I hope this exercise helps me get past the writer’s block.

    Secondly, This is a great site you’ve got going. I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts. After I post this comment, I intend to subscribe to your RSS feed. Thanks for writing.

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    • It’s always great to hear an exercise I post may prove helpful. I have a stockpile of them from my teaching days, and I’ve definitely had to put them to use as I work my way through drafting my first novel.

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