Speed-writing with the Horribly Awkward Writers’ Guild

Having recently been invited into the ranks of Brooklyn’s HAWG – or Horribly Awkward Writers’ Guild – as an associate member, I feel compelled to share with other writers the Guild’s speed-writing game that I’m finding very useful in my writing generally.

How it works: First, there need to be at least three of you present in the same room/cafe. Tear up small pieces of paper and hand around four or five per participant. Each person writes one title for each piece of paper they’ve been given, then folds and places them in some receptacle (hat, used coffee cup, recyclable/biodegradable plastic bag). Pass the receptacle around, pick out one title each (if you pull out one of your own, put it back and pick another), then let your mind wander for several minutes as you write a few sentences, a few paragraphs, or a complete short story depending on your level of inspiration from that particular title. One person will usually finish a lot sooner than the others; do not let this distract you as it will be a different person next round who finishes first. Then take it in turns to read out your work to the others. Rinse and repeat.

Some of the titles I’ve either created or responded to recently include: ‘Gambling with your kids already’; ‘A termite with discretion’; ‘The modern sherpa’s keys to happiness’; ‘Taco crush fever’; ‘Death threats and other come-ons’; ‘The uneducated guesses of Phineas Wurlitzer’; and ‘The best elbow in the world’. Several years ago I would have been too paralysed with fear to even make a stab at a response to most of these. But there’s something honourable and satisfying about focusing your mind for a couple of hours in the company of other writers, producing words and ideas rather than moaning about how much you haven’t written lately.

Call to action: I would love to hear from anyone who takes a stab at any of the titles above – send me a piece of not more than 200 words and if it takes my fancy I’ll post it on this site. As a starting point I’ve included my response to one of the titles above.

Gambling with your kids already
It had been a long trip, and Suzy couldn’t tell which was more irritating, the neon flashing incessantly in her peripheral vision as she drove along Atlantic City’s main street, or her twin boys, full of sugar and mayhem in the back of her beat-up van. She won a brief respite from the kids with a promise of McDonalds, and tried to remember the name of the hotel where she had agreed to meet Ronaldo. Ronaldo! He had sounded so exotic, and tall, and rich. Then he had to go and ruin it by sending her a more recent photograph. On the upside, as a janitor for one of the big casino hotels, Ronaldo was going to get her and the boys free food and drinks, and even some gambling chips that the rich guests couldn’t be bothered with, like they were pennies dropped on the street. Oh, and free accommodation – but Suzy preferred not to think about what she’d have to give Ronaldo.
‘Twins? You didn’t tell me you got twins, madonna!’ he said, crestfallen.
‘Two, Ronaldo,’ Suzy said. ‘As in too bad. Two for the price of one. The one being me.’

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