Saturday Promptitude

Promptitude:

How Webster's defines it:  The quality or habit of being prompt, promptness.

How I define it: The habit of using prompts to inspire your writing.

Prompts.  Quit your sneering right now.  Yes, I know that you have a love-hate relationship with them.  I do, too.  Yes, I also know that sometimes writing to prompts leads you far astray from your current writing projects.  Same thing happens here.  And yes, I understand that your worst nightmare is sitting in a writing workshop, being told to write to a prompt, and then being called on to read what you wrote.  Oh dear lord, somebody wake me up, please.  Make the nightmare stop. No, I promise you: NO READING ALOUD HERE. Journal_80101_l

But besides all those bad things I know about prompts, I also know this:

When all else fails, prompts can get you writing again faster than anything else I know. 

Anything. 

Let's face it, what prompts are to writing, the law of attraction is to life: mocked and scorned but very useful.  C'mon, we know they work and we use them all the time, but we just don't want to admit it.  Who wants to be the dork that admits they watched The Secret five times?  Or the one who confesses she writes to a prompt in her journal every morning?  Not me.

But put all that malarkey aside and grab your pen and paper, cuz we-all are going to write.  Right here, right now.  And every Saturday to come.  Because today is the beginning of a regular weekly feature called, you guessed it, Promptitude.

Here are the guidelines (please note, I did not use the word rules, because I don't believe in them):

1. Set timer for an agreed-upon-with-yourself time.

2.  Write.  And by this I mean write write, okay?  Don't stop to ponder or stare off into space or all of those things we do when we pretend we are writing but really we're wondering if Lindsay Lohan is going to jail or not.  Move that damn pen across the paper and keep it going.  Do. Not. Stop.

And now, here are two rules more guidelines that are of vital importance:

3. Don't ponder the prompt.  If I stop to think about the prompt, what I think it means, whether I like it or not, if I should, perhaps choose another one, then the magic is already gone.  So don't do it.  Take the damn prompt already and write.  Its just a way in.

4. Use the prompt with your current project.  Here's the easiest way to do it:   Hold a character or situation from your book or story in your head for a few deep breaths, then start writing.  I know, too simple.  But it really works, I swear it.  And this is my favorite thing to use prompts for, which is to drive myself to a deeper understanding of what I'm working on.

So, are you ready?  Get your timer and your pen and paper and go to it.  Don't think about it, just do it.  Here's the prompt:

When the first snowflake fell, she ran outside naked.

What are you staring at me for?  Go write!

And even though I swore I wouldn't call on you, if you feel so inclined–only if you are feeling it–post your first 100 or so words in the comments.  Or post a comment on your own feelings about prompts.  But I do love it when you comment, so please do.

Writing Process: The Three Ps of Glumping

Over the last week, I've been revisiting the writer's process.  (You can get caught up on the other posts here and here.)  As promised, today's post begins a look at each step of the process. 

And so today we talk about the fine and wonderful art of glumping. Note_creative_author_260972_l

Glumping is a word that I've always used for the magical process of spewing words onto the page in your first, or discovery draft.  (Don't know where I came up with this word, to be honest.  I thought it was a made-up word I picked up somewhere along the line, but dictionary.com defines glump: to manifest sulleness, to sulk.  Which is what happens to writers when they don't write.)

For many people, this step engenders the magic of writing, the truly creative time when ideas fly and words combine in fabulous ways.  (For others, rewriting is when the deeply satisfying work begins, but we'll get to that in the next post.)The most important thing to remember about glumping is this: just do it.  The act of getting words onto the page in a first draft really boils down to picking up your pen and writing, or turning on the computer and pounding away on the keys.

So simple and yet so difficult.

Because sometimes it is damned hard to glump. 

If you find that to be the case, remember the three Ps of glumping:

1. Prepare.  Glumping will go much easier if you ponder your project ahead of time.  (Okay, I'll quit with the ps now, I promise. Oops, sorry.) If you're writing a novel, make character dossiers, a loose outline of the plot, write descriptions of locations, and so on.  For non-fiction, a list of points you want to follow. Anything that will help seed thoughts for writing. 

2. Prompt.  Oh, the poor, maligned prompt.  People love to sneer at these clever sentences, when really, all they want to do is help you get your writing going.  If you're staring a blank page or computer screen without a clue what to write, they can be a lifesaver.   Use them as a way to get words flowing.  I recommend keeping a list handy in your journal or writing notebook and pick one at random ( do not stop to make value judgments about which prompt you want to use–just choose one).  Then write.  The first few sentences may be totally off topic, but soon you'll settle back into your draft.

3. Practice.  As in, practice makes perfect.  Because, it does.  The more you write, the easier it gets.  When you spend more time working other aspects of the writing process, like rewriting, returning to glumping feels strange and out of control.  But soon it will become second nature again.  That is, if you practice regularly.

So there you have it, the three Ps of glumping.  How do you glump (or should I even ask, that sounds vaguely obscene)? What are your expriences with the writing process?

 

 Photo by christgr, from Everystockphoto.

 

Friday Question

Friday is often a busy day for me.  For whatever reason, lately my entire afternoon has been taken up withDesi-question-mark-817928-l appointments.  And I just about always go out to dinner with family and friends on Friday night, because, I'll be honest, by Friday I really want a glass of wine.

And, for whatever reason again, I have committed to writing a blog post every weekday, Monday through Friday.  Most days it is not a problem.  But often I get to Friday and feel rushed and end up wanting to post something short-ish but not knowing exactly what to write.

And then it occurred to me that others have solved this problem already.  Some do a Friday quote.  Others do a guest post on Fridays.  Or post a funny picture.  Or something…

So here's the deal.  I'm asking you, my wonderful readers, for ideas of something short yet useful to you, that I could post on Fridays.  A photo?  A quote? (I've got tons of those saved up in random places.) A question pertaining to writing or creativity?  A prompt? A guest post? Favorite link of the week?  An idea for a creative project?

Gee, I have more ideas for this than I thought–that's what happens when you start writing stuff down.  But I want to know what would be useful to you, so have it and comment away.  Give me a new idea or vote for one of the ones I already mentioned.

Photo by desi.Italy, used under Creative Commons 2.5 license. 

Warming Up, or The Art of Recycling Manuscripts

In writing, nothing is ever wasted.  I'm forever saying this to clients, and, well, just about everybody I meet, and it is true.  Your words are never wasted because if they need to be cut from one project, they might become useful in another.  Doesn't matter if you have a bad experience, because, at least you can write about it.  (As a matter of fact, I've coaxed myself into many an event I don't want to attend with that thought–at least I can write about it.)

But I've recently rediscovered a way to literally and physically not waste words by recycling manuscripts.  And I don't mean throwing them in the recycling bin.  Here's the deal:  I've been organizing my office for the last, oh, six months, and at the rate I'm going I'll be working on it for the next six months. Part of why this is taking so long is that I'm going through everything--old stories, old notes, everything. 

In my most recent pile, I found a sheaf of slender pieces of paper, rubberbanded together.  Curious (of course I have to look at everything), I pulled the rubber band off and found that what I had were sentences.  Some were hand-written, and some were cut from a printed manuscript page. 

I realized immediately what I had found–story starters.  Oh, okay, call them prompts, though for some reason I don't like that word.  Clearly, at some point in the past, I had meticulously written down sentences that captured my attention, and spent time cutting apart manuscripts.

So I decided to experiment with these sentences.  Earlier this week, I used one as a starter for a writing session, though I kept it specifically focused on the new novel.  And it was great.  To me, that is one of the best use of prompts–write from them with a specific focus, hopefully whatever it is you are working on. 

Digging further through this file, I found three pages of an old manuscript.  I mean, this was old–it had been printed on a dot-matrix printed.  Remember those?  I used to love the ritual of tearing the edges off the paper.  Anyway, the writing on the page was as old as the printer and, how shall I say this so as not to hurt my own feelings–it needed some work.  It is not a project I'm going to return to as I have no interest in it. 

But then I thought–aha!  I have a use for this old manuscript!  I shall cut it up, sentence by sentence, and use it for a story starter.  I put all the thin pieces of paper containing the sentences into a box with my old hand-written ones,and draw one when I'm ready to write.  Here's several to get you started, and note that some of these may be copied from books.  But it doesn't matter, take them and make them into your own wonderful work:

  • Grandma sat in the armchair in the dim light, knitting.
  • They tell me I should never let anyone know what happened.
  • "It's not much further now," he called, beads of sweat popping out on his forehead.
  • I know it's dangerous to pick up hitch-hikers, but I stopped anyway.
  • Although there was nothing wrong with his leg, he walked with a cane anyway.

To me, writing to prompts story starters is an excellent way to warm up.  Musicians practice scales, athletes stretch, and we writers need to warm up, too if only to get the blood in our fingers going.  Writing freely  for 10 to 15 minutes can be an excellent way to get the brain moving in the correct direction as well.

Now the problem is that I have an excuse to keep all those old manuscripts.  Good thing I've thrown most of them out already.

How about you?  What's your favorite way to warm for writing?