Inventive Ways to Use Writing Prompts


The blank page, awaiting your stellar words.

I'm not sure how inventive these ways are, but Inventive Writing Prompts is the name of my new Tumblr blog and I wanted to tie it in.  Clever, huh?

And yes, I now have a Tumblr blog.  I'm really not cool enough to have a Tumblr blog, because I don't totally get exactly what a Tumblr blog is,  but there it is.  My Tumblr blog is for one thing and one thing only: prompts.  I write a prompt a day, first thing in the morning.  I posted #7 this morning, and already it is a soothing little ritual I look forward to.  And here's the deal: most days I take the very same writing prompt and use it for writing practice–either as a warm-up or to explore an aspect of my WIP, which in turn usually gets me right into the writing I want to do.

I have been all about using writing prompts recently, and my daily word count has soared because of it.  I have been a bit stalled with my WIP novel — tantalizingly close to the end of the first draft, but not quite able to get there because I'm not sure how it all goes together.  The fact that a brand new character popped up isn't helping much. And meanwhile, Emma Jean raised her head up and said, "Me, me, pay attention to me," and so I'm working on a story starring her (she made me say that) that is either going to be a very long short story or a novella.  And, um, it is sort of turning into a mystery.  I think.

When first we start writing, a lot of us use prompts.  And then we hit our stride and decide we don't need them, because we have more important things to do, like work on our WIPs that are going to be bestsellers, thank you very much.  And then prompts seem sort of…juvenile.  We turn our noses up at them.  And then one day, we get stuck and the thought occurs: maybe I should use a prompt.

Okay maybe I'm using "we" when I should be using "I."   Because for a long time, I sneered at prompts.   I felt they were a waste of good writing time, when I could be working on my novel.  The thing is, you can use prompts to work on your novel, or any other kind of WIP.   There's as many ways to use prompts as there are prompts in the world, and lord knows, there are a lot of those.

Inventive ways to use prompts

Get to know your characters better.  Have your characters answer the prompt or write as them when you're responding to it.  A fun thing to do is write first as yourself, then as your character.  For instance, the prompt today is:  You can pick one day in your life to live over.  Which is it?  I started out writing as myself and then intended to have two of my current protagonists answer the question. What really happened is that one of the protagonists took over (she won out against Emma Jean, if you can believe it) and she actually never got to the best day of her life.  Instead she gave me a lot of information about the rest of the novel that I didn't know.  Which is why I love prompts.

Figure out your story.  You can work to prompts designed to do this, or often when you're writing about a character or some other aspect of the story, you might find yourself parsing out your plot, as I did above.  One great way to do this is to use what if questions from your plot as prompts.  You can also take the last line of the previous chapter as a starting point.  Or a line of dialogue from a character.  You get the idea.

Explore a different aspect of your WIP.  Last week, I used a prompt about car trouble that led me to write a whole scene that fit right into the story I worked on.  I never would have thought of this scene without the prompt.

Write something completely new.  Allow the prompt to lead you into a new piece of writing, something you might not have thought of before.  I got an idea for a little email course I want to offer in the fall by doing this.  Who knows, you might get started on your next novel. Or an article.  Or a short story.

Explore aspects of yourself.  You may not be much into writing memoir, but the better you know yourself, the better you'll be able to grasp your characters. Writing some short pieces about your own life may well open up ideas.  (And who knows, you may decide you have a memoir in you.)

Prompt resources:

Punch for Prompt, on this here blog you're reading.

Inventive Writing Prompts, my daily prompt blog on Tumblr.

Ask the Google.  You'll get a gazillion results.

That's it.  That's all I got for now.  But, do tell: how do you use prompts?