Just in case you were thinking, while the cat’s away, the mice will play, no such luck. To give you something to do other than sit around and sob about my absence, I’ve decided to set up writing prompt posts for every Monday in September, with seven posts for you. One for each day.
You know the drill. Set a timer for 10-20 minutes, and write without stopping. Use the prompts as a warm-up tool, or to inspire you, or when you are blocked. Okay? Here goes:
–Pink, yellow, purple, brown. Mary shook her head as she sorted the yarn her mother had chosen. She’d suspected it for a long time, but now she was certain: her mother had to be color blind.
–The road trip was tedious, especially when they got stuck in traffic for 30 minutes and Kevin started telling her to be patient.
–The small child turned the item over and over in her hands, then looked at the person who had handed it to her. “It’s called a watch. You tell time with it. People used to wear them all the time.”
–A group of brightly colored hot-air balloons sailed over head. She was so delighted with them, she ran through the fields, chasing them.
–He was a mean, ugly person with a twisted sense of humor. Yet still she loved him.
–Down the rain fell, harder and harder.
–If there was one thing your main character could change about the place she lives, what would it be?
Okay, have fun. Look for a guest post coming up soon. And look for another edition of prompts next Monday, September 12th. Oh, and here’s a little teaser–there just may be something in the way of a prompts journal coming up later on this fall!
What crisis occurred this morning: I woke to the news that the electric coffee pot was not working. This was not good. This was very, very bad. I pulled out my phone and looked up the hours of the nearest Starbucks (luckily, we’ve got at least three within a very quick five-minute sprint) while hub plugged and unplugged the pot and pressed the on button repeatedly. It didn’t help. Finally, he had the brilliant idea to boil water and pour it through. That worked. I have coffee. I will not not murder anybody.
What I’m picking off my computer: Fir needles. It hit 85 degrees here yesterday, a record, and I sat outside beneath the fir tree and worked all afternoon. My computer was also covered in pollen when I came in, like absolutely every horizontal surface in this town. Which is why every human who lives here is sneezing, blowing their nose or itching their eyes, like me.
What I’m working on: I have a ghostwriting project that I’m really enjoying. Its an intense subject, but lots of good ultimately came from it. We had some wonderful new students at our bi-weekly Wednesday Writers group this week, and we now have a good number sitting around the table talking about writing, all of whom are doing wonderful work. And I have several amazing students and clients (Hi Mitch, Hi Courtney) who are producing regularly and several working quietly behind the scenes. At least they better be working. (You know who you are–you’re working, right?)
And workshops–I got workshops! There’s the three-day Mapping Your Novel at Sitka Center in June (which is close to half full), France in September, which is one person away from being full, and COMING RIGHT UP is a workshop here in Portland called How to Write a Book. It is April 23, all day Saturday and it’s going to be a ton of fun, so if you live here, join us.
Oh, wait, what, you want to know what personal projects I’m working on? Well, um, er, I haven’t decided yet. I’ve got so many ideas for novels and stories in my head I’ve had a hard time landing on one. But I think I’m getting closer. I totally kind of drive myself crazy in the between-projects stage. I can tell you another cool project I’m working on, though. It is going to be a series of prompt journals that I’m very excited about. I’m creating these with my cousin’s wife Nancy, also known as the Sister-From-Another-Mother. Look for them to be out soon.
What I’m reading: Honestly, a pretty silly romance. But the reason I’m reading it is that I’ve realized, duh, that women’s fiction grew out of the romance genre, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to go to the roots and see how books are constructed. The bare bones of the structure in a romance makes it easy to parse.
And then there’s a book I’m not really reading, but more using as a reference. It is James Scott Bell’sRevision and Self-Editing for Publication. But really, it is about a whole lot more than revision. What I like about it is that he has short sections on various topics, such as character, setting, etc., with bullet pointed information that makes it easier to process. There are also longer swaths of exposition, but those are easily ignorable if you are so inclined, as I am. I got this book from the library and I’ve renewed it a couple times but I think someone else now has it on hold and it is overdue. So if you’re the one waiting for it, I’m sorry! I’ll get it back soon.
What I’m doing this weekend: Organizing my office. I know! I’ve said this every Friday for the last few weeks. But I’ve made progress, I swear. (Though if you saw the stacks of boxes on the floor of my office, you might not think so.) Last weekend we got the area where the boxes had been stored cleaned up. And there’s just a few odds and ends left over to move down. Things I rarely use and thus don’t know what to do with.
I will admit that I spend very little time on the organizing during the week, because I’m so busy and important. That’s a joke, by the way. But it just always seems that the things I’m working on take priority. If I were a brave woman, I would share photos of my messy office. But I’m not, so I won’t.
That is absolutely all I have today. What’s up with you?
It has been a good week for interesting links around the web, and I have saved several in my travels. As regular readers know, I usually do this post on Saturday. But this week on Saturday, I was co-leading a workshop called The Ins and Outs of Publishing, which was held at an awesome bookstore, Another Read Through. And then yesterday was one of those days when I just didn’t get near the computer much. Which brings us to Monday. And a wet and dark Monday it is, at least in Portland. So here are some links to brighten your day:
Ah summertime….I've been on vacation, I've been slacking…no scratch that last one, I have not been slacking since I got home. There's much to do to catch up from vacation and get ready to be out of the country for three weeks. Awk! The thought of it makes my heart pound–in a good way and a bad way. Anyway, all this is by way of saying that this week on my Tumblr blog, I missed a few days. Blame it on brain overload, but I thought I had a bunch of prompts scheduled to run and then I came home and realized I didn't. Alas. But I did publish two prompts on one day to make up for it! So here you go:
#376 The look on her face said it all.
#377 There was nothing she could do but quit worrying about it.
#378 Write about what happens when your main character travels. Is she intrepid, an adventurer? Or does he hate leaving home, needing everything to be just as he likes it?
#379 How does your main character want others to see her? How does she see herself? Are the answers to these two questions the same? If not, explore the rich space in between.
#380 What is your very first memory? What is your main character’s?
So, yeah, a bit sparser than usual. But there should be enough to keep you going for a little while. How is your writing proceeding?
We are coming up on a year of writing prompts--isn't it amazing what a passing fancy of an idea can produce if you set your mind to it? Plans are afoot to compile the entire year of them into a book–that's a little project for August, before I take off for Europe.
But in the meantime, I'm wondering what to do next: keep going with the prompt a day/weekly round-up? Or try something new. Ponder, ponder, ponder.
Anyway, here you go:
#350 The worst day of your life.
#351 What’s your alibi?
#352 Every step was painful, but still he walked, on and on. He had to, because ______.
#353 Write a scene featuring your protagonist arguing with another character about something he doesn’t want to do but knows he must.
#354 She watched the sun rise through the trees, lighting first the leaves, then everything around it. Usually the sunrise made her feel happy and hopeful, but not today.
#355 Write a story about a character who either forgets an important birthday or anniversary, or whose birthday or anniversary is forgotten.
#356 Write a scene with your character at her closet, trying to decide what to wear to a party.
There you go–have at it! And please weigh in on whether I should continue with the daily/weekly prompts or do something else.
Happy Fourth of July to those of you in the United States! I hope you have all the freedom as a writer that you desire. Here is the latest collection of prompts from my Tumblr blog. Have a wonderful day and be careful whatever you do! (It is so hot here and has been for so long that it is dry, dry, dry and everyone is hoping people restrain themselves with the fireworks.)
#337 She liked change. She liked changing her wardrobe, rearranging her furniture, changing her job. But most of all she like changing husbands. However, this time …..
#338 Huh. It was so puzzling. She could have sworn she hadn’t forgotten to do that, but apparently she had.
#339 The woman started down the path into the forest, then turned, smiled, and beckoned him to follow.
#340 What is the one thing your main character (or you) cannot live without?
#341 When the sun rose that morning and lit the landscape, it revealed what the dark of night had not showed.
#342 In the United States, today is Independence Day. What does freedom mean to your main character? What are the ways they are free? What are the ways they are not free?
Are you celebrating today? How's your writing going?
Ah, yes, better late than never. It is Saturday, albeit nearly time for Happy Hour in my neck of the woods, and here is my latest collection of writing prompts for you. I've not been dallying around, I've been teaching all day–a fine group of local students who showed up despite forecasted temperatures of 102 degrees. The good news is that the temps haven't been quite that high and all the attendees were wonderful. So here are the prompts:
#330 She grabbed the envelope, tore it open and then shrieked in ______________ (delight, horror, sadness, laughter, etc.)
#331 The explosion woke her from a sound sleep.
#332 I once knew someone who ate a candy bar and washed it down with a Coke every afternoon. This ended when he was diagnosed with diabetes. And then there was the friend who I watched eat a whole half a pie one night. He was a recovering alcoholic.
Does your main character have a sweet tooth? How does this manifest in his or her life?
#333 Ocean or mountains? Which does your main character prefer?
#334 Life’s a bitch, and then you die. True, or not true? What does your main character think?
#335 If your main character were to choose one word that would sum him or her up, what would it be?
#336 Choose yourself a council of mentors. They can be dead or alive. Write about why each one of them inspires you. Now do the same for your main character.
It's Saturday, and you know what that means, don't you? Darn right, it's time for prompts. Here's my weekly round-up of them for you, compiled from my Tumblr blog. And don't forget I wrote a blog post about prompt writing this week, which you can read here.
#323 Country or city? Which is your character most comfortable in? If its the city, show her on the farm. If its the country, write a scene with him in the city.
#324 If your character could live anywhere in the world, where would that be?
#325 Write a diary of what you (or your main character) ate yesterday, and through this account create a window into the emotions and events of the day.
#326 She was tired of it all. So tired of the pain, the distraction, and the anxiety. So one day she ……..
#327 If your character was assigned to start making something right now, what would it be? Dinner? A knitted sweater? A painting? A musical composition? What and why?
#328 He sat across from the card reader, who spread her deck out on the table between them. When she was finished, she gazed at the cards and gasped. She looked at him, once more at the cards, back to him. “This is absolutely incredible,” she said. “Because…..”
#329 “It’s not much further now,” he called, beads of sweat popping out on his forehead.
I've been writing again–this morning, 2,000 words in an hour, words that came easily and almost effortlessly. This, after noodling around, trying to decide which novel idea to pick up next. (I've got four of them churning around in my brain.)
I'm also a tad bit distracted, because my agent is sending my current novel,The Bonne Chance Bakery out to publishers this week. No big deal. Not. (I don't expect to hear anything for quite awhile, because one thing I'm learning about this process is that everything takes longer than I think it will. Sort of like home remodeling. But I will keep you posted, I promise.)
Anyway, it feels so good to be writing again. So freaking good. And for it also to feel like I'm working on a project that is flowing, if you know what I mean. I've made starts on the other novels and while I have made some progress they didn't quite have the feel of this one–the feeling that the story is right there at my fingertips, that my hands can't range across the keyboard fast enough. I get an idea for something else in the chapter and pause only to make a quick note because I'm going so fast I'll lose the thread otherwise.
That kind of writing.
And guess what? It all came from prompts. I've written three chapters so far and when I looked back on them this morning I realized they had all started with a prompt. I'm sort of like the Prompt Queen, because I push them on others so much (including publishing a weekly collection of them here), but sometimes I forget to use them myself. (The shoemaker's children have no shoes.) But recently, in going through a cupboard in my office, I found a box of prompts I'd made long ago. I rescued it and stationed it on my desk and I've been pulling prompts as starters for this novel. Clearly, it's working.
Here are a couple thoughts on the process of using a prompt to make forward progress on a WIP:
1. Choose at random. Close your eyes and metaphorically pull a prompt from whatever kind of prompt box you keep. Or run your finger down a selection of prompts and use whatever one it lands on. And then don't change your mind! Just use it! One of my best pieces–what will likely be the opening of the novel–came from a prompt I hated. I almost put it back and chose another one, but decided to use it.
2. Start fresh every day. I've been easing myself back into writing the next novel. If I think too hard about it, I freak myself out. As in, this one has to be better than the last! Now that I have an agent, everything I do has to be top notch! And so it kinda works better to pretend that I'm just goofing around. I open a new file every day and I don't call it anything like a chapter. I label it Daily Writing and then the date. Then I write the prompt and go for it.
3. Use prompts from previous writings. (Can't call them chapters, remember.) This morning I used the last line of the previous day's work.
4. Let your brain wander where it will. That's the beauty of prompts–yours may be about flowers in the garden and you end up writing about sailing on the sea. That is a little less likely to happen when you're attempting to make forward progress on a long project, but your hands may still take you unexpected places. Let them. Those often turn out to be the jewels. And God invented the delete key for those times when they don't.
5. Do timed spurts. I'm still a huge believer in this. Set your phone timer for 30 minutes and when it goes off, get your ass up and take a stroll around your office. Or do a couple lunges. Or stretch. It's important to get up. When things are not going well, 30 minutes seems like an eternity and when I'm done, its, yay, now I can quit. This morning, I promptly (ha!) thought, I'm going to do another one. And then another. 2,000 words later I was a happy writer.
I think I'm going to add some prompts to my prompt box, maybe cutting up old manuscripts or cutting out lines from magazines. I like having it sitting on my desk because then I, um, remember to use it.
So, I've probably asked you this before, but what the heck, I'll do it again: do you use prompts for your writing?