Here's the latest collection of writing prompts from my Tumblr blog. Enjoy–and write!
#39 God. After all that work and effort, this happens?
#40 "You may be able to take a break from writing, but you won’t be able to take a break from being a writer." Stephen Leigh
Since you, as a writer, are always “on,” look around. Write a descriptive sentence of what’s immediately in front of you. That’s your writing prompt for today.
#41 And when they came to what they thought was the end, it was really a beginning, because….
#42 Everyone has a few things they worry about most. What are yours? What are your main characters? Write them out. Now write about what life would be like without them.
#43 You walk into a wine bar that is empty but for the two women sitting at a table in the back. Suddenly, their intense conversation ratchets into a loud argument. You can hear every word. Write it all down.
#44 He ran. He ran faster, harder, longer. Then he ran some more.
Why is he running? Is he running from something or toward something? What, if anything, will make him stop?
#45 The wind picked up. The snow fell harder. But still she walked on and on through the storm, her feet growing heavier by the minute. She had to keep going, because….
Here is my weekly round-up of writing prompts from my daily Tumblr blog.
#18 Sometimes she looked for the answer in wine and sometime she looked for it in food. On bad nights, she searched for it in cigarettes.
#19 It’s Monday morning. What’s the first thing your main character thinks of when she opens her eyes? What is the first thing she does after she gets up? Continue on, following her like this, throughout her entire ordinary day.
#20 Don't stop now.
#21 It was all over but the shouting. But what happened next was even more incredible.
#22 It was a typical Thursday morning at the coffee shop, with groups of people chatting at some tables, and others working on computers. A long line waited to order. And then, the shouting began….
#23 I'm doing it because I want to, and not because you tell me to. (In honor of my sister, who said this to our parents all the time when growing up.)
#24 The full moon rose over the glassy lake, casting night shadows that were a little spooky.
Enjoy! And if any of them spark a piece you'd like to share, come back and comment!
For inventive ways to use writing prompts, click here.
Now go write tons with them.
#11 A garden is hard to leave.
#12 The worst vacation you've ever had.
#13 The offer that was so good it couldn’t be refused, and the terrible things that happened because it was accepted.
#14 In a country just short of regret,
In the state of bittersweet oranges,
In a city of lonely blue skies.
#15 Out walking in the crepuscular evening, that time of day when lights start coming on in houses and you can see into them. And then, in that one house, something amazing. What do you see?
#16 You’re in the middle of the worst party you’ve ever attended, but you’ve not been there long enough to leave without being rude. Look around. Who’s there? What’s going on? Why is the party so awful?
#17 "Beware of advice—even this." Carl Sandburg
Let’s ignore Carl, shall we? What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten? What’s the worst?
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.)
Every night after dinner, I do a little work and then by 8 PM you'll find me cozied up on the couch beneath my favorite quilt, ready to watch the Olympics. The Winter Olympics are my absolute favorite, so I've been in heaven since they started last week.
These athletes inspire me. Ski jumpers, snowboarders, downhill racers, figure skaters–I watch them contort their bodies and think,I'll never know what it feels like to move like that, but it sure is fun to watch someone else do it.
The other huge benefit is that it makes my job look easy. Really easy. (And it is, something we'd do well to remember on those days when the words aren't flowing so well and we're wringing our hands over writer's block.)
On the surface, we writers have little in common with Olympic athletes. (Stop laughing–I know even the comparison is funny.) They exercise their bodies, we exercise our minds. They are super-fit and we are…well, I'll speak for myself here, but let's just say sitting at the computer all day is not the best recipe for fitness.
However, there is one arena in which we can compare ourselves and that is with our training regimen. Olympians train hard for months out of the year, and when they aren't training in their specific sport, they are lifting weights, running, and keeping themselves fit. And we writers train, too.
Um, maybe not. Because who has time for training when there's real writing to be done? When there's only one hour in the busy day in which to find time to write that hour, by necessity, must be devoted to one's beloved WIP.
Well, hold on a minute. Training for writers is not such a bad idea. Just as Olympians rely on it to create muscle memory in their bodies, so, too, can we utilize the idea of training to facilitate ease and flow in our writing. (And, if you are a beginning writer, you might focus solely on training until you have a few gazillion words under your belt.) Think of training for writing as warm-up exercises, or practicing scales, or hitting a tennis ball against the wall five thousand times, or…you get the idea.
What follows are my suggestions for training. Train for 5-15 minutes a day and see if it's helpful to you. If so, keep doing it. If not, ditch it. The idea here is to loosen up and have fun, get your fingers flying across the keyboard or page. Train first thing in the morning, before your writing session, when you have a few minutes to spare, on your coffee break. Do what works, is my motto.
1. Free Writing. The classic. Set a timer for 10-20 minutes and move your hand across the page without stopping. Don't worry about following any particular train of thought, just write. To engage in free writing, the following are useful:
2. Prompts. These are one-line starters that are either random sentences (Snow fell, covering the shoulders of her green coat), or sentences that make you think (Write about a time your character felt sorrow). Write your prompt at the top of the page and have at it. You can find prompts under the Punch for Prompt tab, or by asking the Google.
3. Use your thesaurus or dictionary. Open to a random page and choose a word. See how many different ways you can use it in a sentence. Or combine it with another word, make it into a sentence, and use as a prompt.
4. Write morning pages. First thing in the morning (okay, you can get coffee) write three pages. It's free writing on steroids. Just write. Get your yayas out.
5. Write poetry. Write bad poetry. Write good poetry. Play with images and symbolism in the poetic microcosm. Even if you don't consider yourself a poet, you can learn much from arranging words this way.
6. Write flash fiction. 300-1000 words, a complete story with all the usual elements. Keep it loose, keep it easy, keep it fun.
7. Keep a stash of writing exercises handy. There's some on this blog–just scroll down and look in the left column under "Pages." And you can also ask the Google for help with finding more. Here's a page that has some interesting ones.
8. A to Z. Start at the top, with A. Write as many words that begin with A that you can think of in five minutes. Then choose a couple of those words, make sentences, and write. Or just use the word itself as a prompt. Add to your list as you go throughout your business. The next day, move onto B. (If you like to be contrary, you can start with Z and work backwards.)
9. Make ransom notes. Recycle old manuscripts by cutting them up into sentences and words and pasting those together. Make these into a story or use them to kidnap your neighbor's dog or rob a bank. Kidding!
10. Keep a God box. I don't know where the name for this came from, but it's a box full of stuff. Like cool things you pick up in your travels–ephemera from trips or a night on the town, fun little things, found objects, bits of jewelry. Open the box, pick an object, and write about what the object evokes.
11. Practice description. Grab your journal, or your computer. Close your eyes. Now open them. What's the first thing you see? Write about it as if you're describing it to an alien from another planet who has none of the same references you do.
12. The sentence game. Write a sentence. Now use the last word of that sentence to start the next sentence. See how long you can keep this going. You can also do this with first words of sentences.
Okay, these ought to keep you going for awhile. Do you train for writing? What are your favorite training routines? Please share.