Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #48

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.


Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #47

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.

How's your writing going?

 

 

 


Never Underestimate the Power of a Writing Prompt

Promptbox
The prompt box

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?


Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #46

Herewith, the latest collection of writing prompts from my Tumblr blog, where I post a prompt a day. I hope they help you write tons and tons this week!

#316  They tell me I should never have let anyone know what happened.

#317  “Honey, I’m home!”

Your main character’s significant other just walked in the door.  How does she/he react? With joy or dread? Eyes lighting up or shoulders slumping? Excitement or fear? 

Write about their reaction and what happens next.  

#318  Does your main character like to pretend? Maybe he likes to pretend he is married to someone else. Or she likes to pretend she lives in Paris.  Or he likes to pretend he is happy.  Write about all the ways your character (and maybe you) pretend.

#319  “Why, I remember when you were just a little tyke,” she said. “And, um, look at you now.  What in the hell happened to you?”

#320  “All at once I hear your voice, and time just disappears.”  Bonnie Raitt

Whose voice does your main character want to hear? Who do they miss?

#321  Is your main character an outdoorsy type or one who prefers being inside?  If he’s an outdoorsy type, write about how he feels when forced inside.  If she’s an inside type, write about how she feels when she must be outside.

#322  She breathed a huge sigh of relief, because the thing she’d been struggling with was over at last.  Or was it?  Because all of a sudden….

How's your writing going?  What are you working on?


Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #45

It is sunny and hot here in Portland, hot like in the nineties.  Not my favorite.  My office is upstairs for the time being (I'm working on moving it downstairs) and it gets hot up here so I'll be driven away from the computer soon enough.  (I'm pretty sure we're going to see the movie Mad Max this afternoon--I've been a movie going fool lately, and besides, the theater will be air conditioned!)  But before I go, just because I love you so much and want to make sure you write tons this week, I compiled the latest collection of prompts from my Tumblr blog for you.  Hope it is lovely where you are and that you're having a great weekend.

#309 Viva la revolution! What does your main character feel strongly enough about to agitate for?  To take to the streets in rebellion?  To protest if it were taken away from him?

#310  She worked furtively on the project for months, hiding the papers she took notes on or the computer screen when anybody walked by.  In the end, when she finally revealed the project, it was for  __________________.  

Either her project works amazingly well, or its a huge fiasco.  Write about her project and its results.

#311  Main character (or you): primly tidy or near-hoarder? How does this make him or her feel?  

#312  Ever patiently, he sharpened the knife.

#313  “Why do people act like that?” she asked, watching as a group down the hill started to __________________.

#314  Although there was nothing wrong with his leg, he always walked with a cane.

#315  She poured cream into her coffee and gazed into the cup, hoping it would tell her a secret.

By the way, those last few prompts are from something I found when sorting through crap stuff in my office. More on that soon.  In the meantime, how's your writing going?

 


Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #44

Bon jour! Here is this week's collection of writing prompts, a bit later than usual because I went out to breakfast at my favorite French cafe.  And I bought macarons, which are calling to me from the kitchen (they can be a rowdy bunch), but they are for dessert at my sister's dinner tonight.  Anyway, these bits are from my Tumblr blog, where I post a new prompt every damn day.

#302 Write about something that surprised you or your main character.  It could be something small or huge.

#303  Ah, a holiday.  All day to relax and do what she wanted.  But, oh crap.  Then this happened….

#304  “We’ll forget the sun, in his jealous sky, as we walk in fields of gold.”  Write about what Sting was singing about.

#305  Use the word promise, bird, and thunderstorm in a sentence and then use the sentence as a prompt.

#306  He just could not make the decision.  How do you–or your main character–make a decision? Do you use a logical process (if so, explain) or rely on intuition?

#307  Does your main character believe in angels? Spirit guides? Or for that matter, God? If so, how do these beliefs manifest in his life?  If not, same question.

#308  You’re at your desk.  It’s a beautiful summer morning.  The window is open, and you hear birds singing and the soft summer air blows through.  But then, ____________ happens.  And things are never the same again.

 As always, share inspiration from these prompts or your writing life in the comments! 


Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #42

Like clockwork, like magic, like butter on bread, here it is, my weekly round-up of writing prompts from my Tumblr blog.  I'm in Seattle this weekend, but you should be writing. Kidding! Or not. Anyway, Enjoy!  Or don't enjoy, but use them to write like crazy.

#288 What was your main character’s relationship with her mother like?  Happy and loving? Polite but distant? Very, very contentious? Write about it for 15 minutes–or more.

#289  Everyone else was sad when the rain started falling after a long string of gorgeous days.  But not her.  She was delighted.  Because rain meant …..

#290 Who does your main character love? Who loves her?  Do they match up?

#291  Write about a time you, or your main character, was so engrossed in an activity that time flew without him realizing it.

#292  But you know, you could also do it this way.

#293  I know you don't agree with me, but tough, because ....

#294  It's Saturday.  What's your character's drink of choice this evening?  Wine (red or white), beer, tea, coffee, water, a cocktail, Diet Coke?  How much of it will he drink?

Go forth and write!  And add the results to the comments if you so desire....


Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #41

This week's collection of writing prompts from my Tumblr blog:

#281 If your protagonist could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?

#282 You can’t go home again.  Or can you?  Has your main character stayed home? Or was he a person who couldn’t wait to move as far away as possible?

#283 They were sad when it was over.  So they started up again.

#284 The plane rose in the air.  She looked out the window at the landscape below, trying not to grip the armrests quite so hard.  Then a noise, like a pop, and the plane shook.  “Don’t worry, its just turbulence,” the man beside her said.  But she didn’t know whether to believe him or not.  Should she? 

#285 Oh God, not that.  Anything but that.

#286 Two men walk into a bar and realize there are only women inside.  Tall women, short women, gorgeous women, plain women.  What gives?  Is it a gigantic book club meeting?  A lesbian bar?  A feminist convention? Do the men stay? What happens if they do?

#287 She opened the window to let the cool morning air in, but instead, what rushed past her was …..

 I love it when you guys post starts from these prompts in the comments!

 


Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #40

Hello from Nashville, y'all!  Here's my latest collection of writing prompts from my Tumblr blog.

#274  Use the words cat, rain jacket and orchid in a sentence.  Now use that sentence as a prompt.

#275  Write about what your main character did yesterday, from the time he woke up until the time he went to bed.

#276  Her cat was the most annoying cat in the world, especially when he.....

#277  The biggest difference between southerners and northerners is....

#278  Is your main character a walker or runner?  How often does he exercise? Or is he an exercise slacker?

#279  Does your main character procrastinate or get things done quickly and efficiently?

#280   When the drumming started, she couldn't help but dance.

Feel free to post any results from the prompts in the comments!


Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #39

Here's the latest collection of prompts from my Tumblr.  Enjoy!

#267  It’s a beautiful, warm evening, what’s your character’s pleasure: dinner al fresco; a hike; taking the children to the park; ignoring the weather and turning on the TV or something else entirely?

#268  Is your main character a talker or a listener?

#269 And then, once the bill had been totaled and she had paid, the guilt set in.

#270  Happy Earth Day! Does your main character recycle? Drive a non-polluting car or take mass transit?  Or maybe he is just the opposite–throws trash in the recycling bucket and roars around town in a Hummer? Whichever the case, write about their green, or not-so-green habits.

#271 Write about your, or your character’s first kiss.

#272 What’s the worst thing your character has ever done? Murder, adultery, theft? Does the world know about this thing or does your character keep it secret? 

#273  What is the best thing your character has ever done? Raise a child up right, write a book, run a business, take care of an ailing parent, what?  

 How's your writing going?  And, as always, if you get inspired by one of these prompts and want to share in the comments, feel free.

 


I've Invented a Writing Machine

Everystockphoto-nasa-space-64361-hJust for you, because I love ya, I've invented a new writing machine.  Here's what it does: with a long metal robotic arm, it reaches out, grabs paper and pen, and plops it down in front of you.  You can also program it to grab your laptop, tablet, or computer keyboard.  There's an optional feature that will, if you so choose, chain you to your chair for a set period of time.  

Here's the rub: that's as much as the machine does.  After that it is up to you to start writing.  This may be a bit of a news flash to you, but in order to write something like a novel, a short story, or a memoir, you have to ... write.

Dude. Imagine that.

But, you know what?  We forget that.  Even I, who have been making my living doing this for years, forget that.  Lately, I've been very stern with myself.  I've had so very many important things to get done.  Manuscripts to read, a rewrite to finish, workshops to plan.  And so I laid down the law. There is no time for writing.  We must work.  And work hard.  Nose to the grindstone and all that.

Yesterday I awoke in a brain fog, staring off into space, overwhelmed by the week ahead.  Out of the corner of my eye, I spied my pink journal which had been unopened for a couple of weeks.  I stared at it, with one eye squinting until it occurred to me....perhaps I should write. 

And so I did.

And it was exactly what I needed to do.

But my journal practically had to jump up and down in front of me to get me to open it and start writing, which is why I'm inventing the writing machine for all of us.  Because it's one of those crazy paradoxes: when you're blocked in your writing, the solution is to write. 

I think what happens is that we crank ourselves into perfectionist mode.  When I'm not writing, it starts to seem like this big impossible thing that I can't do because I start imagining that every word I write has to be stellar.  But if I can just get myself to write one word...and then a sentence..and then a paragraph, I remember:

  • All I have to is put words on the page.
  • I don't have to write well.
  • I can write crappy sentences
  • Nothing has to make sense.

Because once I do put words on the page, things start to flow.  Ideas form and spill off my fingers. Crappy sentences straighten themselves out.  Scenes begin to write themselves. And I am writing.

So, yeah, that writing machine should be going into production soon.  In the meantime, I've got the next best thing here.

What do you do to get yourself to write?


Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #38

Here's this week's corral of my daily prompts:

#259 If only….she thought.  We all have a lot of “if onlies” in our life.  What is your character’s biggest if only?

#260  The wind blew and blew.  It blew so hard and so long she thought she’d go crazy from it.  And then, all of a sudden, it just stopped.

#261  A screen door slamming shut is an iconic sound of summer for me.  Do you (or your character) have any sounds that immediately provoke memories?

#262  So what?  I mean, really, so what?

#263  It’s tax day!  Are your taxes finished?  Are your main character’s?  While we’re at it, how does your main character deal with money?

#264  My father insisted, loudly and often, that the best way to live was to work for oneself.  Even though his business eventually went bankrupt, he at least upheld his own standards.  What about your main character?  Does he/she have the entrepreneurial instinct? Or does he prefer the structure of a 9 to 5 job? 

#265  The ways of the world are capricious.  Take, for instance….

#266  Ugh.  Being sick is the worst thing ever.  Except for….

 How's your writing going?  I'm still working on rewrite #2 with my agent.  And feeling really ready to be done with it and get back to some plain old-fashioned writing.  But I am NOT complaining!  Leave a comment about what's up with you.  And have a great weekend.

 


Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #37

Good morning and happy Saturday!  Here is the latest collection of prompts from my Tumblr blog, wherein I write a prompt a day.  (And yes, some days I do kick myself for starting this project.  But most days I enjoy it a lot.)  Here goes:

#253  A sudden rainstorm.  Your character is stuck out in it, with no shelter in sight. What does she do?  Revel in it, or huddle miserably? What kinds of memories and emotions does the storm bring?

#254  Every morning, without fail, first thing she did upon rising was….

#255 Do you (or your character) favor yoga or Qi Gong? Running or walking? Going to the gym or working out at home?

#256 One more time, with feeling…

#257 New life.  Cause for celebration.  Where is there new life in your character’s world these days?

#258 A foggy morning.  What was revealed when it cleared?

#259 If only….she thought.  We all have a lot of “if onlies” in our life.  What is your character’s biggest if only?

Happy writing!  As always, share snippets below if you are so inspired.


Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #36

Here's the latest collection of posts from my Tumblr blog, where I post a prompt daily.

#246 As a child did you (or your main character) go to church? Sunday school or sitting in the service with the adults?  What was your experience—love or hate? Character building or destroying?

#247 And then she had to start over again….

#248 Scissors, watchband, rabbit.  Use these three words in a sentence and then use that sentence as a prompt.

#249 Happy April Fool’s Day!  Write about a time somebody fooled you and what happened.  How did you feel about it?  Some people think pranking is hysterical, others, not so much.

#250 What’s your character’s favorite kind of weather? (Not everyone likes endless stretches of warm, sunny days.) 

#251 It’s Good Friday.  What are your character’s beliefs around religion?

#252 How does your character feel about technology? Luddite or early adopter?  Or somewhere in between?

 Happy writing!  What are you working on?  Do you use prompts often as you write?

 


Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #35

Here's the latest collection of prompts from my Tumblr blog (minus one, because I forgot to do one on Sunday).

#240 She sat up quickly.  She forgot!  She had totally forgotten about it!  

#241  What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?  Write about it.  Work details can enliven fiction.

#242  Your character’s eating habits tell a lot about him.  Write about them.  Does he drive through McDonald’s every day for breakfast?  Cook lavish meals at home? Dine in the finest restaurants? 

#243  Doing new things is hard.  It is also brain-expanding.  What have you (or your main character) done that is new and different lately?

#244  TGIF.  What does your main character like to do on Friday night?  Date night? Stay home and watch a movie? Go to Happy Hour with friends? Get in bed early and read?

#245  Water.  Are you (or your character) afraid of it or do you revel in it?  Good swimmer or dog paddler?

 How is your writing going?  Do prompts help you write?

 


Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #34

Here's the latest collection of prompts from my Tumblr blog, all in one place for your convenience.

#233 Use the words cried, red, burp and van in a sentence.  Now use that sentence as a prompt.

#234 It happens.  You look up, and there s/he is.  The phone rings, with good or bad news.  The accident occurs.  Write about a time your life—or your character’s—changed in an instant.

#235 Write about a time you didn’t wear green.

#236 When the music’s over…turn out the lights.  Write about a time the music was over but your main character wanted more.

#237  Nothing is worse than not sleeping.  How does your main character deal with insomnia—toss and turn in bed, or get up and do something?

#238 And just when she thought she was done with all that, it came rushing back again.

#239  Every time she thought about it, she shivered in fear.  And then the day came to actually face it—and it was so much harder and scarier than she had thought. 

 Have at it!  Happy writing!  While you're writing, leave a comment and let me know how its going.


Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #33

#226  Write about the worst weather you (or your main character) have ever experienced.

#227  After the best weekend ever, your main character now faces Monday morning.  Does she drag her feet and stay suck in memories of the weekend, or does she let the momentum of her wonderful time carry her forward?

#228  When we are small children we spend a lot of time pretending—and then when we’re adults we learn to pretend in different ways.  We pretend we are happy, for instance.  Or we pretend we don’t care.  What does your main character pretend about?

#229  Some people think it is boring, but consistency is often the key to success.  How is your character consistent?  Inconsistent?  What are the results of these actions?

#230  What have you (or your protagonist) had to leave behind in your life?

#231  Knock wood, cross fingers, think things like if I finish loading the dishwasher before this song ends, I’ll get the job, or maybe something like if I don’t step on any cracks all the way to the corner, my new love will call.  These are superstitions.  Does your character indulge in them?  Do you?

#232 When the rains came and washed it all away, she was glad, so glad.

What are you writing? 

 


Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #32

Here's the latest collection of writing prompts, taken from my daily Tumblr blog.  Happy writing!

#219  She hated it when she watched a movie or read a book that she didn’t understand. And yet, those were the stories that stuck with her….

#220  "Do one thing that scares you every day."  Eleanor Roosevelt.  What would be the scariest thing your main character could do right now, in this moment?

#221  "Enough! Basta! I’ve had enough.  Stop it right now."  

What has the character had enough of?

#222 I know a man who doesn’t eat sweets.  He’s simply never tempted by them. Does your main character have a sweet tooth? If so, what kind of sweets does he like?  If not, what, if anything, does he eat instead?

#223  It was not a great way to start the day.

#224  They were eager to get away.  But they didn't realize how difficult it would be to leave.  First there was _____________, then _______________.  And then, _________ happened.

#225 When you look back at your life, what's the biggest difficulty you've overcome? When your main character looks back at his/her life, what is his or her biggest difficulty? 

What are you working on at the moment?  How is it going?

 


Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #31

Here's the latest round-up of posts from my Tumblr blog, where you can find a new post every morning (well, sometimes it's the afternoon).  Happy writing!

#212 Two women have been friends for years.  One afternoon, one of them says to the other, “I have something to tell you about myself that you may not believe.”

"Of course I’ll believe it, because I know everything about you."

The first woman heaved a sigh.  ”You don’t know this. And you may not like me much after I tell you.  Because here’s the truth.”

What does she reveal about her backstory? 

#213 It’s the morning after the biggest event your main character’s life.  (Like winning an Oscar, or a book award, or achieving some other huge goal.) How does he or she feel? Elated? Empty? Exhausted? Hungover? 

#214 She felt like she was hanging on by a thread.  There was the ______ and the ______, not to mention the __________.  And of course, the ___________! Taken together, they all threatened to overwhelm her.

#215 She couldn’t wait for him to leave—but she started missing him as soon as he was gone.

#216 Explore what your characters drinks.  Does he pound water all day?  Does she always have a Diet Coke at hand?  Is he totally against alcohol or an imbiber? Wine or beer or hard liquor?  Coffee or tea?

#217  All of a sudden, she became one of the cool kids.  Yet her position there was precarious, and nerve wracking.  Because one of the things they liked to do was…..

#218  It was the scariest thing he’d ever faced in his life. Every cell in his body told him to run from it. But instead he turned toward it.


Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #30

Here's my weekly round-up of writing prompts from my Tumblr blog:

#205 The fog wafted and drifted around buildings and through streets, masking and silencing everything in its path.  So it was a shock when it lifted and…..

#206 Today is President’s Day in the United States, and lot of people (but not all) have the day off.  What holidays does your main character take?  What does she or he do on those holidays?

#207 Waiting….waiting….waiting…Was it worth the wait? Or not?

#208  Some people fear spiders, but snakes don’t bother them.  Others are the opposite—they hate snakes, but spiders are fine.  Which way does your main character fall?  What does this say about him/her?

#209 Procrastination.  Does your main character indulge in it?  How does it affect his life? How does he get himself going again?

#210 Certain objects may hold great significance for us.  They can contain memories, remind us of loved ones, act as talismans against evil, or connect us to our creativity.  Does your main character have a special object she loves? What does it represent to her?

#211 Oh, the glory of it all.

Happy writing! What are you working on?