Writing Prompts for August 2014

The_Dragon's_Revenge_Cover_for_KindleWow! August 1st! What’s happening to the summer? I hope you’ve been busy with the things you love to do as well as dealing with life’s necessities.

I’ve been very busy, but in a good way, and am happy to have both of my self-published books now online. The first is Writing Fiction: A Guide for Pre-Teens, and the second is my fantasy for middle readers, The Dragon’s Revenge, a sequel to The Dragon’s Pearl. You can read more about The Dragon’s Revenge here. To celebrate its release, The Dragon’s Pearl is free right now on Kindle until Sunday. Here’s the link to check it out: http://www.amazon.com/Dragons-Pearl-Temple-Blue-Mist-ebook/dp/B00C0C94G2/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1406805446

The other work I’ve been doing is writing business case studies for an educational publisher to go along with a new textbook, and writing a kids’ version of Frankenstein for Caramel Tree Publishing. They specialize in ESL material. Frankenstein won’t be out until next year sometime. With my friend and co-writer, I’m also working on an anthology of stories for boys that we hope to have out by early September.

And like you, I’m still looking for new stories to write.

Here are some prompts to help you find your stories this month:

1. Use one some or all of these words in a story or poem”

Blue, rain, bridge, driving, insect

Trees, sign, warning, chase, silver


2. Here are some titles for you to try: It’s Conditional, Dream Valley, A Piece of Sky, Lodging Exit 52, Silver Creek Adventure, Mail 346.


3. Try one of these opening lines and see where it leads:

How long ‘til we get there?

Looks like rain.

From here, the place didn’t look that scary.

There was only one way out.

I’d had a root canal, broken my wrist, and been kissed by Mackenzie Schmidtheimer, but all of them together weren’t worse than a family road trip.


4. What kind of scene can you build around these lines of dialogue?

Where are you going?


Look at the sky.


I want to go now.

That’s impossible.


You haven’t met Sirus yet.


The place has changed since I was here last.

One thing has stayed the same though.

What’s that?

It’s still dangerous.


5. Describe your ideal concert? Who would be playing and where? Who would you go with and what would happen that would make this experience the most important one in your life so far?

6. In your imagination, picture a street corner that you know well. In your imagination, turn that corner and find something completely surprising—a circus, the same street in the year 1850, a Roman ruin … you get the idea. What happens next?





Writing Fiction: A Guide for Pre-Teens

BookCoverImageWell, the day has finally come and Writing Fiction: A Guide for Pre-Teens is available at Amazon and CreateSpace. Yay! The Kindle version should be up in a day or two, and in a few weeks, it should be available on Kobo and at other on-line retailers. A labour of love, this book has kept me inspired and busy for the past several weeks, tweaking and adding final touches. The cover photo may still change, but for now I’m breathing a huge sigh of relief. You can take a peek at the Table of Contents below.

Hope you have some fun, writerly days ahead!


Getting Started  7

Joywriting           8

What do I need to be a writer?  9

Habits and Goals              11

Choosing Your Goal         11

Writing Every Day            12

Don’t Miss a Word           12

Write with a Friend or Two          12

Pantser or Plotter: Which are you?          15

The Pantser        15

The Plotter         16

Where do I get ideas for stories?              17

What if?               18

Write What You Know   18

Pick 4 Words      20

Writing Prompts               21

Plotting Tips       23

Basic Rule of Plotting      24

Story Planning   24

Plotting with the Hero’s Journey               27

How do I start my story?               31

Who should tell the story?           33

Point of View: First Person          33

Point of View: Second Person    34

Point of View: Third Person         34

How do I describe my characters?            37

Show Don’t Tell                38

Change Is Good                39

Character List     41

How do I describe the setting?  43

Think about how much you really have to describe.         43

Use Comparisons             43

Get the Senses Involved              44

Draw a Map or Use Photos          44

How do I write dialogue?              47

How do I end my story?                51

How do I make my writing better?           53

Revising and Editing        53

Words   53

Sentences           53

Combining Sentences    54

Paragraphs         55

What do I do when a story gets stuck?   59

1. Outline.           59

2. Forget about making the first draft perfect.    59

3. Write more than one story at a time.60

4. Put the story away.    60

5. Brainstorm.    60

6. Ask “What if?”              61

7. Don’t worry.  61

Last Words          63

Bibliography       65

Moving Soon

I’m in the process of upgrading my website and moving it to a new web host. I’m fairly tech savvy, but these things still make me nervous. Not everything always goes smoothly, as you know.

The new website address is http://wrightingwords.com. At least it will be when it’s set up. I hope!

Fingers crossed that this won’t be too complicated a process!

Hope to see you soon at the new location.

Storm front rolling in. This is how I feel about moving my website. Yikes!

Storm front rolling in. This is how I feel about moving my website. Yikes!

A Website Milestone–and Looking for Balance (again!)

Owen Sound Windows

Owen Sound Windows

A huge THANKS to all the people from 172 countries who drop by to visit my website! This morning, my website surpassed 100,000 page views. A big day for me! It’s a pleasure spending time with you. I hope you and/or your students and/or your children are having fun with the writing prompts and are making use of the other resources here. It’s exciting for me to see how many creative people there are out there, and how many people love to write stories. I wish you lots of fun and wonderful surprises as you pursue your writing and teaching goals.

I’ve been doing some of my own writing lately: some short stories for boys for a self-pub project, and an adaptation of Frankenstein for an ESL publisher that I’ve worked with before. I was planning a relaxing summer, but the adaptation, the stories, plus another large freelance gig, are keeping me busy–and, as it turns out, too busy. I chug along at full speed for a certain amount of time and then just hit a wall. Today is “wall” day.


Photo taken at Owen Sound marina

All I hear is the clock ticking and the worrying thoughts in my head about how I’m going to get everything done on deadline and still find some time to relax, too. Well, guess what? Part of that break is happening today. Time to take a deep breath, get the calendar out, and plan the work–and–the down time.

Plowing through, head down, shoulders up and tense as can be is my usual approach to projects and deadlines. I always want to get the job done the day it’s assigned; however, I’m learning to stop before I get too carried away. It’s time to break the work down into small bites and find a little balance.  I’m going back to a favourite blog post by Kristi Holl, “How to Recover Your Writing Energy–All Day Long!” She offers some excellent strategies for helping pace a busy day, and I definitely need to listen to that advice today.

2014 Peonies

2014 Peonies

If you have some tips for pacing a busy writing (or anything else) life, please share. I’m sure I’m not alone in needing some help with this one.

Have a great, writerly day!

PS. Lots of photos in the blog today. I got a new smartphone and have been playing with the camera. :)


Writing Prompts for July 2014

IMG-20120521-00409Happy Canada Day to those north of the 49th parallel, and an early Happy 4th of July to those living south of our border. May you all enjoy safe and relaxing holidays with family and friends.

Since we’re half way through the year, now’s a good time to check in with your writing goals How close are you to achieving the goals you set back in January? Have your goals changed? Did some events or people come into your life to take away your writing time? Now is not the time to fret over time passed or lost. Celebrate what you did accomplish and spend a little time over the next few days thinking about the next six months.

Maybe the goals you set were unrealistic for your lifestyle, or schedule, or personality.  Is there one small thing that you could change that would free up some writing time? Is there a TV show that you are still watching in reruns even though you’ve seen every episode? Can you delay checking your email, Facebook, etc. in the morning and give yourself a half hour of time at the beginning of your day? Skipping that time in front of a screen and heading for your writing project could give you a scheduled time every week (or day!) in which to put some words on paper.  Maybe writing in your journal while you’re having lunch or just before bed will be all you can do to keep the writing flowing during a busy summer. Even a small number of words, as few as 250 a day, can leave you with a decent-sized manuscript at the end of six months.

When the busy holiday weekends are over, here are some writing prompts for you to think about for the rest of the month–or for the next six. :)

1. Use one, some, or all of the following words in a story or poem:

a) blue, floor, mirror, shoe, ribbon, fear

b) screen, shine, cover, window, ink, push

2. Here are some opening sentences for you to try:

  • Prom met all expectations.
  • “Turn that off now!”
  • Waiting stinks.
  • The boys found the body right after lunch.
  • “What’s in the bag?”
  • Sirens echoed through the valley.

3. See if you can think of a story or poem to go with one of these titles: Love’s Embers, Brook’s Brothers, Chase, Blue, The Last Tower, Mouse House, One Small Moment, Candle Power, Apple Days

4. Can  you think of a scene to go with these lines of dialogue?

  • That’s mine.
  • Are you sure?
  • Are you sure you want to ask that question?


  • I thought your magic would help us to get out of here.
  • I thought it would, too.
  • So, what’s the matter?
  • Someone’s using stronger magic.


  • You said you had the key.
  • I do.
  • Then why don’t you use it?
  • I’m not sure I want to know what’s on the other side of the door.

Hope you all have a writerly week ahead.

A Count-Your-Blessings Post

Met these characters in King's Landing, New Brunswick

Met these characters in King’s Landing, New Brunswick

Inspired by writer Laura Best’s recent post, I’m going to answer the question she ended with: Has anything small made your day recently?

I don’t know if the events of last week count as small (I thought they were a pretty big deal), but they certainly made my day–and my week!

Two weeks ago I agreed to do some work for a new client. I was very excited about this new company, which had contacted me out of the blue and promised work soon. The project was confirmed two Thursdays ago and required interviews with three different people, but I didn’t start getting the contact information and article topics until last this past Monday. I got the last person’s contact on Tuesday, so the soonest I could do the interview was Wednesday. The articles were due on Friday. I got a note from the marketing person on Wednesday saying that she’d talked to her boss, and because she’d got the information to me a bit late, and because she was taking an extra long holiday weekend, that they were giving me an extension to this Thursday. They didn’t want to rush the project. Okay. I’ve been freelancing for a long time now, and I’ve never, ever, had a client do that. Needless to say I really want to make this client happy, and hope that they will send more work my way.

Last week my application was due for an e-writer-in-residence position with a nearby library. The application package included two reference letters. I asked my local teen librarian and a teacher, whom I’ve known for many years and whose school I had visited several times, to write letters for me. Thinking of what they wrote, still makes me blush, but reading those letters definitely made my day.

I was also offered a writing gig for a current client. I love working with this client, but his company’s contracts never include the 13% HST (sales tax) that I have to send to Canada Revenue on the freelance work that I do. The last few times, I have deducted the tax from my fee, but this time, the fee was such that I’d be losing an amount that would represent quite a few hours of hard work being done, basically, for free. The client and I had a great phone call about the project (he’s very creative and supportive) and he said he’d take care of my contract concerns–no problem. Such a relief! The new contract was in my inbox within a couple of hours.

It has definitely been a special week. I hope that you find moments in the weeks to come that “make your day,” too.


Journaling and Other Things

IMG-20130709-00210I’m happy to say that advanced reader copies of Writing Fiction: A Guide for Pre-Teens are on their way to me by snail mail. If you would interested in a PDF version for review purposes, please let me know. I would be happy to have you review the book for your blog, your teachers/homeschoolers newsletter, and especially for Amazon when the book is finally online.

If you’ve been considering starting to journal as a way to enhance your writing or just to see where it leads you, I’ve included some great links below to get you started. I’ve used my journal a lot lately to brainstorm ideas for a short story, as well as, a Kindle book series. I’m developing the series while taking a course from Kristen Eckstein (http://ultimatebookcoach.com/) The information that I’ve been getting throughout the month-long series (Kindle in 30 Challenge) has been invaluable. Though I got the course at a discounted price during a promotion, the full price doesn’t come close to covering the amazing value of the content. Plus, she adds other free content and discounts to writers in the group. Drop by her site to see what I mean. There’s lots of free content available there, too.

1. Journal Through the Summer Part I by Kristi Holl


“Journaling is meant to be fun. Don’t put expectations on yourself during journaling time. Forget about your performance, and don’t critique yourself. Relax. Let go. Writers need a place to write where ‘enjoyment’ is the only requirement.”


2. Journal Through the Summer Part 2



3. Journal Prompts: You, Your Life, Your Dreams

“On this page, you’ll find journal prompts for writing about yourself and your unique perspective. At the bottom of this page are links to more journal writing prompts on different subjects.”



4. Mining Your Mind: Journal Techniques for Writers


By Ruth Folit

“Writers practice the advice of Sir Francis Bacon, even if they are not aware of his precise words: ‘A (wo)man would do well to carry a pencil in his pocket and write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought are commonly the most valuable and should be secured because they seldom return.’

“Most writers carry a notebook, scraps of paper, old envelopes, to jot down ‘thoughts of the moment.’ A journal is another medium in which a writer can keep a record, albeit a slightly more unified one.”

If you would like to know when Writing Fiction: A Guide for Pre-Teens comes out, please fill out the following form. I promise that you will not be bombarded with spam emails, just the odd thing that I come across that you might find useful, such as a sample chapter or a link to a great writing resource. Thanks!

First 100!

School Supplies 3Thanks to all of you who signed up for my mailing list to learn more about my upcoming book, Writing Fiction: A Handbook for Pre-Teen Writers. As I was finishing creating my last link on the bonus page this morning, the 100th person signed up for the mailing list. I’m taking that as a sign. :) Those on the mailing list will be getting an email today with a link to the bonus material. Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you.

Things are chugging along on the editing front, but I thought I’d take a moment to share the Table of Contents of the book, so that you’d all know what I’ve been working on lately. It is a labour of love, I assure you.

If you would like to know when the book comes out, please fill out the following form. I promise that you will not be bombarded with spam emails, just the odd thing that I come across that you might find useful, such as a sample chapter or a link to a great writing resource. Thanks!

Writing Fiction: A Handbook for Pre-Teen Writers


Getting Started       



What do I need to be a writer?   


Habits and Goals

Choosing Your Goal

Writing Every Day

Don’t Miss a Word

Write with a Friend or Two


Pantser or Plotter: Which are you?


Where do I get ideas for stories?

What if?

Write What You Know

Pick 4 Words


Writing Prompts


Plotting Tips

Basic Rule of Plotting

Story Planning


Plotting with the Hero’s Journey


How do I start my story?  


Who should tell the story?

Point of View: First Person

Point of View: Second Person

Point of View: Third Person


How do I describe my characters?

Show Don’t Tell

Change Is Good

Character List


How do I describe the setting?

Think about how much you really have to describe.

Use Comparisons

Get the Senses Involved

Draw a Map or Use Photos


How do I write dialogue?


How do I end my story?


How do I make my writing better?

Revising and Editing



Combining Sentences



What do I do when a story gets stuck?

1. Outline.

2. Forget about making the first draft perfect.

3. Write more than one story at a time.

4. Put the story away.

5. Brainstorm.

6. Ask “What if?”

7. Don’t worry.

 Last Words







Writing Prompts for June 2014

IMG_4436Wow, it’s been a busy two weeks. I had a wonderful time preparing for and presenting a workshop on journaling and creative writing at the College Association for Language and Literacy conference at Humber College this past Thursday. I found the research for the workshop very informative, and learned a lot more about the benefits of keeping a journal. I have no excuse now to not include journaling as part of my writing process, though I am going to be easy on myself if I don’t write in it every day.

I managed to complete the first edits of the writing fiction book for pre-teens and the fantasy novel for middle readers, too. I have LOTS to do yet, but I’m feeling good about what’s been done so far.

Here are some writing prompts to keep you creating in June.

1. Use one, some or all of these words in a poem or story:

  • jewel, creature, sky, hope, river, crackle
  • statue, storm, wall, hole, keep, shudder
  • tower, hum, grass, footprints, cache, throw

2. Here are some opening sentences for you to try:

  • “Sit here!”
  • Some trees were just meant for climbing.
  • The hallway echoed with our footsteps.
  • The planks were worn and cracked.
  • There was a reason why no one ever told me to trust my instincts.
  • I thought I’d faced my worst day ever, but I was wrong.

3. See if any of these titles inspire a story or poem:  Wind Haven, Shelter, The Open Door, Marnie’s Magic, Tempest House, Dragon Boy, Danger Pay, Restless Winter

4. What scene can you imagine happening around these dialogue excerpts?

  • Can we stop here?
  • No, we need to keep going
  • Why?
  • It’s dangerous.
  • I don’t see anything.
  • It’s in the air.


  • Shouldn’t we report this?
  • I don’t think so.
  • But …. Oh, I see what you mean.


  • That’s the last time I’ll tell you.
  • Yeah. Right.
  • No. Honestly. It is the last time

5. When you were a child, did you make wishes on stars, or birthday candles, or Thanksgiving turkey wish bones? Do you remember what you wished for? Were any of your wishes granted? What do you wish for today? Answer these questions for yourself and then answer them for your character. Consider turning one of today’s wishes into a goal and make a list of what steps you need to follow to have that wish come true. Start working on the first item on that list soon.

6. Here’s a list of some fun events that are celebrated during June. Can you think of a story that you could write around one of them? National Donut Day, Richard Scarry’s birthday, Ballpoint Pen Day, Fly a Kite Day, National Fudge Day, Garfield’s Birthday, Soap Opera Day, Johannes Gutenberg’s Birthday, Chocolate Pudding Day, Meteor Day, Superman’s Birthday. Actually Meteor Day and Superman’s Birthday are on the same day, June 30th. No surprise, I guess. :)

Hope you have a creative week ahead!

I’m currently editing, Writing Fiction: A Hands-On Guide for Pre-Teens. If you would like to know when the book comes out, please fill out the following form. I promise that you will not be bombarded with spam emails, just the odd thing that I come across that you might find useful, a couple of sample chapters as I work through the project, and my newest writing prompts.


And Now the Fun/Work Begins!

New JournalThe first draft of Writing Fiction: A Guide for Pre-Teens is finished. Whew! It’s printed and covered in a bright red folder–and it’s going to stay there for the next couple of weeks. I’d love to start editing right away, but the material is too fresh for me to be remotely objective or clear-sighted about it. So a break is in order.

So what’s on the agenda in the meantime? I’m finally revising the sequel to The Dragon’s Pearl, The Dragon’s Revenge, that I wrote last summer. I’m three chapters in and, thankfully, enjoying the process. As much as I love the writing process, I’m never so in love with what I write that I can’t change it, or cut it, or find something missing that needs to be added.

Actually, I enjoy editing. I like finding all those pieces of clunky writing, and I don’t feel remotely ashamed of having written the awful things in the first place. That’s what first drafts are for. What makes me feel good is figuring out how to make something better or cutting the bits that are beyond saving. I hit Delete and think, “This one’s for you, reader!” Yeah. I like editing a lot.

I’m also working on a conference workshop presentation for fellow college teachers called “Finding Quiet Space with Pen and Paper – Tips and Tools for Journaling and Creative Writing.” What do you think about journaling? I find it a great way to get my day organized so that I can actually picture some creative time in the rest of it. Journaling also helps me deal with negative thoughts, worries and just mental clutter. If I write in my journal first thing in the morning, my writing goes much better later on. The messy thoughts are dealt with for the day, so creativity comes easier. I sometimes write before I go to bed, instead. The writing calms my thoughts, and, if the day hasn’t been particularly creative, it makes me feel as if I have honoured the writer in me for at least a small part of the day.

If you’ve got some tips for helping develop the journaling habit or some thoughts on the benefits of keeping a journal, I’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, I hope you have a creative week ahead!

P.S. Word likes “journaling” spelled with one “l”. WordPress likes it with 2. The word doesn’t exist in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. I realize that turning a noun into a verb isn’t everyone’s cup of tea in the first place, but if you’re not totally against the word altogether, how do you think it should be spelled?