The Writing Habit

Work-In-Progress Cover
Work-In-Progress Cover

“Habits are first cobwebs, then cables.” – Spanish proverb

For as long as I can remember I thought it took 21 days to make a habit. I was wrong! Research now says that it takes an average of 66 days to create a habit. Here’s the link to James Clear’s summary of a recent study in the art of habit building. Clear states: “if you want to set your expectations appropriately, the truth is that it will probably take you anywhere from two months to eight months to build a new behavior into your life — not 21 days. Interestingly, the researchers also found that “missing one opportunity to perform the behavior did not materially affect the habit formation process.” In other words, it doesn’t matter if you mess up every now and then. Building better habits is not an all-or-nothing process.”

I must admit that I found that last bit inspiring. Knowing that the whole process will likely take a lot longer than I expected and that total perfection isn’t compulsory actually gives me more hope.  I do, however, recognize that 66 days is a long haul, and it’s a long  haul when you’re on your own.

To help writers develop that daily writing habit, I’m working on a supplement to my new book, Writing Prompts and More. When it is published (with luck by the end of the month, but likely mid-July) I’ll also be offering for sale a self-directed habit builder with 66 days of 10-minute, daily, writing prompts. Stephen Guise, author of Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results is convinced that mini-habits are the way to build lifetime habits–and I agree with him. That’s why my habit builder is designed to encourage writers to get a little writing done every day. Often, as Guise describes, once you’ve checked your mini-habit task off the list for the day you’ll  find that you will extend the task with more energy and motivation than you had at the beginning. That’s great news for writers.

For writers that need a bit more encouragement, I’m also working on a product that will include the 66 days of prompts, but also the opportunity to hear from me every 8 days. Every eighth day, the writing prompt will encourage you to reflect on your process, your writing, your current project. You will send that reflection to me, and I will reply commenting and encouraging you to stick with it. These are personal emails, not generic auto-responds. I know how challenging this can be, and I want to be your best cheerleader. A third level of the product will include 3 critiques of your writing (500 words max) to help you get past a trouble spot, clarify questions, and help you with character, plot, dialogue, description, etc. If you want to learn more about these packages and get links to other helpful writing tips, please sign up for my mailing list in the box on the right.

Soon, I’ll be making a couple of changes to the website to be more inclusive of writers of all ages and adding a Wright With You tab that will hold information on my habit building programs. I’m very excited about this and must thank my friend, Karalee, for inspiring me to develop this material.

Looking further down the road, I was very happy to be asked to host a NaNoWriMo series of 6 workshops for young writers at my local library. I’ve decided to sign up for NaNo, too, this  year and write along with my young writers. I’m really looking forward to the first workshop at the end of October! If you’re a young writer or know one, check out the young writers’ program and NaNoWriMo. The website has links to great writing resources and how-tos.

Hope the rest of you Friday goes well and that you have a writerly weekend ahead!


Writing Prompts for June 2015

I’m Canadian, so I’m going to start with the weather. Yesterday and today I woke to the sound of my furnace running. It’s June. Enough said.

On a cheerier note, I’ve been writing up a storm during the month of May and hope to finally be getting the fruits of my labours online soon. Here’s what I’ve been up to–

My first project has been a series of short business communication guides based on years of teaching business communications and also years of using these skills for employers and as a freelancer. I’m really excited about this series. Here’s a look at the titles and covers so far in my Better Business Communications series.

PicMonkey Collage new

A fourth book is still in progress and it focuses on the grammar and writing skills that everyone needs to be a successful business communicator.

The books in the series are short and to the point with practical tips and how-tos.

The second project I’ve been working on is a sequel to 201 Writing Prompts called Writing Prompts and More–Ways to Spark Your Creativity & End Writer’s Block. It contains another 100 writing prompts and also chapters with lots of other tips on ways to find the story you want to write or to find your way out of a place where your story is stuck.

Here’s the Table of Contents:


20 Writing Prompts to Get the Ball Rolling

  • Five Opening Sentences
  • Five Groups of Random Words
  • Five Titles
  • Five Dialogue Excerpts

Sleep is a Writer’s Best Friend

  • Sleep
  • Dreams

Inspiration in Post Cards

20 More Writing Prompts

  • Five Dialogue Excerpts
  • Five Titles
  • Write A Paragraph That Includes
  • Five Opening Sentences

A Little Self-Reflection

  • What are you already interested in?
  • What have you already done?
  • Where have you been?
  • What can you do?
  • What Don’t You Know?

The News

20 More Writing Prompts

  • Five Opening Sentences
  • Five Groups of Random Words
  • Five Questions for You and Your Characters
  • Write a Paragraph That Includes

Get out the Pencils, Crayons and Markers

  • Drawing and Coloring Pictures
  • Maps
  • Change Your Writing Tools

Get Moving

  • Walking and Mundane Activities
  • Go to the Library

Final 40 Prompts

  • Nine Opening Lines
  • Six Questions for You and Your Character
  • Five Titles
  • Write a Paragraph that Includes 53
  • Five Groups of Random Words
  • Dialogue Excerpts

Last Words

  • Any Time of the Year Resolutions

So that’s what I’ve been up to. If you want to know more about these titles and when they will be released, please sign up for my mailing list in the sidebar. I will be offering one or two of them for free at launch, so join the list and make sure you don’t miss a free book or two.

And now–finally–the writing prompts for June. Enjoy!

1. Use one, some or all of these words in a story or poem:
• Smile, block, brown, music, real
• Peel, wood, lace, light, blue

2. See if you can come up with a story using one of these opening sentences:
• “Have you seen this?”
• Rain turned the narrow path into a steam of mud and dead leaves.
• The man’s face glared down from the picture frame on the wall.
• We smelled the smoke before we saw the flames.
• Going on this vacation had been a mistake.
• I was sure that I someone move past the window.

3. What story can you imagine with one of these titles: Fiddlehead, The Secret Cave, Call Me Never, Life Changer, Witness, Death at Sharpe’s Cove, The Turn Around.

4. Write a piece that has
• A hope and a prayer
• A door and a scream
• A smile and a trap
• A hand and a glove
• A tree and a tear

5. In what point of view have you written your story? Take a couple of paragraphs and use a voice different to the one you originally chose. Was it easy or difficult to find the words for the rewrite? Did you learn something about the characters or events in the scene that you didn’t know before? Are you in the right POV for your story?

6. What kinds of souvenirs do you bring home from your vacations or trips away from home: Programs? Ticket stubs? Collectible spoons? Maps? Brochures? Books? Where do you keep your souvenirs? How often do you look at them after you return? Is it important to have these keepsakes from your trips? Answer these questions for your characters, too.

Hope your June gets off to a writerly start!

Writing Prompts for May 2015

Signs of Spring
Signs of Spring

“Tra la, it’s May!”–words from Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot, and I must say I’m glad that the month of May has finally turned up. It’s been a long slog of a spring, but finally the daffodils and forsythia are blooming and the grass is green, and I’ve even been able to take my office outside for a few hours at a time. Perfect! I hope that wherever you are, you can enjoy a change in the seasons that brings promises of a creative summer ahead.

Here are May’s writing prompts (late, I know), but I hope you find a story or two to keep you creative this month.

1. See what story or poem you can create from these random words:

  • shout, door, red, race, grass, shudder
  • part, time, sage, window, trees, distance

2. Here are some opening sentences that might suggest a story or two.

  • The birds stopped singing.
  • Well. I hope you’re happy.
  • You’ve been invited to the court.
  • I have a very active imagination, but even I knew I hadn’t imagined a gun shot
  • The officer waited patiently for him to explain.
  • Finally, all the waiting would be over.
  • I didn’t want to leave.
  • Rain soaked through her cloak.
  • The loud tick of the clock seemed to echo in the room.
  • The song ended.

3. Here are some lines of dialogue that might suggest a scene or two.

  • Yesterday the plan was to leave at noon.
  • That was yesterday.
  • So what changed?
  • Everything.


  • I thought you weren’t going to make it.
  • I had to go back.
  • What for?
  • This.


  • That last person who tried that was sorry he tried.
  • Why? What happened?
  • Peter happened.

4. Try one of these titles for a story: Once Upon a Crime, Band Camp, The Empty Throne, The Last Stranger, The Wrong Body, Off Course, Danger Bay

5. What does/would your character with for when blowing out the candles on his/her birthday cake?

6. Are you a superhero fan? Would you or your character love to have a superpower? If so, what would it be?

And, I know I’m a couple of days early, but May the fourth be with you and bring you creative days ahead.






Finding Writing Time and Setting Your Story in the Here and Now

Finding More Writing Time
Finding More Writing Time

I hope you’re enjoying a taste of spring wherever you are. We’ve actually had some temperatures on the plus side of 0 Celsius for a few days. Cardinals and juncos are returning, the crows are making a lot of noise, and some of the snow is melting. All good.

I found a couple of blog posts that I thought I’d pass along. The first one, How to Eke Out 2 Hours of Writing Per Day, has great tips for finding extra time to write, but I also think it can help you find some extra time for whatever personal or work project you need to work on. The second, How to Build a Rich Setting for a Contemporary Story, offers excellent strategies for writers of all ages who are writing about the here and now and who want to make their setting tangible to their readers.

How to Eke Out 2 Hours of Writing Per Day

am institute (author marketing) February 12, 2015

“It’s easy to get into a productivity rut. When life gets jam-packed with work and family obligations, 10-minute tasks can easily turn into half-hour endeavors. This problem is universal, but most people never squeeze out the necessary time to fit in creative work. You have to strive for better to be a writer. Here are five ways to carve out two hours of writing per day:”

How to Build a Rich Setting for a Contemporary Story

This blog was written by Stephanie Morrill who writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of Check the archive on this site for other great tips for teen writers.

“… can you imagine Gilmore Girls with no Stars Hollow? Veronica Mars with no Neptune? Gossip Girl would be wildly different without it’s NYC backdrop, as would The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things.

“I think the first question to ask yourself when figuring out your contemporary novel is if  you should use a real place or make one up. This depends on the type of story you’re telling ….”

If you would like to get advance notice of my new books, writing tips, interesting links and new writing prompts, please take a moment to sign up for my mailing list in the box on the right. I promise no spam and no three times a week emails asking you to buy things. I’ll just drop you a line about once a month when I’ve accumulated some interesting news and useful material. Thanks!

Writing Prompts for January 2015

IMG-20130709-00210Along with the prompts for January, I’ve found some excellent blog reading to start your new year.

I love Kristi Holl’s writing advice. I own three of her books and check her blog regularly. She’s on a break now until after the New Year, but she has a great archive of thoughtful blogs to help launch your 2015.

If your New Year’s resolutions’ list looks like you are heading into a year of giving up everything that’s fun, check out Kristi’s blog to find out how to add some joy and renewal time to your resolutions that will help you reach your goals.

When I think of accomplishing any goals, the words “motivation” and “will power” come to mind right away. For me, however, neither is terribly reliable, and both are tough to sustain over the long haul. Kristi passes along a simple system that just might make both obsolete and help you reach your goals in a way you never thought of before. And yes, this system will be a part of my New Year’s plans.

Happy New Year! I wish you all the best for 2015!

January 2015 Writing Prompts

  1. Use one, some or all of these words in a story or poem:
  • Cut, water, moon, silver, nail
  • Handle, clock, door, blue, box, bell
  1. See if these opening sentences inspire a story:
  • I could barely see the house in the fog.
  • Yesterday was a mess. Today didn’t look too promising either.
  • I liked visiting Henry. He always did everything he could to make me feel welcome. His dog, on the other hand, didn’t copy his master.
  • I’m sorry. I dropped it.
  • It can’t be that late already.
  • The box slid to the ground and fell open.
  • Even dragons get the blues
  • Everyone believed she’d run away—everyone except me.
  1. Maybe one of these titles will suggest a story or poem:

A Quarter Past Midnight, Death by Text, Runaway, Dare, A Reason to Care, Road to Fear, Wish Me Luck, Summer Camp Disaster, The Coin

  1. What scene can you write around these lines of dialogue?
  • It would be nice if you’d listen to me.
  • I was listening.
  • Then, what time did I say we were leaving?


  • Why did you come back?
  • I wanted to see you.
  • Okay, you’ve seen me. Now go.


  • Do you have the key?
  • Yes.
  • What’s the matter?
  • I’m not sure we should use it.


  • That was a mean thing to do.
  • I didn’t mean it.
  • You did, too.
  • Okay, I did. So what?


  • What’s that in your hand?
  • Nothing
  • You’re sure?
  • Yes
  1. What does the start of a new year mean to you? With what feelings do you look back upon the year that has passed? Think of the good things that happened in 2014 and take a few moments to write them down so that you can remember them. If other people were helpful in creating your positive memories, consider sending them a note to say thank-you. Think of the character in you story. How does he or she feel about the start of a new year?

Looking Ahead to 2015

treadmill deskAre you looking ahead to 2015? Are you thinking of all the changes you want to make? Projects you want to start? Time you want to find for more writing—and more exercise? Me, too. And I don’t think we’re alone.

For the first time in a long time, I’m not teaching during the winter semester. And, yes, I have lots of things that I plan to do instead of school work starting January 5th. But I’m also realizing that I can’t rush into all of them at once or I won’t achieve anything.

Making lists is my first step. I have freelance contracts to honour, my own writing and marketing to do, a family to care for, a house to manage, and I want to get a dog, and get in better physical shape, oh, and I want to declutter the house before I bring a dog into it, and—okay, just writing all that down is making my head spin.

So I’ve made a decision to work on my list in instalments. I can’t go chasing all of those goals starting January 5th or I’d be giving up on them all by the 6th. I need to look further ahead. What would be a reasonable date by which to get the house decluttered? Probably the end of January.

What about the writing and the freelancing? Well, I’ve started to help myself there by not going on the internet until after 9 a.m. I’m an early bird, and I can get some writing done on my own projects before I open my inbox to see what my freelancing life is going to come up with that day. If there’s nothing there that I have to worry about, I can go back to the writing and check in later.

I have one freelance contract that I know of starting in the new year. It’s a project that will take a few months to complete. Once again, there’s no need for me to start work on it before 9 a.m. by which time I’ve made progress on my own projects before starting to focus on the billable hours.

I’ve learned (slowly) that putting off my own work until I’ve finished the school work or the freelance work for the day, means that my own work just doesn’t get done. By the time I’ve worked on the other things, I haven’t run out of time (because there are hours ahead before I turn in for the night,) but I’ve run out of the creative energy necessary to make good use of those hours.

I’ve tucked my freelance work away for the holidays, but I’m already trying the no-internet-before-9 routine, and it’s working. My husband and son are both on holidays, too, but they’re not early risers, so my day actually starts with writing. I love going into a busy day knowing that I’ve already put words on the page.

I also have a treadmill downstairs with a makeshift platform attached for my laptop, but I don’t use it. Fortunately, my husband’s work laptop has been upgraded, so I’m going to hook up his old one down there permanently. I spend a good 45 minutes to an hour every morning checking email, Facebook, reading articles, and just noodling on the Internet. I’ve decided to do all that while on the treadmill. I don’t walk quickly, but at least I’ll be moving—or at least standing—and that’s got to be a good thing.

How are you planning to tackle your new year’s resolutions? I hope you reach all your goals and that you have a healthy, happy, and writerly year ahead.

Back to the Writing Schedule

IMG-20130709-00210Is your creative output in a slump at the moment? Mine certainly is. I have lots of excuses, too, such as the busyness of starting teaching again, looming freelance deadlines, house projects requiring progress, marketing tasks, and creating a website and publishing the first in a series of short story anthologies for boys. I’m busy. I’m working. I’m getting things done in all areas, so what’s the problem?

The problem is—I’m a writer. I have stories I want to tell, and they’re not getting on the page. It’s time to carve out the writing time again. I know from experience that I can find the time to write every day, but I just don’t do it. For me, the best writing time is at night before I go to bed with journal and pen—or very early in the morning, when I wake up at the crack of stupid and can’t get back to sleep.

In 2013, I participated in a couple of accountability challenges (Thanks, Kristi Holl) and they made all the difference to my creative output. Kristi organized interested writers into groups, and when each of us had finished our writing for the day, we sent a “done” email to the group. It may seem strange that sending an email to a group of strangers would be enough incentive to keep me writing every day, but it was.

I’m lucky to have a good friend, and fellow writer, whom I’m going to ask to be my accountability buddy for a while, until I get back to writing every day again. If you think that trying something like this will help you get back on track, go for it! And let me know how it works for you.

The biggest accountability challenge in the world is coming up soon—NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month.) The folks who run NaNo are already getting in gear for this year’s challenge: write 50,000 words in the 30 days between November 1st and 30th. Over 340,000 people met the challenge last year. Drop by the NaNo website and learn more. If you’re a teen or pre-teen writer, they have a young writers program that’s perfect for you. They also have a lot of free writing resources for any time of year, not just November. Maybe you could get a teacher to run a NaNo club at your school to help motivate you and your fellow writers to reach their goals.

If you’ve discovered some great ways to keep the writing going, please share. I’m always looking for new ways to get myself to write everyday, and I don’t think I’m alone.

Hope you have a writerly week ahead!

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 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.