Writing Prompts for October 2016 & Accountability Group

October 2016 Writing Prompts & Accountability Group

Okay, where did September go? I had every intention of getting my writing life organized this month and managed no more than daily to-do lists—effective, but not quite what I had in mind. Anyone else struggling with this? I’m looking for some accountability partners to help get me, and each other, on track.

Starting October 7, I’m going to be running an accountability group on my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/hwrightwriter/. You set your daily writing goals (they can include, planning, research, outlining, writing) and each day you just check in with a “done” to say you’ve met your goal. I’ll be posting daily so you’ll have a place to add your “done” to the comments. If you’re signing up for NaNoWriMo this year, this three weeks of accountability will help you get your planning done for your November novel and/or help you get your daily writing habit back in shape, too. All good.

If you don’t have a story idea yet, here are some writing prompts that might help.

Create a poem or story using one, some, or all of the words in one of the following groups:

  • History, banner, black, crystal, mage, flames
  • Mountain, fear, fog, red, breath, open, hide
  • Concrete, stars, shadow, windows, swoop, lights
  • Shell, waves, storm, pride, darken, stone, gift

Maybe one of these opening lines will suggest a story:

  • That was the last thing I expected you to bring home.
  • I’m sorry. Should I have been listening?
  • You want to know when I saw him last? It was Tuesday—Tuesday morning.
  • The lights dimmed in the concert hall.
  • Pieter huddled behind the wall and cursed the rain.
  • A woman’s face peeked out from behind the curtains. Henry had told us the house was empty.
  • The forest was silent. It shouldn’t be.
  • Even mean girls can be kind sometimes.
  • I just wanted to curl up under my blanket and forget the day had happened, but instead, I kept on moving. If I didn’t, tomorrow had every chance of being worse.

Can you think of a story to go with one of these titles?

The End of the Road, The Rest of Us, Once Upon a Rainy Day, Forgotten, The Tree House, Storm’s Ending, The Hallowe’en Mystery, Starting Line, Just a Glimpse.

See if these dialogue excerpts suggest a scene or some characters that you might like to work into a story.

  • I haven’t seen you in a long time.
  • I’ve seen you.
  • What do you mean?
  • Look what Helen found?
  • Helen?
  • Why the surprise?
  • It can only be found by three people. And I’m one of them.
  • It’s time for us to leave.
  • What if I disagree.
  • I’d advise you to think about that. You’d put all of us in danger.
  • Henry’s coming with us.
  • I don’t think that’s a good idea.
  • But we can’t leave him behind.
  • We’d be safer if we did.

Don’t forget, to join the accountability group at https://www.facebook.com/hwrightwriter/  and get your writing habits on track for the fall (and NaNoWriMo, too.)

Have a writerly October!

Writing Prompts for April 2015

Hoping to see these in my garden soon.
Hoping to see these in my garden soon.

Okay, better late than never. Here are the writing prompts for April. Enjoy!

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

  • bowl, blue, bicycle, branch, break
  • time, book, window, sword, lane, tree

2. See where one of these opening sentences leads you.

  • You should enter the contest.
  • Snow in April? No thanks!
  • Branches, black with rain, beat against the window.
  • Sam’s car raced around the corner.
  • I loved the sound of birds singing in the trees. Today, at 5 a.m.–not so much.
  • There was no need to get close to the man to see if he were dead. I’d had too much experience to be wrong now.
  • A red light flashing on the control panel wasn’t usually a major problem. This time, it was different.
  • Josie looked different today.

3. Here are some titles to play with: Broken, Spring Promise, Murder on Wednesday, The April Fool, Through the Window, Dog’s Day, Sadly Ever After.

4. What scenes can you image with these lines of dialogue?

  • Look out!
  • What’s your problem?
  • It’s not my problem, but it will be yours if you run into that.


  • Have you told Jim,yet?
  • No.
  • Why not?
  • I’m not sure that he needs to know.


  • Well, that’s the last time I do that.
  • How can you be so sure?


  • Hey, that’s mine!
  • Can you prove it?


  • I quit!
  • What’s the matter?
  • Look. It’s a mess.
  • You have a point.

5. Spring seems to be taking its sweet time showing up where I live. It was a long and hard winter, and, certainly, other parts of Canada had it a lot worse. Nonetheless, I’m impatient with how long it’s taking to finally have some warm days. What makes you impatient? Especially something over which you have no control. How do you cope? How does your character cope with impatience?

6. Negative thoughts can sometimes be the only ones you hear. Kick them aside for a while and write a list of 10 things about yourself that you like or are proud of. Do the same for your family and your characters.

Have a writerly month, and if you want a boost to your productivity, don’t forget about the 30-day writing challenge starting on Tuesday.




Next Week Will Be Better

Well, life decided to hand me a surprise last week. While driving along a busy and fast-moving street, the hood of my car opened and smashed into my windscreen. Fortunately, I was in the curb lane, so I could pull over quickly, while praying I wouldn’t get hit from behind by a driver surprised to see a stationary car in his lane. I was fine–but didn’t stop shaking for two hours.

This beach is going to be in a story that I’m writing.

If you’ve been through something like this, you’ll know that, the day after the event, you feel weak and unfocussed and have a brain full of nasty ‘what-ifs.’ The one that stuck in my brain was that my husband and I had traded cars the day before, so he could have the newer car for a 90-minute, nighttime drive on major highways. What if this had happened to him on the highway? Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to have a good imagination.

Until Tuesday evening and Wednesday got lifted out of my normal week, I was really enjoying working through my writing list. I had used Kristi Holl’s idea of writing down a list of 20-minute writing tasks (see previous post), and came up with a pretty good list that would help me move forward on the 3 (non-billable) projects I have underway. I finally got back at it again on Friday. It has been a great motivator for me, and as projects move along, I know I’ll be adding more to the list. I really recommend giving the idea a try. I had hoped to report a lot more on the writing front, but that’s what life handed me last week. Next week can only be better, right? Hope you have a great, creative week ahead!

Pen in Hand

IMG-20130709-00210Yesterday at Kristen Lamb’s Blog, Kristen listed 5 traits of the successful writer: passion, self-discipline, humility, healthy relationship with failure, and persistence.  She states, “We can have all the talent in the world, but without these five ingredients, we will be hard-pressed to ever reach our dreams.”

Each of the five traits on the list can be a challenge for me at one time or another, but the most consistent challenge is self-discipline. I am constantly distracted by my laptop life: Facebook, email, checking my blog stats, Free Cell and Spider Solitaire, Ravelry (looking for my next knitting project), reading other people’s blog posts, etc.. The writing/working time slips away as I roam from one distraction to another. I’m not alone. People are actually writing about this phenomenon. Here are two links to articles about what is being called Internet ADD:  http://zenhabits.net/8-practical-tips-to-cure-your-internet-add-attention-deficit-disorder/ and  http://kristiholl.net/writers-blog/2013/01/internet-based-add-do-you-have-it/

I’ve decided that the only cure is abstinence. I have the luxury of a lot of writing time this week, and finally, yesterday, I figured out what I had to do to get anything accomplished–and did it. I closed the laptop, got out my journal, and worked my way through the next chapter of my book. Today I’m going to type up my notes–on my NEO (no internet, just a nice clicky keyboard and a small screen.) I have three more days to myself this week and a lot to accomplish. I’ll let you know how this strategy works.

Do you get distracted by your online life? How do you switch off and get the work done? What’s your biggest challenge among Kristen’s 5 traits? Love to hear your thoughts and solutions.

Hope you have a creative week and find your own way to carve out some creative time and make progress toward your writing goals.


Writing Links: From Outlines to Submissions to Cursive Writing

A Shoreline View
A Shoreline View

I’ve found some interesting links in the past few days that I want to pass along.

The first is a blog by one of my favourite writers/bloggers Elizabeth S. Craig. In her post, “Chalk One Up for Outlining,” Craig explains that she is not an outliner by nature. “I despise outlining and I hate following outlines.” If you feel the same way, you might like to read how she found a way to make it work for her.

I loved Darcy Pattison’s blog post, “6 Ways Out of Writing Slump.” I could really identify with her reasons for letting writing fiction slide, and I could also see how her suggestions could make a difference.

If you’re getting a project ready to submit to a publisher, read about what seven agents say can stop editors and agents reading: “Seven Agents Talk About the Most Common Submission Mistakes.” Their comments cover the synopsis, the query and your first pages.

Finally if you love writing in journals or with pen/pencil and paper, you might be interested in this opinion piece by Andrew Coyne that was written in response to a report about the lack of teaching of cursive writing in school. “Words on paper – how we write affects what we write.” 

I’d love to hear your feedback on any of these links. Who do you follow for great writing advice?

June 2013 Writing Prompts

Peonies - My favourite June flower
Peonies – My favourite June flower

I can’t believe it’s June already. We had every kind of weather in May from snow to a heat wave with thunderstorms, high winds and hail in between. I’m hoping that June calms down a little–and not just here, but for those other parts of North America that have already had enough destructive weather to last a lifetime.Here are the writing prompts for June. If you don’t find any of these inspiring, you can find lots to write about at the Writing Prompts tab above, too. Hope you have a creative month!

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

a) music, heart, fear, jacket, flower, door

b) basket, park, jewel, mirror, thunder, hope

2. Here are some opening lines for your story.

a) Jenny smelled like cookies.

b) It was only 8:30, and already I knew I should have stayed in bed.

c) Red cars are best.

d) The wind moaned in the chimney.

e) Flat tires aren’t funny.

3. Some things I think of when I think of June. Maybe they’ll inspire a story or poem.

weddings, the longest day, summer solstice, “June is busting out all over,” June bride, D-Day, Juno, school’s out, June bug, report cards, graduation, Father’s Day, midsummer, taking off the first hay, fresh mown grass, bird song, gardens, planting, change.

4. Here are some lines of dialogue that you can use to create a story.

a) I’ve had enough

Enough what?

Enough you.

b) I’ve stepped in something

You’re right. Now, keep moving.

What is it?

You don’t want to know.

c) There’s a light flashing.

Don’t worry. It’s only a problem if it’s red.

It’s red.

5. The year is nearly half over. Where are you with the resolutions you made in January? Is it time to make some new ones? Are you making progress? Are New Year’s resolutions just dumb anyways?

Hope you have fun with these prompts and find some joywriting time for yourself in the next 30 days!


Bouquet of Three Awards–Very Cool!

first-best-moment-award-winner11    versatilebloggernominations-copysunshine-blog-award

It was such a nice treat  to open my blog comments and see this note from blogger, Jessica: “I have nominated you For The Bouquet Of Three Award! For more information please go here to my blog post http://ladykins.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/bouquet-of-three-awards/ Take care and congrats!” Jessica, I’m thrilled that you picked me. Thank you! Thank you!

Needless to say, I scooted over and found a great blogger, whom I’m now following, and the scoop on the award. It goes like this:

~Below Are The Rules~

1.  Display your award picture, on a blog post. Done

2.  Thank the person who nominated you, link them back in your post. Done

3.  Pass the nomination on to 15 bloggers you have recently discovered.

I don’t have 15 on my list, but here are a few that you might like to check out and to whom I’d like to send these awards:

Kristi Holl  http://kristiholl.net/writers-blog/

Kristi’s blogs are always inspiring and seem to always tell me what I need to hear, just when I need to hear it.

Lisa Maccoll  http://lisamaccoll.blogspot.ca/

Lisa’s frank, touching and funny blogs are a pleasure to read.

Laura Best  http://lauraabest.wordpress.com/

I love reading Laura’s posts for her insights into her writing and the joys in her life.

Teens Can Write Too  http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com/

This blog is nominated because I truly believe in empowering teens to write.


4.  Finally share 7 things about yourself.

1. I am a terrible sailor. I can get sea sick on a calm lake. And yes, of course, my husband owns a sail boat. I’m all about the shore.

2. I reread books all the time. At bedtime, I don’t want to read something that really involves me because it would keep me up reading when I really need to sleep. So I choose Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Ngiao Marsh and just drift away.

3. I like to listen to music when I’m writing, as long as it doesn’t have words or isn’t the melody of a tune that I know the words to. I do listen to Gregorian chants, but they don’t count, because the only Latin phrases I know are are the mottos to my high school, ex oriente lux, and my university, veritas omnia vincit.  When I’m driving, I listen to just about anything: country music, classical, CBC, easy listening–I just keep pushing the presets until I find something I like.  And if I hit upon something I know, I sing along–loudly!

4. I don’t enjoy cooking. Enough said.

5. I love to knit and crochet and would love to learn more about how to paint with watercolours. I did a little painting a long time ago and really enjoyed it. It’s on the ‘when I retire list.’

6. I have never owned a dog, but this year I want to change that. We don’t have room for a big dog, and our family needs one with a fairly docile temperment, and we will definitely be considering our local shelter first. Lots more research and planning to do until the big day.

7. My favourite authors are Jacqueline Winspear, Susanna Kearsley, Louise Penny and Laurie King, and, lucky me, they all have books out this year!

Done! Whew! And thanks again Jessica. 🙂

Let the Brainstorming Begin

IMG_4382Back in October Jean Mills, and I applied for a joint Writer’s Reserve grant through the Ontario Arts Council. Jean is a friend, but also an experienced writer and wonderful colleague. Among other things, we share two former employers, membership in PWAC and our sons went to school together for a while. We thought we’d make pretty good partners on a creative project. Receiving a grant doesn’t mean that a publisher will buy the finished project, but it does mean that a publisher thinks our idea and our writing samples are good enough to get some support to move ahead.

Last Wednesday, we received a letter from Dundurn Press to tell us that we received a grant. Yay!

And yikes!

Now I have to get writing. Our project is an anthology of short stories, and as thrilled as I was by this concrete gesture of approval, I’ve been stewing since Wednesday about whether I’d even come up with any ideas, let alone be able to write one–or six. It was one of those moments when you think, “it seemed like such a good idea at a time.”

Well, yesterday I got the idea for my first story. Yesterday I took time to create ‘white space.’ Here’s Sarah Selecky’s definition of white space: “White space: time spent doing nothing. Staring into space. Watching steam from your teacup, watching waves lap at the shore, listening to the wind through tree branches.” Selecky’s theory is that it’s impossible to be creative if we don’t give ourselves time to let our minds rest, to spend some time with no distractions. Here’s how she says it, “How can you have that gorgeous, rich feeling of having images come to you as you write, if you haven’t given your mind any time or space for insight?” Take some time to read her blog and then see what happens when you create some white space for yourself.

I am a to-do list maker from way back. If I’m going to reach my goals, ‘white space’ will be on the list, too.

If you have any strategies for shutting the attention-grabbing distractions down so that you can create, please pass them along. I’d love to learn how others find creative time and energy. Hope you find some white space today!

Where Do You Like to Write?

Why I look forward to summer.

I have a few favourite, non-office writing spots.

In the winter I’m a big fan of my own livingroom. On a sunny day, I move my chair so that I can sit in the sunshine and feel its warmth while I write. It’s the reason we’ve had two houses in a row that face south. When it’s dark or gloomy, I hunker by the gas fire. My tools are pencil and paper or my Neo. I have a laptop, but I prefer writing tools without distractions like email, Facebook, Twitter, Free Cell, the internet–you get the idea. The music in my ear buds is classical.

I’m also a fan of writing in coffee shops. I often head to Starbucks at the beginning of a project or when I have no ideas or inspiration. I don’t leave until I have a story. I can’t give credit to any creative jolts from the coffee, because I only drink decaf, but I do wonder about the efficacy of their oatmeal bars and molasses cookies.

In the summer I love to write outside before everyone else wakes up. Me, a cup of tea, a journal and birdsong. I know that there’s traffic noise from a not-so-distant highway, but warm breezes, sunshine and the calls of cardinals, crows, and song sparrows push the noise far into the background. No music required here. I’m eagerly awaiting these days. As I write this at 7:30 in the morning, everything is covered in a white blanket of frost and the cyclist on the path behind my house just went by in winter jacket and toque. I guess I’ll have to wait a bit longer.

Do you have a favourite place to write? A favourite time? What kind of music plays in your ear buds?

Delaying Tactics

What do you do instead of writing? I don’t mean the things that stop you from finding the time to write, but the things that you do to avoid hitting the keyboard when you actually do have the time.

I’m one of those people that really dreads the blank page. I’m fine once I get started, but beginning something new is a struggle for me. In my head, I know that I’m only writing, in Anne Lamott’s words, a ‘shitty first draft’ (Bird by Bird). I know that every word that hits the page the first time through does not have the right to sprout roots and stay put and that changes will be made later. In fact, I really enjoy editing. However, all that ‘knowing’ does not help the fact that I would rather clean my bathroom than start typing those first words–or put in a load of laundry–or organize my files, or my bookcase, or the top of my desk–all things that normally are regularly on the bottom of my to-do list. On the plus side, starting a new project usually coincides with a much tidier office.

Now, obviously I do get started, or I wouldn’t be much of a writer, but if anyone has some tips for short-circuiting my initial plunge into a story, I’d love to hear them. And now, I’m going to pick up my story where I left off yesterday and get some work done.

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