Writing Productivity Tips and Prompts for August 2016

writing productivity tips and  writing prompts for August 2016

I hope your summer has been going well with some well-earned downtime, and I hope, some creative time, too.

If your creative output hasn’t been what you hoped, I’ve listed some links to helpful tips for boosting creativity and output. Of course, you might just be looking for the perfect story idea. I hope that the writing prompts below will help you find it.


If you’re not meeting your daily writing goals, maybe mini-goals will help:

Here are some tips for speeding up the writing:

This is a different take on planning a novel that just might help you get the work done:

Here are some creativity boosters from Jenny Bravo:


a) Use one, some or all of these words to write a story or poem.

switch, rain, door, collar, blue, brick, stifling
window, light, glass, dial, time, grey, cold
fragment, yellow, parched, reflection, tip, shade

b) Try one of these opening sentences to start a story.

I thought you said a child could open this.
Nice room except for the body on the floor.
We waited. Finally, the voice over the loudspeaker said exactly what we didn’t want to hear.
When do you expect the patrol?
I hated missing the bus.
When Helen calls, it’s always trouble.
Henry didn’t come home last night.
What do you think we should do now?
Music was Henry’s life.
I think that cat can read my mind.

c) What scenes can you imagine around these short dialogue excerpts?

Why doesn’t Henry come inside.
He hasn’t finished.
Finished what?

I wish it wasn’t so cold.
You think this is cold?

I can’t keep running like this.
We don’t have any choice.
What if one of us does have a choice.

Look! Over there! Lights! That must mean people!
Quiet! Not all people are friends.

Here’s the package you wanted.
Thanks. You can leave now.
That’s where you’re wrong.

I didn’t think you’d invited Helen.
She invited herself.
That complicates things.

d) Does one of these titles suggest a story?

Peanut Butter and Romance, The Last Warrior, Storm, Taking Flight, The Eighth Wonder, Science Fair Drop Out, The Last Time, Berserk, Fear Lives Here, I Don’t Like Scary Movies, The Secret that Wasn’t, Last Year’s Model

e) What does your main character like to do on a summer day? Go to the beach? Visit a big city and see the sights? Get together and play games with friends? Find a quiet, shady spot and read a book? What do you like to do?

f) Ice cream is a favorite summer treat. Think about your characters. What flavors of ice cream would they choose? Why did you choose those flavors for your characters?

Delaying Tactics

My Books
My Books

Fortunately, it’s only gloomy outside–a grey, foggy, damp, cold January day. Inside, it’s cozy and I’m having fun looking at photos for possible book covers, and playing with the collage function in Adobe Photoshop to create a new cover photo for my Facebook author page (see photo to the right). And yes, I know I should be writing.

Two weeks ago norovirus came to visit, so a lot of writing did not get done. Drinking gingerale, eating crackers, sleeping–yes.  Writing–no. And this week, I caught up on a project that got behind while I was sick. Could I have done more of my joywriting? Of course, but I’m an expert at delaying tactics, and it’s amazing how the days can fly by.

And this is not something new. I thought I’d look for a blog to share about procrastination for any fellow sufferers out there, and went to my favourite writing blogger, Kristi Holl, for inspiration. Well, this is embarrassing. Here’s the link to Kristi Holl’s blog on procrastination, where you will see me bemoaning this same problem last April, and for the same reason: I finally have more time to write. On the plus side, I did actually write three books last summer: two non-fiction for self-publishing and another for a contract. And I finished editing five short stories, and, with a friend, produced a short story anthology for boys, with the layout and publishing side being all my responsibility. But I clearly did my share of moaning before the production of all these words got underway.

So, I declare this year’s moaning period is over. New start today. Onward!

Hope you have a great writerly week ahead!


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. http://kristiholl.net/writers-blog/2013/12/a-writers-happy-new-year/

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. http://kristiholl.net/writers-blog/2014/08/no-motivation-or-willpower-simple-solution/

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?

Back from vacation and … mini habits

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Wow, how quickly the vacation bubble bursts. One day you’re relaxing on the deck reading a book, with nothing more challenging ahead than choosing the next book to read, and the next minute your life is back to deadlines, errands, and chores. No complaints. We had a great time. We spent some time beside Lake Huron and also headed to Cleveland to explore the sights and take our music-crazy son to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame–a nice combination of sight-seeing and lazy days.

I’ve been enjoying the work I returned to, and I picked up another smaller freelance job, as well, this week. That’s my limit now until early October. I’ve got school to prep for school soon, and I have a new course to teach, so freelancing time won’t be in great supply for the next month and a bit–just enough to finish the projects I have and enjoy my classes without going crazy.

I’ve got Writing Fiction: A Guide for Pre-Teens out to a few places for reviews. Waiting is not my happy place. And then there’s the worrying about whether I’ve actually written anything worth reading at all, and maybe it’s really awful, and … well you get the idea. Writers don’t really need critics. We can be hard on our work all by ourselves.

Thanks to Kristi Holl’s recent blog, “Not Enough Willpower to Reach Your Goals? Try Mini Habits!“, I’ve started to read Stephen Guise’s book, Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results. The concept of setting very small daily goals is really appealing, especially with school and deadlines looming large. The idea is that you set a really small goal, one that’s not bigger than your willpower, such as writing 50 words a day. If you set a goal of writing 500 words a day, you’d probably resist doing that because it seems like a lot of work, especially on those days when you’re worn thin with other stresses. However, it’s more likely that you won’t resist the challenge of writing 50 words a day. You’ll take the time to do that because you know it’s easy to do. You will have met your goal, written something, and checked off something positive (yay!) on the to-do list–all good. Aside from the self-esteem boost of reaching your goal, there’s a good chance that you will write more than those 50 words–also good. This strategy can apply to anything from eating well to exercise to thinking positive thoughts. Check out Kristi’s blog to find out more. She explains it better than I.

Hope that your writing is going well, and over the next week, that you make progress toward your goals (with or without mini habits!)

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. 🙂


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!

Three Writerly Blogs for You to Visit

Crocuses --Spring must really be here!
Crocuses –Spring must really be here!

Today I thought I’d pass along three of the writerly resources that I visit often.

One of my favourite blogs is by Kristi Holl, author of Writer’s First Aid, More Writer’s First Aid, and many other books. Aside from blogs on the craft of writing, Kristi shares her extensive reading and insights into the other aspects of the writer’s life that can get in the way of creativity, such as procrastination, writer’s block, dealing with rejection, solitude and toxic friends. You name an issue that writers deal with and she’s covered it. I always find her blogs inspiring. http://kristiholl.net/writers-blog/

The title of Jane Friedman’s blog, Writing, Reading and Publishing in the Digital Age, says it all. The site is a wonderful resource for writers tackling the challenge of getting published or self-publishing. Jane tackles topics from query letters to author platforms and blogging, from how-to-publish an ebook to marketing, and a lot more.

The last blog on the list today is from Elizabeth Spann Craig, a traditionally- and self-published mystery writer, whose regular posts cover all aspects of the writer’s craft. Every week she creates a list of the writing-related blog posts that she’s found in her research and posted on Twitter. This weekly round-up, called Twitterific, is like having your own personal writer’s magazine delivered to your door every week. There really is something for everyone on the list. http://elizabethspanncraig.com/blog/

Hope you have fun checking out these blogs and that you find something in them that will help you on your writer’s journey. If you have any inspiring or informative blogs that you’d like to share, please add their links in the comments below.

Wishing you a creative week ahead!

Writing Prompts for Pre-Teens

School Supplies 3I’ve decided to expand things a little and add some story starters and writing prompts for pre-teens to this website. Check this link or the new tab at the top of the page to find 90 new prompts for young writers and their teachers. If you write stories for grades 5 through 8, you might find something there to spark your imagination, too!

If the February blahs have been distracting you from your writing, Kristi Holl has a great blog about getting your writing life back on track. Needless to say, with my creative history, I bookmarked that one. If you’re looking for some inspiration or advice about writing, publishing, freelancing, and just about anything else writer related, try The Write Life’s 100 Best Websites for Writers–definitely a “something for everyone” compilation of websites.

Hope you have a great week ahead!

I’m currently working on a new book, 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.

Writing Prompts for January 2014

Snow and IceHappy New Year!

Like many of you, I’m making my to-do list for 2014. If yours is still a work-in-progress, here are a couple of blogs that suggest refreshing strategies for setting your 2014 goals.

The first is by James Clear, who states, “What I’m starting to realize, however, is that when it comes to actually getting things done and making progress in the areas that are important to you, there is a much better way to do things. It all comes down to the difference between goals and systems.” To read Clear’s blog, “Forget Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead”, click here.

The other blog that changed my to-do list focus was this one from Kristi Holl, “A Writer’s Happy New Year.” In it she says, “I took another look at my 2014 goals. There wasn’t one single fun thing on the single-spaced, two-page list.” If your list looks like hers, click here for ways to put fun and renewal in your 2014 to-do list.

I found both of those blogs helped me focus my goals for 2014. Stuff happens, and I know that there will be a lot of unexpected bumps along the way to December 31, 2014. I’m hoping that working on creating a workable system for my writing and making sure that I also book some breathing time into my life along the way will make 2014 a positive writing year. I wish you a wonderful writing year, too.

To get things started, here are the prompts for this month.

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

  • table, clock, cold, blue, sharp, brush
  • dress, late, light, silver, touch, ring

2. Try one of these opening sentences.

  • Did he just wink at me?
  • Claire slid the ring off her finger.
  • I used to think Jack worried too much.
  • Never meet your best friend in a graveyard.
  • I wondered why she’d left the TV on so loud.
  • A siren wailed in the night.

3. Can you think of a story or poem for one of these titles?

Wrapping Paper, Diary of a Break-Up, Labour of Love, At the River’s Edge, Blue is for Boys, The Time Tree, Light’s Haven

4. Here are some snippets of dialogue. What scene can you create for the speakers?

  • Who is that girl?
  • That one?
  • Yes.
  • You must be the only one that doesn’t know.
  • I can’t believe he gave that to her.
  • I can’t believe she took it.
  • What happened to me?
  • What’s the last thing you remember?
  • Oh. Crap.

Hope you have a fantastic start to 2014!

Autumn and Accountability

Hope you’ve been Touch of Autumnenjoying a great start to autumn. We’ve had a long run of sunny days and cold nights and are starting to see the colours change in the trees. Lovely. This is my favourite time of year. There’s just something about the angle of the sun that feels right to me. I know that it’s the same angle in the spring, but spring doesn’t come with crunchy leaves and flocks of starlings and fresh apples.

The writing has been muddling along. Not every day, but bits and pieces here and there to make me feel like I’m making progress. I’ve signed up for Kristi Holl’s accountability challenge again and am committed to writing first thing in the morning for 25 days in October. Since, two days a week, I’m up before 6 AM to take my son to band and then get myself to college ready to teach an 8 o’clock class, you can see that this definitely will be a challenge. But, I have so much on my writing plate that I’m considering starting tomorrow just to get a full month of progress underway. I’ll let you know how that goes.

I had a very quiet house last week when both my son and my husband were away. I also realized that absolute silence isn’t my best working environment. I’m on the hunt for some new music to accompany my writing time. I’m really enjoying the soundtrack to Life of Pi. Instrumental music works best for my brain. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

Hope you are having a creative week!

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