Writing Prompts for November 2016

Writing Prompts for November 2016If you’re launching into NaNoWriMo and still need a story idea, I hope that today’s prompts will give you a boost into your month of writing adventures. If you’re not in NaNo, I hope that you find some creative ideas to feed your stories for the rest of the month.

For my readers in the US, this month hosts one of your favourite holidays, Thanksgiving. Here are some other special days celebrated this month that may give you a story idea or two:

http://holidayinsights.com/moreholidays/november.htm

Here are some groups of random words. Use one, some, or all of the words in a group to create a story or poem:

  • window, grey, flight, shatter, rain, drift, moment
  • owe, remember, threat, run, fear, black, record
  • partner, plan, certain, calendar, loss, confusion, red
  • shelter, storm, hidden, wet, laugh, memory, walk

Here are some first lines that might suggest a story or two:

  • When I looked at the pieces of broken vase on the floor, I found something that had nothing to do with flowers or vases.
  • Playing with Henry’s drone at the beach had been fun until it showed us the body.
  • When Helen played with fire, she really played with fire.
  • Today, we were glad it was raining.
  • Henry refused to answer.
  • Somewhere in the house a door slammed.
  • It was too quiet.
  • Why don’t you have a date?
  • Sometimes, telling the truth is overrated.
  • Henry rolled up the map. “Not far now.”

Perhaps one of these titles suggests a story: Once a Robot, Summer Song, The Fairies of Krendor, Mars Lullaby, Dinner for Thirty, Henry’s Run, The Gold Chalice, The Minotaur Chronicles, Skate, Magic’s End.

See if you can imagine a scene around one of these short dialogue excerpts:

  • Why are you so angry?
  • I just heard about Helen.
  • Oh.
  • Did you already know?
  • When did you last see Henry?
  • About a month ago. Why?
  • He’s changed.
  • Can’t you stay quiet for even a minute?
  • Talking helps when I’m scared.
  • What news?
  • None of it good, Your Majesty
  • It’s fortunate for you that killing the messenger is out of fashion for enlightened rulers.
  • For which I am grateful, Sire.

Have a writerly month!

 

Writing Prompts for November 2015

If you’re starting NaNoWriMo today, I wish you every success. I’ve drafted a bit of a plan using tips from this extremely helpful blog: 6 Tasks You’ll Love Yourself for Checking Off Your NaNo Pre-Writing List. I know I’ll be going back to it as I work through my story. I’m fully prepared for my final NaNo word count to be nowhere near the 50,000 words of a winning NaNo novel. My life (and a recently acquired freelance contract) are going to make that impossible, so, if I can cobble together a detailed novel draft this month, I’ll be extremely happy.

What are your plans for the month? Are you writing? Are you preparing for Thanksgiving? Are you glued to the World Series or football or curling or …? Whatever you are up to this month, I hope you have a creative 30 days and lots of good times with family and friends.

To keep your creative side ticking, here are the writing prompts for the month.

  1. Use these random words to create a story or poem:
  • Cold, grey, mark, trail, storm, silver
  • Frame, glass, pen, square, white, words
  • Card, circle, phone call, strong, blue, why
  • Fire, wind, photo, black, strange, wall
  1. See where these opening lines might take you:
  • Don’t ask about my day.
  • Henry pulled goggles over his eyes and waited for the signal.
  • They say never start a story with the setting, but I think that, if you think you’re going to drown in it, it’s as good a place as any to start.
  • Helen/Henry woke to the sound of yells and crashing swords.
  • I think that magic should only happen on stage, or on a screen, and a safe distance from me, but apparently, not today.
  • Helen handed the flowers back to the delivery man. “Give them to someone else,” she said and closed the door.
  • The woman in the photo on the gallery wall looked just like my mom, except the photo was taken in Paris twenty-five years before my mother was born.
  1. Try one of these titles and see what story or poem appears:

Agent Fear, The Crystal Mountain, Summer Storm, The Prisoner, What Next?, Babies and Blue Jeans, Jake Plays the Blues, No Limit, Robot’s Curse, The Island

  1. What scenes do these groups of dialogue lines suggest?

I’m sending you to New York.
Why?
I thought it was about time you met your mother.

That will be $200.
For this?
For that. Plus my guarantee that it will always do your bidding.

I don’t know why you put up with Henry. You hardly know him.
He’s not so bad.
Why don’t you just dump him?
I can’t until I can explain that he’s my brother.

Put the box on the table over there.
Okay.
Now open in.
What are you afraid of—a bomb or something?

It’s too dark. I can’t see.
Let me help.
How did you do that?

  1. What’s your character’s secret? What is the one thing that he or she never wants anyone to find out?
  2. If your character is just ticking along in your story, play “what if” for 10 minutes and come up with as many things as possible that could make your character’s life a lot harder right now. A broken leg? Abduction by an alien? A meeting with an old flame or an old enemy? Play “what if” until you find something that ups the ante for your character and adds some more suspense to your story.

Write Every Day

Well, as usual, things don’t always work out the way you hoped–especially in the self-publishing world. What I thought would take a week, took a little longer. The journal is up and ready at Createspace and Amazon(more about that below) and the grammar book is still a work in progress. Of course. the delay was a result of my own distraction. Once I sorted out how to design a cover on Canva, I realized that I actually had two more journals just waiting to be created–so I did those, too. Now 201 Writing Prompts and Writing Prompts and More are journals, too! I’m just waiting for my next batch of ISBNs and then I can get those in print, too.

I wanted to get the Write Every Day journal out in time for writers who might like to get in training for NaNoWriMo, and I just squeaked under the wire. Goal accomplished–though the journal is really for any writer, any time.

The idea for the journal began after reading that it takes approximately 66 days to create a habit. That’s a long slog on your own, so Write Every Day: a journal for building your Daily Writing Habit (158 pages) gives you 66 writing prompts, some needed encouragement along the way, an extra 50 writing prompts in case you’re just not in the mood for the one assigned, plus a few coloring images that you can use to colour your way to creativity. I hope you check it out if  you need to work on a daily writing habit or if you know a writer who needs a creative boost.

I’m planning to enjoy my last two weeks of freedom before prep for school starts again. I hope you’ve been enjoying your summer. I’ve certainly been enjoying mine, but part of me is an autumn person. I like the changes and the idea of starting something new–new students, new challenges, new colours in the leaves, new freshness in the air. Maybe it’s because I was born in October, or maybe it’s just part of my DNA, but fall is when I like to start fresh–a bit like the New Year but a few months early. What about  you? Is the fall a time for new beginnings for you? Or do real changes happen after New Year’s Eve?

Whatever your timetable, I hope that writing and creating are still at the top of your to-do lists!

Oh, and here’s a sneak peek at the new journal covers.

Writing Prompts and More journal210 journal cover

Writing Prompts for August, 2015

Like a good Canadian, I’ll begin with the weather. Wow, has it been  hot!

And now for the writing.

I’ve been working on a couple of things: one, a journal with writing prompts to guide writers toward a daily writing habit (draft cover below); and two, the last of my business communications books focusing on improving grammar and writing skills. They are both at the ‘nearly there’ stage, so fingers crossed they’re both on Amazon by the end of next week.

I’ve had a good think about my writing. I realized that in my head I’ve been splitting my writing into two categories—non-fiction and joywriting (fiction.) I believed that I had to get the non-fiction finished in order to reward myself with the fiction, as if one was work and the other was pleasure. Well, that thinking was just plain wrong.

I get a lot of joy out of writing and publishing non-fiction. I love that what I do helps people learn to write, or get inspired to write, or helps them become better communicators, or saves teachers from reinventing the wheel when  they have to teach Shakespeare for the first time. So, since this all makes me happy, it is now officially joywriting, too. (Okay, well, sometimes it takes me longer than most to see the light, but at least, I finally made it.)

I hope that August’s writing prompts help you find some joywriting, too.

draft cover for journal

1. Pick one of these groups of random words and use one, some or all of the words in a story or poem.

  • Crown, red, stone, door, blade
  • Flower, wall, blue, eyes, shell
  • Wind, rustle, footsteps, black, shelter

2. Here are some opening sentences to try.

  • The town was shrouded in silence
  • Mary lied.
  • Medicine bottles cluttered the bedside table.
  • Hank loved football—and murder.
  • For a secret code it was pretty lame, but I got the message.
  • The pool was inviting.

3. Maybe one of these titles will inspire a story: Mystery on the Menu, Harry and the Bear, The Mage’s Promise, Half Love, Day’s End, An Ocean View, Yesterday Again, The Convertible

4. Can you imagine a scene to go with one of these short dialogue excerpts?

  • That’s the last one.
  • Are you sure?
  • No, but I sure am hoping.

 

  • Are you sure that belongs to Harry?
  • Yes, I’d know that blood anywhere.

 

  • I don’t like flying.
  • It’s a bit too late to decide that.
  • I don’t like jumping either.
  • Also, too late.

 

  • I didn’t know that she liked cats.
  • Is that a problem?
  • Yes. No. Well, maybe.

 

  • Is Harry home?
  • No,
  • Can you tell me where I can reach him?
  • I can, but I won’t.

5. Where would be your favourite place to sleep—your own bed, a four-poster in a Scottish castle, under the starts, on a ship sailing to a special destination, you choose? Why did you choose this location? Answer this question for your character.

6. NaNoWriMo starts in three months. Are you planning to sign up? It’s never too soon to start thinking, planning, and researching for your writing marathon. Set up a file, buy a new journal, grab some paper and think about the kind of story you want to live with for those crazy 30 days in November. I’m signing up this year, so I’d better start following my own advice. Onward!

Happy Writing!

 

 

Writing Prompts for July 2015

A Cool and Foggy June 21st
A Cool and Foggy June 21st

The summer solstice passed through here with cool winds and clouds and the furnace on. Hope your longest day offered more hints of summer than mine. And now that 2015 is half over, it’s a good time for me (and you) to stake stock of what’s been done and what is next on the writing agenda.

I’ve had a very good first half of the year, and currently have four draft books to edit and another book draft that is almost complete. I also published three other books two weeks ago. I’ve continued to learn about the self-publishing business, though I am currently resigned to the fact that I am a complete marketing failure. I live in hope that I will be able to change that when I am at the end of my current non-fiction, book-writing marathon and take the time (finally) to concentrate on book sales rather than book writing.

I want to tackle NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November and write fiction for a while, too. I’m hosting a series of NaNo workshops for local teen writers and am planning to join the fun and write along with them. Have you or your students attempted NaNoWriMo? Adult participants write 50,000 words in 30 days; younger writers can choose their own word count. The young writers’ program has amazing resources for writers of all ages.

One of the keys to success is to have a story thought out before going into the month of intense writing, though, I’m sure, lots of people just dive in. If you’re looking for a story idea to get you planning for NaNo, maybe one of July’s writing prompts will help. Have fun!

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

  • Bill looked up at the flag to check the wind.
  • Helena reined her horse back to a walk. She needed time to think.
  • “When was the last time you saw him?”
  • He reached for the knife.
  • If school sucked, then Mr. Wentwhistle’s English class was the largest Dyson in the building.
  • I always liked the number 24.
  • The old man leaned forward over the table.

2. Use one, some, or all of these words to spark a story or poem.

  • Wheel, border, dark, wire, box, narrow
  • Cover, arm, strand, leaf, tall, blue

3. See if you can come up with a story for one of these titles: Lone Pine, Rooftop Romance, Thieves Game, A Quiet Place, The Dragon’s Tower, The Stars Await, Big City Blahs, Red Sky at Night.

4. Here are some dialogue excerpts. Can you imagine the scenes that each is part of?

  • I wish you didn’t have to leave.
  • I must obey the master.
  • Who are you waiting for?
  • Who says I’m waiting …. Okay, I’m waiting.
  • Did you see that car?
  • The grey one?
  • Yes. Did you see who was driving?
  • No, it was going too fast.
  • I’m not surprised. It just tried to run me down.
  • Pass me that will you?
  • What are you doing?
  • I’ll let you know when I’m done.

5. How does your character react to frustration? (I’m writing this during my second consecutive hour of online assistance in an effort to get Photoshop to download and work on my computer. I admire the perseverance of the client services person, but I sooooo have other things I’d rather be doing right now! I finally got out my NEO and finished writing this blog post.) What does your character do when he or she has to wait for much longer than he or she thinks is appropriate, or when something small becomes a road block to a larger project that your character considers urgent? (p.s. I can now use Photoshop–Yay!)

6. What do sunsets make your character think about?

7. What makes your character laugh out loud?

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!

 

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!

26 Days and Still Writing

photo by Jenny Kaczorowski WANA Commons
Time Disappears in a Good Book                       photo by Jenny Kaczorowski WANA Commons

My personal NaNoWriMo has been chugging along for 26 days now, and, I’ve produced over 16,600 words so far. Compared to those writers who are meeting and surpassing their 50,000-word goal already, it might not seem like much, but it’s a big accomplishment for me. Did I miss a couple of days? Yes. Did I move on, and keep writing? Yes! For me that was the important part–not quitting.

I had a lot on my plate this month, which I won’t take the space to itemize, but belonging to a group of people who posted their progress and encouragement daily and who faced their own challenges made a big difference to my own self-encouragement and to my determination not to let them or myself down. I can’t say enough about the value of having some writing buddies in your life who are positive and respectful and for whom you want to do your best.

To meet my check-ins this month, I wrote at times of day (and night) that I never would have considered remotely feasible. Has that made a difference to my writing life? Definitely! I have always considered myself strictly a morning person. The best time of day for me to write was first thing, and if I missed that opportunity … well, there just wasn’t much point in even trying at any other time of day. Was I ever WRONG! It was so important for me to get the words down for my check-in, that I wrote at all sorts of times of day, and discovered that in order to be able to string words together good enough for a first draft, I needed no special time or place. Wow! Talk about freedom! And a lesson has taken me waaaaay too long to learn. Armed with that knowledge now, I feel hugely excited about meeting my next goals.

So when the month is over, can I take what I’ve learned and go back to being a solitary writer and still write every day? I’ve been a part of three writing challenges this year, and, except for the odd glitch that gets thrown into everyone’s life,  I’ve stuck to my goals every time. I’m ready to stick to this, too. I’ll be checking in with my own writing log after November 30th. I’ll keep you posted. 🙂

For those of you south of my border, I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends. And for everyone, you have all my good wishes for lots of creative days ahead!

10 Days and Still Writing

IMG-20130709-00210I hope you are having a writerly November whether you have signed up for NaNoWriMo or not.

I set my own NaNo challenge goal and joined a group of like-minded writers in order to stay motivated and get the writing done. What a great idea that has turned out to be. I’ve been crazy busy with a lot of other things, but reading the daily writing posts from the other 36 writers has kept me inspired and writing.

I’ve learned a couple of things about the way I write, too. First, I need an outline. My work for the first week was based on notes for stories that I had scribbled in my journal over the past six or seven months ( a lot of unfinished business), and getting those stories written was a breeze. Then, I opted to work on something new that was really only a germ of an idea, even though I was excited about it. What a difference in output–and how I felt about the words I put on the page. While my fingers clicked the keys, there was a part of my brain that kept saying, “Well, this writing doesn’t matter. You’re going to throw these words out once you get the story organized. Just get to your daily quota.”

Shudder. Ugly writing mantra. Go away!

The other thing I learned (again, I might add) is that my writing needs to be purposeful. I started NaNo a few years ago and happily clicked myself 20,000+ words into a novel that I knew all along would never really go anywhere. I thought I would enjoy writing just for fun. Wrong. I stopped writing it and wrote Writing Fiction: A Hands-On Guide for Teens instead. It was my dream book. The one I really wanted to get out there. It had my heart. Purposeful writing. Yesterday, I put the non-outlined book away and went back to the sequel I’m writing to The Dragon’s Pearl. I reread the entire book, edited, and then wrote a section that I had only roughed in (made my quota) and moved the entire project a big step closer to publication. This book has my heart, and I guess I just don’t like unfinished business. I’d tried to put it aside to work on something new, and I couldn’t do it and actually produce anything worth reading.

I needed to learn that, as long as I’m writing every day, I’m fulfilling an important goal of my NaNo–and, I hope, developing a writing habit that will stick. I’ve also realized that this month, I’m probably going to have to stop thinking about word count for a couple of days and do some serious outlining before the writing can get in gear again. That’s okay, too. The NaNo experts always suggest spending time outlining before starting the event. For me, a definite non-pantser, that is good advice. I’m just going to do it in the middle that’s all.  If I don’t reach my word count goal of 22,500 words, I won’t be heart-broken. If I have a bunch of good words and a plan that I can keep following after November that will result in a finished novel, then I’m a winner. Where am I now? I’ve written 6656 words–6656 mostly purposeful words. Like Martha Stewart says, “That’s a good thing.”

Hope you have a great week ahead and that you meet your writing goals big or small.

Writing Prompts for November, 2013

Storm front rolling in.
Storm front rolling in.

I hope those of you who are participating in NaNoWriMo this month get off to a great start. I signed up, just to keep track of my words and see my goals getting closer to completion. There’s no way that I’m going to write anywhere near 50,000 words, but I like the discipline of the event. I know a few others who have signed up, and we will be cheerleaders for each other for the next 30 days.

For those of you who like to take a different approach to NaNo word counts, YA author, Nicole Humphrey Cook, describes a reverse NaNo system that leaves you only having to write 1 word on the last day. Check the system she uses here.

I hope you enjoy writing whatever you write this month, and here are some writing prompts to get those creative engines running.

1)  Try one of these opening sentences to start a story or novel:

  • I was beginning to wonder if driving a car was something I should be doing with a cranky Dalmatian in the back seat and a migraine pounding behind my eyes.
  • Some tunes bring back the wrong kind of memories.
  • I’d thought the carpet was clean until my face made close and painful contact.
  • At times like this, I knew better than to ask, “Why me?”
  • Was I the only one who had noticed that there’d been no squeal of brakes before the car hit the gate post?

2)  Here are some titles that might suggest a story:  Blue Yesterday, The Ring Keeper, Last Wishes, Diary of a Dropout, The Ruby Secret, The Gold Claw

3)  Can you picture the scene when you hear these lines of dialogue?

  • Did you hear about Henry?
  • No. What’s new?
  • He’s run away.
  • Please stop doing that.
  • Why?
  • It reminds me of someone.
  • Who?
  • Your brother.
  • I have to leave.
  • But, I need your help.
  • It’s a bit late to ask.

4)  See if these random words suggest a story or poem:

  • knife, paper, ice, coat, silver, lake
  • clasp, frame, red, strike, notes, tin

5)  What masks do your characters wear to hide their feelings in certain situations? Whom do they trust to see behind their masks?

6)  What costumes did your characters want to wear on Hallowe’en when they were children? Did they want to be superheroes or bunnies or witches or pirates or ….? What was your favourite Hallowe’en costume? Why was it your favourite?

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