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 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.

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!

September 2013 Writing Prompts

IMG-20130709-00210Back-to-school mode has hit our house, though I deliberately left my school prep at home for the weekend, having plowed through many hours of it last week. I have new binders and dividers and white board markers, and, even now, I wish I could justify buying new crayons and construction paper, too. Those were a big part of going back to school when I was a child. And the crayons had to be Crayola and not Peacock because I never thought I got dark enough colours from the Peacock crayons. Pencil crayons had to be Laurentian–same reason.

The first day of school always feels like my New Year’s Day. For me, this is when new goals are set and resolutions made: edit one book; create a new edition of another, publish a third, and, by October 25th, finish 8 short stories for an anthology that I’m co-writing. Lots on my plate–and I’m looking forward to all of it! Do you set goals at one particular time of year or do you reevaluate and set new goals as the year goes a long–or a combination of both! Whichever you choose, do you find that setting goals is useful? How do you keep your focus on reaching your goals? I find that calendars and blocking out writing time and making a lot of lists are methods that I need to get to the finish line. Oh, and a healthy dose of forgiveness when things go pear-shaped and I need to regroup. After all, if we can’t be kind to ourselves …?

Here are some writing prompts to play with this September. If you’re still working on your writing goals for 2013, maybe one of these prompts will help.

Use one, some, or all of these words in a story or poem: blue, jar, post, mirror, glow. Or try these: door, sliver, label, dawn, clasp.

Here are some opening lines you might try.

  • Where’s Ralph?
  • Yesterday I would never have guessed that this could be true
  • The sword felt heavy in her hand.
  • Flight was second nature to him.
  • My best friend is a ghost.
  • My mother always said that it was better to ask for forgiveness than for permission

Maybe these lines of dialogue will inspire a scene:

  • We have to go.
  • But I like it here.
  • And I like staying alive.
  • Wilson has the answer.
  • Are you sure?
  • Yes. And I’m not the only one. That’s why we need to get him out of here now.

Here are some story titles you can play with–Playing Unsafe, Nightmare Island, The Goblin’s Revenge, River of Sighs, The Final Race, The Grove, Wendy’s Wish.

Have fun!

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?

Looking Back

Dec 2012 blog tagxedo
Inspired by Patricia Ann McGoldrick’s blog , I created a word cloud of what I’ve been writing about this year. I can’t use Wordle, because I can’t stop my computer blocking the software I need to upload to use it, so I used Tagxedo instead. You can make it more Wordle-like by changing the emphasis to 1. I warn you that playing with either of these programs can be addictive!

I thought that the word cloud was pretty informative actually. The words goals, writing, and time featured pretty predominantly. Obviously these are things I was writing about and concerned about last year. Did I set goals and accomplish them? Yes–and no. I finished my 30-day writing challenge, so that was a definite yes. Some other writing goals I wanted to pursue fell by the wayside.

So what about next year? What will my goals be? The writing challenge brought a few things into perspective about where I am with my writing and my writing business. Do I have a novel ahead of me? No. Some shorter pieces? Yes. Do I have some marketing plans? Yes. Am I still teaching? Yes. Do I have one major goal that I want to accomplish in the new year? Yes, I want to be a lot kinder to myself. Yup, that’s the goal I picked. And I think that if that is the starting point for any other challenges that I take on–writing, marketing, losing weight, exercising (oh yeah, the last 2 are definitely on my list)–I think I’ll have a better chance of succeeding.

I’m trying to turn the have-to’s and their accompanying moans of gloom into actions that I do because they are actually good for me, that come from treating myself well. It’s an effort to fix my head voices that are far more often negative than positive. I hope to end the year with them less eager to point out failure, and more inclined to shrug their shoulders and say, “Well, not everything works out the way you plan. What can we try next?”
What are your next steps for 2013? Have you set writing or health-related goals? Do you have any strategies for success that we should know about?

I’ll be back in a few days with your writing prompts for January.

Until then, be kind to yourself. 🙂

Planning for 2013

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

The writing challenge that I set myself 22 days ago is progressing well. I haven’t missed a day, though I pulled couple of late nights to make sure that I kept to my commitment. I’m looking forward to reading all the crazy things I’ve written when the challenge is over. Writing whatever comes to mind has been a very “interesting” process.Today, and for the next couple of weeks, I’m focusing on making plans for my freelance writing business for 2013. I’m looking for ways to grow my services by developing a training course in clear writing for local businesses and by expanding my creative writing workshops into more schools, and by … Well, you get the idea.

The task of setting business goals is a lot easier with some guidance from other experienced writers. Here’s a link to Paul Lima’s chapter from Everything You Wanted to Know About Freelance Writing. Whether you are in business or not, answering the questions that Paul poses here will help you create a plan that will help you reach your goals.

Another link that certainly helped me get my goals in perpective is from Kristi Holl at Writer’s First Aid. Here she talks about small goals that she believes will make a big difference to her writing output next year. http://kristiholl.net/writers-blog/2012/11/simplified-writing-goals-for-2013/ Also have a look at Set Goals NOW for 2013, and with Kristi’s and Paul’s suggestions enjoy New Year’s Day knowing that you’ve done good work to make 2013 your best year yet.

Do you take the time to make yearly plans for your business or your writing life? Do you have any resources or suggestions that help with goal setting and planning?

Getting it “Done”

This isn’t an original idea, but if you have a goal you want to reach, it’s an idea that works. I got it from an article in The Writer Magazine a few years ago. In the article a writer said that members of her writing group sent emails to each other with “done” in the subject line when they had completed their writing goals for the day.

This is such a simple idea, but I can speak from experience that it is effective. Right now I’m working with a small group of writers and we’re sending out “dones’ every day. The first time we did this our goals were all writing goals. This time we’ve expanded our “done’ to encompass whatever individual goal a person chooses. We’re going to work on our goals for a month and then share what our goals were in August.

So, if you have something you want to do every day–exercise, write 500 words, read War and Peace–find a group of people to exchange emails with daily and you will be on your way to achieving your goal.

Do you have any great goal-reaching tips? I’d love to hear what they are!

More Writer’s First Aid–A Must-Own Book for Busy Writers

Kristi Holl’s More Writer’s First Aid: Getting the Writing Done is the perfect resource for writers who want to carve a writing career out of a life that seems already full of family, work, and just the “stuff” of living. I printed my PDF review copy, because I read better that way. I used sticky notes to highlight the parts that stood out and that I could mention in this review. I ran out of sticky notes. There were gems in almost every chapter.

This is a book that gives you permission to be human—to be confused, frightened, crazy-busy, in pain, and a first class procrastinator. Kristi offers accessible solutions to the challenges of a writer’s life without being trite or condescending. She writes with a voice that has “been there, done that” and has sought solutions in the work of other writers as well as from her own instincts. She shares her solutions and the struggles to find them and make them work, without a smidge of “holier than thou.” She speaks as a fellow traveller and survivor who has worn all of life’s hats, along with that of writer. Reading the book is like having a special writer friend give you a hug and a nod of complete understanding—just when you need it.

This is not a how-to-write guide. There are no tricks for writing great dialogue or creating a compelling story arc. Chapters are grouped under these headings:  ENJOYING THE WRITING LIFE—EVERY DAY!, WRITING HABITS THAT HELP YOU, A WRITER’S EMOTIONS, FAMILY MATTERS. She deals with the hard stuff. How to work after a loss, while working the day job and juggling family, when serious illness hits you or a family member. And the practical: how to stop procrastinating, the realities of finding writing time—and equally essential—thinking time, in a life full of demands on your time and attention.

I’ve read a lot of books about writing over the years. (I even wrote one!) Only three have made my annual reread list. Now there are four!

Blogger KRISTI HOLL is the author of 39 books, including MORE WRITER’S FIRST AID.


On Reading William Zinsser

Photo by Jamie Anderson published under Creative Commons License

I’m not doing any joywriting at all at the moment– and I’ll spare you the whine about that situation—so instead I’ll share with you what I’m reading.

On the weekend I began the 30th anniversary edition of William Zinsser’s On Writing Well. I generally fly through reading material, but this book requires a different speed. Like good chocolate, its contents are rich and meant to be savoured.

Twenty years ago I read an earlier edition of this book, when Zinsser still referred to typewriters and the personal pronoun of choice was always “he.”  I’m a considerably older and more experienced writer and teacher now, and I’m sorry I stayed away so long. I’m only 36 pages in and already I’m underlining sentences and marking pages with sticky notes. I’m also doing a lot of head nodding and muttering things like “soooo right!” and “sooooo true!” and “exactly!” and enjoying every reading moment.

On page 9, Zinsser writes, “Remember this in moments of despair. If you find that writing is hard, it’s because it is hard.”

I nodded my head at that one, too. He just nailed one reason (and yeah, there are others) why I haven’t done any joywriting lately. I’m quitting before I start. After writing three novels and another few halves, I know how hard the work really is, and there’s a part of me that I can actually hear groan at the thought of going down that road again. Yup. I’m a wuss. But at least I know I’m a wuss.

My sister-in-law’s favourite expression at these moments is: “Suck it up, buttercup!” Well, I’m no buttercup, but I like to call myself a writer, so I’m giving myself two weeks to get my act in gear, carve out some writing time and earn the name “writer.” In the meantime, I’ll keep you posted on my reading of On Writing Well–and hope that, in the meantime, you too are “writing well.”

Photo “Buttercups along the old CN tracks in Kitsilano” from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamieanderson/2568278918/ published under a Creative Commons license

%d bloggers like this: