Writing Prompts for August 2014

The_Dragon's_Revenge_Cover_for_KindleWow! August 1st! What’s happening to the summer? I hope you’ve been busy with the things you love to do as well as dealing with life’s necessities.

I’ve been very busy, but in a good way, and am happy to have both of my self-published books now online. The first is Writing Fiction: A Guide for Pre-Teens, and the second is my fantasy for middle readers, The Dragon’s Revenge, a sequel to The Dragon’s Pearl. You can read more about The Dragon’s Revenge here. To celebrate its release, The Dragon’s Pearl is free right now on Kindle until Sunday. Here’s the link to check it out: http://www.amazon.com/Dragons-Pearl-Temple-Blue-Mist-ebook/dp/B00C0C94G2/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1406805446

The other work I’ve been doing is writing business case studies for an educational publisher to go along with a new textbook, and writing a kids’ version of Frankenstein for Caramel Tree Publishing. They specialize in ESL material. Frankenstein won’t be out until next year sometime. With my friend and co-writer, I’m also working on an anthology of stories for boys that we hope to have out by early September.

And like you, I’m still looking for new stories to write.

Here are some prompts to help you find your stories this month:

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

Blue, rain, bridge, driving, insect

Trees, sign, warning, chase, silver


2. Here are some titles for you to try: It’s Conditional, Dream Valley, A Piece of Sky, Lodging Exit 52, Silver Creek Adventure, Mail 346.


3. Try one of these opening lines and see where it leads:

How long ‘til we get there?

Looks like rain.

From here, the place didn’t look that scary.

There was only one way out.

I’d had a root canal, broken my wrist, and been kissed by Mackenzie Schmidtheimer, but all of them together weren’t worse than a family road trip.


4. What kind of scene can you build around these lines of dialogue?

Where are you going?


Look at the sky.


I want to go now.

That’s impossible.


You haven’t met Sirus yet.


The place has changed since I was here last.

One thing has stayed the same though.

What’s that?

It’s still dangerous.


5. Describe your ideal concert? Who would be playing and where? Who would you go with and what would happen that would make this experience the most important one in your life so far?

6. In your imagination, picture a street corner that you know well. In your imagination, turn that corner and find something completely surprising—a circus, the same street in the year 1850, a Roman ruin … you get the idea. What happens next?





Self-Publishing – My Experience & Lessons Learned

A Tagxedo view of my website.
A Tagxedo view of my website.

I have fumbled my way through self-publishing over the past few years. Trying things, making mistakes, seeing how things turn out. Thought I’d share a bit of that experience.

I’ve used a couple of publishers since I started self-publishing. Right now I’m using CreateSpace  https://www.createspace.com/ and Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) https://kdp.amazon.com/kdp/self-publishing/signin?language=en_US  After I finish setting up my book in CreateSpace, I can choose for it to be sent to Amazon KDP (they are the same company.) CreateSpace will also send it to other epub distributors, too. Both services are free, though CreateSpace offers services like custom cover designs, copyediting, and marketing for a fee, if you want to take advantage of them.

I’m using CreateSpace for my second edition of Writing Fiction: A Hands-On Guide for Teens, and I’m fine with having them distribute it to Amazon and other sellers, such as Kobo. For my sequel to The Dragon’s Pearl, I’m going to go with CreateSpace and KDP only. There are some promotion options with KDP that are only available if it is the exclusive distributor for a set period of time. I’d like to try those promotions, so I’m going to give that option a try for my fiction. For 201 Writing Starters, I went to Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/ . They had a very easy-to-use product and also provide a free service. If I do another edition of the book, I will probably go through CreateSpace, though, because it offers free cover design options that I prefer to use rather than coming up with my own.

The first edition of Writing Fiction was published through iUniverse, a vanity press. I wouldn’t choose that route now for a couple of reasons. First, I want to earn more money per sale, and royalties are much better on my own. Second, I am more confident about being able to format a book that would look professional, and third, I know a lot more about the industry. I was lucky in that I took advantage of a sale offer at iUniverse and didn’t spend money on extras, and I can say that I have earned my money back. A few writers I know who took the vanity press route have realized they will never earn their money back.

I got the templates for the interiors of the dragon books and Writing Fiction – Second Edition from Joel Friedlander http://www.thebookdesigner.com/ at a very reasonable cost. You can see inside the book here to see what one of his formats looks like: http://www.amazon.com/Dragons-Pearl-Heather-Elizabeth-Wright/dp/1483954021

If you’re thinking of the self-publishing route, be aware of the new trend among traditional publishers to have their own vanity press. They make it look like you’re working with Simon & Schuster for instance, but you’re really paying to have your book published with a vanity press that is part of a large company with a very poor reputation. Read this blog from Writer Beware®: The Blog to get the details: http://accrispin.blogspot.ca/2012/11/archway-publishing-simon-schuster-adds.html To make sure that you are working with a reputable company always check Preditors & Editors, an excellent site that has a listing of publishers/agents along with recommendations and cautions.  http://pred-ed.com/

To end on a more positive note, here’s a link to a great blog post from Jane Friedman with a lot of helpful links to help you make some decisions about your publishing future.  http://janefriedman.com/2012/01/28/start-here-how-to-get-your-book-published/

Good luck!

New Year – New Edition

Writing Fiction: A Hands-On Guide for Teens Second EditionI’ve been in serious editing mode for a while now, and am finally nearing the launch of the second edition of Writing Fiction: A Hands-On Guide for Teens. I’ve added a few things, updated a few things, and included 50+ writing prompts.

What I’ve really enjoyed is doing all the work myself, rather than going through a vanity press, which is what I did last time. I’ve learned a lot more about the publishing industry since then, and hope to put some of those lessons to good use with the book’s sales, promotion, and distribution. To begin, this book will be priced lower than the original! I had fun creating the interior look of the book, too, using templates from Joel Friedlander. You can take a peek at what he offers here.

So, now I just have to wait until my review copy arrives, then one last batch of edits (mostly, I hope, for the inevitable typos that I never catch when I’m proofreading on the screen) and out it will go into the world.

The next project is already underway–more editing! I finished writing a sequel to The Dragon’s Pearl last year, so I’m now in editing and formatting mode for that one. Oh, and I have a cover story for a local magazine to work on and a series of short stories to edit, too. And, there’s still teaching on the agenda. A busy January 2014 is in progress.

Hope your new year is off to a great start, too!

Keeping Score

Work in ProgressI decided that today would be a good time for a little reflection and a look at 2013–a decision partly inspired by several writers I know who are in the midst of 2014 goal setting, and partly because I have work waiting for me that I’m just not ready to face at the  moment. Yes, I’m at “procrastination station” this morning.

I want to begin by thanking the 21,903 visitors from 140 countries who have dropped by the website since January 1. You can’t imagine how thrilled I am that you come by to use the writing prompts and check out the other resources. I’d love to hear more from you about how you or your students use the material on the site, so I can make changes or add things that you might be interested in. Please don’t be shy in 2014. 

I had a look at my invoices for the year, too–always an indicator of how my part-time freelance life has been going. It certainly was a feast or famine year–some months absolutely nothing and others swamped with deadlines. At final count, the year turned out a lot better than I thought it would–I still have two more gigs to finish by the end of the year, and I broke into a new market that actually calls me with work–always a plus.

In the famine times I wrote 7 short stories and a 23,000-word middle readers fantasy, edited and published The Dragon’s Pearl and 201 Writing Prompts, participated in 4 daily-writing challenges, and finally found the answer to a problem I’ve had for ages with a middle readers mystery series–my next project. And that doesn’t include all the starts that didn’t result in a final product or an editing project that is partly finished, or blogs or monthly writing prompts, or …. Could I have done more? Probably. But I’m actually content with what did get done–a bit of a surprise actually for someone who finds the leap to the dark side extremely easy.

All of this tells me that my writing life is a pretty good one, and that, though I get seriously frantic, worried, frustrated, and gloomy about it while in the midst of the famine or the crazy feast times, at the end, I’ve met more goals than I missed and there’s lots to look forward to in 2014. This has been a definite lesson for me in patience and the value of taking time to look back and get things in perspective. Next time I won’t wait a year to do it. In fact, I think I’ll take the time today to put a quarterly writing-life-check-in on next year’s calendar.

Do you take time every year to reflect on your writing accomplishments? How do you decide if you’ve had a successful year? Do you reflect on your writing life throughout the year? Set goals? I’d love to hear about your strategies and accomplishments.

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.

August 2013 Writing Prompts

The end of the storm
The end of the storm

Wow! August already. And you know what? That’s okay. I had a busy July and got a lot of writing done–including some for which I’m getting paid! I’m looking forward to another month of writing, some during a family vacation, and some definitely next week to accommodate a couple of late (and thankfully short) assignments. I love sending out invoices before I go on vacation!

In my last blog I talked about getting the sequel to The Dragon’s Pearl  finished–and I did! I finished it last Saturday, but because of other writing tasks on my plate, I haven’t looked at it since. Today I printed it out, and I’m looking forward to my first, sticky-note run through. I love editing and revising!

Here are some prompts to get you writing in August.

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

  • jar, paperweight, cloth, key, white, grip
  • flashlight, stone, shelf, mark, camera, run

2. See where these opening sentences lead your imagination.

  • Mrs. Winthrop was peeking out of her window again.
  • Inside the apartment, the air smelled of cigarettes–and death.
  • Ducan raised his hands and tossed a ball of light into the darkness.
  • The last person I expected to see here was Luke
  • I always saw more clearly after dark.

3. Maybe these titles will suggest a story.

For the Record, Time’s Key, Heart and Hope, The Long Climb, Circles, First Vision, Silver Stars

4. Write a description of your favourite place. How does it look? Smell? What do you eat there? Describe the tastes. What do you hear? What’s the pace of this place? Does it inspire activity or do you just kick back? When you look back at your writing, does the pace of your writing match the pace of the location? Are your sentences long, and slow-moving or are they short and full of energy and action?

Hope your August gets off to a creative start!

Word Count and Daily Goals

Lake Huron shore
Lake Huron shore

I read a great post by Elizabeth S. Craig yesterday about word count in which she says, “I set myself a daily goal, but for others a weekly goal might work better.  If you have a chaotic schedule, setting a weekly goal can give you a chance to make your goal by either spreading your goal out each day or having a marathon writing session all at once to catch up.”

Okay, my goal has simply been to write every day and make some progress on one of my writing projects. It seriously has never occurred to me to set a number for pages or words to be completed in a day or a week. The only time I’ve ever done this is when I did NaNoWriMo. My focus has mostly been on simply finding the time to write. I think I am definitely missing something here. I love seeing the word count go up, but I’ve never worried about whether it went up by 500 or 1500 words, as long as the number increased. I’ve decided that I want to get the draft of the sequel to The Dragon’s Pearl done before the middle of August, but when I think about it, I could get it done sooner if I changed my approach, and then have time to write other things, too.

I work to deadline and word count all the time in my freelancing life, but even then I don’t set myself a daily number of words to produce. I just get the work done.

This is going to take some thinking about. How do you work on large projects? Do you set daily word or page counts? I feel like I’ve been on another planet or something when it comes to this. Hmmm. Time for me to get in gear.

There are two links in Elizabeth’s blog post that I’m going to add below. They really are compelling reading, though Elizabeth added a justified caution about the strong language in Chuck Wendig’s post.

Have a great weekend!

India Drummond’s “How I Easily Doubled My Daily Word Count”

A Little Encouragement Goes a Long Way

I’ve found the perfect way to bring my writing to a complete halt. Lose confidence.

It was the right time to hear the right words.
It was the right time to hear the right words.

I was working on the sequel to The Dragon’s Pearl, and I was about half way through the first draft when the gloom began. I started worrying about the first book. Was it really any good? Am I wasting my time writing another?  And of course, those questions led to … Is anything that I’ve ever written any good? Can I even call myself a writer? Where is the chocolate? Is it time for a nap?

Yeah, well, you get the idea.

So, last week I passed the manuscript along to a friend who has children the same ages for which the book was written. Her son “liked it a lot.” She said a couple of other nice things, too, but I was so thrilled to read just those four words, I didn’t really need any more.  A child liked my book. Wow. Could it get any better? Not for me. Not right now.

I’ve been working on some paid gigs this week, but this afternoon is set aside to get back to the manuscript. I hope that you find some creative time today, too, and that the right person at exactly the right time says that they like what you wrote.


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