Writing Prompts for January 2017

Writing Prompts for January 2017
Reflections at the Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle.

I considered reflecting on the events of 2016, but frankly, there’s lots you really don’t want to know–honest. The above photo is from a family holiday that included visiting Seattle, WA and Victoria, BC. I have great memories of explorations in galleries, museums, rain forests and mountains–and quiet family times of reading while the sun set. I’m very grateful for that time with my family and for every morning that I wake up and know  that I’m another day further into my life after last year’s cancer surgery–and feeling gratitude is not a bad way to start a new year.

But what will 2017 hold? I don’t know, but over the last couple of days I reread Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, and I was reminded to “share whatever you are driven to share.” I write lots of non-fiction about writing. I enjoy it, and I’m going to keep doing it. I love motivating people to write. This year, I’m going to seek out other ways to reach new writers and help them share what they “are driven to share.” And if I find myself worrying about whether or not to take a risk, I’m going to remember this, too: “Hey, why not? Because it’s all just temporary.” Exactly, Elizabeth.

I hope that you have a 2017 filled with peace, and love, and creativity, too. To get you started on your creative goals for 2017, here are your writing prompts for January.

Use one, some, or all of the words in the following lists to inspire a story or poem:

  • Slide, column, eye, remember, red, hidden
  • Glass, case, door, fear, run, seal, black
  • Escape, tunnel, race, battle, freedom, star
  • Beam, rescue patience, delay, moment, revenge

Here are some titles that might suggest a story or two: Rate of Decay, Last Chance, Brother Why?, Indefinitely, A New Year’s Resolution, The Captain’s Son, Battle Stations, Just a Step Away, Love on New Year’s Eve, Holiday, Seeing in the Dark.

Try one of the following opening lines to start a story.

  • Most people have a party or, at least, drink a toast with Anderson and Kathy on New Year’s Eve. Instead, I open my back door, a stray cat walks in, and an hour later I have a cat, four kittens and an old college sweat shirt that I will never wear again.
  • The last time I saw Harry, he had that same dumb grin.
  • Saying goodbye is never easy.
  • If they could hear my heartbeats, I’d be found in about 30 seconds.
  • Nothing made a castle colder than three days of uninterrupted rain.
  • His cloak smelled of wood smoke and rain.
  • Security! Report to Deck 9!
  • I still haven’t told my family that I was fired.
  • Helen always knew the wrong thing to say.

Here are a few snippets of dialogue. Can you write a scene using one of them?

  • When was the last time you talked to Henry?
  • This morning.
  • Then, he told you.
  • Yes.
  • Do you want to get caught?
  • No.
  • Then keep up!
  • I thought you weren’t coming back.
  • I have something to say to you.
  • Then say it.
  • I’m getting cold.
  • Just a little bit further.
  • Promise?
  • Promise.
  • So, another hour?
  • At least.

Happy New Year and may 2017 hold only good things for you!

Writing Prompts for December 2016

Writing Prompts for December 2016

I always enjoy the approach to the holidays. Decorating the house, planning meals, and even all the long-overdue cleaning and organizing are done with a lighter heart. It’s a musical time for us, too. My choir has a concert, my son’s university ensemble has a concert, and we all attend the local symphony’s holiday concert, joining my brother-in-law’s family for dinner afterwards. I hope that you and yours enjoy times filled with peace, love, and happiness in the coming weeks and that these feelings follow you through 2017.

Though your writing time may be limited in December, I encourage you to take even 10 minutes out of your day to put a few words on the page. Typing at 25 words per minute would fill a double-spaced page. Think of how those pages could add up over the month, and how much further ahead you will be starting 2017.

If you need some writing inspiration or fresh ideas, here are your writing prompts for December. Remember that you can change names and gender to suit the story you want to write.

Opening Sentences – Start a story with one of the following sentences. You could use the sentence to end the story, too.

Wait! Don’t open that!
The fire was too small to warm the room.
Henry and I had an agreement—until yesterday.
The branches of the bare trees clattered overhead.
Making a wish as you blow out your birthday candles isn’t just for kids.
Helen should have known better.
Secrets should be kept secret.
I don’t have a cat anymore, so what was coughing and hacking in my kitchen?

Random Words – Choose a group of words from the following list, and using one, some, or all of the words in the group, write a story or poem.

Gate, pillar, robe, wonder, blue, cry, gold
green, hills, wander, home, far, cold, rain
run, danger, lost, captain, white, strange
window, tense, sneer, answer, leave, yellow

Possible Story Titles

Yesterday’s Man, The Gold Tower, Tree People, The Leaving, Ghosts at Summer Camp, Strangers at First, Ethan’s Mountain, The Blue Sword, The Kameron Curse, The Second Gift.

Dialogue – Use one of these dialogue excerpts and imagine the story around it.

Why do we have to travel at night?
It’s safer.
It’s also cold.

I haven’t seen you with Henry lately.
Oh, we’re old news.
But I thought you were getting married.
Tell that to Henry’s father.

Are you sure we can trust Helen?
I don’t see that we have a lot of options.
But, I told you—she’s lied before.
So have you.

I don’t like the sound of that.
Me neither, but it’s too soon to worry the others.

You found something.
No.
Show it to me.
No.

Hope you have a wonderful, writerly December!

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.

Writing Prompts for November 2014

November

I’m wishing lots of good luck and good writing to those who have signed up for NaNoWriMo this year. And for those of you who haven’t, I wish a creative month that brings you closer to achieving your goals.

Here are some writing prompts to help you find stories or add to the ones you already have underway.

1) Think of a story or poem that you could write using one, some or all of the following words.

  • Dead roses, photograph, lamp, window, card, sigh
  • Candle, glass, bowl, rustle, paperweight, cord, breeze

2) Here are some titles that might help you think of a story or two: Last Day of Summer, Pumpkin Patch Mystery, Lights Out, Shattered, When One Door Closes, Never Forgotten, The Crystal Throne.

3) See if these opening lines can get your story started:

  • “Why do you think she lied?”
  • The only thing I could think of saying when I woke up was, “Where am I?”
  • That’s it. I am done with men. Forever!
  • Going home should be a good thing—but not always.
  • I swore that I’d never start a story with someone waking up in the morning. But when you wake up in a tent with a large dog and a (pick the kind of person you want) for roommates, neither of whom you’ve ever seen before, I think you can make an exception.
  • Henry closed the door softly.
  • Moaning winds, rain and thunder. Just what I needed for my first night in the house alone.

4) Here are some lines of dialogue for you. Who are the speakers, where are they, what are they doing, what are they going to do next?

  • Do you think we’ll get away with it?
  • We did last time.
  • Yes, but this time we won’t have Henry with us.

 

  •  I’m sorry.
  • What for?
  • For telling Liz about what happened.
  • It’s okay. She had to know.

 

  • Everything’s going to be fine. Don’t worry.
  • That’s easy for you to say.
  • You’re hurt, but I’m not giving up.
  • We’ll never get away now.

 

5) A lot of special holidays and family events are ahead in the next two months. What are you looking forward to most? What are you dreading? What do your characters look forward to? What do they dread? Write the diary entry your character wrote as a child about a special family or holiday event.

Mailing List Catch-Up

Draft Cover for Writing Fiction: A Handbook for Pre-Teens
Draft Cover for Writing Fiction: A Handbook for Pre-Teens

Well, the race is on. My goal has been to finish my draft of Writing Fiction: A Handbook for Pre-Teens (working title–open to suggestions) before 100 people signed up for my mailing list. Today, I sent a thank-you to the 71st person to sign up. Thanks for the motivation! I have three chapters to go and the first draft will be completed.

This is also a shout out to Paige, Taylor and Emily who signed up for the list in mid-March. When I sent your thank-yous and bonus links, the emails bounced back as unknown addresses. If you’re a spambot, no problem, but if you’re wondering what happened, please try entering your email addresses again. My “reply system” is simply me at the computer, so I’m happy to give it another try.

I’ve played around with the cover design, making it match my previous book, Writing Fiction: A Hands-On Guide for Teens. I’m debating about whether or not to keep the photo of the keyboard on the cover, and instead, to switch it for something like the photo below, thinking it might be more in keeping with the age group, but knowing that no matter what the age, keyboards are a reality of life, and … well … you get the idea. Decisions, decisions ….

Now back to the writing. Hope you have a creative week ahead!

If you would like to know when the new 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, and, perhaps a sample chapter or two. 🙂

School Supplies 3

New Edition of Writing Fiction: A Hands-On Guide for Teens

BookCoverPreview 2I’m very happy to announce the release of Writing Fiction: A Hands-On Guide for Teens–Second Edition.

The second edition of Writing Fiction: A Hands-On Guide for Teens contains expanded chapters and over 50 writing prompts to help young writers find story ideas and defeat writer’s block.

Writing Fiction: A Hands-On Guide for Teens has the concise answers that teen writers need to their writing questions. Whether at the beginning of a story or in the middle, or whether the words or flowing or or mired in hesitation, teen writers will find writing prompts, encouragement, concrete solutions to writing problems, tips for plotting, writing dialogue, characterization and more.

Reviewers of the first edition said:

Writing Fiction is a bare-bones resource. If the information isn’t useful, it isn’t there. That is what makes it so valuable. Teens don’t have to wade through pages of padding to get to the good stuff. The book contains only the good stuff. Teens interested in writing will make good use of this book.”

CM: CANADIAN REVIEW OF MATERIALS, Manitoba Library Association

“This guide to writing fiction speaks directly to young writers and provides tools to help them become successful in their writing endeavours and to have fun doing so … The author’s love of writing and enthusiasm for sharing her expertise with young writers shines through this guidebook, making it a wonderful resource for young writers.”

CANADIAN TEACHER magazine

To read a couple of sample chapters, please click here.You can purchase copies at Amazon.com here and Amazon.ca here.

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.

The_Dragon's_Pearl_Cover_for_Kindle

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?

Friday Wrap-Up

Yay for Friday! I had a lot of fun this week writing a story for the SCBWI mash-up. The plan is for an author to write 500 words based on a four word prompt and an illustrator to create a drawing based on the same four words. Neither knows what the other is doing. This weekend they get put together, and we get to see how it all turned out. I’ll post the link as soon as it’s ready, so you can see the final result. This week’s words: Brascoe, Television news anchor, treehouse, T-Rex.

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

It’s funny how some writing prompts work and other don’t–well, for me anyways. I love prompts in which random words are thrown together, and you have to create a story or a scene from them. I like working with stray bits of dialogue, too. I wrote 65,000-word historical romance based on three words that I drew from a basket during one of my own writing classes. That kind of prompt requires my puzzle brain, trying to figure something out with just a few clues. It probably has to do with my love of mysteries, the books on codes and secret messages that I used to check out of the library when I was in my Nancy Drew phase, and the fact that I still like to do crossword puzzles and Sudoku.

What kind of writing prompts work for you? Do you like random words or sentences or do you prefer the ones that demand a deeply personal response? Why do you think you prefer one kind of prompt over another. I actually hope that you’re one of the lucky ones that has so many ideas in your head for stories or poems that you don’t need a prompt. If that’s you, celebrate!!

I create writing prompts every month. I ‘d love to know what prompts you’re looking for, so I can include them in my first-of-the-month-writing-prompt post.

Have a great weekend!

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