Writing Prompts for January 2016

IMG-20130709-00210inspirationHappy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful holiday with family and friends and that you’re ready to tackle whatever the new year brings.

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Are you good at keeping them? One thing I have to keep reminding myself is that everything I resolve to do doesn’t have to be achieved by the end of February. Way too much pressure—and way too easy for someone like me to give up at that point. (I have a lot of experience with that!)  At this time of year, I like to think about what I hope to achieve next year. I don’t have resolutions exactly, but instead, I have an ongoing, ever-in-revision to-do list that serves as a daily reminder of what my year’s goals are. And yes, if you check my last post, I did go out and buy a new journal to help me keep track of everything.

For my own health and sanity, weight loss and more exercise are on the list–starting with a standing desk–plus I’m working on a plan plan to go out more often with my husband. (I’ve already bought the concert tickets!) I’m also looking for one thing to do each week to help fill the creative well that so easily gets emptied when you’re a busy, creative person.

For my writing, I have a lot of goals to reach this year—more books and journals and, at least, one online course. The last will be a challenge. Like most people, I don’t like the sound of my voice on tape, but I’m finally ready to take the risk and work on this project that I’ve had in the back of my mind for a couple of years now.

I’m also going to attempt to learn to read Latin this year. I know that’s a weird goal, but I’ve written a couple of books set in the Middle Ages (not published) and have ideas for more–one involving a person who illuminates manuscripts. I’ve always wanted to actually read the words on the medieval manuscripts I’ve seen so often while doing my research.  And, since my mom bought me a set of how-to-learn-Latin DVDs for my birthday, I no longer have any excuse!

I want to thank you all for dropping by the website to check out the resources or to say hi over the past year. In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be adding some new sites and information for teens who want to get published. Visitors drop by from all over the world, and I’m humbled that so many of you find inspiration for your writing or your classroom here. Whether you make resolutions, or set goals, or just let life bring whatever it brings, I wish you every success, and a healthy and happy 2016.

P.S.

draft cover for journalIf one of your goals is to write every day in 2016, research shows that it takes 66 days to develop a habit. There are ample writing prompts on this site to feed a 66-day, habit-building plan many times over. If you need something a little more structured, check out the journal I created last year and see if it has the solution you’re looking for.

 

WRITING PROMPT

1.See if you can use one, some, or all of the words in one of these groups in a story or poem.

a) cup, danger, blue, fragile, reach, high
b) book, scratch, far, wonder, red, end
c) curtain, lights, remember, warm, close, fear

2. What story can you create that begins with one of these opening sentences?

  • Henry said, “Do not wish me a Happy New Year.”
  • Helen dropped the last of his photographs into the trash.
  • Why wasn’t I surprised that the light switch didn’t work either.
  • I hoped they remembered the old adage, “Don’t shoot the messenger.”
  • We’d never make it before dawn.
  • They were not her people. Helen realized she was lucky to still be alive.

3. Can you think of a story to go with one of these titles?
Winter Solstice, The Offer, Sonata in Screams, Haunted, I Hate Love Stories, Blue Wednesday, Rodeo, The New Year’s Mystery, A Dog for a Day, I said No, Fire Place, The Witch Next Door.

4. What scenes can you imagine around these lines of dialogue?

Turn on the light.
I did—and I checked the bulb. There’s no power.
That’s not good.

Why did you leave Harry?
I didn’t. He left me.
That’s not what he said.

I’m sorry for your loss, Helen.
Believe me. It was no loss.
But how can you say that?

I thought robots were supposed to do what they were told.
Not when they’re told something stupid.

What’s in the bag?
Groceries.
The stores closed an hour ago.
Okay then. I liked.

Have you ever seen any creatures so disgusting.
No.
Should I say something?
You should say, thank-you. They saved our lives remember.

Happy New Year! Have a wonderful 2016!

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?

Writing Challenge Update–And Some Writerly Links

inspirationToday is day 16 of the 30-day writing challenge. We’re over half-way to our goal, and it’s feeling pretty good. Have I written every day? All but one, when a migraine flattened me, and I there was no way I could face the page. The other days I managed to pound out some words on my new project–some days more than others–but I’ve made steady progress. My focus is to write every day, not to worry about word or page count, but to get something written every day that will get me closer to my goal. I’m happy with what I’ve done so far, and look forward to the next two weeks.

On the way, I’ve found some blog posts to pass along to my fellow writers to help keep them (and me!) focused on writing every day. Here are three of them. Hope they help you on your writing road, too.

How to Always have a Bagful of Exciting Writing Ideas  by Tal Valante

“Whether you write a blog, fiction, or non-fiction, inspiration is all around you. Here are some ways to make your daily life an endless source of writing ideas.”
http://writetodone.com/always-bagful-exciting-writing-ideas/

Mastering Mood-Dependent  Writing Stages by Kristi Holl (This one was particularly timely for me during the writing challenge.)

“… I found a chapter in The Write Type by Karen E. Peterson very encouraging. The author said that not all the stages of producing a story or book involve heavy-duty creative thinking. If you’re not feeling the best some days, use that time for a writing job that requires less energy–but still has to be done sometime.” http://kristiholl.net/writers-blog/2015/04/mastering-mood-dependent-writing-stages/

Anne Lamott on Writing and Why Perfectionism Kills Creativity by Maria Popova

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.” http://www.brainpickings.org/2013/11/22/bird-by-bird-anne-lamott/

Good luck with your own writing challenges, and I wish you every success in reaching your goals!

 

30-Day Writing Challenge Starting April 7

IMG-20130709-00210If you’re looking for a way to get your writing back on track, I’m running a writing challenge for 30 days on my Facebook author page. Participants don’t have to do anything more than post “I did my writing today” or words to that effect in the comments of my daily post. Join me and other writers who want to get back to writing every day and need a little boost to keep going. I’ve participated in similar challenges before. Having someone waiting to hear that I’ve done my daily writing has been an effective incentive to help me reach my goal.

My role is cheerleader–and some days, fellow sufferer–to help you stick to your daily writing by offering you a place to check in every day. You decide how much you want to write. Set a time limit or a page limit or just be glad that some days you wrote a couple of sentences. It’s the sticking with it that counts.

If you’re interested, just drop by https://www.facebook.com/pages/Heather-Wright-Writer/336470796443870 to let me know you want to join the challenge on Tuesday. Love to have you on board!

And now, I need to get down to writing April’s writing prompts (a few days late), having been very distracted by the hacking of my writing prompts’ page for a ciallis ad. Yikes! Just a mild panic here, but my web host took care of it, so, back to work!

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!)

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.

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.

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?

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”

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