Saturday, March 13, 2010

 

Prompts on the Brain

By Jill Earl

Here’s are a selection of prompts to try, courtesy of A Working Writer’s Daily Planner 2010.

For this first one, ‘Travel’, you begin by cutting out pictures from the travel section of a newspaper such as the New York Times. Lay them out and imagine a trip for your character. Write about what they did and saw, anything that comes to mind---and if the character has left anything behind at home. Perhaps having your character get away from it all can help you get away from that writer’s block.

Next up, ‘Mirror Image’. Think about the kind of life you’d have if you had a double, not a biological twin. What would they be like? What kind of life would they lead? Write a scene where you meet them. What if you had a third self, one you wouldn’t want? Last thing---how about all three of you going out for lunch?

Here’s the last one. Find a story that intrigues or fascinates you. Try writing yourself into it as a character. Oh, the places you could go with this one! (Thanks, Dr. Seuss!)

So if you find yourself hitting a wall in your writing, think about using prompts. Perhaps having ‘prompts on the brain’ can help keep your writing fresh.

And keep those submissions going!

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

 

Quote Starters

When you're not sure what to write about, pondering a quotation can be a useful way to get started. The easiest thing to do is pick a quote you like and let yourself freewrite for ten or fifteen minutes. When you're done, you'll probably find the makings of an essay, article, or short story!

Below are some quotes you can use to spark your writing. Take a serious or a humorous approach with your response, whatever you prefer. I can envision some good stuff coming from any one of them.

For fun, try picking a number between one and ten, then doing a timed freewrite based on the corresponding numbered quote below.


1. "The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well." -Joe Ancis

2. "The lowest ebb is the turn of the tide." –Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

3. "If you have a job without aggravations, you don’t have a job." -Malcom Forbes

4. "There is no such thing as 'fun for the whole family'." -Jerry Seinfeld

5. "The beginning is always today." -Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

6. "Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards." -Benjamin Franklin

7. "Housework can't kill you, but why take a chance?" -Phyllis Diller

8. "Ever notice that 'What the hell' is always the right decision?" -Marilyn Monroe

9. "You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it." –Margaret Thatcher

10. "Only time can heal your broken heart, just as only time can heal his broken arms and legs." -Miss Piggy

--MP

*image courtesy of tomswift46, flickr.com

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

 

The Long Weekend

Your writing doesn't have to take a backseat this holiday weekend, even if you're busy with fun plans. Just try one or two of the exercises below. You'll probably be able to look back later at your notes and find inspiration for an essay, article, or short story.

Ready? Go:

1. If you're attending a social event, document three conversation topics you heard. If possible, jot down some of the actual dialog too.

2. If you're traveling by car, bring a notepad to record ideas--at least one random thought for each half hour on the road.

3. Write down a few lyrics from the first song you hear on the car radio. How do they apply to your life?

4. Create three haiku-like poems that describe something about your weekend. These can be serious or funny.

5. Make a list of the ten best (or worst) things about a place you went.


--MP

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

 

Got Prompts?

By Jill Earl

Looking for a little something to get the imagination going for a story? A mental poke to jumpstart your writing? How about a prompt for size?

A simple online search will produce numerous links to more writing prompts than you can imagine. Below are some sites to check out for inspiration.

One of my favorites is the OnceWritten.com’ s Writing Spark newsletter. With a choice of either the paid daily or free weekly newsletter, you can receive prompts ranging from story ideas to conflict situations that will get you back on the writing path. And as a special bonus to paid members of the Daily Writing Spark newsletter, they can enter up to three entries in the bi-monthly Writing Prompt Contest.

http://www.oncewritten.com

Milli Thornton’s site Fear of Writing.com encourages writers with Fertile Material, sample prompts from her book, Fear of Writing. A subscription to her newsletter, Fear of Writing Gazette, provides free writing contests based either on the Fertile Material prompts or selected writing challenges set by editors Jennifer Turner or Milli herself.

http://fearofwriting.com/index.htm

At Writer’s Digest.com, clicking on the ‘Tips & Prompts’ tab at the top of thehomepage takes you to their Writing Prompts. Selections are listed chronologically and there’s a direct link available to the WD Forum if you want to post your response, giving you the opportunity to see what others have submitted.

http://www.writersdigest.com/WritingPrompts/


Finally, at CreativeWritingPrompts.com, pointing your cursor at one of the over 200 numbers listed reveals a pop-up box with that particular number’s prompt. That’s almost a full year’s worth!

http://www.creativewritingprompts.com


So if you’re stuck in your writing, get prompts. They may provide the boost you need for that next story idea.

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

 

New Year's Writing Resolutions

By Patricia Fry

It’s time, once again, to take stock of your accomplishments. Did you meet all of your goals for the year? Did you finish that book, send twenty query letters to magazines each month or start working on your memoirs? If so, congratulations! Keep up the good work. If not, you aren’t alone. Millions of people break their New Year’s resolutions and this is generally because they set their standards too high.

Perhaps you can achieve success by lowering your sights. You have a very good chance of failure if you resolve to write a best seller, double your income and earn the Pulitzer Prize by year’s end. If you’ve never put pen to paper, perhaps a more realistic goal would be to spend three hours each day writing, enroll in a writing class and subscribe to a couple of writing publications. And then be willing to step outside your comfort zone.

It’s like the woman who asked me to help her get over a serious writing slump. She hadn’t been able to write a meaningful word in months. She said that she wanted to get back to her poetry and short story writing, yet she wasn’t willing to make the necessary lifestyle changes. I suggested that she write for at least ten minutes each day in her journal. She saw no point in doing that when she really wanted to write poetry. I said, "Then write poetry for ten minutes each day." She replied, "I can’t do that. I told you I’m in a slump."

I advised her to spend those ten minutes just sitting quietly or walking in a lovely setting. I said that if she did this each day, she would soon become inspired and she would start using this time to write. She said that was impossible—she had no time during the day to be quiet and by evening, her mind raced so fast, she could not get into a relaxed state. Obviously, until this woman is ready to make some changes, she will continue to fail.

Are you going to spend the rest of your life watching others enjoy the lifestyle you desire or are you going to make this the year to claim success for yourself? Here are some typical writers’ resolutions and some plans to help you get started on an adventure toward meeting your personal and professional goals.

1. Finish that book (poem, article, story). Pick up your work-in-progress now, while the year is new and you still have that great sense of starting fresh. But don’t look at this as one humungous project because you’ll feel overwhelmed. Take baby steps. Tackle this one page, one stanza, one paragraph at a time. Break it down into phases. For a book, you might vow to write a chapter each month. For a story, start with the outline, develop the characters, research the time period and then start the writing. These tasks might be scheduled over a period of a week or, if working on it only part-time, a month or two.

2. Start a writing project that you’ve wanted to pursue. Similar to the steps in the first resolution, figure out how much time it will take, how much time you want to devote per day/week and just start. One thing is for sure, if you don’t start it, you will never finish it. Make this the year you stop procrastinating. If you have several projects and don’t know which one to work on, use the list method. List the pros and the cons of starting each project at this time. The right one will become evident in your list.

3. Try one new book promotion idea per month. If you’re an author, you already know that there’s more to selling a book than having it in Barnes and Noble. Read my book, "Over 75 Good Ideas for Promoting Your Book" and John Kremer’s book featuring 1001 book promotion ideas and apply some of these ideas to your promotional repertoire this year. Arrange to sell your book through local independent bookstores and gift shops. Send press releases with order forms to libraries throughout the U.S. Record your book on tape for the blind and the busy. Do some piggyback marketing. I once procured a booth at the county fair to promote my local history book. Of course, I sold scads more than if I’d stayed home that week.

4. Approach at least one new market for your writing each month. Expand your horizons. If you typically write how-to pieces for parenting, general and health magazines, try your hand at a profile piece for a business publication, for example. Maybe you design brochures for local businesses. Increase your business and your expertise by offering to write their company newsletters. I know a writer who was earning a steady income writing PR material for a large healthcare firm. Last year, she decided to try something different and she has since sold three personal essays to a major woman’s magazine for a total sum of $4,000.

5. Write something different. As professional writers, we sometimes neglect our creative urges. We are so busy writing articles, working on clients’ books or writing company materials that we don’t get around to satisfying our own writing cravings. This year, reward yourself more. Set aside an hour a day or an entire afternoon each week to write poetry, work on your novel, or do more journaling.

6. Join a community or online writers’ group. My career accelerated when I finally left my writing cubicle and began connecting with other writers. I found the camaraderie and the support extremely nurturing and still do. I can’t even calculate the educational value. If you want to reap the benefits of networking with other writers, start looking for a local or online organization. Be a loyal participant. Bring what you can to the meetings or to the discussions and share it in exchange for all that you will glean.

7. Add a new dimension to your lifestyle. If you are a full-time writer, you’re probably at the computer day in and day out. You enjoy your work immensely, but sometimes feel on the verge of burnout. This year, establish some pleasurable time away from your office. Do more reading. Get involved in something creative such as mosaic or scrapbooking. Start playing tennis. And then pursue this activity at least a couple of times a week.

8.Volunteer more. It feels good to reach out and help someone. And there are a lot of projects writers can do within the community. Here are a few: Volunteer for the after school homework help program at your local library. Offer to mentor a journalism student or adult who is just starting a writing career. Start a writing club. Volunteer to write the fundraising material for a charity.

9. Make a gift of your writing. There are numerous ways to give through your writing. Make your own Christmas and greeting cards. Personalized cards are always appreciated. Write one of your poems in calligraphy, frame it and give it to a friend or family member. Create a book of your short stories and have it bound at Kinkos or a print-on-demand company. Write a children’s story starring the children in your life and give it to them for their birthdays. Maybe you know someone who can add charming drawings or photographs. For Christmas, I gather all of my published articles for that year, put them in binders and wrap them up for my three daughters and my parents. I know they enjoy this unique gift because one year I didn’t get around to putting the articles together for them and, boy, did I hear about it. They enjoy seeing the versatility and scope of my work and to have this ongoing keepsake.

Use some of these unique ways to help you keep your New Year’s resolutions. The result will be a happier more productive you throughout the coming year.

—Patricia Fry is a cofounder and the President of SPAWN. She is a full-time writer, author of 19 published books, and she works with other writers/authors on their projects. The above article is excerpted from her book, "The Successful Writer’s Handbook." http://www.matilijapress.com

To receive articles like this every month,
subscribe now to the free monthly SPAWNews e-newsletter

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

 

WOW! Flash Fiction Contest Testimonials

Our editors, Angela and Beryl, add a personal touch to each of the WOW! Quarterly Flash Fiction Contest prizes. Read on for randomly selected winners’ notes from the Winter 2007 Contest.

Donna Wilkins earned 2nd Place for writing Nearly Rich and Famous. When she received her package she wrote: “I have scanned the check you sent and enlarged it to fit in an 8x10 frame. I'm hanging it on the wall in the room where I write. Whenever I get discouraged, I will look at that check and remember that I can succeed. Thanks again for the prizes, the encouragement, and for simply being really nice people!”

Jennifer Daniels, a Runner Up for June Bugs n’Ice Cream, wrote: “The candles, the wrapped little treats, the Wow hat, the manicure tool kit, the Upton Sinclair book The Jungle! I was especially touched by that personalized gesture as I had mentioned I really liked that book in my interview . . . I really did just want to cry as I touched my hand to my chest (I'm a writer as you know, so bear with my swooning over here). I opened it up and looked for your autographs (wink, wink) but alas, no. I know you put a lot of work into making these gifts very special and I could tell right away. You guys are somethin' else. I'll cherish these gifts always and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Linda R. Cook, Honorable Mention for Mama Rose and her Flower Children, said, “The UPS man just brought the package from ya'll at WOW! I am so thrilled... this is better than Christmas. The tote, hat, manicure set, book (Alice Munro is a favorite author of mine) treats, candles, and more... all awesome. I love your site and receiving these gifts for my honorable mention is over the top. Once again, my thanks for the prize package, and the fine work and services you provide. WOW rocks!”

Charity Tahmaseb’s TP-ing Casa de Clooney earned an Honorable Mention and she wrote, “Thank you so much for such a generous prize. It was such a nice surprise, arriving as it did on a Monday after a long day at work. I'm thrilled. Thanks again, not just for the great prize, but also for such a well-run contest.”

Jeanne Oravec, Honorable Mention for Aloha, Elayna, realized that our editors “obviously put much thought and effort into preparing the goodies. I will certainly use the hat and bag...and all the other little niceties...My poodle, Buddy, stood over me as I opened the box (he is very spoiled and thinks that every package that arrives has something in it for him) and when he smelled the little marshmallow cones, well, they were history. I thank you on his behalf. I am looking forward to the next contest.”

Their words prove the worth of writing contests. Currently our Summer Flash Fiction Contest is in full swing. Read the Contest Terms and Conditions and get going! Ready, set, write!

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

 

Creative Stories Break Down Writer's Block

By Annette Fix



Let’s face it…some days, it’s just not happening. There you sit, staring at your computer screen with the blinding white of a completely empty page and that blinking cursor mocking you, but nothing comes out.

Sometimes, all it takes is a little skip down a creative path to get your muse back on track with the work that needs to be done. All work and no play can leave your creative child pouting in a corner. However, there is a way to coax her back to the page.

Read through this list of 50 and choose a prompt that resonates with you. Pick one that gives you an immediate image—a story, memory, event, or thought—from which to create.

• What I know for sure...
• A letter to my younger self… (at four milestones in your life)
• Lessons I learned the hard way...
• Something someone said still haunts me…
• My guilty pleasure…
• On my tombstone, it reads...(4-5 short phrases)
• In my eulogy, they said…
• Mistakes were made...
• In my next life...
• She was always right…
• A summertime memory…
• It was like fireworks…
• Innocence--yours or someone else's…
• A random act of kindness…
• My message in a bottle…
• When I first learned about sex…
• My rebirth, the decision I’m making from here forward…
• My 1st impression was wrong…
• A dream you wish came true…
• He left…
• Independence—yours or someone else's…
• The consequences of my actions…
• A crazy person who is (or was) in your life…
• Running in the sprinklers…
• A story from your life you've told a million times but have never written down…
• I’ve never laughed so hard in my life…
• It was a loss…
• A Secret…
• I thought it was forever…
• Only a little white lie…
• Snow days…
• An obsession…
• A job, a boss, and a sticky situation…
• Monsters in the dark…
• A bad haircut…
• Holidays with the family…
• It was the truth…
• I just won the lottery…
• A broken promise…
• The best or worst date/night/sex of your life…
• A nickname that stuck…
• When the truth is enough and when it’s not... A time when you had to take the truth and twist it…
• A personal win that was icing on the cake…
• A bad thing you did and didn’t feel guilty about... And a bad thing you did that you did feel guilty about…
• My last day…
• Innocence is…Humiliation is…Comfort is…Joyfulness is…Solitude is…
• It was a miracle…
• My first kiss…
• That neighbor…
• With my bare toes in the sand…

Now that you’ve chosen a prompt, begin freewriting about whatever comes to mind. It doesn’t have to be a literary masterpiece—allow yourself to build a sandcastle with words.

You never know…the gems you may find from writing through one of these prompts could inspire your next novel, short story, or poem. At the very least, your muse will thank you for giving her a much needed chance to play.


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Annette Fix is an author and spoken word storyteller based in Laguna Niguel, CA. An excerpt from her e-book, The Hungry Writer's Guide to Tracking and Capturing a Literary Agent was featured in WOW!'s September 2006 Issue. Annette's memoir, The Break-Up Diet will be available in October 2007. You can catch her next spoken word performance at The Powerhouse Theater in Santa Monica on March 5th.

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