Writing Prompts


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Writing Prompts

By Nandy Ekle

Sometimes it doesn’t matter how big our imaginations are. It doesn’t matter how much rest we get or how much time we have to spend. Sometimes we can sit in front of the TV listening to our most mysterious songs with hundreds of interesting photographs spread out in front of us while channeling Shakespeare, and still no ideas come to us. Sometimes we write the same paragraph a hundred times a delete it a hundred and one times and still . . . nothing.

When this happens, we might need a writing prompt or story generator. And there are many out there.

If you google “writing prompt,” the first few pages that come up are for elementary student and teachers. These can work for you, but if you want something more grown up, keep going.

There are different formats for these prompters/generators. I’ve seen some that just blatantly say, “WRITE THIS.” And sometimes we might need that level of command.

I’ve also seen some that are like slot machines. They have several wheels with different story elements. You give them a spin and they put together all kinds of story elements in random order. It’s your job to make something sensible out of it. These can be fun for their silly factor alone.

Then there are what I call the “What if” generators. These are the ones that say things like “What if your life was a mystery novel?” Then it sets a few ground rules such as, “You’re not a detective, but clues about the murderer keep falling at your feet.” These types of generators can be lots of fun because of the possibilities.

There’s another type of prompter I really like and it’s what I call the pressurizer. You’re given some random words to use, or a subject or scene. Then they give either give you a time limit, as in minutes, or an impossible word limit. The reason I like this type of generator is that some of my best stories have come from this kind of writing.

So don’t be afraid to google writing prompts. I’ve heard it said that you give five writers the same assignment, same subject, same scenario, even the same characters, and you get a hundred different stories.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

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By Way to Go


Outtakes 136

 

By Way to Go

Cait Collins

I must take a minute to brag about a member of Wordsmith Six, Joe Nichols. Joe has just completed the first draft of his first novel TRAILS END. That’s a real accomplishment. So many beginning writers get discouraged and never finish their projects. But Joe stuck with it and we were privileged to hear the final chapters at out last critique meeting.

I’m truly proud of his work. From the beginning we all recognized Joe’s unique voice. I am convinced I could read his work and know he authored it without seeing a title page or book cover. That in itself is a selling point. But this guy is a natural with dialogue. I love reading his dialogue. It’s so true and right to the times.

I think I’m most impressed with his desire to learn the craft of writing. He’d come to meeting after meeting and accept our critiques. The next meeting we could see how he had applied our suggestions to the next chapters. He improved with every reading, and he began to apply what he learned to critiquing our readings. His insight and suggestions were valid and helpful.

Joe now begins the rewrite of the novel. I look forward to reading the updated version. I believe it will be wonderful. So congratulations, Joe. You hit the first milestone. I look forward to much more from you.

Children’s Genre


Children’s Genre

Rory C. Keel

What genre does your writing fit into?

This week we will explore the genre of children’s writing.

Have you ever read Where the Wild Things Are or Curious George? What about Dr.Seuss or Hank the Cow Dog? Then you have a good idea of the type of writing that fits into the children’s genre. Written for small children ranging from the littlest tykes to eleven years old, these books contain simple words and characters of animals or other young children.

As with most genres, there can be several subgenres.

Juvenilia are works written by the author in their childhood.

Early Readers use simple syllable words to help children learn to read.

Middle or Junior Readers also known as Chapter books, are usually longer books that use more involved wording.

Picture Books have bright and colorful illustrations, and have minimal printed text.

Pop-Up Picture Books are written with three-dimensional pop-up pictures that open when the pages are turned.

Traditional Stories are older stories such as fairy tales and fables told in a simple form and illustrations.

The children’s category is a fantastic genre where kids learn to read, dream and develop their imagination.

roryckeel.com

 

Dialogue that Rings True


Dialogue that Rings True

By Natalie Bright

 

I’m reading an excellent novel this week, however I find myself distracted from the story line because the dialogue between the male characters doesn’t ring true for me.

With two teenage boys and a husband, I know all about guy talk. Let me take that back, I try to understand the chatter around me but honestly, half the time I have no idea what’s so funny. Men don’t chit-chat the same way as women. In addition, teenagers have a whole lingo going that’s all of their own, which is very different from middle graders, for example.

Dialogue is important in moving your plot and story along, but it has to ring true for your character. It’s a distinct part of the character profile, as much as their motivation and personality.

Self-editing check list for dialogue:

1)   Read your work out loud, from beginning to end in one sitting, if possible (as recommended by Stephen King, ON WRITING). This really makes a difference in how you perceive the plot, character motivation, and if the dialogue stays true to moving the story along.

2)   Don’t take away the intensity of the scene on pleasantries: Hello, How are you? I’m doing fine today. What’s new? Get right to the heart of the matter between these characters. In business this is good manners. In fiction it’s just boring.

3)   Be careful about dating your manuscript with trendy jargon.

4)   “Writers who use tag lines other than “he said” or “she said” most often are young in the craft and are trying to spice up the text…the reader hardly notices the tag line at all; he quickly checks with a sidelong glance to determine, almost subliminally, which character is speaking and then leaps back into the story.” Writing Realistic Dialogue & Flash Fiction by Harvey Stanbrough. (This book would be an excellent addition to your writing reference library.)

Happy writing!

Where


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Where

By Nandy Ekle

Where do you get your ideas?

Everywhere. Literally. There is no shortage of stories in this world, or any other world for that matter. You just have to tune in to them.

Go to the mall and watch the people walking and shopping. Try to imagine what their lives are like. There are some people who strut around like peacocks, displaying what they think is great looks and fashion sense. There are “mallers” who are there for fun, walking with friends, laughing, playing, dancing around. Then there are the “trudgers.” These are the people who are there because they have to be—mothers pulling or pushing kids, men who are dragged by an invisible leash from the wife or girl friend in front of them. All these different types of people make me wonder why they are there.

But that’s not the only way to find a story. Read. Every. Thing. Every book, every paper, every billboard, article, instruction, even the ingredients on the back of the Lysol can. Reading every word in the world helps to enhance your vocabulary as well as show you an example of what works well and what doesn’t work at all. We don’t want to copy someone else’s story, but we can definitely get a few ideas.

And don’t forget all the senses: touch, taste, hear, see, and smell. These are great story radars.

If you follow these rules, you’ll never lose a story idea.

What this all boils down to is, there is a story on every piece of dust in the universe.

In the movie “The Magic of Belle Island,” Morgan Freeman plays an old broken down writer who lives next door to a young girl. She wants to be a writer as well and asks the old writer to teach her to make up stories. He takes her outside and asks her what she sees. Her answer to him is the same old stuff, cars on the street, trees covered with leaves, absolutely nothing any different from any other day. Then the old writer says, “Now tell me what you don’t see.”

This is where ideas come from.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

642


Outtakes 135

 

642

By Cait Collins

Book stores are one of my secret pleasures. I could spend hours looking through the shelves for something to read. I try to find something different when my favorite authors don’t have new releases. This week I found a real gem.  The book is entitled 642 Things to Write About by the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. I looked through the volume and there really are 642 things to write about.

This book contains some really challenging writing exercises designed to get the creative juices flowing. These are some samples.  Fix the plot of the worst movie you ever saw. You are a pirate describe your perfect day. Write a love letter to a person you really dislike. And there are exercises in writing the same scene from two different points of view. Having read through the various topics, I can guarantee I’ll have hours of fun testing my skills. I shall start with my favorite exercise.

Ode to an Onion

                                                How do I honor thee, savior mine?

Thy foul odor doth turn my breath so foul

It kills his amorous fog.

Blessed be thy kindness to my plight.

I might have kissed that frog.

 

Okay, I’m no poet, but I had to try.

Book Signing Success


Book Signing Success

By Rory C. Keel

I want to thank Bob “Crocodile” Lile, owner of the Lile Art Gallery, for hosting my book signing, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Writers. Surrounded by beautiful paintings and sculptures on Old Route 66, his gallery made a wonderful setting for a book-signing event.

Book Signings

Book signings are one of many tools a writer can use to market their writing. A signing allows the author to meet and interact with readers while promoting their work. I had the opportunity to meet several interesting people such as car club enthusiasts, a motorcycle rider, and a waitress from a pizza restaurant, all who had their own interesting life stories.

Prepare

Before you can have a successful book signing, you as a writer must prepare.

1. Secure a location. The usual places such as bookstores and libraries are excellent places to start. However, don’t overlook stores or businesses that relate to your story or are in a high traffic area.

2. Bring the necessary supplies. Have a sufficient supply of books and business cards and have the ability to accept payments, whether cash, checks or credit Cards.

Promote

To help you have a successful book signing promote, promote, promote. Place a listing in your local newspaper or community publication. Publish the event on your website, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and other social media outlets. If you have a blog, write an entry describing your book-signing event.

Success

The opportunity to meet new people and promote yourself as a writer means success and you might even sell a few books!

THE END. SO NOW WHAT?


THE END.  SO NOW WHAT?

By Natalie Bright

 

That moment you type THE END. That point in time you push aside the story that’s been haunting your brain for months, even years. Breathe. Relax. Now what? How do you decide what to work on next?

Do you follow trends and start something new based on today’s markets? Do you rifle through the pages of your idea journal, hoping something will spark? (You DO have an idea journal, right?) Maybe you have more than one thing going at once, and you switch back and forth between several WIPs: novel, a short story, or a freelance nonfiction piece.

It’s a Weird Process: Let’s Move On

This past year is the first time I truly accepted the weirdness of having a writer’s brain. I jotted notes on everything that came to me right at that very moment. Blog topic, articles, short stories, a character, an unusual setting, a remarkable piece of history, even flashes of scenes in my current WIP – whatever it might become at a later point in time didn’t matter. I didn’t question the sparks. I jotted quick notes before the idea left my brain. Even as I write this, I’m realizing what an absolutely idiotic process this has become.

Ideas, character sparks, bits of dialogue, unique settings invade my brain at the worst possible times it seems. Does this happen to you?

Self-Doubt

Every single time, whether it’s an assigned article for an editor or a full-length novel, the moment I type THE END and tap send that horrible self-doubt and ugly self-editor raises a ruckus. This one piece of work may end my whole writing career, but never the less the only solution for me is to push aside the doubt, let the finished narrative sink or swim so that I can leap in to something new.

Regrets

Here’s the thing about ideas; I wish I had the ones back that I ignored. They’re gone. I can’t remember them no matter how many times I’ve thought to myself, “That’s a good idea. I’ll remember that.” I didn’t. You won’t either.

Don’t be afraid to accept the weirdness that is writing. Value it. Emmerse yourself whole-heartedly into the process. I share this because I know many writers who don’t. They talk endlessly about the stories in their head, but to actually put those visions into words takes courage beyond their grasp.

Give yourself permission to write. Compose whatever burns a hole in your gut, even if it makes no sense as to the WHY. Stop ignoring your sparks of genius. And write.

Why


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Why

By Nandy Ekle

WHY DO YOU WRITE?

I was born a long time ago with an enlarged imagination.

Pretend you have a box that jiggles and thumps and makes all kinds of noises constantly. Something inside that box whispers, knocks, and calls begging you you to open the lid. It tells you how much fun you would have if you let it out. Then it tells you what a great friend it would be. It tells you how it’s suffocating locked in that box. It begins to sound weak and sickly, sometimes hardly able to speak at all.

So you open the lid.

A dark shadowy shape jumps out sucking in a deep breaths of oxygen. Suddenly all the characters begin talking at once and a hundred scenes act out simultaneously as the shadow unfolds itself. You sit back and enjoy the show for a while, picking up bits and pieces of stories. And the shadow grows bigger and the voices grow louder. It’s now the middle of the night and you know you’ll never get to sleep like this.

You grab the dark thing by the hand and tell it play time is over; it’s time to get back in the box. It giggles and jerks away. So you chase it a while, trying not to get too caught up in its game. You finally catch hold of it again and try to refold it so it will fit back in the box, but it’s like trying to refold a map–just not gonna happen.

You get an idea. Grabbing a pen and paper you write down some of the stories the characters acted out. The more you write, the smaller the shadow gets and the quieter the voices get. Finally you can grab the dark thing by the ear, drop it in the box and close the lid. Now you can sleep.

This is why I write.

Best Friends


Outtakes 134

 

Best Friends

By Cait Collins

Recently a dear family friend fell and broke his hip. My sisters and I went to the hospital to check on him. He was in surgery, but the family was in the waiting room. We entered the room and there were the friends from our youth. After a round of hugs and “how are yous”, we settled in for a reunion. Other friends joined us. Even though we had lost touch over the years, being together was like old times. It was as if we had not been separated.

Writers need to have such close friends and associates. Our profession is a lonely one. We spend hours at our computers researching, writing, and editing. That is the nature of our business. But we desperately need that core group of companions we can rely on in all phases of our careers. These are the folks who celebrate our successes. Share Irish Coffee with us when we receive a harsh rejection. They praise our well written work, but will be kindly critical when we fall short.

I am fortunate to have people who encourage and support my efforts. They are honest in their critiques because they care. I have the best critique partners, wonderful Beta readers, and a family who reads my manuscripts and wish me good luck with the submissions. I could not continue in this business without them.

I hope all dedicated writers will find their own caring group. Look for folks who can honestly judge the effort, see the errors, assist with the corrections, and praise the good parts. Find writers who are not jealous; who want your success as much as they desire their own. Cultivate the relationship by taking a break from the job and sharing a meal or a cup of coffee.  Surround yourself with positive thinkers. Reject the pessimists who will drag you down. Avoid those who tell you not to quit your day job. Their opinions don’t count. Hold fast to your core group. They are the ones who will not let you down.