Advice, Block, Craft, Doubt, Prompt, Tips, Writing

Keep the pen moving

My friend and fellow writer Cristina Trapani-Scott has begun a series she calls Twelve Days of Writing. In her first entry, she told how she taught her creative writing students to get past the inner voice that tells them they can’t write. We all fight that voice from time to time.

Cristina started her students with a prompt and told them to write for ten minutes. The secret, she says, is to keep the pen moving. Chances are you will be surprised that you’ve come up with at least a few good nuggets, even if you veered away from the prompt.

I know a lot of you write flash fiction, often from prompts, but that’s not a habit I’ve developed. I suppose I should at least try this ten-minute exercise. I tend to fight regimentation far more than is good for me. I don’t think a little discipline will kill my creativity. It might just preserve my sanity.

I suggest you check out Cristina’s first lesson and return for the next eleven.


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Advice, Creativity Workshop, Fiction, Goals, Inspiration, Novel, Prompt, Writing

Are you prompted to write?

Along with meeting our weekly Creativity Workshop goal, Merrilee gave us tips on ways to come up with writing ideas and assigned us the task of looking at three photos to spark three ideas each. Sometimes a story idea sparked, sometimes a line, possibly an opening, for a story came to me.

Creative Commons via Cobalt123

It was hard not to see this photo other than in a “techo” sense, so I went with that … and a bit of fantasy (which I don’t write.)

  1. A radical new technology enables photographic evidence of the human soul.
  2. She stared at the beautiful blue visualization on the monitor as his favorite song played in Media Player and her heart slivered into shards.
  3. She held her breath and touched the pulsing blue orb, but this time—oh, this time—encountered no barrier; she reached further.
Creative Commons via bslmmrs

Since the main character in my recently completed novel is a brokenhearted man who flees to his cottage by the sea, that’s what immediately came to mind, but I pressed on … sort of.

  1. A suicidal woman retreats to a beach cottage and falls in love with life again.
  2. A recluse suspects that her neighbors on either side are planning to kill her.
  3. In a rental cottage overlooking the sea, a man finally confronts the fallout from his years of alcoholism.
Creative Commons via moriza

This photo just struck me funny, so I had a little fun with this one.

  1. A woman realizes that her husband had lost his mind along with his hair.
  2. If she had to listen to one more of his ridiculous ideas, she would murder him in his sleep.
  3. She knew in that instant on a sidewalk in Manhattan, their marriage was over.

I’ve rarely used photos as prompts, though something I actually see often sparks an idea. Dreams are a big source of inspiration for me. Music can be a good one. Occasionally, some bit of conversation sets my muse to scribbling down an idea. What serves you as a writing prompt?

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Advice, Inspiration, Memory, Prompt, Tips, Words, Writing

Waiting for the words

You may have noticed that I got off schedule in my blogging. I’ve been de-stressing. I decided to quit the numbers game … I’m not watching my blog stats or Twitter follower counts. If any of you leave comments, I’ll know you’re still reading … and if you don’t, I’ll still assume you’re reading, but have nothing to say. I had forgotten how “de-stressful” cello music can be until Lydia Sharp shared this video on her blog yesterday. So I’m sharing Cello Suite No 1, “Prelude” by J.S. Bach with you and suggest you let it play while you read this post.

Part of my stress was caused by worrying about not writing. I have two novels, two poems, and one short story started, but the flow of words had stopped on all of them. Some of you regularly write from prompts. Christi Craig usually sets aside Wednesdays on her blog to share her results of this method. But for the most part, using prompts has not worked for me. I try. I read one prompt and get nothing, then I go to another site and read that prompt, but still nothing comes to me. I can force myself to write something, but my heart isn’t in it. So what works for me?

Most (all?) of us in the U.S. observe daylight savings time, so on Sunday we rolled our clocks back one hour, and when I woke up at my usual time on yesterday morning, it was still dark outside. A short time later, I stepped out on the back patio just as the sky began to lighten over the mountains. The scent of damp earth wafted up and brought with it a memory of waking in my grandparents’ house.

Then, my writer’s mind began to play with that memory. I was not a little girl; I was a woman. But that woman was not me; she was a woman who had fled something. This house was not her house, yet it wasn’t the house of strangers either. And so it went.

As soon as I could, I sat down at the keyboard and began to write. I worked in spurts, writing until I didn’t know what was coming next and then doing laundry, or vacuuming, or reading while I waited for more to be revealed. By the end of the day, I had written 2600 words. It seems a complete story. Maybe the best I’ve written.

I think, for me, it’s best not to force the writing. That’s not to say I do nothing while I wait for new inspiration. There’s always something to edit, or story ideas to jot down, or blog posts to write. But creatively, my mind balks at being forced. If writing prompts work for you, use them. If they don’t, look—and listen—for inspiration elsewhere. And wait … it will come.

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Fiction, Flash Fiction, Inspiration, Prompt, Writing

The experiment results are in!

Thanks to all who participated in my writing prompt experiment. I changed the actual “results” to bold font to make it easier to see them among the comments, and if you took the prompt challenge, but haven’t shared your result yet, please do in a comment there. I think it’s interesting, the way we all started with the same words and then went in different directions. And just because I’m always curious how other writers work, I have some questions for you:

  1. Did your result come to you spontaneously, or did you give it some thought?
  2. Did you stick with your tried and true category/genre or try for something different?
  3. In the original prompt, the instructions were to write for 10 minutes without stopping, then put it aside until the next day when you could edit. How long did it take you to write yours and how heavily did you edit it?
  4. Do you regularly use writing prompts? And, if so, how often do they result in a finished piece?

If you care to know, my answers to the above questions are:  1. I stayed with my usual category.  2. It came to me spontaneously.  3. I followed the writing instructions (hard for me because I’m used to editing as I go) and I edited very little the next day. (That’s not to say it couldn’t use more.)  4. No, I don’t think I’ve ever used a writing prompt before.

And I know you’re all just dying to know what I wrote from the prompt 🙂 so, here’s a link to my flash story: Unspeakable Words