True story: I wrote the entire first draft of Consequences (of defensive adultery) in response to writing prompts. So I’m a fan of this technique.
There are four main reasons WHY I love writing prompts so.
<<1>> They are an excellent way of developing a process-focused writing practice that eliminates the dreaded “what shall I write about today” paralysis. The “what” doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you write. So. Give me three little words… and five minutes… I’ll give you a short dirty story. Done.
<<2>> They take you our of your comfort zone. Maybe, left to your own devices, you would never start a scene with “The floor was cold and sticky, but…” or “It turned out he did know a thing or two about knots.” But that’s your writing prompt… and so you do.
<<3>> Similarly, writing prompts allow you to surprise yourself. We all tend to get into our ruts, right? Me, for example, I never describe anything. So give me a writing prompt such as “Write a scene that takes place under a pendant lamp”–which, by the way Sarah Selecky gave me when I was working through her writing prompts and creating Consequences–and I’m forced to think about setting. Lights, shadows. Furniture. If the lamp is hanging–for that, I think, is what a pendant lamp is–what is it hanging over? A table? An armchair?
Finally, as I kept on harping on in this fall’s courses, this thing we call inspiration–it’s really just NOT self-censorship.
<<4>> Writing prompts are an effective and easy way of subverting your inner censor and getting out of your own way. You’re not CHOOSING what to write about (you totally are, but that’s the game you’re playing with your censor–you’re pretending you’re just doing what you’re told) and so your censor isn’t quite sure how to go about stopping you. You’re just following instructions. Someone else’s instructions. You’re being a good little girl. Yes, you are.
Ha. You’re so not. Look at all that unbridled raw filth you’re putting down on the page. How did that happen?
So that’s the WHY. The HOW is really, really simple.
Step 1: Arrange to be fed a writing prompt every day.
There are thousands, possibly millions, of these sources on the Internet and in your library. Or–get yourself a writing/accountability buddy and commit to exchanging writing prompts at 6 am or 6 pm or midnight every day.
Step 2: Write.
You can give yourself a few extra rules. If you’re a beginning writer, I suggest setting a timer for five minutes the first day–seven minutes the next–and working your way up to a 15 minute writing session. As an intermediate writer, you should be writing to a natural stop, so that each of your little writing prompt scenes is indeed a scene–with a beginning, a middle, and a natural end. If you’re an advanced writer, you should be edging–more on that another time.
Step 3: Repeat the next day and the day after. 21-30 days in, you’ve built a habit.
Here are the first 21 writing prompts from More Than A Guilty Pleasure to get you started. BTW–for a writing prompt to really do its work… it has to surprise you. So don’t look at it until you’re ready to write.
- Writing Prompt 1
- Writing Prompt 2
- Writing Prompt 3
- Writing Prompt 4
- Writing Prompt 5
- Writing Prompt 6
- Writing Prompt 7
- Writing Prompt 8
- Writing Prompt 9
- Writing Prompt 10
- Writing Prompt 11
- Writing Prompt 12
- Writing Prompt 13
- Writing Prompt 14
- Writing Prompt 15
- Writing Prompt 16
- Writing Prompt 17
- Writing Prompt 18
- Writing Prompt 19
- Writing Prompt 20
- Writing Prompt 21
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