Using Writing Prompts and a #writemotivation Update

photograph by Hugh Lee and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.’ve had a pretty productive week on the writing front and not all of that frenetic activity was related to my goals. I worked on a submission for a scholarship entry that was based on a writing prompt. I used to hate writing from prompts, maybe because I’m not great at taking direction. Or maybe because I don’t like limits and restrictions on what I can write. Most of my writing ideas have come to me out of the blue and I have to write them down before they evaporate into the creative ether from whence they came. But then this past summer I heard Kate Messner talk at the SCBWI LA Conference about how she gets her ideas for picture books. She said that sure, some of her ideas come to her out of the blue, but why wait for those rare moments? Why not work at generating them? She gave everyone present her secret matrix for brainstorming ideas and then made us try it out. Within five minutes, I actually had some possible picture book ideas – not that I’m ready to write picture books just yet, but that is a goal I have in the future.

Kate said: “Many picture book authors write lots of crappy picture book manuscripts because it stirs the pot of creativity!” Sometimes while you’re working like this, it can facilitate an actual “fall from the sky idea”. Either way, it’s a great thing to do while you’re waiting for inspiration to strike. Kate does this about twice a week to stir up new ideas.

Ever since that talk, I’ve looked at writing prompts in a different light. Speaking of prompts generating ideas, the one I used for the scholarship entry definitely sparked an idea for a new novel. I got so excited about it that I may sketch it out a little more before pursuing my other first draft novel I’ve already started. Which idea will win out? We shall see.

I know I can’t share Kate’s matrix, but I won’t leave you empty-handed. Here are two sites to get you started if you want to give writing prompts a try.

  • The first is from the Poet’s & Writer’s website. They post a prompt each week, one for poetry and one for fiction.
  • The second is from a teacher’s tumblr page simply called Writing Prompts, where he posts his daily writing prompts that he uses in class. He describes his teaching style as “Nerdfighteria takes over The Colbert Report with Ira Glass as a guest.” Wicked awesome. You can even donate books to his classroom library to help support his cause. I’d say it’s a right worthy one.

So what about you? Do you use writing prompts to kick-start ideas? Do you despise them? Share your thoughts.

On to this week’s goal progress:

1. Complete revision of Middle Grade manuscript (Museum Crashers) and prepare for final critiques. I revised four chapters out of eighteen which is right on track with my goal to finish a complete revision by the end of the month.
2. Continue making progress on first draft of new Young Adult manuscript (Pretty Vacant). I didn’t work on this at all last week. Okay, I did make some mental progress, which does count in my book, but next week I want some physical progress down on paper.
3. Follow up on submissions outstanding for Young Adult manuscript (Institutionalized) and pursue any additional avenues that arise. The time limit for an exclusive submission hadn’t quite run out, so I did nothing but wait this past week. Waiting is the worst, isn’t it? Next week is a different story. Action will be required.
4. Exercise at least three times a week. Woohoo! I did make this goal. That explains why I’m so sore. Everywhere.

Hope you’re all making headway on your goals as well. Looks like spring’s making an appearance this week. As the kids have some time off from school, I’m sure I’ll be making at least one trip out to our local zoo in between making time for the writing. Have a great week!

8 thoughts on “Using Writing Prompts and a #writemotivation Update

  1. writers need these writing prompts every now and then. I just don’t know those who are still shaping their writing skills if they appreciate these prompts..

    1. we can all continue to keep learning, no matter what level our skill of writing. it’s good to push ourselves to try something new, don’t you think?

  2. I’ve not done a lot of writing from prompts. I used to think of it as high school English class-busywork. Now, though, the last few times I’ve played around with it, I was amazed how quickly ideas that I had no idea could come out of my head emerged, so when I finish with my current WIP, I’m definitely going to get more involved with them!

    Sounds like you’re doing fantastic with your goals! Keep it up!

    1. i know what you mean. once we stop thinking of writing prompts as restrictions, something meant to hold us back or limit our ideas, and start seeing them instead as tools that can open the door to creativity, they end up doing just that.

  3. Way to go on your goals! You’re making some great progress. 🙂

    I hadn’t written from a prompt in years, but a couple of months ago a friend of mine was talking about a prompt she’d gotten on chat and I thought, “Ooooh, that would be fun.” So I wrote a short story (well, it was just under 9,000 words) in my fantasy world, just thinking it would be a fun jaunt…and ended up getting a lot of ideas for a book from it. So, yay for prompt writing?

    Chuck Wendig also posts flash fiction writing prompts every Friday, which are inevitably cool, interesting, and possibly NSFW. Here’s the link for last week’s:

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