Posts Tagged Writing Exercises
This week’s post is prompted by a writing acquaintance who was asking for suggestions of websites that have good creative writing prompts.
Creative writing prompts are useful for those times when the ideas just won’t come. Using a prompt focuses the mind and encourages the words onto the paper. It doesn’t matter if the story then goes off at a tangent from the original prompt – the prompt has already done it’s job by starting the process.
There are various sites offering creative writing prompts. Here are a few to get you started:
- Esther Newton often provides prompts and challenges on her blog
- Throughout June 2016 Writing Magazine has been providing a daily prompt
- Creative Writing Now has a page of forty-four short story ideas. They also offer a free e-book of writing ideas.
- Writing Exercises has lots of ‘random generators’ to create plots, first lines and subjects.
Many writing competitions supply a prompt in the form of a subject or theme. These prompts have the added advantages of a ready market to which your story can be submitted and a deadline to work to.
Do you have a favourite way of generating prompts and ideas?
The 5 word sentence, where each of the 5 words is identical is:
Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.
The meaning is:
Buffalo buffalo (i.e. buffalo that live in Buffalo) buffalo (i.e a verb meaning to intimidate or fight) Buffalo buffalo (i.e. buffalo that live in Buffalo).
Whilst we’re on the subject of short pieces of writing, here are a couple of flash fiction competitions:
- Early Works Press are offering £75 first prize plus two runners-up prizes of £10 for a 100-word story. Entry is £3.50 and the closing date is 31/8/2012. Full details here.
- Multi-Story want 600 words and offer prizes of £300, £100 and £50 for an entry fee of £5 (or £8 for 2 stories). It’s an open theme and the closing date is 29th February 2012. Full details are here.
Writing is a frustrating occupation with little reward. It’s easy to get fed up with the rejections, the publications that don’t bother to reply at all and that blank piece of paper which refuses to be filled with wonderful prose.
So why do any of us keep writing? Why do we pick up a pen or drag ourselves to the keyboard day after day? Is it the pleasure of losing ourselves in another world (in which case it would be easier to just pick up a book written by somebody else)?
Hope is what keeps me going. Hope that the editor might like this article pitch, hope that this story might win the competition or this reader’s letter might bag me the star prize.
This hope is fired by small incidents and minor successes along the way – things that cheer me up when the bigger prizes are eluding me.
One of these was my writing group’s Christmas meeting last week. Our new program secretary, Moira, organised a fun competition for a piece of writing containing the phrase ‘It happened every Christmas’ – with prizes from her attic store cupboard. We all took some food (there was way too much food!) and listened to everyone’s entries. We had fiction, poems, memoir and articles. Moira had the unenviable task of awarding the prizes. I received a scented candle in a pretty box (pictured). It may not be an award to add to my CV but it gave me a boost.
A couple of days ago I met up with my writing buddy, Helen. She didn’t award me any prizes but I did get inspired from our chat about plans for 2012. I came away knowing that I have to produce a certain amount of finished work otherwise I’ll let the side down.
Finally, I’ve been shortlisted in the latest Emerald Writing Workshops competition. It’s good to see a couple of other familiar names on the list – fellow blogger, Susan Jones and Sharon Bee who runs the Fiction Addiction website. Fingers crossed for us all!
So, maybe I haven’t won the Booker this month but there have been plenty of little things to keep me going!
Have you ever tried using old photos as a writing prompt? That was the task we were set at my writers’ group last week but it’s something that could be done just as well at home to get the creative juices flowing.
Our session was broken down into the following steps (we spent 5 minutes on each one before going round the group and reading aloud) and these may help you to get going on your own as well:
- Write from the point of view of one of the people in the picture – are they happy to be photographed or are they there under duress? Is their smile genuine or is it for the camera only and masking some personal tragedy?
- Write from the point of view of the photographer who took the picture and try to include some of the senses e.g sounds, smells etc.
- Write a piece of journalism about the scene in the picture – i.e. what newsworthy event could have affected these people or this place. Is one of them a murderer, a lottery winner or a kidnap victim? Was the building devastated by fire minutes after this picture was taken?
- Imagine that the photograph has been lost for a number of years. You have found it, traced the original owner and are now handing it over to them. What is their reaction – are they happy, sad or angry to have this section of their past raked up again?
As a group we then discussed which of these exercises had been most inspirational and given us something to take away, work on and turn into a polished piece of work. My own preference was the last piece because it enabled past and present to be linked through back story, with the opportunity to create mystery for the reader by withholding selected information.
The picture prompts work best if you don’t know the people in the photographs and therefore don’t have any preconceived ideas or go off at a tangent writing your family history. Bundles of old photos can sometimes be picked up cheaply in junk shops or car boot sales. Alternatively, try swapping pictures with a friend – recent pictures would work just as well, so long as you don’t know the people.
For some immediate picture prompts have a look here and then get writing!
Last week at my writing group (Lichfield and District Writers) we did some instant writing based on a selection of objects brought in by one of our members (thanks Sylvia!). Then we shared our work. Few of us had a complete story but there were lots of promising beginnings plus some middles that could be moulded into publishable stories later. These were all pieces that would never have been written if we hadn’t been forced to pick an object and sit down to write for a specified amount of time.
If you’re struggling to put pen to paper or battling writers’ block then have a go at doing your own instant writing at home. Set yourself a time limit (try 15 minutes) and choose a subject such as:
- A photo in a magazine – use it to create a character study
- A postcard you’ve received – try to think up a story to suit this setting
- Put a selection of small household objects on a tray and choose one a day as the subject of a poem, short story, memoir or article
Once you’ve got the creative juices flowing you may well find yourself immersed in an idea and happy to continue past the end of your time limit to finish the piece. If it hasn’t worked for you this time, don’t worry – whatever you have managed to scribble is better than nothing and tomorrow is always another day and a new piece of instant writing.
To help you along (and maybe inspire me too!) I’m going to include an instant writing prompt at the end of each of my blog posts. You can use it to kick-start a piece of fiction or to inspire the poet within or even build an article around it.
The first instant writing prompt is:
An Alarm Clock