Greetings! Apologies for being late with this blog. Apparently, today is Tuesday. I’m losing my days. Staying up all night editing/reviewing yours and your friend’s works will throw you off something fierce. Combine that with your post-surgical dog suffering from complications that cause him to moan all night (before anyone asks, we have an appointment with a specialist–we’re not animal abusers) and, well, I thought today was Monday.
But it is, in fact, Tuesday, so that means I’m late for this thing. Apologies again.
Today I want to write about writing prompts. You know…the kind you can get in a book or have delivered to your inbox every day. Or maybe you just Google ‘writing prompts’ because you’ve got a severe case of the blanks and you know you have to write.
Because…you do know you have to write, don’t you? You need to write every day. It doesn’t have to be good, or purposeful…or add to your projects at all. Just like anything else, writing needs practice and exercise; it needs hard work and dedication. I remember learning to play the cello…I had blisters and then calluses on the fingers of my left hand from the constant repetition of scales and arpeggios. Over and over again until I was pretty sure my brain would explode from boredom. But when time came to play pieces like Romeo and Juliet (the Tchaikovsky version, not the Prokofiev) or Shostakovich’s String Quartet # 8 with its insane second movement, that practice paid off. OK, so I still fudged up that second movement (it really is insane!), and it took forever to deal with all the accidentals in The Magician’s Apprentice, but the point stands.
You’ve got to practice if you want to get better. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. And sometimes that means turning to something boring like scales…or writing prompts.
But, and this is the important part, not all writing prompts are any good. And even if you’re just looking for something to get your fingers moving, you should never write something that won’t further your skills. The idea is to make yourself BETTER, after all. You wouldn’t keep using the 10lb weights if they didn’t challenge you anymore, would you? (I can’t believe I just made an exercise reference, but whatever.) If you’re serious about writing, you never want to write JUST to get words on the page. I don’t even count this blog toward my daily word goal, and it would definitely make it easier to achieve. Sometimes these Muses get up to 1000 words.
No. The point is to always get better. To exercise not only your ability to string some words together in a pleasing sentence or two, but to exercise your ability to create a story. Obviously, everyone has their style. If George R.R. Martin came out with a fluffy bunny kids high school romance, I think we’d all be pretty…disturbed. I would be disturbed. I would expect at least one of the couples to be brother and sister. (OMG…George is VC Andrews!) But, the thing is…you’ll always find a thread between your stories; the thread that is you as a writer. It’s what makes you…you.
Now, there is nothing wrong with this. Obviously. But if you don’t shake yourself out of it, you might find yourself rehashing the same ideas. And this is where those writing prompts come in. See…you’ve got to write every day, just like I said. And you’ve got to keep yourself from falling into the rut of your own mind. So why not combine those two and look for some halfway decent writing prompts? Prompts that ask you to write about a day at the park will totally grow your ability to describe things, but will it stretch your ability to get creative? It seems to me that your response will be completely reflective of your style. If you write thrillers, someone might get murdered. If you write sci-fi, maybe it’s a space park.
Look for prompts that are weird. Odd ball. That force you to write something you might not otherwise write. I tend to love prompts that force me to use a certain sentence, or don’t have a lot of wiggle room for me to get around (adding an elf to a pretty straightforward spy thriller would be weird, thematically speaking). Sometimes the best prompts are the ones that seem to make almost no sense…like, how the hell am I supposed to answer that? By forcing yourself to answer it, you’ve stretched yourself as a writer.
It’s important to do the research and find a good, reliable source for prompts. I use Writing.com for prompts; they’re created by writers and most of them are weird. Some are more prosaic than others, but they’re all pretty good. They have an app for your phone, or you can join the site for for free to access them.
Anyway…sorry I rambled again. And sorry I was late. I swear, I thought today was Monday…
I won’t be late on Friday.