Write Now Prompt for October 31, 2014

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

At the last minute he decided he needed a Halloween costume, but none of the costume shops were open.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

NaNoWriMo Tips and Tricks for Success

We are just over two days away from the start of NaNoWriMo 2014.  It’s exciting and terrifying for NaNoWriMo veterans and rookies alike.  As someone who is doing this for the ninth time, I thought I’d share some of my tips and tricks for how I’ve been able to get through the month of November without abandoning the novel or the writing when the going gets tough.  Many of these ideas can be used not just for NaNoWriMo but for any writing endeavor you may take, and some of these tricks may be useful for overcoming a spell of writer’s block as well.  In the comments, share your favorite tips for getting the words on the page.

  • Have your character write a diary/blog post – When I get stuck, especially in NaNoWriMo, it usually means one of two things:
    • I have not gotten to know my character(s) well enough to know what they’d do in their current situation
    • I’ve completed the character’s current task and don’t know what he or she will do next.

    In either case, one solution to this that has helped me a lot is to have the character write a diary entry/blog post/give a speech/etc. Writing this type of thing gives the character a chance to talk about what they did, why they did it, how they did it, when they did it, and anything else they feel like discussing about the situation.  It gives an opportunity for the character to tell you, the writer, what they are thinking about things.  The benefits of doing this include: gaining a deeper understanding of the character; finding new events or situations to explore in another chapter or story with the character; defining back story or making connections to the character’s past; and, specifically for NaNoWriMo: bolstering word count.

    The result of writing these diary (etc.) entries can also be expanded into what happens as a result of them.  Does a boyfriend read his girlfriend’s diary and learn something important about her that she was trying to hide?  Does the blog post result in social/political problems for the character? Does the audience react strongly in one way or another to the speech the character gives?  So many possible avenues can get opened by writing a simple set of paragraphs directly from the character’s perspective.

  • Timeskip — There is no rule that you have to write your story in order, whether it’s for NaNoWriMo or not.  Specifically thinking about NaNoWriMo, getting bogged down in the details of a dull, boring or languishing scene is a bad thing because there simply isn’t time to waste on that. So, put a placeholder in, something like {fill in the details of why it is so darn important that he ordered a decaf soy mocha-latte later}, then start the next scene.  I’m not proposing that this is something you’d do routinely, just that if you’re stuck, sometimes jumping to the next scene, where the problem is already resolved, will help you figure out later how to actually resolve the problem.  Alternatively, you could skip backwards in time and write a scene that leads up to the one you’re stuck in.  Understanding how your character got to where they are can help you understand how to get them out of that situation, too.
  • Secondary plots — Presumably, you’ve got more than one character in your book.  So, if your main character isn’t cooperating, how about adding a chapter that focuses on someone else for a while?  At some point you will have to deal with the issues you face with your main character, but in the meantime the secondary story of what your non-primary characters are doing can bolster your word count for NaNoWriMo, open up new storylines within the main character’s story and, perhaps, change your perspective as to who the story is actually about.
  • Use a prompt – There are plenty of writing prompts out there. We have hundreds of prompts here on Today’s Author and also on our Facebook page. Sometimes just finding a simple sentence to use as a starting off point for a new chapter or scene is all you need.  So when you’re stuck, hit our Write Now prompt archive (right at the top of the page), visit our Facebook page and use one of the Micro Prompts, find a plot generator on the internet or  find another writing site’s prompts.  Prompts can be a fantastic tool for getting the creative spark going.
  • When all else fails, add a burrito or a monkey or some underwear — Sometimes nothing helps more than throwing a random object or instigator into the mix. It may just be me, but I find frozen burritos to be funny when they are used as a tool to solve a problem (I actually wrote a story in which the character used a frozen burrito to save the day).  Monkeys, squirrels, angry cats… they’re all funny, too, in that people and characters react to them.  And as much as we all like to claim otherwise, underwear remains funny no matter how old you get.  So, throw your character into a situation where he has been sent to the store to buy underwear for his wife or daughter.  Maybe while he’s there a squirrel breaks through a ceiling tile and runs around causing havoc. And after all of that, he finds himself in a 7-Eleven waiting for his favorite burrito to warm up…

 

There are many ways to get through the doldrums of a long work.  The ones I’ve mentioned are my favorite ways and they work well for me as a seat-of-the-pants writer.  Maybe you can use them to help you succeed at NaNoWriMo or at whatever your current work in progress is.  I’m sure, though, that you also have tips and tricks for getting through the rough patches and I’d love to hear them in the comments. So, share away and remember to just keep writing.

Write Now Prompt for October 28, 2014

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

The truck filled with pumpkins suddenly spilled its load all over the highway.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

Just for Fun: Halloween

Pick a character from a current work-in-progress, a past story you’ve written or one you’ve thought up but never used.  In honor of the upcoming Halloween holiday, imagine someone has invited this character to a costume party. What do they dress up as and how do other people react to their costumes? Write a quick scene with them at the party. You can do this in the comments here or write a quick story and leave a link to it here in the comments.

Write Now Prompt for October 24, 2014

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

The leaves fell like rain outside the window.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

The stories all around us

bathroomladderWe are in the midst of remodeling the bathroom (the only bathroom) in our house.  Like anyone who owns an old home, I had my fears about this project — what horrors would we find with the plumbing or the electric or the subfloors or the joists or the structure. In fact, the first day of the project, every time the contractor came out to get something I assumed it was the time he was going to say, “Sir… we’ve gotta talk…” and then proceed to show me that the room was held together with toothpicks and superglue.

Thankfully, that conversation hasn’t happened (so far, though we’re almost done so I think we’re okay).  What did happen, though, is that opening the walls, ceiling and flooring of the bathroom opened up a history that we had previously not known. It also  opened up a set of possibilities for us to come up with some quite interesting stories about what we found.

First… there was the ladder.  We opened up a wall which seemed from the outside to be just empty space.  Inside, we found an old, wooden ladder.  What is that ladder’s story?  Why was it left in the wall? Was it there for safekeeping, locked away for “a rainy day”?  Was it placed there absentmindedly and then ignored as the plasterboard was put up? Was it the only thing that was holding that portion of the house up at some point (goodness, I sure hope that isn’t the case!)?

Then there was the insulation. Apparently, the best insulation around was newspaper. As we touched it, it disintegrated immediately, turning into dust right in our fingers because, apparently, newspaper really isn’t all that good to use as insulation.  I was able to gently pull one sheet of newspaper out of the ceiling and it stayed intact long enough for me to see the date — December 29, 1963.  So, we learned that the last time this room had work done on it was 51 years ago. Imagine what we might have been able to discover about an era long ago had those newspapers been just a tiny bit more stable. We could have read the articles and learned about the local politics of the day, or the national and world news the local paper thought was important.  What if every home used the ceilings and walls of its bathroom as a time capsule and through this method of archival a society’s entire history was recorded? Wouldn’t that be interesting?

Next, we found a wall full of razor blades. Now, this explained a few things for me, specifically why I would find random old, rusty razorblades in the basement every so often over the past twenty years.  But more importantly, I learned something.  I had not known that they used to put a slot in medicine cabinets into which old razors were discarded.  Apparently, this was common and when you were done with the razor you would stick it in the slot and it would “magically disappear”.  Well, now I know where the razors re-appeared.  But imagine if such a technology did exist…stick your unwanted stuff in a slot and have it whisked magically away… perhaps re-appearing in a similar slot somewhere else where a person may need the item, or perhaps just falling away into a landfill (or my bathroom wall).

This remodeling job has provided the seeds for a lot of stories. Perhaps my 2014 NaNoWriMo novel has been waiting in the walls of that room for the past 51 years.  We cleaned up everything we found there in those walls and we’ve sealed it up nice again, but I wonder if in another 51 years someone will open these same walls up and learn something new about life in 2014, or find a new set of stories to tell.  The biggest thing this job has done for me creatively is reminded me once again that there are millions of stories to be told, all of them sitting there waiting to be discovered in the things we do and encounter everyday but don’t think twice about.  So, what’s your every-day normal world telling you to write about today?  I’d bet if you look carefully, you’ll find some really exciting stories to tell.

Hook your Readers

Readers are a fickle lot. If your writing hasn’t grabbed their attention within a few sentences, its likely your story will be laid aside and another chosen in its place. There are a number of ways to entice a reader to continue with your words, but the most effective tool is the ‘hook’; a sentence that emotionally engages the reader. Obviously some of these opening sentences will be more applicable to certain writing styles than others; but are worth investigating none the less.

Questions
One of your characters can open with a question to bring immediacy and context directly into play. “What? You eat slimy slugs in your sandwiches?”

Dialogue
Short simple dialogue will have the reader question the story immediately, wondering what has just happened.

Idioms
Dependent upon the style of your writing, you may open with a idiom. Slang and idioms are not normally accepted within formal styles of writing, but can give a deeper and richer meaning and texture to a sentence if used well. They also have the danger of being clinched, so care is required with their use. Examples of idioms which carry imagery which extends beyond simple words include “at loggerheads,”, “over the moon”, “vicious cycle”.

Exaggeration.
A characters view on the situation can be captured quickly with their exaggerated outlook, eg “A billion flies have defended on my face”.

Setting
This is perhaps the most utilized within the toolbox of hooks. Adjective and adverb rich, care needs to be taken not to overdo the setting and lose the reader inside it. Too much scenery or back story will send the reader packing. Use words and images in your opening setting which will convey the overall tone of your story, be it dark, whimsical or suspenseful. If you are using the setting as your opening, it can hint towards a characters mood or intent.

Contradictions
This opening works well for stories full of emotion. e.g., “I have a loving husband, a huge home with servants, an important job; but why do I feel like my life is falling apart?”

Onomatopoeia
Onomatopoeia is defined as a word, or set of words, which imitates the natural sounds of a noun. Examples include “whispering pines”, “the slurp of the slushy”, “the last gulp of a coffee”. This stylistic tool allows the writer to vividly convey a scene quickly.

Exclamation
Another tool for a character to express something, or for the writer to engage the reader personally. “ Phew! If you thought it was hot in the desert, wait till you work in the bakery Matt does (or I do)…”

Writing an effective hook will pull your audience in but is not necessary to write first. As your story develops, you may discover the right hook to begin your story with and be able to mold your opening paragraph to include it. The hook should encapsulate what will be found within the story.

Write Now Prompt for October 21, 2014

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

He set foot on his old college campus for the first time in 20 years and all of the memories flooded back.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

The Writers Circle: Seasons

TWC
One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

Do you have a favorite time of year to write? Is it easier for you to feel creative at some points during the year than others?  Do you have a favorite time of year in which you set your stories?

Let’s discuss this in the comments and see what our community thinks.

Write Now Prompt for October 17, 2014

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

The old coffee machine started to brew its daily pot of coffee, but sputtered, popped and stopped before completing the task.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.