Find your flow with writing prompts — part 2
As mentioned in part one of this post, writing prompts can help get us into the flow of our writing. Poetry prompts are easy. Pretty much anything can be a poetry prompt. But what if you’re working on a longer project like an essay, short story, or novel? Learning to develop your own prompts for a specific project can be a powerful tool in your writing practice.
The more we practice developing prompts and writing from them, the better writers and storytellers we will become.
Think about the word practice for a minute. Practice is defined as to do something habitually and also as to pursue a profession such as law. But, really, anything can be a practice.
I’m currently doing a 30-day yoga challenge courtesy of “Yoga with Adrienne” on YouTube. I don’t have a naturally flexible body, so I have to modify many of the poses. This is one of the things I love about yoga—it’s flexibility to fit any body type. It’s called a “yoga practice” for a reason. I love saying the words “yoga practice” because they remind me that I don’t have to be perfect. In order to get better at anything, we have to practice it.
I have a yoga practice and a meditation practice. I have a walking practice and a cooking practice. I have a photography practice—I love taking pictures, and I learn from my photos that don’t turn out. I even have a “meeting new people” practice—where I practice being more outgoing and friendly with people I’ve just met (yes, us natural introverts have to practice at being more comfortable socially). And I have a self-care practice. I’m learning to take better care of myself.
My son was a piano prodigy growing up. He had a natural talent, but he spent hours a day practicing. When he won competitions, it was because of this hard practice.
Think about your intimate relationships. You may have gone through some painful periods or even breakups but if you look at it in terms of practice, you can examine what happened and what you learned from it. Then you can apply what you learned to your current or next relationship instead of shutting down, closing off your heart, and missing out on future love.
Socrates had it right when he said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
Developing the mindset of having a “practice” around anything we do will naturally lead us to know ourselves at a deeper level.
A writing practice can save your sanity when you get stuck. A writer’s main job is to write so, really, it’s about gluing our bum to our chair and writing. But what do we do if we get stuck? What if our muse suddenly flies out the window and starts chasing rainbows?
This is where having a list of writing prompts for your writing practice can coax your muse into returning. In part one of this post, I gave some examples of poetry prompts. But when I’m working on my novel, I like to work with specific prompts created just for my story.
How do you create specific prompts for your story or project? By asking questions.
I recently read through what I’d written so far of my fantasy novel in order to create a reverse outline. As I read, I made a list of questions I have about my story. These questions then became my writing practice prompts (what I call WPs). Below are a few of my WPs:
- Who killed Caitlin’s mother? Why? Were they after Caitlin? Is her mother really dead?
- Who was Caitlin’s mom? Part human and part witch? Mermaid? Fae? Seer? Irish?
- Is Gracie a guardian of the light or of the realms? What exactly is her job?
- Make a list of themed words I might use in the novel.
- Who is the Blue Prince? What is his role in the story?
- Who is Gram? Is she magical or non-magical?
- Does Caitlin have any quirks? If she does, how do they tie into the storyline?
- Does Cooper the K9 who is part wolf, turn into a full wolf at any time? Maybe when he’s hunting the fallen? How is he magical?
- Who is Noah and what is his job in this reality (deputy) and what is his magical job or purpose? How does it tie in with Caitlin’s abilities?
- Who is Kael and why is he in the story? What’s his purpose? Do I need him? Can I combine him with another character?
- What does Caitlin learn in the course of the story? Beginning to end.
- What does she want out of life?
These are just a handful of the WPs I made from reading through my story. I can use these prompts to start my writing practice or whenever I get stuck. They’ll help me get into the flow of my writing again while continuing to develop my storyline.
I choose a prompt and set a timer for 15 to 20 minutes and write without lifting my hand from the page or trying to think things through. This is a great way to tap into my subconscious and coax my muse into softly singing to me again.
You may even want to try this exercise right before bed to allow your story to marinate in your dream state overnight. (Check out this great post by Carly on How to Write in Your Sleep).
Exercise: read through your current project and make a list of questions you’d like answered. Choose one of your new writing prompts, set a timer for 20 minutes, and write.
For more story writing prompts, check out these posts:
9 Character Writing Prompts to Move Your Story Forward by Leigh Shulman
Writing Prompts by Beth Hill