Tag Archives: Novel

Ideas for Writing: Five plot-centered prompts to get started!

Be kind, please. I’ve never actually done something like this before. Well, OK, that’s not 100% accurate. Once in a grad class, a professor asked us each to create our own writing prompts. Then he read them (anonymously, thank goodness) out loud and we all picked one for a free writing exercise. He didn’t withhold his opinions, however, on which prompts were worthy and which ones were crappy. I remember when he read mine, he raised his eyebrows and blinked three times in row, a facial expression that could only be construed as: Whoa, this one’s out there. I still believe very much in my prompt! In fact, I included it below–see if you can figure out which one received the ‘look.’

Anyhow, these are some original writing prompt ideas. In this segment, they relate to the plot points of a novel, story, poem, etc. If you’ve seen any of them before, it’s pure coincidence. As far as I’m concerned, they all come from my intrinsic writing brain:

1. A woman is standing at her kitchen sink washing dishes, when she notices, from out the window, a solitary, red (or any color, really) balloon floating in the vast sky. This reminds her of a significant childhood experience. Write about it.  OR A solitary, red balloon is floating in the vast sky. Tell the story of how it got there.

2. Four teenage friends are trying to get into (any concert) back in (any year). Write about their adventure.
For example, it’s 1978, and four high school sophomores from New Jersey are just dying to get access into CBGB’s. How does the night unravel? This may or may not require some research.

3. An old man from the World War II era is taking a long train ride to visit his grandson. When a  strange woman takes a seat across the aisle from him, he is suddenly taken by a distant memory–the day he lost his virginity to a prostitute while in the service. This also may require research.

4. A little boy (or girl) gets separated from his mother at a carnival, and witnesses something that terrifies him. Tell the story from the child’s point-of-view.

5.  A young man sees a young woman in a movie theater, and swears he knows her from someplace. He barely watches the film, because he is trying in vain to figure out why she seems so familiar. After the credits, he follows her outside and approaches her. Who is she? What happens?

This is a fun exercise because it not only gives my readers potential ideas, but it gives me ideas too. Any of these prompts can twist and turn in directions a writer never expected. That’s really the beauty of it all, isn’t it?

Anyone else want to contribute? Pen your own writing prompt below!

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Filed under Characters, Inspiration, Plot & Structure, Prompts & Writing Ideas, The Setting, The Writing Life, Top Ten Lists, Writing Tips

Love Thy Writing

The most important thing is you can’t write what you wouldn’t read for pleasure. It’s a mistake to analyze the market thinking you can write whatever is hot. You can’t say you’re going to write romance when you don’t even like it. You need to write what you would read if you expect anybody else to read it.

And you have to be driven. You have to have the three D’s: drive, discipline and desire. If you’re missing any one of those three, you can have all the talent in the world, but it’s going to be really hard to get anything done.”
—Nora Roberts

This is legitimate advice: Love Thy Writing. Whenever I read a book that I love, it lingers…days after I’ve finished, weeks after I’ve finished, months after I’ve finished, and yes, years, sometimes. I’ll catch glimpses of it in my mind at various, unexpected moments. It’ll shoot waves of comfort through me, no matter if what kind of situation–pleasant or unpleasant–I am in.

I know I love my own novel, because it too, catches me in the midst of my day. I see the images, I feel the characters, and I sink into the setting. Sometimes it’s as if it were another person’s work, not my own. I imagine that this is a good sign; after all, I’ve written a novel that I adore, that I cherish. I’ve formulated such a story that if I were to ever come across it in a bookstore, I’d pick it up, take it home, and devour it. I’d long to spend Saturday night at home with it. I’d read it in days, or maybe even hours. Upon completion, I’d press it against my heart and wrap my arms tightly around it. OK, maybe not so dramatic-like, but something to that effect. Either way, I’d feel the ripples of the tale undulating throughout my being. And in a small, but significant way, I’d be forever changed.

Is this to say that my book has this kind of mega power? It can magnetically grip all who treads upon it? No, sadly, I don’t believe that’s the case. My wish, my life goal though, is that someone will…love my book that is. Of course by someone, I mean other than me. I know it’s not perfect, and frankly, in writing, nothing ever is. I’m aware of the work it needs, and I plan on seeing that through. But it’s comforting to know that I do, in fact, love my book. I love it. So much. That fact alone makes all the painstaking revision, all the doubt, all the self-torture one-hundred and fifty percent worth the while.

Any intrinsic writer must enjoy his or her story. It comes with the territory. I used to wonder if musicians or singers loved their own songs. I imagine they must, they have to. At least the ones who write the songs themselves, anyway. I just can’t imagine the process being any other way.

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Filed under Breaking Through, Characters, Inspiration, The Writing Life, Why We Write, Writing Details, Writing Fears, Writing Process

The power of the unconscious

I set my novel aside last week, and miracle of miracles, I haven’t acknowledged the urge to read it, re-read it, revise it, edit it, etc.

It used to be barely a day went by where I didn’t look at my own work. I even memorize lines and passages in the book–I hear my characters’ voices in dialogue. This is bad? Well, no. But the problem is if I’m caught up in the text all the time, then it gets difficult to distinguish what is working and what isn’t. I read somewhere that it is wise to let a completed draft of a novel “sit” at least two weeks…or more…before beginning the revision process. So it’s about time I let my guys (meaning my characters, who still live and breath inside me) rest. It’s hard to resist though. I feel like they’re up to something…and I want to find out what it is!

Do I sound nuts? I am, probably. But to be intrinsic, is to constantly…consciously or unconsciously…be working and re-working a story. See right now I’m not physically scouring through my big green binder poking and probing my story, but I’ll bet you any amount of money that subconsciously, there are kinks being worked out in my mind. That’s what we do. It’s what we have to do. It doesn’t require a lot of effort, really. I just remind myself daily that even though I’m not actively involved in writing my novel at the moment, progress should prevail.

So, my advice to all you reading out there who has ever encountered the proverbial ‘writer’s block,’ don’t worry. As long as you don’t lose sight of the story, you’re getting a lot more done than you think! If you’re intrinsic, you’re intrinsic.

Keep dreaming, and let this natural phenomena do the work (for a while, anyway) then get back to the grind.

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Filed under The Writing Life, Writing Process

Doubt

Lately, I find it hard to read works by other authors. I have a hard time entering book stores. Often, I’ll sample literary magazines and websites to get a feel for the kind of content each source tends to publish. It all just leaves me crestfallen.

There’s something about reading an engaging work by an already published author–or worse, entering a vault (hence, Barnes and Noble) in which many can be found. Is it jealousy? No, much worse than that; it is Doubt.

Here’s how it works. Last night, I picked up a new novel. I got under the covers, scanned the front cover, back cover, etc. Back in the days when I considered myself primarily a ‘reader,’ I’d dive right in. Open up to chapter one, and devour each page until I reached the final word. These days, now that I am releasing that previously caged, ‘intrinsic writer’ I find myself headed straight for the ‘about the author’ bit in the back. I NEVER used to care that much about the author. Unless I found it to be a particularly fascinating read, I often didn’t even consider the writer. It was all about the narrator, whether he/she served as a character or not. To me, that’s who told the story. It was like on some level (and all readers do this), I truly believed the narrator/first-person character actually wrote the damn tale. But the author? Nah, that was just some name on the front cover–and the spine.

So I read all about the author. Her acknowledgments, her response to all the novel’s praise. It was there I read a quick bit she did on writing a first-person narration from a male’s perspective. And I thought, Oh no, that’s what I did. That’s my book. That’s my narrator. My guy is a boy too! And I’m a girl!

Enter, Doubt. Well, I’m thinking, I bet she does it better than me. She was thirty-one when she wrote this book. I’m twenty-nine, not much time. What if every agent I plan on contacting in the future says the same thing about my book: been there, done that? What if I need to re-do the entire thing? Do I have time for that? She wrote the first draft in four months!? It took me eight! I slammed the book closed. Picked up my journal. Told myself to ‘calm down, you’ll get there,’ etc. etc. Then I wrote some more empty, bogus, inspirational messages to myself: Force yourself, Katie, one half-hour, read this woman’s novel. Don’t be afraid of it. She’s her, you’re you, right? Learn from the damn thing. Study. Evaluate. Examine.

So I begin. My first thought? How does she know so much about interior decoration? Did she research that? Or, as ‘intrinsic writers’ should we just know about this stuff? What the !@#$% is linoleum? Should I know this? I don’t describe rooms and houses in my book like this! Her male voice is better, her story’s better, this is why she’s published, and I’m not, she’s got it, I don’t. At this point, I chucked the book across the room, hoping to God I dented it somehow. My cats darted off the bed; it was bad. I crossed my arms and huffed. Really, I could see myself in the mirror; I looked pitiful. Intrinsic Writer my ass.

THAT, to all of you reading this, is my definition of “Doubt.” It’s there. It’s eats at us intrinsic types like lye to our skin. Unfortunately, it comes with the job. There are days when it doesn’t exist. My writing looks stupendous to me. The next day, often the very next day, I’m throwing perfectly good contemporary literature into door frames.

Since I’ve been doing this writing gig, I’m come to discover that there are only two things I’m certain of: 1) Perseverance is the only way, the only way, I will ever have a chance 2) I AM an intrinsic writer.

Oh, and, yes, I’m going to attempt to read that book again tonight. I’ll bet it’s a brilliant story.

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Filed under Writing Fears