Tag Archives: Writer’s Block

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

Doubt II

What IS writer’s block? I used to think it meant “not knowing what to write.” I don’t believe that anymore. It’s got to be more complex than that. The Gotham Writer’s Workshop–based in NYC–sends out a newsletter, which often includes a mini-interview with established authors. The first question each author is asked? ‘What are some methods for overcoming writer’s block?’ (I apologize, this is not the question verbatim). Nine times out of ten, these writers will claim that the proverbial ‘block’ is nonsense. Most will swear it’s an invention of the mind. Some say there isn’t enough time for writer’s block, because there is just too much writing to do.

I have absolutely no reason to doubt them. They’ve published, sold, gained readers, etc. And quite frankly, I don’t think I have it–the ‘block’ that is. Because, in the current stage of my novel, I know what I want to write. I know what is going to happen next. Usually once I sit down to work on manuscript, new ideas come, old ideas get trashed, the characters’ voices take over my thoughts and so on and so on. In this sense, I agree. The best way to cure writer’s block is to WRITE! Sit down, and scold yourself. Say, ‘you may not get up from this chair for one hour. After that you are free.’ Surprise, surprise. Writing gets done.

So, if the lack of flowing ideas is the surface of this awful affliction, I think my current problem goes a few layers deeper. See, I haven’t posted on this blog since March 4th. My plight is more complicated. It’s doubt, and it’s back. I’ve written about the D word before. It goes something like this…what if my idea doesn’t have a place in the current market, what if deep down, my story is total crap, even if I do publish, will anyone care, how many people even read this blog? What do I really want to come from this story? Am I too old? Am I running out of time? Can I call myself a writer if I have virtually nothing to show for it? And then, the big question: Is it even worth it?

I’d write all day if I could. I love it. Plain and simple, that’s why I do it. But these questions consistently flow through my mind in a steady stream. I know this much. I will complete my novel. I promised myself I would. So I will. After that….???

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Filed under Inspiration, The Writing Life, Writer's Block, Writing Process, Writing Tips

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

This is just too hard for me

I’ll continue with my previous post’s theme: Doubt. It’s decided to stick around. I tried reading the book again–you know, the one with the female author using a ‘male’ voice–can’t get past the first page. I tried just now, in fact. A paragraph or two in, I actually heard myself say, “This is just too hard for me.”

What is? Reading the book? I love books. Writing books? I love writing. So why the doubt? Who knows. Maybe it’s the holidays (Christmas in three days), maybe it’s my hormones, or maybe it’s all just part of being an intrinsic writer.

I’ve decided to leave my novel alone for a while. It’s been sitting in a green binder sprawled open on my work desk for months now, because as I rewrite and edit draft 2, I habitually look back to draft 1. I just closed it. Pushed it away. I think it needs some well-deserved dormancy. In the meantime I can concoct an editing plan, because you know something, I don’t really have an editing plan. I don’t think my editing skills are vigorous enough. No one–including myself–has ever taught me to revise effectively. All my writing classes have been great for method and story building, but not so much for revision. Maybe because everyone has his or her own style concerning the proverbial chop block. Or maybe because revision, frankly, sucks.

Here’s another thing about being that intrinsic writer I’ve been yapping on about: Sometimes, I wish I didn’t want it so badly. Imagine not expecting so much more of myself? I have a job, a fiance, a family, friends, a home, two sweet cats…what’s wrong with that. Nothing. I just want to write.

Then this questions routinely pops up, “well do I want to write–because I already do that–or do I want to publish?” The bright side to this is the fact that I always can write. Even if only for myself. There is definitely an upside to that. If nothing ever comes of this, then, well I can still do it. That, maybe, is what makes me an intrinsic writer.

So what is ‘too hard for me?’ Maybe I’m just making it hard. I suppose us intrinsic types do that too.

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Filed under The Writing Life, Why We Write, Writing Fears