Blast through Writers’ Block by using Writing Prompts

New Year, new goals.

 

Has the shine tarnished on your New Year resolutions already? Or have you decided that it is best to leave resolutions alone this year? After all, look at how last year turned out…

notepad-pencil-computer-tablet-on-white-wooden-table
Image by DarkmoonArt_de from Pixabay

If you have decided that THIS is the year that you are going to start writing again, then this is the blog for you. We are going to talk about writing prompts and how they can help writers’ block. Here is a usual recipe for writing:

Ingredients:

One brand-new shiny notebook, preferably really cute

One pen

Time

Take your brand-new shiny, cute notebook and open it. Pick up your pen…

OK, stop there! If you haven’t had an idea running round your head for the past week and you don’t know where to start, how do you begin to fill that blank white page with a story?

A good place to start is a writing prompt.

 

Writing Prompt

A writing prompt is usually a short idea or picture that is designed to get your brain thinking about a story. There are many websites that offer writing prompts that can help get you started writing.

 

You can treat writing prompts as a writing exercise. Come up with a short story outline which could be turned into a full story. Spend 10 minutes writing and see what you come up with. A writing prompt enables you to have something to write about straight away, it avoids the blank page syndrome where you stare at a blank page and have a blank brain to match.

 

Tips for Using a Writing Prompt

 

  • Put aside some time to write – even just 15 minutes will do
  • Plan ahead to write – send the family out for a walk
  • Find a place to write and make sure that your tools of choice (laptop, pen and paper or old-fashioned typewriter) are available.
  • Just write based on the prompt. You may not know immediately what you are going to write but begin by writing a sentence and see what comes up.
  • Don’t worry about editing. You can edit your story once it is finished. No story is ever finished after a first draft and every story can be improved. Just focus on getting the words down on paper/screen.
  • When your story is finished, give it some space. Wait 24 hours before taking a look at the editing
  • Not every story can be a best seller, but when you write one that you are really proud of, then I encourage you to ask someone else to read it and give you constructive feedback. Preferably someone you trust. It is important to get used to the idea of someone else reading your stories if you want to do more with them
  • Know that your writing brain acts like a muscle. The more you write, the more ideas and inspiration will come to you and the more you will have to write. Ideas are all around us, you just have to tune your brain in to them.

 

 

Where can I find Writing Prompts?

A Story a Day

I have recently discovered Julie and she offers a lot for writers. She offers a free planning tool, lots of help and information as well as courses and of course, writing prompts.

 

Daily Prompt App

Currently on Apple only but Android is planned. You pick a time of day when you are most likely to write and you will receive an alert and a writing prompt at that time. This app is a gateway to a community where you can receive feedback on your story and enter competitions.

 

Writer Igniter

This is a fun tool that can turn up some quite diverse ideas. It is also a blog with lots of ideas about writing.

 

Social Media Writing Prompts

You can find writing prompts on your social media of choice. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest,  Instagram, Tumblr and Reddit all offer writing prompts. Search using the hashtag #writingprompts or #writingpromptsdaily

 

Poets & Writers Website & Magazine

Sign up for fiction, non-fiction and poetry prompts. The magazine is based in the US and runs programmes and courses for poets and writers.

 

Toasted Cheese

Offers a list of daily writing prompts and is also a literary journal

 

Literacy Ideas

Offers some pictorial ideas as well as hints on writing your own writing prompts. Could also be useful for teachers of students.

 

Reedsy

Reedsy are a great writing blog which offer a sign up for 5 writing prompts a week. It also offers a writing competition with a $50 prize every week.

 

Writers’ Digest Online Workshops

 

Picture and written writing prompts to help get you writing. Lots of information on writing, too.

 

Christopher Fielden

A great way to start writing is to write flash fiction which requires precision and imagination. Christopher Fielden offers a great resource to writers. He offers hints and tips and a regularly updated source of writing competitions, but it is in writing challenges that he excels.

He publishes a number of anthologies for charity, based on short 100-200 word stories. To enter you can either email your story to him or fill in the contact form with your story. You will need to write a short bio and your story, and that’s it. As long as it meets the brief then Christopher will include it in the anthology. There is also a Facebook for authors who contribute to the anthologies. A community can really help you keep writing.

 

So there you have it. If you have decided that 2021 is the year that you want to start writing and get past your writers’ block, then here are a selection of good resources to get you going.

Please do drop a line in the comments if this article has given you a push to get writing.

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Secrets of Stronger Fiction 1: Characters who run against normal society – Anne with an E

I am not only a writer, I am a reader. I love a good piece of historical fiction, where the details take you back in history, the sights and the smells and the experiences of people long ago fill the story with the results of a writer’s long hours of research.

Some of my favourite characters are historical characters from the novels that I first encountered as a teenager. Many of these do not need such research, as they were written in their time. I love reading about characters that stand out from the crowd for their time – I always feel as though I would have loved to know them.

Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables by L.M.Montgomery

The series of stories about Anne see her grow up from an orphan of about 11 into a young woman, then a mother and beyond. Anne is not a normal little girl, at least to the good mothers of Avonlea, who fear what she is teaching her daughters. Anne’s unconventional upbringing has meant that she knows a lot more about life than some of her sheltered friends, but her heart is kind and her creativity brings her the admiration of her friends. The book was first published in 1908 and is set on Prince Edward Island. Many of the descriptions in the book are based on real places on Prince Edward Island and local people there have set up tours and a museum based on the book.

Anne is a typical 11 year old who gets into trouble, but she is always supported and loved by Matthew Cuthbert, the farmer who adopted her. His sister Marilla is quicker to judge, but she always supports Anne in the end. Some of Anne’s difficulties involve dying her hair green instead of raven black and accidentally getting her best friend drunk on what she thought was raspberry cordial but turned out to be currant wine.

The contrast between Anne, who has no idea who her parents were: they are just names on a birth certificate, and her classmates on Prince Edward Island is large. Anne’s best friend Diana, is expected to attend finishing school and marry well. This is an old-fashioned ideal for the time, but Diana’s parents are very conscious of their social position. She is not allowed to continue school, even though she has the brains to do so.

Anne has no thought of her looks apart from the things she despises about them. She hates having red hair and breaks her slate over her classmate, Gilbert’s head when he calls them, ‘carrots’! She also dislikes her thin frame and pale skin and freckles. She only cares about her brains and works hard to stay at the top of the class with Gilbert. The two of them have quite a rivalry when it comes to school work.

Anne of Green Gables and the sequels that have followed, have endured as a classic for a very long time. The story of the orphan boy who turned out to be a girl is full of heart, emotion and character you care about. Anne is easily identifiable with, and so are many of her classmates. The stories stand as a testament to the strength of the cast of characters as well as its leading lady.

Writers’ Notes

What can writers learn from Anne of Green Gables?

LM Montgomery wrote the story from a newspaper headline that caught her attention

Writing an unconventional character can bring your story to life

Writing contrasting characters can help bring the story along.

Bringing characters into the story that oppose your main character is a great way to introduce conflict to the plot

You never know where your idea might come from next!

Keep an eye out for interesting headlines in your local papers – could you turn one of them into a short story or even a novel?

Who is one of your favourite characters in literature and why? Comment below and let me know.

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Where Do Writers Write?

Writing on a mailbox desk by Julie Jordan Scott
Writing on a mailbox desk by Julie Jordan Scott

Roald Dahl famously had a chair in a hut at the bottom of the garden where he wrote his wickedly funny stories. Ernest Hemmingway wrote standing up as did Victor Hugo, the creator of Frankenstein. Charles Dickens wrote at a desk that he was so attached to, that he had it shipped away on holiday with him.

Jane Austen sat at a very small table to write at. You can see the table at the Jane Austen museum in Bath. It is not much bigger than a small side-table but then all you really need is somewhere to rest a pad of paper and a pen. Not for Jane the towering pile of notes to one side. She may also have been interrupted frequently by her family when writing.

Mark Twain wrote the first book on a typewriter. Such new-fangled technology it must have seemed! George Eliot had a small ornate writing desk that has sadly been stolen from the museum where it was kept. Agatha Christie used a typewriter to write 80 books! A picture of Virginia Woolf’s writing desk shows a small square table placed on a terrace, overlooking a view while Jackie Collins has a huge desk, shiny and polished, surrounded by beautiful and probably expensive things. Then there’s the cafe in Edinburgh where JK Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book in longhand pencil.

Some writers surround themselves with books: Nigella Lawson has been pictured in a room where books rule the roost – tall shelves surround her, but there is still not enough space and piles of books are under and around the desk she works at too. The late great Terry Pratchett was pictured a few years ago with six screens on his desk although in recent year his illness had meant that he needed to dictate his work.

Where do I write?

The best place I have ever written was on holiday in the Isle of Wight. I had something I wanted to finish and took my PC away with me. The chalet overlooked cliffs and the sea was in the distance, the weather was balmy and to just sit at that small table and write was heaven…

More usually, I have taken over what used to be known as DH’s study. I still call it that, but it’s now mostly consisting of my notes, my books and my odds and ends. It is a sunny room and on hot days I can open the back door to the garden and enjoy the weather.

Feel  free to share where you write in the comments below…

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Meet Keith Havers – The Creative Writer Interview

Keith Havers is a short story writer who has had stories published in Take a Break’s Fiction Feast, That’s Life (Australia), The Weekly News, People’s Friend and The Lincolnshire Echo. He also has a short story published in the charity anthology, ‘100 Stories for Queensland’. He is a member of the Trowell Writers’ Trust and Nottingham Writers’ Club. He has had several first, second and third places in their short story competitions over the last few years. In 2008 he was runner up in the National Association of Writers’ Groups annual competition for short stories. In May 2009, he was awarded second place in Writing Magazine short story competition and the entry is available on their website.

You can find Keith on Twitter@KeithHavers

And he blogs at www.grammargrub.blogspot.uk

 

Name:  Keith Havers

Writer Alias (if you are willing to let us know):

I use my real name Keith Havers in all my published work so far. No alias.

How long have you been a writer?

I joined Trowell Writers’ Club in 2006 so I suppose that should be considered my starting point.

Rough idea of where you live.

I live just outside Nottingham.

Do you sell stories/articles to local or global publications?

I sell short stories to magazines which are also published in other countries.

  1. What is the first piece of writing that you remember doing?

I can’t remember the first piece of writing I did but I remember that, as a kid, I was always putting something down on paper. I’ve always been interested in science and technology (I have a degree in electronic engineering) so some of the stuff I wrote was non-fiction but I also had a go at stories and scripts.

  1. What made you realise that you wanted to write for a living?

I don’t actually write ‘for a living’ I have a couple of other jobs as well. I just wanted something else to supplement my income when I realised that my engineering career was coming to an end.

  1. Where was your first story published?

My first published story was in the charity collection 100 Stories For Queensland in 2011. Shortly after that I made my first sale to Take A Break Fiction Feast.

  1. Is there a story that you wish that you had written?

I’m sure we’d all like to have written something hugely successful like Harry Potter or Fifty Shades. You have to keep the dream alive.

  1. What is the one tip that you would give aspiring writers?

Persistence is the key. You have to keep sending your stuff out. Even if it keeps coming back. Re-write it or write something new and send it back out there.

  1. What is your current project?

I don’t have a project as such. I just keep churning out the short stuff, send it off and hope for the best.

 

Thank you, Keith for agreeing to take part in The Creative Writer Interview. I would like to wish you all the best with your short stories.

 

If you are a blogger, freelance copywriter, author or any other kind of writer and would like to take part in the The Creative Writer Interview then email me: sarahthecreativewriter[at]gmail.com

 

 

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