Friday, October 20, 2017

I Don't Need No Stinkin' Writing Prompts!

With NaNoWriMo twelve days away, I'm starting to get e-mails about "WRITE THE NEXT GREAT NOVEL! HERE'S FIVE WRITING PROMPTS TO GET YOU STARTED!"


I thought briefly about checking the creative writing group that meets at the local library. The showrunner provides a writing prompt, you write for thirty minutes, then share your work with the group.

Uh, I don't think so.

Then there's a writer's meet-up in Lima that's run by a local poet.

Poetry isn't really my cuppa, and not what I do. Not that there's anything wrong with that, as Seinfeld would say. But guess what they do? The proverbial writing prompt isn't going to move me forward as a writer.

Ideas aren't my problem. Hell, a pre-made cover advertised by Alter Ego's new cover artist set off an idea for a super sexy dystopian fairytale fantasy on Tuesday. Needless to say, I bought the cover.

And wrote the blurb and two hundred words before I made myself stop and return to A Modicum of Truth.

Honestly, I don't get how a writer can NOT have ideas. I'm like the flipping dog, distracted by every squirrel that runs by. I CAN'T shut off the flow.

What I have to do is shunt it aside. For me, ideas are like a leaky roof dripping onto my brain. I stick a bucket underneath the leak to catch the drip (i.e. scribble down a few notes). Then I need to change out the bucket, which quickly starts filling, while I do my other work. When the next bucket fills, I swap it out for a new bucket so I can concentrate of my current story. At least, for a little while longer.

If you really truly need a writing prompt, unless it's a technique to get your muse unstuck, maybe you should reconsider whether a career in writing is for you.

But if you really, truly need a prompt, here's a real life example:

When I was still a practicing attorney, a male hawk used to sun himself on the sub-roof outside my office window. This was the summer of 2005. That same year, I also took my son to see the Mayan exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural History. Part of the exhibit included the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012. 2012 was also the year that our solar system crosses the galactic plane during its orbit.

So, take one or all of:

- a hawk
- the Mayan calendar
- Earth crossing the galactic plane

Guess what? I'm already 40K into the first book a new UF series. No, it's not this year's NaNo project--



  1. LOL! Yeah, I have more ideas than I have years in my life left to write 'em, and usually when I do start something new, it's with a new idea I just came up with.

    I have a file, IDEAS.DOC, that I've been keeping on my computer for over twenty years now. I used to trip over my own feet scrambling to the computer to job down every new idea. Now? Meh. If I get an idea, cool. If I remember it next time I'm on the computer, I'll probably jot it down. If I forget it, no big deal. Ideas are cheap. It's the actual writing that's worth something.


    1. It's like with Jo's pre-made cover. (Different Jo than the one who comments here!) She posted it two or three weeks ago, and I just couldn't get it out of head.

      But execution? Egads, if I write it, nothing ever reads like the movie I have playing in my head.

      And that "movie" is my trigger that tells me the idea isn't going to go away until I write it. But yeah, if the idea doesn't nag me, then it's gone because the next idea is already blossoming.

  2. I have a folder, SHIT PILE. It's full of .txt docs of my ideas for stories, series, etc...I write them down so they don't clog up my brain.

    There are 252 files in that folder right now. Many files are whole series. Way more stories than I'll probably ever write. And it'll NEVER get smaller, only bigger. I also have a stack of index cards an inch tall with more stories, scenes, etc...again, never going to get smaller.

    My idea pile for computer games (a former hobby) is over 2000. I finished maybe 10. None were that good, not my talent.

    My idea file for table top games is right around 1000 with 178 completed games. I maybe only played 3-4 with other people...sadly.

    So yeah, I'm not the Jo mentioned above but I am a Jo with a never ending supply of ideas.


    1. I forgot to mention the stack of legal pads filled with ideas.

    2. Yep, those damn squirrels will get you every time!