I don’t know if March is planning to come in like a lion or a lamb, but either way, those creatures had better be wearing their long winter underwear. The forecast high for March 1st is 28 F or -2 C. Perfect for a human to spend the day in front of the fire with a journal or a good book.
If you have some writing time scheduled today, have some fun with these writing prompts.
1. Use one, some or all of these words in a story or poem.
- car, hill, mirror, sign, cloud, red
- stone, string, door, box, fireplace, worry
- window, storm, search, park, call
2. Start a story with someone who is in one of the following situations:
trapped, laughing, lost, running away, flying.
3. Try one of these opening sentences to begin a story:
- He told us to meet him at midnight.
- The path hadn’t looked so creepy in daylight.
- She lit the match and smiled.
- The old man wiped his glasses with the sleeve of his robes and then spoke.
4. Can you write a scene around one of the following dialogue excerpts?
- I bought Bill a present.
- Because I know it will make him furious.
- Jacob said to turn right here.
- Yes, I heard him.
- Then why aren’t we turning?
- Wait! I’ve dropped something.
- We don’t have time to go back.
5. Can you think of a story to go with one of these titles?
The Lighthouse Mystery, Bailey’s Town, The Future Door, Red Light, Deserted, Keeping Faith, Cliff’s Edge
6. March can come in like a lion or a lamb. A stubborn person is often compared to mule; a sneaky one to a fox or a weasel. Do you use animal imagery in your stories? Do you ever compare your characters to animals? When Laurence Olivier tackled the part of Richard III (a very scheming and bloodthirsty character) he used the imagery of a spider to help him create the character. Go through your story and think of creatures to which you can compare your characters. This information might help you find a new slant on the way your characters might dress or how they decide to solve a problem.
I’ve decided to expand things a little and add some story starters and writing prompts for pre-teens to this website. Check this link or the new tab at the top of the page to find 90 new prompts for young writers and their teachers. If you write stories for grades 5 through 8, you might find something there to spark your imagination, too!
If the February blahs have been distracting you from your writing, Kristi Holl has a great blog about getting your writing life back on track. Needless to say, with my creative history, I bookmarked that one. If you’re looking for some inspiration or advice about writing, publishing, freelancing, and just about anything else writer related, try The Write Life’s 100 Best Websites for Writers–definitely a “something for everyone” compilation of websites.
Hope you have a great week ahead!
I’m currently working on a new book, Writing Fiction: A Hands-On Guide for Pre-Teens. If you would like to know when the book comes out, please fill out the following form. I promise that you will not be bombarded with spam emails, just the odd thing that I come across that you might find useful, a couple of sample chapters as I work through the project, and my newest writing prompts.
The people in my part of the country don’t need a groundhog to tell them how long winter is going to last. We know we’re dreaming if we think we’ll actually have green grass in six weeks. Even if the temperatures warm up, the giant mounds of snow we have piled at the sides of our roads and driveways and side walks will be a long-lasting reminders of the freezing and snow-filled winter we’re still enduring. The only weather predicted above 0 degrees Celsius in the next two weeks is for two days of freezing rain next week, and we’d all be happy to skip that, thank you. To say spring will be welcome is an understatement. I hope you are having some sunny days where you are.
Even with the temperatures so cold, it’s amazing what a difference a sunny day can make to my spirits. I spent most of today working in the livingroom and enjoying the sun that was streaming through the windows. Yay for laptops. After finishing the draft of an article that I have to send in on Friday, I spent a chunk of the day doing research for a new project I’m thinking about tackling. So far, so good on that front.
Do you find that the weather affects your spirits? Does a gloomy day inspire you or make you want to curl up in a blanket and nap until it’s over? I’ve added some cheerful spring photos to the blog today to remind me that winter will finally end–with or without groundhog.
Well, I can’t say that I will miss January. Bitter cold temperatures, high winds,and too much snow shovelling, a furnace that wouldn’t work properly making for some very cold mornings and not terribly warm days, a blocked sink due to water frozen in the pipes, and in the midst of it all my husband ended up in hospital for 5 days having emergency surgery. He, the first priority in all of this, is now doing fine, though unable to do anything strenuous right now, and hopes to return to work some time next week. The sink is unblocked and the furnace is being kind, though now the pump beside it is leaking–another service call for Monday, and lots of mopping up in the meantime. And the weather? Pretty much the same. The temperatures have risen a little bit (-3 degrees Celsius actually felt warm yesterday) but we’re expecting another snow dump today. Good-bye January, and good riddance!
Do you ever have times like that when so many problems conspire to challenge you all at the same time? How do you cope? I put a lot of things on the back burner. I cancelled classes, so I could be home when my husband came home from the hospital. I asked for an extension on a freelance project deadline, and tried hard not to feel guilty. We are all still tired, but grabbing a bit more down time is necessary right now. My son’s been off school for several days because of end-of-term final exams, so we’ll all be getting back into the rhythm of work life next week. In the meantime, small bites for everything else, and some time by the fire with a good book or my journal.
Onward to a new month and a fresh start! And to get some February creativity going, here are some new writing prompts.
1. Try using one, some, or all of these words in a poem or story:
- clock, chain, grip, moon, shade, lock
- band, star, blue, fever, petal, lie
2. Here are some opening sentences to try:
- “Carly hates me.”
- Peter hid under the table.
- The jewels sparkled in the sunlight.
- Marcus pulled his cloak more tightly around his shoulders
- “When was the last time you saw Henry Marsh?”
- Margot closed the book she was reading and turned out the light.
3. See if you can come up with a story to go with one of these titles:
Night Among the Mad, Spineless. The Secret Three, The Journey Home, Walking on a Shroud, In the Mirror, The House by the River
4. Think of a memory that involves a piece of music: a popular song that you always sang along to, a lullaby, a TV show or movie theme, a melody that you or someone you knew played on an instrument, a song you sang on the way to camp, or in church. Describe the events, people, or emotions that you associate with that piece of music. Do the same exercise for the main character in your story.
5. What scene can you weave around these lines of dialogue?
- How did you get here?
- No. Really, how did you get here?
- I think I’d better explain.
- I wish it would sop raining.
- You want to get back on the road, don’t you?
- Don’t you?
- Here. Catch.
- What is it? It’s really heavy.
- That’s not all it is.
I have fumbled my way through self-publishing over the past few years. Trying things, making mistakes, seeing how things turn out. Thought I’d share a bit of that experience.
I’ve used a couple of publishers since I started self-publishing. Right now I’m using CreateSpace https://www.createspace.com/ and Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) https://kdp.amazon.com/kdp/self-publishing/signin?language=en_US After I finish setting up my book in CreateSpace, I can choose for it to be sent to Amazon KDP (they are the same company.) CreateSpace will also send it to other epub distributors, too. Both services are free, though CreateSpace offers services like custom cover designs, copyediting, and marketing for a fee, if you want to take advantage of them.
I’m using CreateSpace for my second edition of Writing Fiction: A Hands-On Guide for Teens, and I’m fine with having them distribute it to Amazon and other sellers, such as Kobo. For my sequel to The Dragon’s Pearl, I’m going to go with CreateSpace and KDP only. There are some promotion options with KDP that are only available if it is the exclusive distributor for a set period of time. I’d like to try those promotions, so I’m going to give that option a try for my fiction. For 201 Writing Starters, I went to Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/ . They had a very easy-to-use product and also provide a free service. If I do another edition of the book, I will probably go through CreateSpace, though, because it offers free cover design options that I prefer to use rather than coming up with my own.
The first edition of Writing Fiction was published through iUniverse, a vanity press. I wouldn’t choose that route now for a couple of reasons. First, I want to earn more money per sale, and royalties are much better on my own. Second, I am more confident about being able to format a book that would look professional, and third, I know a lot more about the industry. I was lucky in that I took advantage of a sale offer at iUniverse and didn’t spend money on extras, and I can say that I have earned my money back. A few writers I know who took the vanity press route have realized they will never earn their money back.
I got the templates for the interiors of the dragon books and Writing Fiction – Second Edition from Joel Friedlander http://www.thebookdesigner.com/ at a very reasonable cost. You can see inside the book here to see what one of his formats looks like: http://www.amazon.com/Dragons-Pearl-Heather-Elizabeth-Wright/dp/1483954021
If you’re thinking of the self-publishing route, be aware of the new trend among traditional publishers to have their own vanity press. They make it look like you’re working with Simon & Schuster for instance, but you’re really paying to have your book published with a vanity press that is part of a large company with a very poor reputation. Read this blog from Writer Beware®: The Blog to get the details: http://accrispin.blogspot.ca/2012/11/archway-publishing-simon-schuster-adds.html To make sure that you are working with a reputable company always check Preditors & Editors, an excellent site that has a listing of publishers/agents along with recommendations and cautions. http://pred-ed.com/
To end on a more positive note, here’s a link to a great blog post from Jane Friedman with a lot of helpful links to help you make some decisions about your publishing future. http://janefriedman.com/2012/01/28/start-here-how-to-get-your-book-published/
I’ve been in serious editing mode for a while now, and am finally nearing the launch of the second edition of Writing Fiction: A Hands-On Guide for Teens. I’ve added a few things, updated a few things, and included 50+ writing prompts.
What I’ve really enjoyed is doing all the work myself, rather than going through a vanity press, which is what I did last time. I’ve learned a lot more about the publishing industry since then, and hope to put some of those lessons to good use with the book’s sales, promotion, and distribution. To begin, this book will be priced lower than the original! I had fun creating the interior look of the book, too, using templates from Joel Friedlander. You can take a peek at what he offers here.
So, now I just have to wait until my review copy arrives, then one last batch of edits (mostly, I hope, for the inevitable typos that I never catch when I’m proofreading on the screen) and out it will go into the world.
The next project is already underway–more editing! I finished writing a sequel to The Dragon’s Pearl last year, so I’m now in editing and formatting mode for that one. Oh, and I have a cover story for a local magazine to work on and a series of short stories to edit, too. And, there’s still teaching on the agenda. A busy January 2014 is in progress.
Hope your new year is off to a great start, too!
Like many of you, I’m making my to-do list for 2014. If yours is still a work-in-progress, here are a couple of blogs that suggest refreshing strategies for setting your 2014 goals.
The first is by James Clear, who states, “What I’m starting to realize, however, is that when it comes to actually getting things done and making progress in the areas that are important to you, there is a much better way to do things. It all comes down to the difference between goals and systems.” To read Clear’s blog, “Forget Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead”, click here.
The other blog that changed my to-do list focus was this one from Kristi Holl, “A Writer’s Happy New Year.” In it she says, “I took another look at my 2014 goals. There wasn’t one single fun thing on the single-spaced, two-page list.” If your list looks like hers, click here for ways to put fun and renewal in your 2014 to-do list.
I found both of those blogs helped me focus my goals for 2014. Stuff happens, and I know that there will be a lot of unexpected bumps along the way to December 31, 2014. I’m hoping that working on creating a workable system for my writing and making sure that I also book some breathing time into my life along the way will make 2014 a positive writing year. I wish you a wonderful writing year, too.
To get things started, here are the prompts for this month.
1. Use one, some or all of these words in a story or poem.
- table, clock, cold, blue, sharp, brush
- dress, late, light, silver, touch, ring
2. Try one of these opening sentences.
- Did he just wink at me?
- Claire slid the ring off her finger.
- I used to think Jack worried too much.
- Never meet your best friend in a graveyard.
- I wondered why she’d left the TV on so loud.
- A siren wailed in the night.
3. Can you think of a story or poem for one of these titles?
Wrapping Paper, Diary of a Break-Up, Labour of Love, At the River’s Edge, Blue is for Boys, The Time Tree, Light’s Haven
4. Here are some snippets of dialogue. What scene can you create for the speakers?
- Who is that girl?
- That one?
- You must be the only one that doesn’t know.
- I can’t believe he gave that to her.
- I can’t believe she took it.
- What happened to me?
- What’s the last thing you remember?
- Oh. Crap.
Hope you have a fantastic start to 2014!
I decided that today would be a good time for a little reflection and a look at 2013–a decision partly inspired by several writers I know who are in the midst of 2014 goal setting, and partly because I have work waiting for me that I’m just not ready to face at the moment. Yes, I’m at “procrastination station” this morning.
I want to begin by thanking the 21,903 visitors from 140 countries who have dropped by the website since January 1. You can’t imagine how thrilled I am that you come by to use the writing prompts and check out the other resources. I’d love to hear more from you about how you or your students use the material on the site, so I can make changes or add things that you might be interested in. Please don’t be shy in 2014.
I had a look at my invoices for the year, too–always an indicator of how my part-time freelance life has been going. It certainly was a feast or famine year–some months absolutely nothing and others swamped with deadlines. At final count, the year turned out a lot better than I thought it would–I still have two more gigs to finish by the end of the year, and I broke into a new market that actually calls me with work–always a plus.
In the famine times I wrote 7 short stories and a 23,000-word middle readers fantasy, edited and published The Dragon’s Pearl and 201 Writing Prompts, participated in 4 daily-writing challenges, and finally found the answer to a problem I’ve had for ages with a middle readers mystery series–my next project. And that doesn’t include all the starts that didn’t result in a final product or an editing project that is partly finished, or blogs or monthly writing prompts, or …. Could I have done more? Probably. But I’m actually content with what did get done–a bit of a surprise actually for someone who finds the leap to the dark side extremely easy.
All of this tells me that my writing life is a pretty good one, and that, though I get seriously frantic, worried, frustrated, and gloomy about it while in the midst of the famine or the crazy feast times, at the end, I’ve met more goals than I missed and there’s lots to look forward to in 2014. This has been a definite lesson for me in patience and the value of taking time to look back and get things in perspective. Next time I won’t wait a year to do it. In fact, I think I’ll take the time today to put a quarterly writing-life-check-in on next year’s calendar.
Do you take time every year to reflect on your writing accomplishments? How do you decide if you’ve had a successful year? Do you reflect on your writing life throughout the year? Set goals? I’d love to hear about your strategies and accomplishments.
November just flew by, and I’m sure December will, too. I’m working on a big freelance gig right now, and there’s the possibility of another project for a children’s publisher before the month is over–lots to keep me busy! I’m determined to find time for joywriting, too, in amongst all the other commitments, though, believe me, I’m not aiming for a high word count. I have a book idea that I’d like to plot out to see if it’s worth pursuing, and I want to go back to journaling every day. That’s my limit.
I hope you find some ways to stay connected to your writing through the holidays. It’s a tough slog getting reacquainted with those writing muscles after they’ve been allowed to be lazy for a long time–and, trust me, I speak from considerable, sad experience. If you need some inspiration to help you fill a journal page this month, maybe some of the following writing prompts will help.
1. Use one, some, or all of these words in a story or poem:
- holiday, red, flash, tin, tremor, find
- salt, light, hand, turn, cover, water
- bag, handle, glass, date, black, walk
2. What is your character’s favourite holiday movie? When and where was your character the first time he or she saw it? Who was your character with? Does the memory make your character happy or sad? Why?
3. See if you can imagine a story to go with one of these titles? Behind the Curtain, Red Mittens, The Centre Closes, Mr. Snow, Dead on Time, The Last Photograph
4. Imagine what might be happening before, during and after these lines of dialogue.
- Where is it?
- I left it at school.
- Then you can’t come with us.
- We’re done here
- But we haven’t –
- I said, we’re done.
- Have you heard from Gregor?
- No. We’ve not heard from him for five days?
- Then, there’s no news of the battle either?
5. See if some of these opening lines suggest a story.
- “No. You unwrap your present first.”
- I yanked out my earbuds. That noise had to be a scream.
- Margot always ate her vegetables first.
- The smell of smoke lingered long after the blaze had died.
- I huddled in the stern as the sea slammed the little boat.
- Why was her floor covered in broken glass?
Hope you have a creative and happy month ahead!