Guest Prompt from Meg Wolfe

Meg Wolfe‘s prompt introduces a little mystery into our writing, unsurprisingly since Meg is a mystery writer!

The Prompt

An Unexpected Acquisition

What suddenly shows up on your character’s doorstep, or in the mail, or on his or her birthday? It should be something that wasn’t expected or asked for or even thought about–how would your character react, and what hidden truth does the reaction reveal about his or her background, temperament, education, finances, desires, and/or motivations?

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 7.33.59 PMAbout Meg Wolfe

Meg is a long-time nonfiction writer, most recently of The Minimalist Woman blog and its related self-help and cookbooks. She now focuses almost exclusively on fiction, and has written and published two mysteries, An Uncollected Death and An Unexamined Wife. A third, An Undisclosed Vocation, is slated for release in Summer of 2015.

Guest Writing Prompt from Joe R Lansdale

Today’s guest writing prompt comes from master storyteller Joe R. Lansdale, who has won the Edgar Award, eight Bram Stoker awards and The Horror Writer Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award among others!

Our thanks to Mr Lansdale for taking the time to provide this provocative prompt for us.

The Prompt

On the day they saw the blue star swell to gigantic proportions, everyone went blind but Hardy. He was already blind, had been from birth,but he had lifted his head to the heavens because he felt a peculiar warmth.

Moments later the others were still blind, but he could see. All the colors of the spectrum. Even viewed by moonlight, the brightness of it all frightened and puzzled him.

joerlansdaleAbout Joe R. Lansdale

Joe R. Lansdale is the author of over forty novels and numerous short stories. He has received the Edgar Award, eight Bram Stoker Awards, the Horror Writers Association Lifetime Achievement Award, the British Fantasy Award, the Grinzani Cavour Prize for Literature, the Herodotus Historical Fiction Award, the Inkpot Award for Contributions to Science Fiction and Fantasy, and many others. 

Guest Writing Prompt from Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant

Today’s guest prompter is Seanan McGuire who also writes as Mira Grant. I love these little peeks inside the minds of successful writers, don’t you?

Today’s guest prompter is Seanan McGuire who also writes as Mira Grant. I love these little peeks inside the minds of successful writers, don’t you?

The Prompt

Some little things got left out, and a little means a lot.

 

SeananmcguireAbout Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire was the winner of the 2010 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and her novel Feed (Newsflesh, Book 1) (as Mira Grant) was named as one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2010. In 2013 she became the first person ever to appear five times on the same Hugo Ballot. In her spare time, Seanan records CDs of her original filk music. She is also a cartoonist, and draws an irregularly posted autobiographical web comic, “With Friends Like These…”

Remember: you don’t have to write to either of today’s prompts, but if one or other of them helps spark an idea, you’re welcome!

Guest Prompt: Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin says: Write a short piece inspired by one of William Blake’s Proverbs of Hell from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. There are 72, but here are a few of my favorites…

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 7.32.04 PMGretchen Rubin is the New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness Project, Happier at Home and, most recently, Better Than Before (a book about happiness and habits that has huge implications for writers. You should check it out!)

When I asked her if she’d like to provide a writing prompt this self-confessed quotation collector, of course, went to one of her favorite authors for inspiration. Here’s what she sent.

Continue reading “Guest Prompt: Gretchen Rubin”

Celebrity Guest Prompts Are Coming

Writing prompts can be great: a way into a story without having to stare too long at the blinking cursor; writing exercises that force you to dig deeper; a way to support StoryADay May…

…But even better than that, writing prompts can sometimes be a peek inside the head of a successful writer.

Last year we had Neil Gaiman kick things off four us, joined by his fellow NYT Bestselling author Heidi Durrow, author and gracious host of Writer Unboxed Therese Walsh, illustrator and author Debbie Ohi, mystery novelist Elizabeth Spann Craig, WritersHelpingWriters authors Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman, Hugo award winning short story writer (and novelist) Mary Robinette Kowal and more.

2015guestprompters2

This year we’re back on the Hugo track with a Cambell Award Winner (the award for best new writer in SciFi) and multiple Hugo nominee Seanan McGuire (aka Mira Grant); New York Times bestseller and Happiness guru Gretchen Rubin; Bram Stoker and Edgar Award winning writer Joe R. Lansdale; novelist John Dixon (whose first novel Phoenix Island was the inspiration for the CBS series Intelligence); Writer’s Loft mentor and novelist Charlotte Rains Dixon; DIYMFA.com’s Gabriela Pereira; novelist and creative writing teacher at Rosemont College, PA, Gregory Frost; mystery novelist Meg Wolfe, paranormal mystery author Phil Guinta, and the NYT Bestselling author and host of the fabulous Short Story Thursdays email dispatches, Jacob Tomsky. And more to follow.

(Pause, for brief squeeeeeeeeeeee!)

These working writers have come up with some fantastic writing prompts for you (one or two of them scare me a little!).

These prompts will only be appearing on the blog, so keep checking every day for your look inside the brains of some of the most creative people working today!

oo0oo

If you’re not signed up to receive the daily prompts by email, you can do that by making sure you’re on the mailing list and selecting “Daily Prompts During the Challenge” as one of your options.

[Guest Prompt] Charlotte Rains Dixon

The Prompt

Write about the best gift your character was given.  Incorporate one of the seven deadly sins (wrath, gluttony, sloth, greed, pride, lust, envy) into the story.

 

Charlotte Rains Dixon is the author of Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior. She is a novelist, writing teacher, free-lance journalist, ghostwriter, and author. Continue reading “[Guest Prompt] Charlotte Rains Dixon”

[Writing Prompt] Becca Puglisi – Ending Line

The Prompt

Write the story that accompanies this ending line:

I clicked off the safety, swearing that if she showed her face here today, my room would be the last one she ever entered.



Becca Puglisi is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others. This is one of her reasons for writing The Emotion Thesaurus, The Positive Trait Thesaurus, and The Negative Trait Thesaurus. A member of SCBWI, she leads workshops at regional conferences, teaches webinars through WANA International, and can be found online at Writers Helping Writers (formerly known as The Bookshelf Muse).

[Writing Prompt] Guest Prompt from Phil Giunta

Today’s guest prompter is novelist Phil Giunta. Thanks, Phil!

The Prompt

Natalie arrives home from work and is perplexed that her dog is not there to greet her as usual.  In fact, he is nowhere to be seen or heard.  Even more disturbing is the semi-automatic pistol sitting on her coffee table and the sound of running water from the kitchen.

Tips

  • Natalie could live in a city, suburb, or rural area. House or apartment. Single or married.
  • It also doesn’t matter what type of dog she has.
  • I did not indicate whether the gun belongs to her or not.  Perhaps it’s normally hidden away.  How did it get onto her coffee table?  If the gun is not hers, then to whom does it belong?

 

Phil Giunta’s first novel, a paranormal mystery called Testing the Prisoner, debuted in March 2010 from Firebringer Press. His second novel in the same genre, By Your Side, was released in March 2013.
His short story work includes “There Be In Dreams No War” and “Root for the Undergods” featured in the anthologies ReDeus: Divine Tales and ReDeus: Beyond Borders from Crazy 8 Press.
Phil is currently editing a short story collection titled Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity for Firebringer Press and working on the paranormal thriller novella, Lineage. He is the narrator of an audio version of Testing the Prisoner, which can be heard for free at Podiobooks.com. The audio version of By Your Side is forthcoming on the Prometheus Radio Theatre feed: http://prometheus.libsynpro.com. Visit Phil’s website at http://www.philgiunta.com.

[Writing Prompt] Guest Prompt from Gregory Frost

Continuing our Guest Prompt week, today’s prompt comes from novelist and teacher Gregory Frost. Thanks, Greg!

The Prompt

Unusual Ways of Seeing

Imagine a person with a very idiosyncratic way of seeing the world (for example, a low-end drug dealer who’s perpetually paranoid because he’s sure everyone wants to steal his stuð; or an accountant for whom everything is numerical and anally precise)—anyone who, because of mental challenges, profession, or self-medicated state, negotiates the world in a distinctly peculiar, complicated, or unhinged way.

For this prompt, have your character witness a traumatic event that does not directly involve him or her (a traffic accident, a robbery, an explosion, etc.).

Narrate the event from this character’s first-person POV, incorporating the idiosyncrasies of this invented personality.

If you need examples from literature, look at George Saunders’ “Tenth of December” which includes both the portrait of a deteriorating mentality and the interiority of a child’s imaginings, or Jonathan Nolan’s “Memento Mori,” or Donald Barthelme’s “Game.”

Tips

  • The narrative should be focused upon the observed event, whatever it is.
  • The background/ biographical elements of this individual should be limited, which is to say implied rather than presented outright in the core of things. You know who they are. Get that across to us without resorting to our narrator saying something like “I’m a junkie.”
  • The details presented about the event–especially how they’re presented–should suggest everything about our narrator.

 

Gregory Frost’s YA-crossover SHADOWBRIDGE duology (Shadowbridge & Lord Tophet) from Del Rey (Random House) was a finalist for the 2009 James Tiptree Award and named one of the year’s four best fantasy novels by the American Library Association.  His Nebula-nominated science fiction novel, THE PURE COLD LIGHT is now available in ebook formats from Book View Cafe (as is his first novel, LYREC)

 For more:
Facebook: gregory.frost1

[Writing Prompt] Guest Prompt from James Scott Bell

Today’s prompt is from best-selling novelist and popular writing teacher James Scott Bell. Thanks, Jim

The Prompt from JSB

Write about your antagonist’s life at the age of sixteen. What were the events that shaped this character back then, and still haunt today?

James Scott Bell is a best-selling author of books for writers and thrillers like Deceived, Try Dying, Watch Your Back, and One More Lie (International Thriller Writers Award finalist).  He writes frequently for Writer’s Digest magazine and blogs every Sunday at The Kill Zone. You can find some of his books for authors here.

Tips from Julie

  • Choose the antagonist/villain of a previous story.
  • Or choose the antagonist of a work-in-progress or the novel you’ve been planning to write but can’t get a handle on.
  • Remember that an antagonist isn’t necessarily the villain — just the character that gets in the way of your hero’s dream

Go!

[Writing Prompt] Guest Prompt from Simon Kewin

To engage your readers and hook them in from the first line, it’s a great idea to start in medias res, which means into the middle of things. So…

Kicking off the next few days’ Guest Prompters is StoryADay past participant Simon Kewin, who provided this great prompt. Thanks, Simon!

To engage your readers and hook them in from the first line, it’s a great idea to start in medias res, which means into the middle of things. So, instead of opening with long descriptions of background and prior events, jump straight into the action. This is immediately more engaging for the reader. The trick for the writer is then to drip-feed into the narrative information about prior situations the reader needs without it becoming too intrusive and, well, boring.

The following prompts are opening lines of stories that start in medias res. See where they – or something like them – lead you…

  • Nate plummetted to the ground, screaming Kate’s name as he fell.
  • Amanda Frobisher stood in front of the entire school, only to find no words would come out of her mouth.
  • Jamie stood in the wreckage of his ransacked house, trying to take it all in.
  • Max had one bullet left. He had to make it count.
  • “So, will you marry me or not?”

 

Simon is a UK writer and a previous StoryADayMay participant. He has two novels appearing this years: Engn, to be published by December House in July and Hedge Witch, to be published by Morrigan Books on Hallowe’en. He can be found at http://simonkewin.co.uk

Climbing Mount Revision One Step At A Time

As we sit here, there are only seven days left in May. Seven more stories and then you’re free to take a break, keep writing, set your stories on fire or, preferably revise them into works of genius. To help you out with that latter option I’ve recruited Gabriela Pereira from DIYMFA.com to give you some tips on revision.

OK, I’ll admit it. When I was in high school (and college and art school and grad school) I was definitely guilty of turning in work before revising it. Sure, I would do a quick spell-check and maybe give it a once-over for grammar, but rarely did I ever roll up my sleeves and do serious revision. And I totally know why I was so resistant to revision for so long: revision is flippin’ scary. The goal for this post is to make revision a little less scary. Let’s get started!

 

Principles of Revision
Before we dive into the how-to part of this post, here are a few things to keep in mind as you revise your work.

1) Let your writing cool down before you revise. Revision allows you to add rational choices and strategy to the frantic bursts of creativity that came out in the first draft. Take at least two weeks (maybe longer) after writing your draft to let it cool down before you revise. Step away and work on something else, then come back to it when you’re able to look at it with an objective eye. The beauty of StoryADay is that by the time you get to Day 31 of the challenge, the story you wrote on Day 1 is probably cooled off enough that you can go back and revise.

2) You need to finish first. Nothing you write is etched in stone… you can always come back and make it better later on. You can do fix just about any problem in revision, but you can’t revise a blank page. Finish first. This is why StoryADay is such an awesome challenge: it forces you to finish. Once you’re done with the challenge, you’ll have 31 finished pieces that you can pick and choose from when you start to revise.

3) Do a first read-through. Try to create a relaxing reading experience, similar to how you would read for pleasure. Make sure you’re not focused on the fact that you’re reading your own work. Make minimal notes. Your goal is to absorb the story as a whole, not nitpick over minor details. Tip: I put my drafts into Kindle format and read it on the kindle. This makes it feel like I’m reading a “real book” and not just a printed out draft. With the Kindle, I use the footnote function to make my notes, and since I’m lazy about typing notes with my thumbs, this forces me to keep the notes short.

4) Extract an outline. Write an outline of what you’ve got as a way of getting a handle on what you have written. Then adjust the outline according to the notes you made in your read-through and implement those changes in the draft.

 

Revise in Layers
I like to think of revision as climbing up a mountain. As you go up the mountain, you focus on the challenges and struggles of that one section. You don’t think about climbing the whole mountain at once (or else you’ll psych yourself out) but instead, only worry about that one small slice of the mountain. Revision is the same way. You start at the base of the mountain, revising the most basic elements of your story, then work your way up until you’re focusing on the nitty-gritty details like word choice and grammar. In my mind, revision looks a little bit like this:

Mount Revision graphic

The advantage of approaching the revision process in layers is twofold. First, you avoid overwhelming yourself because you’re only focusing on one layer at a time. Second, if you’re working with a deadline and you don’t have time to address each layer, this method can be especially valuable. If you start at the bottom and work your way up, at the very least you’ll have covered the most important elements of the story whereas if you focus on line edits first, you won’t have time to work out those bigger problems. Here’s a quick summary of each section of the revision mountain and how to address it.

Narration: This is where you consider how you’re telling the story. Is the point of view (POV) right for your story? Should it be in past tense rather than present? Is the voice of the narrator working? The best way to figure that out is to take the first page of your story and rewrite it according to the different options you’re considering, then decide which you like best.

Character Development: Don’t try to juggle all your characters at once. Start with the protagonist and figure out his/her arc, then look at key members of the supporting cast (like the villain or other important supporting characters). Work on each character separately to keep things manageable.

Plot: Here’s where extracting an outline can be extremely useful. If the typical list-format doesn’t work for you, there are many other outline options out there so you’re bound to find something that works for you.

World Building, Dialogue Description and Theme: Focus on these elements one at a time. Is the setting for your story clear? Does it feel real to the reader? How about dialogue and description? Do they flow and ring true? Finally, what’s your theme and does your story convey it?

Take-Home Message

Ultimately, revision is where you add the strategic elements to your story. Now that you know who the characters are and what’s going to happen, you can plant foreshadowing moments and hint at themes that will be important later on. You can’t do all this in your first draft because during that stage of the process you don’t know your characters or the story completely. It’s only once you know the ending and who your characters are at their core that you can manipulate the story in a strategic way.

Once you’ve revised your story, you’re ready to think about submitting it. For details on the submission process, you can look at this handy guide on How to Submit to Literary Magazines over at the DIY MFA website. And don’t forget to join in on the Sub2Pub challenge! Write on!

 

Gabriela Pereira is the Founder and Instigator at DIY MFA: the Do-It-Yourself Program in Creative Writing. DIY MFA is dedicated to helping writers improve their technique and build the benefits of a traditional MFA into their everyday writing lives.

Gabriela has an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School with a concentration in Writing for Children. She works as a freelance writing teacher and has taught workshops throughout New York City. Her fiction has appeared in various literary magazines and one of her lesson plans was included in the anthology DON’T FORGET TO WRITE, published by 826 National. She writes regular columns on writing for the STORIES FOR CHILDREN newsletter and CURIOSITY QUILLS PRESS.

Visit DIYMFA.com for more information or connect with Gabriela on twitter (@DIYMFA), Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest. For weekly writing boosts, signup for the newsletter WRITER FUEL and stay in the loop with all the latest at DIY MFA.

[Tuesday Reading Room] – Peeling

Today’s Reading Room post is by regular contributor Jami Balkom, who is reading a story a day during 2012. This week she was reading Peeling by Nathan Holic.

Diversion.

A woman struggling with fertility finds a distraction away from her marital and emotional struggle. She finds herself collecting beer labels, craft beers of all kinds, and saving them, pasting them into a scrapbook. As she catalogues this minutia, the reader sees her disintegrating mental state and can’t help but wonder if she will ever be successful in both removing that last unattainable beer label (a Sweetwater 420 label) and the pregnancy she and her husband so desperately want and have been trying for.

This story was well-written and compelling and a very different story than I’ve read before in its originality. Below is the link to the story. Enjoy.

http://necessaryfiction.com/stories/NathanHolicPeeling

 

Jami is reading a story a day in 2012. She is  a trial attorney in Panama City, Florida with an undergraduate degree in Literature from Florida State University. Jami is  currently writing her sixth novel. You can find out more at her Facebook page.

The Sloth’s Secret to Writing Success

Sloth

Recently, naturalists announced that the sloth — the animal whose name has become a synonym for laziness — is actually a lot more active than previously thought. It turns out that when we cage them and observe them, we don’t see what’s really going on in the sloth’s world.

Today I have a great guest post for you from Susan Daffron, a writer and publishing consultant. She shows us how, as writers, the times when our minds are  most fertile and active, might — to an observer — look like the times when we are being, well, slothful. She shows us that productivity for writers makes its own demands, and how to succeed by embracing that.

(You can read more about Susan’s upcoming publishing conference at the end of the article).

Then, leave your comments about how you will jump-start your creativity at the end of the article and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Rory’s Story Cubes – a great creativity booster in a box!


 

 

As a writer, I’ve gone through periods of extreme productivity and extreme sloth. Although I have written 12 books, last year in 2010, I released exactly zero.

For a variety of personal and business-related reasons, I went through a creative burnout like nothing I’d ever experienced before. Writing, which had always been fairly easy for me in the past, was suddenly extremely difficult.

Climbing Out Of A Slump

I also discovered that the less I wrote, the less I wanted to write. Talk about a lack of productivity!

I spent some time looking back at what happened during my creative slump. I realized my lack of writing productivity stemmed from three issues:

1. Lack of ideas. The stressful events I experienced caused my creativity to simply shut down. To jumpstart my mind, I surfed to online writing sites (like StoryaDay.org!),  used random-word and writing-prompt generators, and started talking to my husband about my various writing thoughts for outside feedback and support.

2. Lack of motivation. As noted, a bunch of things that happened last year brought me down. Creativity does not flow when you’re depressed. I decided to make a commitment to exercising and started reading more inspirational materials on creativity, writing, and life balance. (The library is full of wonderful FREE books just waiting to be read!)

3. Lack of time. You’ve read it before, but I’ll say it again: you have time to write if you make time to write. During my slump, I wasn’t working smart. Part of me already knew it, but I had to forcibly reacquaint myself with the methods I’d used in the past to carve out real productive writing time. I opted to make a commitment to write every morning and also started thinking up ideas for articles and posts the night before. “Sleeping on” a writing idea really works!

And The Winner Is…

I’m happy to report that the old adage “writers write” is true. Since I got my writing mojo back again, I have been writing regularly. I have my next book completely outlined and 19 case studies/interviews input so far. I’ll be speaking at a conference this summer and plan to release the book in time for it. (Deadlines help motivation too!)

If you’re a writer who wants to publish, you can get inspiration and learn more about the book publishing process at the Self-Publishers Online Conference. The third annual event is May 10-12, 2011 (http://www.SelfPublishersOnlineConference.com) Use the code SusanSentMe and get 10% off your registration!


Susan Daffron, aka The Book Consultant (http://www.TheBookConsultant.com) owns a book and software publishing company. She spends most of her time writing, laying out books in InDesign, or taking her five dogs out for romps in the forest. She also teaches people how to write and publish profitable client-attracting books and puts on the Self-Publishers Online conference (http://www.SelfPublishersOnlineConference.com) every May.


Win! Win! Win!

Leave a comment with your best tips for jump-starting creativity and win a copy of Rory’s Story Cubes, a wonderful dice game that doubles as a story-telling tool. Roll the dice and make a story from the extremely cute images on the dice. Brilliant for days when you’re stalled and need to regain your mojo.

Special thanks to Rory O’Connor and the lovely folks at Gamewright Games for donating this prize.