5 Writing Prompts: Another Snow Day Edition

I

t’s snowing here.

AGAIN.

In New Jersey we’ve literally gotten Nor’Easter after Nor’Easter after Nor’Easter this March. I’d love all the snow days if it meant I could snuggle up with some popcorn and Netflix. And, if I felt so inclined, take a few extra hours to write. Instead I have to keep two hyper children under five occupied — without them damaging the furniture (or each other).

But a girl can dream right? Of a crackling fire, hot cocoa, buttery popcorn, and a remote control all to myself.

Hopefully, unlike me, you’ve got a free day to be creative. If that’s the case, here are some snow-inspired prompts to get you through this wintery spring day:


1. You schedule a weekend retreat at a cottage with a handful of co-workers but you end up getting snowed in for a week. Supplies are low and tensions are high.

2. A child makes a snow angel. It lifts into the air and starts talking.

3. After a snowstorm, giant trees have fallen across the road, making it impassable in either direction. Out of nowhere a neighbor bursts out of her house shouting, “Hurry, help me, please, before it’s too late!”

4. The falling snow has become so polluted that it turns to acid, and it eats away at everything it touches.

5. “Look, over there, do you see that?” He nudges you in the arm. You squint at the hole in the snow bank and see two yellow eyes staring back at you.

5 Writing Prompts: Of All The Luck Edition

When it comes to holidays, I’m kind of lazy. The little ones seem to creep up on me, and before you know it, it’s the eve before St. Patrick’s Day and all my green clothes are dirty and lying at the bottom of the hamper.

Luckily, I’m a writer.

Because that means I can celebrate by grabbing a pen and paper or opening up my computer and jotting down some words. That’s one of my favorite perks of this hobby/profession: the ease of which you can get to work. Not to mention it’s fun too.

This year I’m a couple of days ahead! Woohoo! So for your writing pleasure, here are 5 writing prompts that will hopefully inspire you to create a St. Paddy’s Day story of your own.


1. You are running through a park when you trip and land in a field of four leaf clovers. They begin spreading over your entire body.

2. A cursed leprechaun must haunt an apartment building on the eve of every St. Patrick’s Day.

3. You fall asleep on a bus and wake up penniless and without your cell phone, hundreds of miles away from your stop.

4. You are sailing off the coast of England and see a shimmering green island in the distance.

5. “It’s mine!” one brother screamed at the other. “Now that father is gone the pot of gold is mine!”


The Pros and Cons of Writing Critique Groups

The first time I walked into a writing critique group, I didn’t know a soul. As I sat down, my clammy fingers gripping a few pages of my most recent work, I remember silently praying, “Please don’t make me go first.” When my time to share did come, my voice sounded strange, hollow. The words coming out were foreign. I was bewildered, simultaneously thinking, “Wow, I wrote this?” and “Ugh, I wrote this?”

Luckily, I survived the ordeal. And I came home with a renewed sense of inspiration for the piece I had been toiling over for months.

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By my third meeting, sharing didn’t feel strange anymore. In fact, I looked forward to giving a voice to my words and seeing how people reacted.

I was hooked.

I blazed ahead in a writing fury, meeting up with other writers weekly, sharing writing that was barely finished. The rendezvous were the gasoline that powered my writing car, so to speak. They propelled me forward, and I made friends I never would have met without my group. We all shared our work, asked clarifying questions, discussed our likes and dislikes, pondered sticky plot problems. My critique group became my most powerful motivating tool.

Then a bad thing happened.

I let a couple of harsh critiques immobilize my writing. I let them push me to the verge of discarding an entire manuscript.

I didn’t like my writing group anymore. I thought they were sucking me into the black hole of writer’s block.

I nearly quit.

It wasn’t the group’s fault my work suffered. I took some comments the wrong way. I went back and rewrote something over and over, when I should have simply moved forward, saving their suggestions for later.

It took another writer’s advice (a writer who doesn’t use critique groups) to break me out of my funk.

He told me he doesn’t show his work to anyone until it has been through one round of his own edits. He believes there are too many ways to pick apart someone’s writing when it’s in that delicate stage of the raw first draft. And comparing a raw first draft to other’s polished work is a recipe for a confidence killer.

I still continue to meet with my groups, but these days I don’t share my work in progress. I specifically choose works that have graduated to the second draft. Words that are malleable and ready to be rewritten.

I’ve learned you have to approach writing critique groups knowing that they aren’t infallible.

You’re going to have to discard some friends’ suggestions. And maybe they won’t like something… but that doesn’t mean you should discard it. If you join a critique group with that knowledge, you will be better equipped to use it to help your work, not hinder it.

The Pros and Cons of Writing Critique Groups

Pros:

  • They are motivating
  • Help you build confidence
  • Help you build friendships
  • Help you clarify your writing

Cons:

  • You compare your writing to others’
  • Rewriting causes you to lose momentum
  • Meetings interfere with writing time

What about you? Do you love or hate writing critique groups? Why?

by Avery R. Dean

Meditation for Writers

I have evenings when I don’t want to write. Either I’m exhausted from getting up for the #5amwritersclub, mentally drained from too many items on my to do list, or my kids spent a better part of the day before behaving like lunatics.

I know I’m not alone.

We’re all stressed. If you aren’t, send me an email and tell me your secret.

But I did recently find a way plough through all my mental baggage, allowing me to sit down and get a few words out, even if for only a few minutes.

By meditating.

I really don’t like the word meditation. It conjures up images of yogis and incense and chanting. Large, beautiful temples and silence. Things that I can’t access. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that there’s anything wrong with those things; they just aren’t a part of my repertoire (save for the occasional yoga class).

I stumbled onto meditation by accident.

I was writing another article, Ways to Reduce Mental Baggage, and meditation was touted as the easiest, most natural solution. I found studies that showed that meditation can result in other health benefits, like lowering blood pressure and reducing anxiety. Without any ill side effects. I was intrigued. And I don’t like to write about things I don’t know, so I tried it.

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It wasn’t easy at first. Finding a spot in my home free from distractions was the most difficult part. But after that, everything fell into place. After the first couple of times, when I felt a little silly, it became painfully easy. Even better, it worked.

Meditation made the impossible possible.

Before, I was falling into the “no, I can’t write tonight” excuse almost daily. Now those nights are few and far between. Even after the kids are tucked into bed, when I’m physically and emotionally drained, I’ve been able to write after a short session of meditating.

The secret is that I actually look forward to meditating. Maybe even more than writing. The disconnect from everything but my own mind feels like I’m taking a miniature vacation. And no matter what, every time I meditate, I am able to write afterward. It’s amazing. It’s as if I have a newfound power over my procrastination.

If you want to give it a try, take a look at the instructions below. Try it once. Twice. Hopefully it will work for you too. But be warned, do not try this in bed. Unless sleeping is your goal, not writing.

How to Meditate:

  1. Find a quiet place, free from distractions, to sit comfortably.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Breathe normally.
  4. Let your mind wander, but do not dwell or try to control your thoughts.
  5. Do this until you feel relaxed or set a timer if needed (5 minutes will do.)

Why Every Writer Should Try Twitter

More than a few writers are hesitant to try Twitter. Not a single writer I’ve met through my critique groups use this social media platform.

“It’s confusing and pointless,” they say. Or, “I don’t need anything else to distract me from writing.”

While it’s true that Twitter can suck away your precious free time if you’re not careful, don’t be fooled about its usefulness in the writing community.

I’ll be honest, at first I didn’t understand how it could benefit me either. I set up a profile online, downloaded the app, then pretty much ignored it. But on one particularly boring afternoon I started playing around, and eventually it all clicked. I made a few connections, found a group of writers like me, and I was hooked. These days I refuse to be a junkie and jump online every minute, but I do stop by daily to say hello to my digital friends and get help when I need it.

Here are five reasons why learning how to utilize this social media platform can benefit you in your writing endeavors:

(Note: Before you give Twitter a try, you need to know what a hashtag is: the little # symbol in front of words. Read more about what it is and what it does here.)

1. It Fosters Camaraderie

Twitter is the most popular digital place for writers to convene and share. Do a simple search for #amwriting and you will find thousands of other writers sharing their thoughts, fears, and triumphs. The #5amwritersclub is another popular group; every morning you can find other folks who wake up early and attempt to get some words down before they do anything else.

2. You Can Chat with your Favorite Authors

Just finish a book you adored? Check for them on Twitter! You may be surprised to find the author is an active tweeter. Stephen King (@StephenKing), for example, has tweeted over 2,000 times! Even better, many published writers actually respond to the tweets or messages you send them.

3. You Can Get Help

Writer’s block? No good ideas for the new short piece you want to start? Tweet your troubles, add the hashtag #WritersProblems or #WritersBlock and see if anyone volunteers to help. Note that you are more likely to get help when you have a few followers, which will happen after you start engaging with other writers.

4. You Can See What Kind of Books are in Demand

Agents, publishers, and editors are all over Twitter, and a lot of them are looking for new manuscripts. While it’s not advisable bombard anyone with unsolicited promotional tweets or messages, you can search Twitter with the hashtag #MSWL (manuscript wish list) to see what kind of books they wish they had their hands on. Some will even request pitches or manuscript chapters, so keep your eye out for them.

5. You Can Promote Yourself

*Be careful attempting this, and do so with a light touch. No one wants to follow a writer who’s only out to sell themselves or their book. But did you finally finish your manuscript? Did you sign with an agent? Is it your book’s publishing day? Brag about it! (Then move on.)

Happy Tweeting!