Prompting

Sometimes the writing flows.  Sometimes it needs a kickstart.  For that, I love writing prompts.  I have folders and files of them all over my computer, and I never get tired of finding more.  They're a great way to get your daily writing practice going when you can't quite figure out what to write.

Here are ten of my favorites (plus two bonuses) in no particular order:

  1. Dragon Writing Prompts.  It seems to have stopped updating, but there are loads of good prompts over there.
  2. The One-Minute Writer.  Prompts on a time limit (although you can always take them off the site and write more if things are getting good).
  3. Creative Writing Prompts.  A strange looking page full of numbers, but there are good prompts hiding in there. Hover over each number to see the prompt.
  4. Awesome Writing Prompts. AKA Prompts that Don't Suck.  A whole Tumblr full of fun and quirky prompts to play with.
  5. Writer's Digest Prompts.  Great story starting prompts here. Make sure to check the older posts because they've been doing this for years, so there's a lot to see.
  6. Language is a Virus. This is a prompt generator. When you land on the page, there's a prompt showing.  If you don't like it, you can click the red button and get something new. But don't cheat and keep clicking! Only give yourself one or two do-overs before you start to write.
  7. Toasted Cheese. This is one of my favorite sites. They have a variety of writing prompts and a weekly writing chat.  Plus, I love the sandwich they're named after.
  8. StoryWonk Story Generator.  StoryWonk is my favorite writing site (so many awesome podcasts!). And this generator is fantastic with its crazy mishmash of characters and settings and events. It's great fun!  And if you're interested in trying new processes in your writing life, check out the StoryWonk Frog Box.  It's all about things to try (writing in a closet, for example) to shake the dust off your writing life.
  9. DIY MFA Writer Igniter. This is another fun story generator to play with, and it gives you a photo for the setting to really help get your writing started.
  10. The Writer prompts.  Pages of scenarios to get your stories started.

And those bonuses I mentioned:

These are very short daily prompts that are sent to your email, and they are some of the best prompts I've seen:  Sarah Selecky Daily Prompts

This is a website that gives you a daily prompt and a place to do your writing practice (you can have them emailed to you, too, to make it really easy to get going): Daily Page

This should be plenty to get you writing and keep you going.  Grab a prompt and go write something!

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2

ListenI struggle with middles in my longer writing projects.  I'm always excited about the beginnings (isn't everyone?).  And at least some of the time I'll have some good stuff queued up for the ending, so I know how that's going to look. But the middles catch me and drag me down.  I have stopped writing in the middle of a few too many wannabe novels.

This podcast from Writing Excuses addresses middles and has some great advice.  I especially like the conversation about try/fail cycles and also predictability.

Writing Excuses 10.27: Why Can't I Just Jump to the Ending?

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3

Your Way

Since shifting to focusing on writers and writing, I've been taking things pretty slow around here.  I'm still getting a feel for how my love of writing and love/obsession with story structure and writing methods and all the nuts-and-bolts stuff will come together to make things better for myself and other writers.

To help with that, I've jumped in on ProBlogger's 31 Days to a Better Blog.  I've signed up before but didn't do much, but this time it's being done as a podcast, so I'm listening in the car.  So much easier to keep up with it this way!  I tell everyone else but forget for myself: Make it easy.  This will make it easy for me to gather my thoughts and share them here more regularly.

But back to the topic.  What is this thing, or what do I do around this place?

Your story, your way.  Your writing life, your way.  That's what MuseCraft is all about.  I'm here to guide writers to create their perfect writing lives and write their stories their way.  There is no one true way.  There's only your way.

That's what I'm here for.  So what can I do to help you and your writing dreams?

 

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2

Writing Practice Reasons 2

I think writing practice* is the most important thing you can do for your writing life. Of course you need to work on your stories or articles, but you need to give attention to writing for the sake of writing, too.  Just as an athlete or musician or dancer must practice regularly to keep themselves in top form and do their absolute best when it's time to perform, a writer must practice their craft so when they sit down to the page they can tell the story that is in their hearts.

So what exactly do you get from regular writing practice?  All of this and then some:

Sharpen your writing skills

Writing practice, even the most free form, stream-of-consciousness style, gives you a chance to play with words and sentences, practice descriptions, toy with dialogue. It lets you build better writing skills without the pressure of trying to become a better writer while also trying to write a story.

Learn to write on demand

Sitting down to write regularly, especially if you set a goal to write for a certain amount of time or number of words or pages each session, trains you to start writing when you sit down at the page.  Sitting down with your notebook or at the keyboard becomes all the trigger you need to let the words start flowing.

Discover your true thoughts

Writing practice lets you examine your own thoughts and opinions on whatever subject you choose to write about.  There is no influence from others besides what you bring with you to the table from your own experiences, reading, etc.  There is no need to worry about what readers will think about what you have to say because writing practice is your own personal writing and not meant for readers.  Writing practice gives you a chance to dive deep into topics and then use what you've written as a springboard for further exploration so you can get down deep into your own thoughts.

Quiet your mind

Writing practice is meditation.  It lets you clear your mind, quiet your thoughts, focus on just your hand and the pen and the page (or the keyboard and screen). The more you practice, the more you will find that a good, solid, regular writing practice is just as beneficial to your state of mind as sitting in meditation or practicing yoga.

Build a body of work

In writing practice, you write.  You write a lot (you'll be surprised how many words pour out even in a 10 minute session).  Most of it will not be useful--it will be a lot about worrying about money and your health and your dog and your job.  It will be a lot about the world around you.  But it will also be true thoughts from deep inside you, snippets of dialogue, descriptions of what's outside your window.  And all of these are things that can be used for further writing practice and also in stories and poems.  The more you write for writing practice, the more you have to draw on for later projects.

Banish writer's block

When you get in the habit of writing anything that comes to mind when you sit down in your writing spot, the habit starts breaking down any writer's block you may experience.  When you become used to keeping your hand or fingers moving, keeping the words pouring out no matter what else is going on, this carries over to your other writing.  If you become accustomed to starting to write as soon as you show up at the page, you will also start to write immediately when you show up for your story.  Giving yourself permission to write fast with no worries for content loosens you up to write whenever you need to.

I hope I've convinced you to start a regular writing practice aside from your stories, poetry, and so on.  It's really worth your time.  Give it a shot.  Try it out for a couple of weeks or, even better, a whole month.  Then stop back here and let me know how it's going.

*Writing practice is writing for its own sake.  It is letting your thoughts spill onto the page free form either by writing whatever comes into your head or by using prompts to get you started.  It can also be targeted writing practice where you do exercises to build your description skills, dialogue skills, etc.

 

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ListenYou may have heard about the book deal that John Scalzi signed with Tor a bit over a week ago.

You may also have seen some of the uproar.  Most of what I've seen on the internet has been really positive, congratulating Mr. Scalzi and wishing him well.  But there have been people saying he's selling out, people who seem to think that somehow his getting a great deal is going to take something away from other authors.  This is completely untrue and ridiculous.

Alastair Stephens of Story Wonk talked about this in one of his The Journeyman Writer podcasts last week, and I think what he has to say is important for all writers.  So have a listen.  Don't worry about what other writers are earning because it won't impact you at all, honest, and get back to your story.

The Journeyman Writer 53: A Big Deal

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6

In any writing project, or in writing life in general, we're going to hit slumps.  We'll be writing merrily along when suddenly we are flies caught in amber.  We feel stuck, sluggish, like we don't know what to do or where to go next.  We're tired, our brains are mush, we feel overwhelmed.  When that happens, stop writing!

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Sometimes when you hit those sticky spots it means you need a break (a break, not quitting, so decide when you'll go back to work).  Check in with yourself and see if that's what you need.  If so, go take a nap, take a walk, bake a cake.  Step away.

Sometimes it's not about needing a break, though.  Sometimes we hit these spots because we've been all about the output and not enough about the intake.  If that's what's going on with you, there are some writerly things you can do to get unstuck.

When we're in the middle of writing, especially if we're under a tight deadline or pushing toward some hefty goals, we forget that we still need to fill the well, feed our creativity, keep the fun in our writing.  We start to become all about the word count and forget everything else until we find ourselves stuck.

So what do you do?  First, stop writing.  We've covered that one.  Next, do writing-adjacent things, things that will keep you involved in your story or keep you connected to writing and storytelling in general.  This is my list of writing-related activities.  You may think of more to add that work even better for you, but this is a starting point in getting unstuck.  Pick one or two, or try them all.

Writing-adjacent activities:

  • Immerse yourself in narrative (thanks to Lani Diane Rich of Story Wonk for this phrase)--watch movies and TV shows, read books, listen to audio books.  Watch or read things in your own genre and in others.  Something with great characters is best, because all of these things teach us about storytelling even when we aren't actively trying to learn, so we want to pick good quality teachers
  • Plan your book cover
  • Write your back-cover copy
  • Write lists of events, dialogue snippets, descriptions, and any other things that you might want to put in your story
  • Make a Pinterest board or a collage for your characters, your setting, anything about your story
  • Create some mindmaps
  • Read inspirational books on writing (I love Natalie Goldberg, Ray Bradbury, and Stephen King for this)
  • Chat with some writer friends and find out what they do when they're stuck

Most of all, give yourself the time you need to really feel like you are ready to get back to your story.  If you need to, adjust your goals.  Take the time you need to reconnect to your story and get interested in it again.  You'll be a happier writer, and your story will be better because you're enthused about it.

Happy writing!

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6

Listen

Listen Up is a new addition to the blog.  I listen to a lot of podcasts as well as recordings of interviews and other tasty tidbits people share around the internet, and I want to share the good stuff I find. The Listen Up posts are going to be short posts with a link recommending something I think is really good, helpful, or simply fascinating.  Enjoy!

Odyssey Podcasts are short excerpts from various guest lecturers at the prestigious Odyssey Workshop held every year in New Hampshire.  While the workshop is for writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror, the information shared in these podcasts will benefit any writer.

You get Nancy Kress talking about writing in scenes, Jack Ketchum talking about powerful openings, Patricia McKillip on turning real landscapes into fantasy worlds.  And there's so much more!  Too much for me to try to pick out a smattering of standouts.  Go have a look for yourself instead.

Each episode is nice and short, too, so they're easy to fit in on your commute or while you're doing dishes, etc.  Click below to check out the episodes.

Odyssey Podcasts main page

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2

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Do you take writing classes?  Do you do exercises or tutorials from books and websites?

If you've been around the writing life for a while it might seem like you've found all the information you really need.  It might feel like a class on dialogue or setting is just going to be repetition of things you've already heard.  A class on basic creative writing?  You're so far beyond that!

Or maybe not.  Taking classes isn't all about learning something new (although that's great, too, so do if if you can).  It's about immersing yourself in your writing.  It's about setting aside time and attention solely for your writing.  It's about getting focused, maybe hearing a new take on an old subject, and building connections with fellow writers.

Why Take Classes:

  • External deadlines--class assignments will help keep you moving forward
  • Community--you'll meet other writers, including the teacher, either in person or virtually, and being around other writers is great for motivation
  • Focus--when you've paid for a class, you're more likely to actually put in the time and focus on your writing, at least during the duration of the course
  • Fresh ideas--you can always learn new things, even about something you already know a lot about; classes will let you hear ideas from others and maybe spark new ideas of your own

Why Use Tutorials and Exercises:

  • New ideas--someone else's questions may spark new ideas in you
  • Break through a block--questions and exercises can give you an entry point into your writing that can help you get past the blank page
  • New understanding--someone else's phrasing of something you already know can give you clearer understanding of the subject
  • Build a cushion--doing exercises can help you build up a stash of story ideas, story starters, scenes, and dialogue for later use which is especially helpful when you feel stuck

Obviously I'm a fan of taking classes to keep your writing flowing.  It's a great way to keep connected to your writing and to the writing community.  And tutorials, exercises, etc. are a great way to get your brain out of your personal grooves and into different thought patterns. So, especially if you're feeling stuck or sluggish in your writing lately, try out a class and see if it gets things going again. I think it will be worth your time.

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2

Ladder

I have been procrastinating on writing a new blog post.  You probably noticed that by the whole month that's passed since the last post.  I've been contemplating some big, exciting changes in the website and my coaching, but I wasn't entirely sure how to get started, so I just kept putting off writing about.

Basically the shift is going to be a shift in focus from creativity in general to topics about writers and writing and the writing life.  I'm sure I'll still throw in some posts about my other creative projects now and then; it's not like I'm going to stop painting, art journaling, taking photos, all of that because I'm shifting my online focus.  Most of that sharing will happen on Instagram and Twitter now, though, so if you like to see what I'm making you might want to follow me there. Just be aware that there will also be lots of pictures of my cats, because they're adorable!

So back to MuseCraft™.  If you don't consider yourself a writer, you might still want to stick around.  I think writing is for everyone, and I'll probably talk about that fairly often.  Think about it.  Do you blog? Post on Facebook?  Keep a journal?  You're writing.  Might as well figure out how to do it the best way for you, make it easy, have some fun.  And I think it's important for everyone to at least try out some forms of journaling, if only to stretch themselves and their limits and see how it feels, so I'll be talking about that, too.

I'll be writing a lot about journaling and writing practice because I think they are important for every creative.  I'll also be writing about things like plotting and story structure, classes and workshops and books I run across, and things like that.  And I'm sure I'll be broadening these categories and adding to them as I go along.  For now, just know that there's going to be a shift, but I hope you'll stick with me for the next phase.

 

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8

Filled
Midori-style Notebook

I love that word, "traveler."  It's right up there with "adventure" and "wild" for me, favorite exciting words that make me want to jump up and do something.  And of course I love notebooks.  I'm pretty sure that's come up before.  So last week when I got a glimpse into the world of the Midori Traveler Notebook, I was hooked.  Sort of.  I didn't like the sizes.  I don't want to have to send away for inserts all the time, and I don't want to have to make my own all the time.

I decided I would just make my own Midori Traveler (also called "fauxdori" which is so cute!) in a size that works for me.  I spent hours on Pinterest, Etsy, and YouTube (favorite links below) looking at examples and watching how other people made theirs.  I came up with a plan, picking my favorite parts from everything I looked at, and I got started.

Raw Materials
Raw Materials

I decided on red vinyl for the cover because I didn't feel like waiting until I could get to the leather store.  I was going to line the vinyl with fabric, but I found this fabulous stuff called Kraft-tex Kraft Paper Fabric.  It acts like fabric and paper--its wonderful.  I picked some up to paint and collage for my liner.  I got turquoise embroidery floss to finish the edges to make sure there's no peeling of the layers, and I got rainbow elastic because I needed elastic, so why not rainbow?

I painted and collaged the liner then glued it to the vinyl.  Then I used a five-pronged leather punch to make holes for the embroidery floss all around the edges of the notebook.

Ready to Stitch
Stitching Tools
Inside and Out
Inside and Out. Covers glued and stitched.

I added the rainbow elastic, mostly the magenta and flame orange section (because it's one five-yard piece of elastic, so I picked a section).  I decided to put the holes side-by-side rather than one above the other (which is how it's set up in the real Midoris) to give me two same-sized bands on the inside.

Rainbow Elastic
Rainbow Elastic

Then I added the elastic "belt".  In the real Midoris the hole for this is in the middle of the back cover.  I saw a few people putting theirs on the spine, so I did that with mine, too.  So far so good, although I just finished the notebook about an hour ago so it may be too soon to tell.

 

Elastic Belt
Elastic Belt
Closed 2
Closed

I gathered or created my filler books.  The first one is a Moleskine Cahier that I worked a few pages in several years ago then let languish.  I decided I should go ahead and use it, so I changed the title on the cover and put it into my fauxdori.  It's going to be for project plans and notes.  The next one is a greeting card that I added some decorations to and then filled with scrapbook paper to make a sort of Smash Book for visual journaling and glue-booking. The third is dot-grid printed paper bound into pretty scrapbook paper.  This one will be for writing practice, notes, etc.  And the last one is a blank book that came inside an art journaling book I got several years ago (and can't find in my house to tell you the name of).  I cut it down a bit so it will fit into my notebook.  The journals that I bound are half-sheet size (US 8.5 x 11 inches) while the Moleskine is slightly smaller, but I don't mind the disparity in size.  They are all close enough that they work fine together, and I like the idea of making my book a size that lets me pick up refills when I want instead of always having to make them.

Fillers
Fillers

Here's the filled book:

Top Edge
Top Edge

 

Bottom Edge
Bottom Edge

I used the elastic to insert the middle books and then large rubber bands to attach each of the outside books.

 

Rubber Bands
7" Rubber Bands

Last but not least, I added Post-it pockets inside the front and back covers to hold all the little notes and scraps of paper that accumulate.

Envelopes
Post-it Pockets

And now it's ready to use for creative planning, note taking, writing practice, vision collages, and whatever else I think up, all in one place!

Do you have a Midori Notebook story?  I'd love to hear how you use yours.  And if you have pictures, please link in the comments so we can all enjoy them.  Thanks!

Links:

There's a ton of stuff out there.  I still have loads of videos saved to watch later, and every time I open Pinterest there are new posts.  So go browse around, see all the cool stuff, and maybe make a Traveler of your own.  Have fun!

 

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