Category Archives: Writing Prompt

Prompts Are Everywhere: Using Writing Prompts to Spark Creativity

Have you ever needed that spark to write? Try writing prompts.

A blank page glares back at you, taunting you to write something. Anything. A minute passes. Then another. Three cups of coffee later, you find yourself on social media watching cats riding Roombas and the page remains woefully blank. Ideas are everywhere, but sometimes we need a kick in the brain to notice them. Writing prompts provide something the bottom of your caffeinated beverage cannot: a fresh idea. Prompts can help you out of a rut and trigger new creativity.

Let’s say you been “adulting” all day and your brain is full of kids, bills, and work. Maybe your muse took a nap because you’ve been agonizing over where to put commas as you edit. Or you woke up extra groggy this morning and that third cup is a joke because you know you need the whole pot. A prompt is a great way to start a writing session when your brain if in the wrong mode. Take 10 minutes and sit down to write. Find a prompt that triggers at least one spark for you, set pen to paper (or whatever your preferred method) and write. Don’t stop until the timer dings. Let the ideas flow and give your brain permission to play. It wants to play, so let it. There is no right or wrong way to use a prompt. It’s whatever strikes you in the moment.

The most basic prompt is a short list of words.

A good list will have at least three words that don’t fit together at first glance. Random prompt generators typically give a character, place, and object. Some include additional elements like time and weather. Your creative job is to connect the ideas. When you find the right prompt, your brain will begin building a story around them without asking you permission. First, connect two items, then add in the next. Ask questions, be curious and, most importantly, find a way to the chocolate.

The words hat, rose, and chocolate might be connected first by a hat with a rose on it. Expand upon the idea by asking the ‘W’ questions— who, what, where, why. Who is wearing the hat? A woman. When did it come from? A store, maybe not important. Where is the hat? On the bench next to the woman. What is that hat doing there? Well, this is where it gets really good…remember that guy she met in line for hot chocolate? The words don’t have to be used verbatim. If chocolate gets you thinking about Mayan conquerors and the quest for gold, go with it. It’s a prompt, not a law. The best prompt is the one that takes you in an interesting direction and won’t let you NOT write it.

Writing prompts come in many shapes and sizes beyond three-word combinations. All provide an entry point to a story.

  1. First lines
  2. Dialogue
  3. Character based
  4. Setting based
  5. Photo
  6. Ripped from the headlines

Writing prompts are everywhere.

A Google search yields dozens of writing prompt sites. The 10 Minute Novelists’ Pinterest page has a curated list. If that’s not enough, the app store for your phone contains several dedicated prompt apps. Canned prompts are great, but you can also make your own. One photo prompt can be worth a thousand words or more and this style of prompt is also readily available when you search on the term, but consider following photographers on social media or using stock photos.

An adjustment to your viewpoint or a narrowing of focus results in a different way of seeing the mundane.  For example, a storm passed through knocking down chairs and tables at an outdoor cafe. In panoramic view, the closed cafe sat at the end of a row of shops abutted to a huge parking lot. Like any old downtown. By narrowing the focus to see only the knocked over chairs and tables and asking questions, the scene is transformed. Who caused all this damage? There was a struggle. They were waiting for her. Was anyone hurt? He got there too late, so he didn’t know what happened to her. Why would anyone take his one and only love? Oh, right the gambling debts.

Searching for an even more exotic source for prompts? Try news headlines. Science news covers everything from medical testing to planetary discoveries to the amount of wine we should all drink. Headlines from foreign countries bring you concepts that are just that— foreign. Controlling the kangaroo population, mobile hospitals, red ants floating in pools. What if you built a world where the constraints of the headline were the rule? Everyone must drink a glass of wine a day for longevity, but otherwise, they wither away. And maybe it isn’t wine, but some other government supplied an elixir of doom. Two steps from the headline becomes a conspiracy laden dystopia. Add a character who can’t get his elixir and you will probably need more than the prescribed ten minutes.

Allow writing from prompts to be sloppy.

The sentences don’t have to make sense but do let the ideas flow. Where you start may not be where you end and it’s ok. Stories have a character in a setting with conflict and prompt may give you only one of these elements of story telling. All writing is progress and you never know when you can use the ideas from a simple prompt. Do you have a favorite style of prompt? Has one led you to a larger work? Leave a comment if you’ve benefitted from prompts.


Sara Marschand has been writing Urban Fantasy and Science fiction since she ended her full time career in engineering. When not writing, she enjoys everything produced by Marvel studios. Sara lives with her spouse, 2 noisy kids, a frog and a goldfish that spits rocks. Visit her blog here.

Weekly Flash Fiction Contest! Write An Apples to Apples Drabble!

This is the place for a weekly flash fiction contest!

The Apples To Apples Drabble! 

The Rules: 

  1. Write a drabble. A drabble is a 100-word story, with beginning, middle and end. A drabble can be any genre. Make it exactly 100 words. You can do it. That’s what adjectives and adverbs are for.
  2. Include each of the three Apples To Apples cards in the photo. All three. Not two. Not four. ALL THREE. New cards are chosen every week.
  3. Paste your drabble into the comments below. Then share this with your friends. The more comments you get on your entry, the more likely you are to win!
  4. Absolutely no links, screen shots or salesy type of behavior in the content entry. 
  5. Winners are chosen by the amount of positive response they get. Comments like, “This is great!” or “How funny!” or “Good job!” are the kinds of things that will be counted. Negative comments like, “this contest sucks” or “the rest of the entries are losers” or “WTF?” will be unapproved. The author of this blog reserves the right to reject or block any content that is suspected of originating from trolls. In the event of a tie, winners will be chosen by this method. 
  6. Limit 3 entries per person. If you’re having fun, come back next Friday.
  7. The contest is open from 5:00 AM EST every Friday and closes down the following Sunday night at midnight.
  8. Winning entries will be announced on the 10 Minute Novelists Facebook group page the following Monday. The entry will also be published in the monthly digital newsletter, 10 Minute Novelists Insider. 
  9. All entries must contain no profanity, no graphic violence or erotica and no hate speech. Entries that do not abide by this rule will not be approved. Consistent abuse of this rule will warrant a blocked user.

This week’s cards!

This Week’s Flash Fiction Contest! Write a Drabble & Win!

This is the place for a weekly flash fiction contest!

The Apples To Apples Drabble! 

The Rules: 

  1. Write a drabble. A drabble is a 100-word story, with beginning, middle and end. A drabble can be any genre. Make it exactly 100 words. You can do it. That’s what adjectives and adverbs are for.
  2. Include each of the three Apples To Apples cards in the photo. All three. Not two. Not four. ALL THREE. New cards are chosen every week.
  3. Paste your drabble into the comments below. Then share this with your friends. The more comments you get on your entry, the more likely you are to win!
  4. Absolutely no links, screen shots or salesy type of behavior in the content entry. 
  5. Winners are chosen by the amount of positive response they get. Comments like, “This is great!” or “How funny!” or “Good job!” are the kinds of things that will be counted. Negative comments like, “this contest sucks” or “the rest of the entries are losers” or “WTF?” will be unapproved. The author of this blog reserves the right to reject or block any content that is suspected of originating from trolls. In the event of a tie, winners will be chosen by this method. 
  6. Limit 3 entries per person. If you’re having fun, come back next Friday.
  7. The contest is open from 5:00 AM EST every Friday and closes down the following Sunday night at midnight.
  8. Winning entries will be announced on the 10 Minute Novelists Facebook group page the following Monday. The entry will also be published in the monthly digital newsletter, 10 Minute Novelists Insider. 
  9. All entries must contain no profanity, no graphic violence or erotica and no hate speech. Entries that do not abide by this rule will not be approved. Consistent abuse of this rule will warrant a blocked user.

This week’s cards!

This Week’s Apples To Apples Drabble Contest!

This is the place for a weekly flash fiction contest!

The Apples To Apples Drabble!

The Rules!

Write a drabble. A drabble is a 100-word story, with beginning, middle and end. A drabble can be any genre. Make it exactly 100 words. You can do it. That’s what adjectives and adverbs are for.

Include each of the three Apples To Apples cards in the photo. All three. Not two. Not four. ALL THREE. New cards are chosen every week.

Paste your drabble into the comments below. Then share this with your friends. The more comments you get on your entry, the more likely you are to win!

Absolutely no links, screen shots or salesy type of behavior in the content entry. 

Winners are chosen by the amount of positive response they get. Comments like, “This is great!” or “How funny!” or “Good job!” are the kinds of things that will be counted. Negative comments like, “this contest sucks” or “the rest of the entries are losers” or “WTF?” will be unapproved. The author of this blog reserves the right to reject or block any content that is suspected of originating from trolls. In the event of a tie, winners will be chosen by this method.

Limit 3 entries per person. If you’re having fun, come back next Friday.

The contest is open from 5:00 AM EST every Friday and closes down the following Sunday night at midnight.

Winning entries will be announced on the 10 Minute Novelists Facebook group page the following Monday. The entry will also be published in the monthly digital newsletter, 10 Minute Novelists Insider. 

All entries must contain no profanity, no graphic violence or erotica and no hate speech. Entries that do not abide by this rule will not be approved. Consistent abuse of this rule will warrant a blocked user.

 

This week’s cards!

Write An Apples To Apples Drabble!

This is the place for a weekly flash fiction contest!

The Apples To Apples Drabble! 

The Rules: 

  1. Write a drabble. A drabble is a 100-word story, with beginning, middle and end. A drabble can be any genre. Make it exactly 100 words. You can do it. That’s what adjectives and adverbs are for.
  2. Include each of the three Apples To Apples cards in the photo. All three. Not two. Not four. ALL THREE. New cards are chosen every week.
  3. Paste your drabble into the comments below. Then share this with your friends. The more comments you get on your entry, the more likely you are to win!
  4. Absolutely no links, screen shots or salesy type of behavior in the content entry. 
  5. Winners are chosen by the amount of positive response they get. Comments like, “This is great!” or “How funny!” or “Good job!” are the kinds of things that will be counted. Negative comments like, “this contest sucks” or “the rest of the entries are losers” or “WTF?” will be unapproved. The author of this blog reserves the right to reject or block any content that is suspected of originating from trolls. In the event of a tie, winners will be chosen by this method.
  6. Limit 3 entries per person. If you’re having fun, come back next Friday.
  7. The contest is open from 5:00 AM EST every Friday and closes down the following Sunday night at midnight.
  8. Winning entries will be announced on the 10 Minute Novelists Facebook group page the following Monday. The entry will also be published in the monthly digital newsletter, 10 Minute Novelists Insider. 
  9. All entries must contain no profanity, no graphic violence or erotica and no hate speech. Entries that do not abide by this rule will not be approved. Consistent abuse of this rule will warrant a blocked user.

This week’s cards!

Good luck! 

The Weekly Apples to Apples Drabble Contest! You Can Win!

This is the place for a weekly flash fiction contest!

The Apples To Apples Drabble! 

Apples to Apple Drabble Flash Fiction Contest by 10 Minute Novelists

 

The Rules: 

  1. Write a drabble. A drabble is a 100 word story, with beginning, middle and end. A drabble can be any genre. Make it exactly 100 words. You can do it. That’s what adjectives and adverbs are for.
  2. Include each of the three Apples To Apples cards in the photo. All three. Not two. Not four. ALL THREE. New cards are chosen every week.
  3. Paste your drabble into the comments below. Then share this with your friends. The more comments you get on your entry, the more likely you are to win!
  4. Absolutely no links, screen shots or salesy type of behavior in the content entry. 
  5. Winners are chosen by the amount of positive response they get. Comments like, “This is great!” or “How funny!” or “Good job!” are the kinds of things that will be counted. Negative comments like, “this contest sucks” or “the rest of the entries are losers” or “WTF?” will be unapproved. The author of this blog reserves the right to unapprove or block any content that is suspected of originating from trolls. In the event of a tie, winners will be chosen by this method.
  6. Limit 3 entries per person. If you’re having fun, come back next Friday.
  7. Contest is open from 5:00 AM EST every Friday and closes down the following Sunday night at midnight.
  8. Winning entries will be announced on the 10 Minute Novelists Facebook group page the following Monday. The entry will also be published in the monthly digital newsletter, 10 Minute Novelists Insider. 
  9. All entries must contain no profanity, no graphic violence or erotica and no hate speech. Entries that do not abide by this rule will not be approved. Consistent abuse of this rule will warrant a blocked user.

This week’s cards!

Apples to Apples Drabble Contest from 10 Minute Novelists

 

Good luck! 

The Weekly Apple to Apples Drabble! Submit Your Entry Below!

Support 10 Minute Novelists

This is the place for a weekly flash fiction contest!

The Apples To Apples Drabble! 

Apples to Apple Drabble Flash Fiction Contest by 10 Minute Novelists

The Rules: 

  1. Write a drabble. A drabble is a 100 word story, with beginning, middle and end. A drabble can be any genre. Make it exactly 100 words. You can do it. That’s what adjectives and adverbs are for.
  2. Include each of the three Apples To Apples cards in the photo. All three. Not two. Not four. ALL THREE. New cards are chosen every week.
  3. Paste your drabble into the comments below. Then share this with your friends. The more comments you get on your entry, the more likely you are to win!
  4. Absolutely no links, screen shots or salesy type of behavior in the content entry. 
  5. Winners are chosen by the amount of positive response they get. Comments like, “This is great!” or “How funny!” or “Good job!” are the kinds of things that will be counted. Negative comments like, “this contest sucks” or “the rest of the entries are losers” or “WTF?” will be unapproved. The author of this blog reserves the right to unapprove or block any content that is suspected of originating from trolls. In the event of a tie, winners will be chosen by this method.
  6. Limit 3 entries per person. If you’re having fun, come back next Friday.
  7. Contest is open from 5:00 AM EST every Friday and closes down the following Sunday night at midnight.
  8. Winning entries will be announced on the 10 Minute Novelists Facebook group page the following Monday. The entry will also be published in the monthly digital newsletter, 10 Minute Novelists Insider. 
  9. All entries must contain no profanity, no graphic violence or erotica and no hate speech. Entries that do not abide by this rule will not be approved. Consistent abuse of this rule will warrant a blocked user.

This week’s cards!

Apples to Apples Drabble Contest! 10 Minute Novelists

Good luck! 

The Weekly Apple to Apples Drabble! Submit Your Entry Below!

This is the place for a weekly flash fiction contest!

The Apples To Apples Drabble! 

Apples to Apple Drabble Flash Fiction Contest by 10 Minute Novelists

The Rules: 

  1. Write a drabble. A drabble is a 100 word story, with beginning, middle and end. A drabble can be any genre. Make it exactly 100 words. You can do it. That’s what adjectives and adverbs are for.
  2. Include each of the three Apples To Apples cards in the photo. All three. Not two. Not four. ALL THREE. New cards are chosen every week.
  3. Paste your drabble into the comments below. Then share this with your friends. The more comments you get on your entry, the more likely you are to win!
  4. Absolutely no links, screen shots or salesy type of behavior in the content entry. 
  5. Winners are chosen by the amount of positive response they get. Comments like, “This is great!” or “How funny!” or “Good job!” are the kinds of things that will be counted. Negative comments like, “this contest sucks” or “the rest of the entries are losers” or “WTF?” will be unapproved. The author of this blog reserves the right to unapprove or block any content that is suspected of originating from trolls. In the event of a tie, winners will be chosen by this method.
  6. Limit 3 entries per person. If you’re having fun, come back next Friday.
  7. Contest is open from 5:00 AM EST every Friday and closes down the following Sunday night at midnight.
  8. Winning entries will be announced on the 10 Minute Novelists Facebook group page the following Monday. The entry will also be published in the monthly digital newsletter, 10 Minute Novelists Insider. 
  9. All entries must contain no profanity, no graphic violence or erotica and no hate speech. Entries that do not abide by this rule will not be approved. Consistent abuse of this rule will warrant a blocked user.

This week’s cards!

The Apples To Apples Drabble! A Flash Fiction Contest!

Good luck!


 

Top 10 Things You Can Do When You Are Stuck, Either Literally or Figuratively

 

You’re stuck.

This post is exactly what you need, assuming you’re not so stuck that you can’t read a screen.

If you’re stuck figuratively in the writing of your novel and you need a clue on what to do next, this list is for you.

If you are stuck literally: you have gum in your hair, you’re dealing with Super Glue or you’ve driven into a ditch, I can help you there too.

I’ve got all kinds of unstuck solutions for you below. Why do this? Because bouncing back and forth between the literal and the figurative isn’t the least bit weird. 

Top 10 Things You Can Do When You Are Stuck, Either Figuratively or Literally

 

Figurative Stuck Tip #1:

Go back and remember the requirements of your genre.  So this is a romance? You need a misunderstanding. This is fantasy? There’s something magical in his pocket and he doesn’t know how it got there. This is science fiction? You just lost all your oxygen. Do something, fast, or everyone is dead! This is Young Adult? You’ve either been inspired by your favorite poet, you’ve written bad poetry that you want to share, you have to write a book report about a poet or your Emo sister thinks she’s Emily Dickinson. This is a mystery? Oh, someone needs to drop dead. Right here. Under mysterious circumstances. Even if it’s a red herring, do it anyway. My point is that sometimes we get too close to stories and we forget what we are trying to accomplish. If you go back to the “rules” you may be inspired.

Literal Stuck Tip #1:

If you get gum in your hair, rub it with coconut oil and then comb it out. Or you can try these other options from WikiHow.

Figurative Stuck Tip #2:

Have your character take a rest. Pull back a little. Let the main character sit down and eat or sleep or rest and rethink all of what their up to. Remind the reader the mission that’s at stake. Why? If you have a lot of drama, action or intense scenes, your main character needs a breather unless his name is Jack Bauer. He needs to process all the action and so does your reader. You can always cut this later, but you may find that this helps you see the big picture and give you an idea on what to do next.

Literal Stuck Tip #2:

Your crazy aunt has gotten into the Krazy Glue again, hasn’t she? When will you learn to keep it out of her reach? When will you learn how to unstick her fingers? The good folks at Krazy Glue have answers. Here’s a tip, don’t let the person with Krazy Glue on their fingers have access to the computer’s mouse.

Figurative Stuck Tip #3:  

You may need a good tornado to shake things up a bit in your story. Not seasonal? Not the right part of the country? Then an earthquake! A hurricane! A blizzard! A freak thunderstorm! And with every natural disaster you could have power outages, flash floods, injuries and deaths! Never underestimate the power of the earth to cause some great drama for your story!

Literal Stuck Tip #3:

Allstate Insurance apparently has had a few calls about this. So many that they apparently had to write a blog post about how to get your truck out of the mud. I suppose that’s helpful of them, but maybe you shouldn’t be driving in the mud to begin with? Oh, I get it. The flash flood from the previous paragraph did this! I swear this list is getting very dramatic!

Figurative Stuck Tip #4: 

Bring in your antagonist’s antagonist. Someone is out to get your bad guy. He’s a bad guy, he’s made an enemy or three, right? Your bad guy owes someone money. Your bad guy or gal is connected romantically with the wrong flirt. Your bad guy or gal is getting a little too big for his britches among the powers that be. This is a force that can stir up some interesting trouble in your story and maybe can be used for your protagonists advantage.

Literal Stuck Tip #4:

Let’s say you’re out camping and you wake up in the middle of the night needing to um, shake the dew off the lilies. But you can’t get your tent zipper open! It’s stuck! Perhaps in your camping gear, you packed any of these nine household items that can unstick a zipper. But keep in mind, that stuck zipper could be all that’s between you and bears. You may want to leave it stuck.

 

Figurative Stuck Tip #5: 

A innocent needs help and needs it right now, like say, she needs to tinkle and can’t get out of her tent. How better to demonstrate the virtue and goodness of your protagonist (and make him interesting and likable to your reader) than to put in in the way of someone who really needs help?  A small child. An unwed mother. A hurt puppy. Have your main character stop everything, because they have that streak of goodness in them, and possibly WD40, and help them. And in the middle of the helping of them, they realize the clock is ticking or opportunity is missed, or they dropped their gun or THEY SAW A BEAR something happens that will keep them from accomplishing their ultimate goal. They need to not only be delayed but also regret, even for just a minute, thinking about someone else when they needed to care for themselves.

Literal Stuck Tip #5:

You find it hard to swallow. I’m not talking about this literal/figurative list, I’m talking about actual food. This is a video that demonstrates how to administer the heimlich maneuver. People, slow down. Chew your food thoroughly!

Figurative Stuck Tip #6: 

Someone from your main character’s past shows up. The ex girlfriend/boyfriend, the one that he thought he was going to marry, shows up and has a really good reason to talk to our main character. Maybe she misses him. Maybe she’s changing her mind. Maybe she’s really a psycho who just likes toying with him. It almost doesn’t matter what genre you write, everyone has a past. Use it to mess up your character’s plans!

Literal Stuck Tip #6:

As a homeschooling mother of five, I have a lot of quick fixes to big problems. I’ve divided a candy bar into fifths and had five content children. I’ve explained all they needed to know about the facts of life, in a whisper, during a church service, in 7.5 seconds. I can make dinner for my large family in 15 minutes if everyone is out of my way, but I’m no MacGyver. You could do a lot worse in your literal stuckness than if you read this book and be prepared for anything. 

Figurative Stuck Tip #7: 

Your sidekick has second thoughts. Up until this point, your sidekick has been the person that your main character has depended on to keep going.  Kind of like Pete Thornton or Jack Dalton or Murdoc. Kinda.  But now the sidekick should get kicked to the side. Forget MacGyver, let’s think Hobbits! You know how in The Return of the King when Gollum tries to make it look like Sam at all the lambas bread and then lied about it? Frodo, understandably because he was a complete basket case at that point, kicks Sam to the curb and is willing to go on without him. Sam’s explanation is harder to swallow than lambas bread. And neither of them appear to know the heimlich maneuver. Of course, if this hadn’t happened, then Sam wouldn’t have been able to save Frodo’s sorry butt yet again, but this little bit of drama was awful. Can you set up a situation like that where your sidekick either disagrees with your main character, or speaks the truth when it’s not welcome or sees something your main character doesn’t see? This will add to your conflict beautifully, especially when sidekick comes up just at the right moment and saves the day.

Literal Stuck Tip #7.

If you are ever out fighting a Ringwraithe and you get stabbed by sorta dead king, it’s great to have an elf on your side to race you to Rivendell. And Kingsfoil. That helps too. I bet Arwen knows the heimlich maneuver just fine.  Yes, I realize that my literal stuck tips are getting kinda figurative. Here’s another tip: When you don’t know what to write about, throw in a hurt hobbit. 

Figurative Stuck Tip #8.

What is your story’s big finish going to look like? We all know that the big climactic moment is the doorway in which Act Two moves into Act Three, and you may or may not know what you have to do to get there. Why don’t you mentally jump ahead and list a few necessities. Like, what kind of trap will your hero have to be in? What kind of mutually exclusive choices will he have? What pressures will he have? What will the antagonist have at that moment to make life miserable? How can you get our hero out, without it making look too easy? Once you’ve answered these questions, work backward. (Here’s a hint: your reader has no idea in what order you wrote your scenes in!)

Literal Stuck Tip #8:

I’m a mother of five. That means that at some point, I had five toddlers. Sometimes more than one at a time. So when I say that you really need to know how to unstick a clogged toilet, I know what I’m talking about. This video can show you more. This is a serious life skill. I wonder what MacGyver has to say about this?

Figurative Stuck Tip #9:

Think Third Act. Even if you don’t have your climactic moment all sculpted out, ask yourself what do you want to accomplish? Every good ending is a permanent one that makes sense to the reader. What do you want your ending to be? If you can write out in a paragraph what you want from the ending, then you can think backward from this point too and try to see the steps necessary to put your protagonist in that situation. Your antagonist needs to be foiled. How will you foil him?

Literal Stuck Tip #9:

 Here’s a bunch of photos of unusual things stuck in unusual places. I have no idea how they got them unstuck, but I tell you what, this could be a great way to unstick your story.

Figurative Stuck Tip #10: 

In a couple hundred words or so, tell the story from the point of view of another character. This may give you fresh insight into the conflicts. It may reveal a misunderstanding or hidden motive. It may clarify something that’s been bugging you.

And the last Literal Stuck Tip #10:

All I need to say here is Don’t Do This. Any of this.

Being stuck can be state of mind. It can also be an issue of physics. Regardless of whether or not your stuckness is figurative or literal, your story may be helped one way or another with these tips.

What do you when you’re stuck? And please, this is a family friendly site. Thank you for not telling me everything.  

Top Ten Ways To Deal With Writer’s Block by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

Have you fought with writer’s block?

It sucks, doesn’t it?

Writer’s block is that state when there seems to be no inspiration. Writer’s block is when you wrestle back and forth in your confidence to create and still come up with nothing. Writer’s block is the realization that you have no ideas. Writer’s block is a searching for new words or new ideas and putting only dull words on the paper. Writer’s block can be dangerous in that we start believing that we’ll never have a good story again. Writer’s block is frustrating and maddening. Writer’s block can be blamed on our muse ignoring us, on our chest cold, on our own insecurities or on lies we’ve been told.

Top 10 Ways to Beat Writer's Block by Katharine Grubb

Writer’s block comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s fear based. Sometimes it’s energy based. Sometimes we’re just bored with our own ideas.

But these are some ways that you can overcome:

1. Fill your tank. If you’re not writing, you should be reading. Read broadly with as much diversity as you possibly can. Read in our genre and out of your genre. Read poetry and nonfiction. Read constantly.

2. Write anyway. Journal. People watch. Do the morning pages. Just add words. The habit of getting down a little will help you immensely.

3. Don’t equate your lack of productivity with your value. Sometimes we’re so wrapped up in the fact that we’re not writing, that we dig ourselves deeper into a pit of despair. Shake off any dark thoughts about this season. It happens to everyone.

4. Describe an anecdote. Write about anything that happened to you recently. Use the opportunity to write about it as practice. When you’re done, change the setting or characters or specific details to make it more creative. Even if this isn’t a publishable piece, your act of writing will help you grow in confidence.

5. Use a prompt without any expectation of a result. My favorite writing prompts are the first lines from great works of literature. I find that the craftsmanship of the first lines an inspiration. Now, I would never claim them as my own, but it does get my creative juices flowing.

6. Turn off the inner editor. First drafts are supposed to be messy. The editor comes in when you are completely satisfied with the drafting process, not any sooner.

7. Stop comparing yourself to others. This is good advice for all of life. But writers have a tendency to measure their success based on what others are doing. This is a huge mistake. Your creativity is yours alone. Just keep writing and don’t worry about what others are doing.

8. Give your projects breathing room. Put your project aside and come back to it in a month or even longer. We often need the perspective of time to see our art with fresh eyes and have a realistic vision for what needs to be done. Don’t be afraid to wait.

9. Surround yourself with other great art. I believe that art begets art. Listen to creative music. Go to an art museum. Watch high quality films. Your subconscious is hungry for the thoughtful and beautiful. Feed it. At some point, this art will show itself in your writing.

10. Read a writing book. Sometimes we’re blocked because we really don’t know how to do something in our stories. A writing book may help. If you haven’t your own collection of writing books, check out your local library.

Writer’s block is, I believe, just part of a journey of a writer.

Our creativity can move in and out like a tide. We can overcome writer’s block with discipline, practice, low expectations and stepping back into a playful place where we can enjoy writing again.

Our ideas are often organic beings. They are independent organisms of our life. They don’t have a time table nor a calendar. Wait on them. Give them time to stew properly.

Our ideas are never perfect. They require patient sculpting and reshaping. If you can lower your expectations of what they should look like, and ban your inner editor from the drafting stage, you can conquer the perfectionism that often comes with creating.

Our ideas will never be universally loved. Instead of focusing on who won’t like it, focus on who will. Don’t allow your fear of rejection to keep you from working.

We will not overcome writer’s block by procrastinating.

We will not overcome writer’s block by being too dependent on inspiration.

We will not overcome writer’s block by reminding ourselves over and over that hey! We have writer’s block!

You can beat writer’s block. I believe in you.

Even More Top Ten Emergency Writing Prompts for Nanowrimo!

Last week I suggested ten emergency writing prompts for Nanowrimo. Here are 10 more!

1. Put your character in an actual emergency. Food allergies, car accident, flash flood, explosive plumbing, gas leak — none of these are planned. You don’t have to plan yours too. And even if it looks rather deux et machina -ish, don’t worry about it. You can always go back and fix it later.

2. What does your character have in his pocket, purse or glove compartment? Candy? A gun? Drugs? A crucifix? A hundred thousand dollars in cash? Microfilm? A flash drive? A recording? An epi-pen? A switchblade?  He remembers!  And it uses it, just as the right time to get past this little problem he’s facing. Or, better still, the antagonist finds it in his possession and uses it against him!

3. Someone asks him to do something against his character and he must do it. For instance: the drug dealer has to rescue kids from a fire, the hooker with the heart of gold saves the First Lady, the victim of abuse stands up to the lady who cuts her off in the parking lot.

nanowrimo writing novel national creativity help prompts ideas

4. The paranormal sneaks in. Okay, this might not work for everyone. But what if a unicorn appears in the kitchen and tells him what to do? What if the lawn gnome knows where the treasure is? What if there is a zombie coming across the backyard and the hostas aren’t doing their job of keeping him out?

5. Have your character take a break. Maybe if he sat down and ate something, slept and had a crazy dream, did his laundry and bumped into someone at the laundromat, maybe he would think of the solution to the problem, see a clue, meet a friend, fall in love . . . . oh the possibilities are endless!

6. What would Kevin Bacon do? No really. Think about your favorite movies and steal, steal, steal! There are no new ideas. You are smart enough to disguise any dialogue, scene, or plot point from film. Write in down now and then tweak it later.

7. Go backstory. What has propelled the bad guy to do the bad things? What makes your protagonist want what he wants? Dig a little deeper, even for a thousand words or so and that may be enough to get you on your feet.

8. Cupid strikes! Nothing complicates life more than romance. What if there’s a secret love connection between a supporting character and the antagonist? What if another supporting character confesses a life long crush towards the main character? What if the romantic advances that have been in the story all along were just a ruse to advance the goals of the antagonist?

9. And if you really get stuck, ask Twitter. I love some of the ideas that my followers come up with. And then when I’m done (if I ever get done) I can remind them of their help and maybe gain a reader!

10. And then, hit the showers. No kidding. There’s something about hot water and physical touch that stimulates our brain. You may have a new idea for your story when you get out!

Remember, the point of Nano is quantity, not quality. This draft is supposed to be messy. Use these ideas to up your word count. You can clean it up, make it more plausible, omit the cliched scenes, and take out the lawn gnome later.

Conquering Twitter in 10 Minutes A DayWant more tips on how to make Twitter work for you? CONQUERING TWITTER in 10 MINUTES DAY is available for pre-order! Specifically written for authors, this book will help you think about yourself, your brand, your books, and your goals on Twitter, create great questions to ask and organize your time in such a way that you can get the most out of every tweet.

Available for $.99! 


I am a fiction writing and time management coach. I help time crunched novelists strengthen their craft, manage their time and gain confidence so they can find readers for their stories.

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community. 

#Top10Tuesday Top Ten Additional Emergency Writing Prompts for Nanowrimo

Just a couple of weeks ago, I shared with you Top Ten Emergency Writing Prompts for Nanowrimo. Today I have ten more!

Stuck in Nanowrimo? Here are some emergency prompts to get you going! More at www.10minutewriter.com

The following prompts may just get you started!

1. Describe what everyone is wearing. This is especially for your girly-girls. Go into detail about the honey colored cashmere twin set that the receptionist has on. Have it remind you of your Aunt Grace and the time she took you shopping at Macy’s and you got squirted in the eye by the perfume counter and now you can’t smell Jennifer Lopez’s new scent without thinking of Aunt Grace. Do it. It will be awesome.

2. There’s an annoying noise bothering the main character. What is it? And then describe it. What does he do about it?

3. Your main character is really, really hungry. Have him stop and feed himself. Does he cook or go out? What does he eat? Go into detail. Why does he like bacon and blue cheese burgers so much? What does he do with his egg allergy? Why does he suspect the waitress is up to something?

4. Your main character has been in this exact position before. What was it like? What did she do differently? What feeling does she now have about this? Pride? Shame? Fear? Tell the reader. This will also be awesome.

5. Give your main character an ridiculous middle name and tell a story of how they got it.

6. That weird thing that you heard about from a friend last week — about the dog, or the appliance repair man or that puff piece on the evening news — put it in your story. Even if it’s not completely plausible.

7. Put your main character in a car accident. These are never planned.

8. Your main character finds a cell phone. It is ringing. They answer it. It’s someone the main character knows. Who is it? What do they want?

9. The weather goes crazy. Is it a major thunderstorm? Hurricane? Blizzard? This too is not in our control and it shouldn’t be a choice for you — put your main character in a storm and let them wrestle with the elements.

10. Finally, set your timer. Go small. You might be stressed out that you don’t have an hour or two to put in the big numbers. You don’t need that. You need lots of small numbers. If you’re a fast typist, you can knock out three hundred words in ten minutes. Take any of the above suggestions, work for ten minutes and watch that word count climb.

Every Friday, this website features writing prompts if you need more! 

Just write. You can do it. It will be awesome. Trust me.