Tag Archives: writing prompt

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 Ways To Describe An Object In Your Novel And Why It Matters

It’s pity that I don’t hold murder weapons on my desk. If I did, I could describe them and stick them in my work-in-progress.

This is what I do have:

I have a cobalt glass heart that I use as a paperweight. My husband’s cousin, Robin gave it to me. It’s been over 15 years since she’s given it to me and I can’t not think of her when I see it. This glass heart could be a weapon if I needed to be. It has little value other than who gave it to me. I also have a lamp, a cardboard coaster from a beer garden in Germany, four pewter cylinders that hold pens and paper clips, and a blue glass vase that holds red silk flowers. I also have a red ceramic tea bag holder that I use sometimes when I bring tea to my desk. I also have this little ceramic jewel box that is in the shape of a woman in a red bikini sitting in a beach chair. I like this because it’s funny and my mother in law gave it to me. Because it is a small case, I could put small valuables, like rare jewels, in it.

A well-described object has meaning and weight.

If you have a prop that plays a key role in the story, then mention it early. Symbols need subtle, yet repeated mentions too. Your reader will up on hidden meanings if you take care in an object’s description.

Top 10 Ways To Describe An Object In Your Novel And Why It Matters

In the drafting process, ask yourself these questions when describing an object. (But remember, this is in the drafting stage, good editing may require you to cut much of this.)

1. Describe its appearance.  Describe the items shape, texture, color, material, height and width. A good writer is a keen observer. Take your time and look for subtleties.

2. Describe how your senses react. How heavy is it in your hand? What is the temperature of its surface? Does it have a smell? A taste? Does it make a noise, when you squeeze it, when you bang it on something? What kind of force would destroy it? Would you call it delicate or sturdy? Practical or ornamental?

3. Describe its value.  This could mean sentimental value or retail value. My little cheap jewelbox, probably a Christmas Tree Shop purchase, opens up. The space that it hides inside is tiny enough for a few beads and a coin or two. It could, in one story or another, be a container for something that needs to stay hidden. A smart card from a camera or something of that nature. This would certainly increase its value. Want to read more about Chekhov’s gun? Click here!

4. Describe its ownership. In The Lord of the Rings, the ownership of the ring was important. The way that Smeagol treated it was different from the way that Bilbo treated it and that was different from the way that Frodo treated it. Each character had a different agenda in the ownership of it. So how does the owner of your item treat this item?

5. Describe its purpose.  Items can be a lot like people — full of secrets and stories. Is this item a hiding space? Has it been used maliciously? Is it the item that the family has to sell just to buy groceries? The purpose and the value will often dictate how it’s treated by the owner. Unexpected purposes for your props can make your story more interesting.

6. Describe who wants it.  Perhaps this plays a critical point in your story. One of your characters wants this item and can’t get it. Spend time developing that character, ask yourself why his desire for this item is so strong.

7. Describe its future.  Ah, this is where the story gets interesting. What will happen if it is destroyed or lost or put in the wrong hands? The items owner loses the item to someone else, what happens now? Is another secret revealed? Is someone killed over this item?

 

8. Describe what it symbolizes.  Now write down everything that comes to mind but don’t keep the obvious answers. Instead try to stretch your imagination and think in a way no one has thought of. The symbolism of this specific item could be something abstract like freedom or bravery or respect or fear. But it could also represent a relationship or a bigger quest or a memory. Review all the previous questions and think about how your answers could tie into a bigger idea. Is the cigar really just a cigar?

9. Describe other objects that are attached to it. For example, the car keys are more than just keys, they are entryways into the car, the house and the office. The key chain is personalized for the owner. All of these separate items come together to create the keys. But ask yourself if you can break this item down into separate parts.

10. Describe what isn’t expected. It is a set of car keys, but it’s also how she defended herself in the parking garage, the item that set off the metal detector at the airport or the murder weapon that got lost in the bottom of her purse. Ask yourself, does the item travel? Does the item wear down? Collect germs? Change composition, like a melting chocolate bar? These factors could make the item more interesting to your story and to your reader. My favorite Chekhov’s gun scene was the John Deere tractor in Mad Men. 

Objects can be powerful props in your novel writing.

Objects may have a use like a murder weapon or they may contain a memory of a happier time. They could also be a clue that solves a murder, identifies a culprit or even starts a war. In your story, your characters have things around them that they carry, move, acquire, protect, cherish, or investigate. You will need to describe them. The richer your description, the more value you put to the item, the more the reader will pick up on its importance.

So, what’s on your desk? How can you describe it? How can you incorporate that into your work-in-progress?

Top 10 Emergency Writing Prompts (And Photos) To Help You Through Nanowrimo

We’re in week 3 of Nanowrimo and if we’re really honest, it’s been a rough month.

You may have had moments of frenzy, of fatigue, of despair. And you still have several days to go!

Your purpose in Nanowrimo is to just get the raw material of a story. You don’t have to create a masterpiece. You don’t even have to be all that coherent. In fact what you’re doing wrong may be stressing you out. Instead, just write down what comes to your head. Don’t self edit. Don’t go backward. Just put down word after word.

Top 10 Emergency Writing Prompts (And Photos) to get you through Nanowrimo by Katharine Grubb

The following prompts may just get you over your little funk and get you enough inspiration to get you through the next few hundred words.

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.

Prompt 4.24.15

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.

Prompt 4.3.15

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.

Prompt 3.13.15

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.

Prompt 3.6.15

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.

Prompt 2.27.15

 

Here’s a secret: you don’t have to write what makes sense. You just have to get to the end.

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

Top 16 Close-Talking, Double Dipping Tips to Succeeding At Nanowrimo!

Nanowrimo is National Novel Writing Month.

For 30 days in November every year, hundreds of thousands of writers all over the world try to get 50,000 words on paper. In a perfect world, these words would be brilliant and profound. It’s far more likely that the words are a big hot mess. If you are participating, this is the perfect time to organize your ideas and get ready! The objective is to write as much as possible, you know, yada, yada, yada, not to be beautiful doing it. Sign up here so you can participate this November!

I believe that the objective of 50K words in 30 days is doable for anyone who wants to try.

I also believe that much is to be gained from the whole exercise, even if it isn’t a coherent story. I’ve broken down the steps to writing a story for Nano into super-easy steps. If you follow them, you’ll easily make your goal. (It’s only 1,667 words a day. You can DO that!)

So here we go! (This is the Seinfeld version so I suggest you regift your label maker, put on your puffy shirt, and spare a square!)

Top 16 Close Talking, Double Dipping, Tips to Succeeding At Nanowrimo! by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

Step One: Start your story with Did you ever notice  . . .. Is that cheating?  NO! It gets you going and now you only have 49,996 words to go.

Step Two: Pick Two Names: Almost any two will do. Let’s go with Jerry and George

Step Three: Describe these two characters. List their favorite things, their appearance and their relationships. They also need a job that is unrelated to the genre of the book, like say, make them work for Vandalay Industries! In the import/export business! Say they really, really like velvet!

Step Four: Give them an antagonist. This determines your genre. If it’s a mean girl/boy, then it’s chick lit, (Susan?) If it’s a tall, dark stranger who they think is a pain in the butt (at first) it’s a rom-com, (Putty?) If it’s a mysterious colleague with secret who may do something violent to protect it then it’s a thriller, (Tim Whatley?) If it’s someone who had committed a crime and he doesn’t want our couple to find out about it, it’s a mystery, (Newman and what he did to that poor dog!) If it’s bigger than a personality, like, say, a government agency, then it’s a spy thriller, (Kramer probably knows something about this!) If it’s a non-human but nothing technological is involved, then it’s a fantasy. (“The sea was angry that day, my friends!”  If it’s a non-human but technology IS involved it’s science fiction.(The Bubble Boy!) Okay, so these are loose definitions, but this is Nanowrimo! There is no need to get technical, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Step Five: Give them a setting. Make it consistent with the antagonist. Delis in NYC are more for romantic comedies than for science fiction. You could also hang out in Jerry’s apartment, but the local soup Nazis will do too.  But you know what, it’s NANOWRIMO! Go ahead, break the rules, and while Jerry and George are waiting for the baddie to show up, they can order twenty-seven things on the menu, as long as they follow the rules, because that will pad you with a lot of words! Or maybe Kramer drops by because he wants something!

Step Six: Give them an objective: All this means is that the characters want something. They want to be loved. They want to be famous. They want to be secure, forgiven, avenged, or safe. These are primal needs and everybody wants them. You don’t need to worry about the specifics of the objectives, that will come later.

Step Seven: Give them a handicap: What will keep them from meeting their objective?  Sure, the antagonist will do his part, but there’s got to be more. Let’s say George is an incompetent Yankees employee who thinks uniforms should be made of cotton. Let’s say Jerry has the bad habit of bringing Pez dispensers to piano concerts. Be as nonsensical and illogical as you want because HEY! THIS IS NANOWRIMO! 

Step Eight: Give them something to say:  Open your scene with dialogue. Your pair is bickering because of something. This shouldn’t be hard to come up with. As they bicker, the reader learns about their big objective. There is no topic too small to talk about. You can talk about Snapple. You can talk about why the girl you know wears the same dress every day. You certainly can talk about Superman.

“It all became very clear to me sitting out there today that every decision I’ve ever made in my entire life has been wrong. My life is the complete opposite of everything I want it to be. Every instinct I have, in every aspect of life, be it something to wear, something to eat – it’s all been wrong.” –George Costanza

Step Nine: The antagonist makes an appearance OR someone challenges them to acquire something. They are sent off on their mission. They bicker about it some more. They get distracted. Now write about this! NEWMAN! 

Step Ten: Stuck? Tell us backstory! This is where Nanowrimo is beautiful. Tell us all about George’s struggle with his parents and how his fiancee died licking wedding invitation envelopes. Tell us about the trauma that Jerry had when he his girlfriend ate peas one at a time. Tell us about that time that Elaine, ahem, danced. In Nanowrimo (unlike your best work) you can have as much bleedin’ backstory as you want. This will add to your word count, will help you flesh out those characters, explain what happens in chapter 47 and help you understand where the story is going. Trust me.

Step Eleven: Stuck again? Put something unexpected in their path! Japanese businessmen! An NBC pilot!  A new J. Peterman catalog! Have your duo fight it out and regroup and get back to the task at hand. (That could kill a couple of thousand words right there!)

Step Twelve: Take a break and think about your ending. What do you want to happen? Do you want them to meet their objective or not? Brainstorm for 10-20 things that need to happen before your duo gets to the end. This is your very loose outline. From now on, as you get stuck, refer to this. Put Jerry and George in these situations or scenes and then get them out.

“I can’t die with dignity. I have no dignity. I want to be the one person who doesn’t die with dignity. I’ve lived my whole life in shame! Why should I die with dignity?” –George Costanza

Step Thirteen: When you get about 10K from the end, try to wrap it up. Get your main characters in positions where they can see the light at the end of the tunnel. If you’re having trouble, make a coincidence work out for them. Have a high school buddy show up with a solution. Don’t even worry about the logic of it. The important thing is that YOU ARE 10K FROM THE END! You need to fill that space up with something. Sometimes all we need to see what happens next is to put our fingers on the keyboard and plow through. You might be surprised what you figure out for your characters.

Step Fourteen: When you hit 50K, CELEBRATE!  You deserve that badge! You deserve a pat on the back And don’t worry about  the story.

Put it aside for a minimum of three months. Do it, Jerry. Do it!

Step Fifteen: When three months have passed, get the story out and go on a search and rescue mission. You are now digging through the haystack looking for the needle. You are digging through the stable full of ca-ca, looking for the pony. You are mining for diamonds in the cave. DO NOT PUBLISH THIS, JERRY! I repeat! DO NOT PUBLISH THIS, JERRY! If you have any kind of sense, you will take that 50K words and see if there’s something salvageable, like an exchange of dialog, a good description, a well drawn character or a little bit of a plot line. This is your good stuff. SAVE IT.

Step Sixteen:  Question my method completely. “What’s the point of writing like a mad man for a month if all we’re getting out of it is a little bit here and there.” I’ll tell you. You are learning discipline. You are learning to think fast. You are learning to appreciate the struggle. You are learning basic storytelling elements. You are learning what doesn’t work. You are learning what is good and what is drivel. You are learning to write the hard way.

Nanowrimo is not HOW to write a novel. It is however, a way to build muscle and skills. To stretch your story-telling abilities. To gain perspective and insight. It’s good for you. And your car will look nicer too.

So, veteran Nano-ers? What do you think? How has past Nanos worked for you? 


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. 

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.  

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. 

The Extraordinary Ordinary A Guest Post by TLC Nielsen

 

We all know someone with the gift of gab.

In my family, my mother can start a conversation with strangers and have their life story in under 5 minutes. When we visited Downtown Disney a few years back, I watched my mother in action as she talked with a store clerk, asking how she ended up working there. I took notes, knowing that as an introverted writer, I needed to cultivate this verbal gift. As I relaunched my blog this year, trying to capture the extraordinary ordinary lives of folks around me, I’ve found my mother’s people techniques to be solid.

Just Stop, Drop & Roll With Good Conversations
Just Stop, Drop & Roll With Good Conversations

Here’s what I’ve learned from watching her:

JUST STOP

My mother, a well-known botanist in the states, would stop what she was doing and just chat.

Her attention to detail made her pause and wonder about the person in front of her. Was this person happy or sad? What job did he or she have before this one at the store (or restaurant or gas station)? She paused and then asked him or her how things were going. She always received an honest answer right away because she shared how things were going with her. Mom knows everyone has a unique story to share if asked!

DROP

My mother the scientist watches and listens intently.

When out in the field, she drops to her knees to look at the plant she spotted, noting all the details she can.  With people, she drops everything and focuses in on the person before her. In chatting with the Disney clerk of retiree age, Mom asked her how she landed the dream job at Disney? The humor in the question sparked a three-minute honest answer. Mom just asked the intuitive question and then listened, interspersing a follow up question or two. The gift of gab is just as much about listening as talking, I learned.

ROLL WITH IT

Linda “Loot” Curtis finds a way to connect with each person’s story.

When we eat out together at local restaurants, Mom manages to get updates on the waitress, cook and owner before we leave and, in turn, they receive her and Dad’s update. By sharing pieces of her story, she reciprocates in the conversation. She finds out their dreams, whether it may be the waitress’ schooling, the retiree’s family or the gas attendant’s interests, and encourages each one in their journey.

As I’ve taken the time to meet new folks for coffee, asked a significant question of the bus driver or clerk helping me, or offered to bring a meal to a family in rough times, I’ve modeled my mother’s modus operandi. And it’s amazing how simple it is to stop and listen to the stories of ordinary folks like you and me. By jumping into their stories and sharing small pieces of her own, my mom manages to admire whatever is shared with her. And the power of validation is a gift in itself.

5 Minutes to Spare

As a 10-minute Novelist, I need to master this five-minute meet and greet. My mother recognizes the extraordinary ordinary and, as writers, so must we. Every person has a story to share and we can’t miss the chance to hear it. It may very well be our only opportunity! It’s when we stop, drop everything and roll with it that we can learn about the beauty of the ordinary in true life. Only then can we add into our characters the ordinary details of life that will forge a connection with our readers. Just as we need to take time to stop for the people who come into our lives, listening and validating each other along our journey, so do our characters.

TLC Nielsen has been following God since 1985, having way too many adventures in the process. Stepping up from parenting to grandparenthood while working on the next 30 years of marriage, TLC continues to play trombone in two big bands and enjoys working with kids at the local library. A Trinity International University alumni, former teacher and avid fantasy reader, Nielsen enjoys writing poetry, parenting books and children’s stories while working her way through her first fantasy novel, By Land or Sea. TLC posts true Extraordinary Ordinary stories on her blog the last day of each month, www.lookandbe.blogspot.com For more information on the fascinating botanist Linda W. Curtis, check out her website at www.curtistothethird.com 

#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.