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Day 4: 12 Days of Blogmas

Welcome to Day 4 of  Blogmas minions!

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Today I want to share the first of a few tips and tricks for getting the most out of a writing prompt.

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It is difficult enough for a writer to decide on a story’s beginning, its main conflict, or its content without outside influence. It can be even worse with the wrong kind of prompt.

In terms of origin, I believe the prompt was developed as a form of guided free-writing. That seems like an oxymoron, but when a writer is operating at lower creative speeds or at a full stop (writer’s block to those who believe in its existence) a guided free-write, in the form of an idea or beginning phrase to help inspire a new, unusual, or wacky story.

 

While this may seem like a cute, quirky little exercise to help young writers to learn how to develop character or the importance of place, it’s grounded in a lesson every writer can learn from.

Sometimes creativity needs a little help. It can come in the form of a suggestion from a beta reader, a new character or inspiration, or thinking of a story from a different angle. And this is where the prompt comes in. A good prompt can be used one of two ways: as the inception of a new idea or to help open your mind on your current work in progress.

And the quality of the prompt is how you optimize your use of the prompt. Take for example my first prompt: Silvery flakes drifted down, glittering in the bright light of the harvest moon. The blackbird swooped down…

It’s the beginning to a new story or simply a new scene. Depending on your style and content it could fit into a current work in progress or begin a whole new set of characters for you to fall in love with.

So, back to the prompt. It’s specific in its imagery, the descriptions of the snow and the moon, setting up a place, a tone, and even a character. It also brings you into a bit of action moving the blackbird in the second sentence. And at the same time it’s not too specific. It could be the beginning of a typical winter for Massachusetts  or a fantastical alternate universe where global warming causes snowfall in the Amazon at the time of the harvest moon. How ever you interpret the prompt, it should allow you enough information that you’re not staring at a blank page, but not confining you to someone else’s idea.

This, in a nutshell, is what makes a prompt well-written and useful. When it can guide your creativity towards a single focus (maybe not on your current work in progress), but something new and fresh to get your mind going. And if you’re lucky, it can turn into something helpful for your work in progress. For some it’s just in terms of getting the creativity working. For others, it can be just the medicine they needed in order to get their mind back to their work in progress.

For me, prompts have been most effective at bringing me new sides of a story I’m struggling with. Dollhouse Daughter (my Master’s manuscript)  has several scenes that would not be in there if not for writing prompts. The entire prologue is the prime example. The last part of the prologue was written with a prompt (courtesy of my beloved mentor Janice Eidus) that had to use the word animal, bones, and one other word (that eludes me). It was the perfect opportunity to showcase a vodou ritual that begged to be written into my story.

Each prompt may not yield such great results or end up in the final draft, but it will do this: give you something to think and to write about.

So, next time you’re stuck or in need of something new to do. Pick a prompt. Pick a friend and write one together.  And then share it with me I’d love to read your prompts.

Happy reading and writing!

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Day 3: 12 Days of Blogmas

There’s been a slight change to my 12 Days of Blogmas my delightful minions.

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I regret to inform you all that the contest will no longer continue. There was an unfortunate shortage of submissions.

However, I am not going to dwell on the sad, but I will rejoice with you in my fortune that two wonderful submissions came across my screen and I was able to share them. What will hopefully happen for the rest of Blogmas are some insightful, maybe funny posts about writing with prompts, a recollection of my Master’s journey, and a finale of my own writing prompt as promised.

I hope that you will continue to join me on this Blogmas trip. Tonight is a rest, but tomorrow I will return with many more words and hopefully interesting topics to discuss.

Happy Reading/Writing!!

 

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Day 1: 12 Days of Blogmas Writing Contest

e540cf5ce3cb720b224eb522429dbef6Hello my gorgeous minions. The day has finally arrived when I can begin my 12 Days of Blogmas writing contest.

The first submission received was from Rona Rosian Boley who chose the first prompt: Silvery flakes drifted down, glittering in the bright light of the harvest moon. The blackbird swooped down…. Below is a little about Rona and even further below that is her submission titled: “The Letter.”  Enjoy!

About Rona: Lover of books, cheesecake and pop music. Independent and amusing. I read most anything, but must admit I am partial to the bodice ripping romance novels because I am a sap. I know, I know. I should be more selective. *hangs head in shame*  I believe in happily ever afters for everyone but myself. I have always loved writing but tend to limit it to amusing postings on Facebook and the occasional blog type piece. I wanted to major in English in college but was afraid I couldn’t be creative on demand. So I chose psychology. I figured the degree was cheaper than therapy. I don’t work in the field, but use it frequently to advise friends, family and the occasional stranger in the mall who happens to sit on my bench and unfailingly finds me so easy to talk to, they tell me their life story. I’ve been told I could get a mute to speak. Trying to move out of my comfort zone and actually put into practice what I’ve always wanted to do…..write actual stories.
“The Letter”

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Silvery flakes drifted down, glittering in the bright light of the harvest moon. The blackbird swooped down and the shadows on the ground gave the illusion that there might be something edible to peck at. Success was found with several rotting apples lying under a nearby tree. The feast was suddenly interrupted by a booming bark and the bird gave a startled squawk as it flew high up to the safety of the branches above. From its perch, it peered around to find the source of what was now a continuous series of excited barks.

Golden panes of light shown onto the yard from the living room bay window of the small Victorian home in the evening darkness, and as the bird could now see, a large German Shepherd was standing on its hind legs, face pressed against the glass.

Inside the home, a female voice called out, “Asher! ENOUGH!” Asher gave two more short barks and then trotted over to the owner of the voice.

Heather Collins came out of her bedroom, sweatpants and T-shirt replacing her daily school dress attire. She was in her third year of teaching first grade, and while she loved shaping young minds, by Friday she was in dire need of decompressing from dealing with 30 little individual personalities all week.

She grabbed her mail off the dining room table where she had set it down earlier and headed to the living room with Asher quietly trotting behind her. Sitting down on her favorite spot, a seat tucked under the window, she sorted through the small pile of ad sheets and envelopes that had come that day. As she came to the last envelope, her breath left her in a gasp. She paid no attention to the now cascading mail as it slid from her lap onto the hardwood floor or the soft whimper that came from Asher.

Her eyes stared at the return address on the envelope, unbelieving of what they saw. After all this time, was it really him? The name reached up to her, like a hand out of the past. Her mind began to whirl as memories came flooding back, and with them a multitude of emotions. Suddenly, it was as if the room faded around her and she was transported back in time to that first moment.

 

It was 11th grade English and she was staring out the window, bored with Mr. Pagano’s droning voice. The classroom door opened, and there HE was. She was vaguely aware that there were others in the room, but like every cheesy romantic cliché she had ever read about, everyone seemed to fade into a hazy periphery. Had a heavenly choir of angels broken out in song or a unicorn pranced slowly by the classroom door, it would have somehow been believable and not out of place.

Mr. Pagano took the note handed to him, glanced at it and then announced, “We have a new student joining us. Please welcome Rick Anderson, coming by way of Michigan.”

Before she knew what was happening, Mr. Rick Anderson was walking directly towards her. Apparently in her distracted state, she failed to hear Mr. Pagano instruct him to sit in the empty seat beside her.

“Heather, you can share your book for the rest of class until I can get one from the supply area for tomorrow.”

Share? Share what? Her mind failed to grasp the concept of the word, her brain cells having taken a momentary leave of absence. With a disgusted mental snort at herself, she came to her senses at the sound of the desk chair scraping along the floor and found herself staring directly into the face of her new classmate.

His eyes were brown. No, not just any brown. Heather tried to decide exactly how to describe the shade and the best she could come up with to herself was root beer. Root beer? Heather was not one given to flights of fancy. She was serious, studious, honor roll ever since middle school. The fact that she could become so completely flummoxed by the sight of one guy was incredibly disturbing to her. Horrified by the realization that she had been mindlessly staring at him without uttering a peep, she cleared her throat and said, “Hi, I’m Heather.”

His answering smile and response of, “Yeah, I know,” confused her.

“You know my name?”

He gestured his head towards the teacher, “He told me to sit here, remember?”

“Oh! Yeah. Right.”

Good grief, could she embarrass herself anymore today? Believing that silence was her safest course of action, she took that route and the rest of the class period passed without incident. When the bell rang, she quickly stood up, ready to flee the scene of her humiliating loss of common sense.

Before she could move though, Rick spoke to her and asked, “Hey, mind if I hang with you at lunch? It sucks being new and the cafeteria is always the worst part when you don’t know anyone.”

Heather thought of the mine field of verbal snafus that awaited her if she agreed, but he looked so eager and appealing, that she found herself answering, “Sure.”

And that, as the saying goes, was the beginning of it all. Her trip down memory lane was swiftly brought back to the present with the resuming of Asher’s excited barks.

“Asher, what are you barking at,” she snapped.

She looked through the frosted window to see why he was so wound up. The sudden flapping and swoosh of a blackbird past the window caused her to issue a small shriek and yank the curtains shut.

Heart pounding from both the letter still in her hand and the unexpected close up view of wildlife, she went into the kitchen to make herself a calming cup of tea. As she waited for the water to boil, she looked down again at the envelope, wanting to make sure it truly was his name on the return address. She tried not to think of the last time they spoke. Even now, after all this time, the pain still welled up inside of her, like a hot poker to her heart every time she remembered it. With trembling hands, she turned the envelope over and opened it. Taking a deep breath, she began to read.

 

 

Let us know what you thought of the first submission. What appealed to you about the use of the prompt and the story in general.
As always Happy Reading and Writing!

 

Blogmas Day 1-COMPLETE!

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12 Days of Blogmas Writing Contest

Now that I have finished my Master’s degree (yes you may call me Mistress), I am ready to get back into the groove of blogging with this new series.

Writing prompts have become profoundly important to my education as a writer and the development of my stories. And then…

unnamed                                                           I had an idea!

What if I took my favorite writing exercise—choosing prompts and writing scenes or stories from them—and made it into a quick writing contest?Everything about the contest (the prompts, rules, prizes) is listed below for you to review and decide if you might try your hand at this casual, fun writing contest.

The Prompts:

Any of these three “winter” themed prompts can be used to create a stunning story. I will request that submissions for the contest be in prose format simply due to my lack of knowledge in the realm of poetry (and no one wants a noob reviewing contest submissions), and ALL genres will be welcome. I will also be joining you in writing one of these (outside of the contest, of course), and will share mine at the very end of Blogmas!

 

  1. Silvery flakes drifted down, glittering in the bright light of the harvest moon. The blackbird swooped down…
  2. While shopping in a department store during the holidays, a child is separated from his or her parents and discovers a portal to a winter wonderland.
  3. Use the below photo as inspiration for a story.1ac6755cebce4562c48969d6bb80bbb9

 

The Rules:

1.Only one submission per person because…well, fairness.

2.Try to keep submission under 1200 words, they can be a scene/chapter, a piece of flash fiction, or an excerpt. The reason behind this is that I want each submission to be eligible for potential publication elsewhere (yes, I believe in you), so keeping the word count limited will allow that (since some publishers are picking about online copies of excerpts).

3.The first round of the contest will be conducted by me in that I will choose from all of the submissions and elect 12 to be featured (one per day) in its own individual blog post. After each submission is published, each finalist will be entered to win the prizes which will be chose

4.All submissions must be sent via email to Amyoung0606@gmail.com by 12/14/2015 at 11:59pm. The first blogmas submission will be published on 12/13/15 and run until 12/24/15. Submissions should be sent in word document format with no name in the document, your name (pen name if applicable), and a short paragraph about you or what you like to read write should be in the body of the email. If you wish to describe the inspiration of your submission please feel free to add anything you would want included in published blog post.

There will be three winners chosen from the 12 finalists at random to win the prizes. Winners will be chosen and announced by Monday 11/28/2015 due to the holiday, and photographs of the prizes will also be posted before they are shipped out.

THE PRIZES:

The first winner will receive a copy of On Writing by the King. It is one of my personal favorites and a great anecdotal account of learning the craft.

The second winner will receive a “Mystery Geek Package” filled with all things geeky, nerdy, fantasy, sci-fi to inspire the writer caught in a winter block.

The third winner will receive a “Curl Up By the Fire Package” for those nights when a writer needs a break and sits back to read a good book. Contents may include homemade cookies, delectable hot beverages, and warm words of encouragement.

So my faithful minions, I dare you to put on your writer’s cap, plug in your computer/ get out your pad and paper, and join me for the 12 Days of Blogmas where you may find your work published on here for the world to see and a well-earned prize in your mail after Christmas.

As always, I wish you Happy reading and writing!

And let’s not forget the obligatory cat selfies/human selfies from Mistress Spotted Writer and her muse, Nyla Troublemaker!

 

 

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