The Benefits of Writing Prompts
Building writing prompts into your writing routine will make you a better writer. Not only will writing prompts get the creative juices flowing, but they can also help you warm-up for a productive writing session and even enable you to develop a wider writing skill-set. It can be easy to get stuck in a rut or stick to what you know, but writing prompts are all about chucking you out of your comfort zone and getting you thinking and writing very quickly. Our editors have put together a worksheet of 25 failsafe writing prompts – fill in your details at the bottom of this post and we’ll email it over to you straight away.
Writing prompts enable you to:
- Explore new styles and content in a small, safe test environment. Try something new…
- Be more creative as you are led by the prompts rather than any of your own story ideas.
- Focus and concentrate at a high level on a relatively short writing task.
Writing prompts as warm-ups
Mo Farrah doesn’t run marathons without warming up, Adele doesn’t take to the stage without warming up, so why do so many writers go straight from the stresses and strains of their daily life and try and pick up where they left off in the middle of a tricky scene? In the real world, the answer is probably that they are struggling to find enough time to write and want to hit the ground running. However, this can be counter-productive. Sometimes taking a break from your novel and writing a little scene about the man in front of you in the coffee shop can give you a fresh perspective when you return to your work. Not only that, but it means you can actually be honing your craft whenever you have a spare 10 minutes, whether you are stuck on a commuter train or in a post-office queue. Good writers never stop improving.
Below I have broken down my favourite 3 online writing prompts to test your skills on.
Top 3 Writing Prompts Online
1, Writing prompts: short and tweet
Source: Twitter’s 1 line wed
If you follow us on Twitter, you will know how much we love this. This writing prompt will force you to create a powerful opening sentence.
What is it?: Every Wednesday, on twitter, writers try to intrigue the audience with the opening line or two of a story. Because you are limited to 140 characters (and that must include the #1lineWed hashtag), it’s best to start in the middle of the scene or in dialogue.
Why does it work? Because you are so tight for space, you have to cut down to the nitty gritty straight away. Plus you are testing material in a live environment. If readers like it they will favourite it, retweet it, or even give feedback. If you don’t get any engagement, try writing the same scene in a different way next Wednesday and see if that gets more traction.
How do I get started? Head over to twitter right now and search for #1lineWed. You will see a list of other writers’ attempts from last week. Have a good scroll through them. Usually, this sort of writing prompt will result in the good, the bad and the ugly. Filter out the erotica (unless that’s your thing), and have a look at who is doing well and why. Which authors would you want to read on and why (tweet the authors who have gripped you and give them some feedback, start interacting with the community).
If you have a go next Wednesday, please tag us at @iamselfpub so we can see how you are doing.
Here are a couple of great examples:
— Annelisa Christensen (@Alpha_Annelisa) November 18, 2015
2, Writing prompts: visual
This exercise can be slightly more leisurely, depending on how much time you have, it’s all about building descriptive skills – conveying atmosphere and unfamiliar settings.
What is it? An exercise where you use a photograph of a person, scene or object as the starting point for an opening chapter. This opening chapter doesn’t have to be in the same genre in which you normally write – use this as an opportunity to test something different.
Why does it work? We react instinctively to visual prompts. They stir up very strong emotions. How many of you can say you have not been moved by charity adverts with suffering children? Just the sight of it has most of us reaching for our wallets. Similarly, how many of you have suddenly turned away or closed your eyes during a thriller movie? Of course you can see images of pretty much everything if you search on Google, but the act of typing in “pictures of kittens” has already got you in a fluffy mood and whatever you write has already been influenced. This is why the element of surprise can work to your advantage.
How do I get started?: gratisography.com is a site where photographers can show off their best work. Often it has very interesting subject matter shot at intriguing angles. Simply chose an image that you feel an emotional reaction to. This can be positive or negative. Now imagine yourself in the picture, as if that world was your world. Write down how you feel and what you can see. Let your imagination take over. Just making these notes will help your creative brain to engage. If you have time, try to turn these notes into a couple of opening paragraphs to a story.
3, Writing prompts: drama
Source: BBC News
This exercise forces you to think purely in terms of action and drama. It will help you write fast-paced scenes that keep your reader hooked.
What is it? An exercise where you use a real life crime as a writing prompt.
Why does it work? A lot of good novels (and films for that matter) start in the middle of an action-packed scene. The reader/viewer is thrown in at the deep end and given the exciting challenge of making sense of it all. This works because you grip the reader with action and then maintain that dramatic tension to reel them in. This exercise forces you to lead with the action, not description.
How do I get started? Go over to www.bbc.co.uk/news and scroll through the headlines until you find a story about a crime. It can be big or small, from international terror masterminds, to local burglaries. Choose a story and really imagine the crime. You may be able to find out more about it from other news sources. Spend a few minutes researching until you have a good idea of what happened, how and why.
Now imagine the criminal in question is your main character. Really get inside the criminal’s mind and think about:
- How they carried out his crime.
- Why they did it.
- How they would have prepared for it.
- What they would have been thinking about as he did it/before/afterwards.
Now write a few opening paragraphs that start 15 minutes before the criminal gets caught. Even if you never read or write crime fiction, this is a great writing prompt to sharpen your pace and action.
Top tip: Make sure you save all your prompts as one day you might want to develop them into something more substantial.
25 Writing Prompts For You
Want more great writing prompt ideas to make sure your writing never gets stale? Enter your details below and we’ll send you our worksheet with 25 writing prompts.
These range from sentences to start a story with to scenarios, objects, descriptions, elements drawn from your own life experience and also exercises to practise different writing styles. So before you go back to you manuscript next time, warm up with a writing prompt – you might find a new side to your writing.
Do you find little writing exercises helpful? What other exercises work for you? Let us know in the comments box below: