When a Prompt Just Isn’t Enough

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There’s no denying the usefulness of writing prompts. They work great as a quick warm up to get your creative juices flowing. I’ve use them to generate new ideas when I have no idea what to write. I can’t count how many of my stories and poems that started as a response to a prompt. Even if you already have a project in mind they can give you a starting point, which for many people that’s the hardest part.

I have a number of writing prompt books, but have started to find them pretty boring. They’re all pretty much the same and usually very simple. I find myself spending more time looking for a prompt than I do actually writing. Lately instead of simple books of prompts I’ve been going for ones that include more involved exercises. While they can include simple prompts they also include activities that are more interactive or push you to find inspiration in new and different places. I’ve listed a few of the books I’ve found especially helpful below.

The Writer’s Lab: A Place to Experiment with Fiction

At first look this doesn’t look like a book for adults, but when you’re getting creative age doesn’t matter. I think this book would be incredible for people of all ages. It includes a range of different exercises, and some of them seem a little childish, but it’s an absolute gem when you want to get the creative juices flowing. They’re fun, different and get you thinking in different ways. I highly recommend it.

 


Now Write!: Fiction Writing Exercises from Today’s Best Writers and Teachers

This is just one in the series of Write Now books, all focused on particular genres. I love the way this book is set up. It’s broken up into sections focusing on different aspects of the writing process. The essays offer advice and lessons on a specific concept and an exercise that puts it to use.

 

The Artist’s Way

So this isn’t exactly a book of writing exercises, it’s not even focused on writing, rather it’s focused on expanding creativity. I include it because the exercises and writing tasks help open your mind to finding inspiration in new and different places. It might not directly lead to any new writing but the affirmations and reflective tasks can cause an attitude shift making it easier to focus on projects your already working on.

 

These are just a few I thought of immediately. I’ll update or post a longer list sometime soon.

Gotham Writers Workshop’s At-a-Glance Free Class

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As somebody who always wanted a career in writing and publishing, I thought many times of trying out the Gotham Writers Workshop classes. However, after looking at some of the prices and not knowing what to expect I wasn’t sure if it would be worth it.  Recently, after following their Facebook page I saw an offer for the At-A-Glance free class. Of course, I’m up for almost anything as long as it is free and it was completely worth it.

They had instructors in three different genres discuss major elements and then we worked on a short exercise. We went over fiction writing, focusing on character development. The class answered questions about the character’s occupation, dream job, relationship status, age, and even what she looked like. The exercise got us writing about a conflict like what the worst thing she ever did. We also went over non-fiction and how you could still use your imagination with character descriptions, structure, and even speculating about particular elements of the story. Our exercise prompted us to speculate on a true story.

I think the most fun and enlightening was the lesson in screen writing. The instructor spoke about the tone of a movie. The tone can be another way to describe the perspective of the story. Through changing the perspective the tone will change. This then leads to distinguishing the genre. The exercise we had was to take a log line (short description of plot) of a movie and write it from a different perspective changing the genre. This is a good exercise to help define the genre and lead your writing if you are struggling. Because I enjoyed this so much I’ll share with you what I wrote. I picked the movie, American Psycho.

“A young successful Wall Street Broker struggles to fit in with his overly-materialistic social circle. Infidelity, drug-use and petty jealousy leads to a mental breakdown.”

I wasn’t sure what to expect but I’m was really glad that they were able to work in exercises to get us writing. They also had food and drinks for after that class and we got the chance to socialize with the other attendees and the instructors. I’m very glad I got to find out about their classes. In fact I found out that in addition to their courses that last several weeks they also have single day workshops called write-ins. The write-ins seem like a great way to get writing more often and a great way to meet other writers.