Although I’ve been hard at work on my next manuscript (a middle grade magical realism story), every once in a while I like to free write on a totally different project. It boosts my creativity and helps me come back to the daunting task of drafting with a sense of energy and purpose.
My free writing sometimes starts with something that happened in real life (for example, this week I wrote a flash fiction piece about anxiety after spending a nerve-testing hour in the dentist’s chair!). Sometimes I let an upcoming contest or call for entries determine the topic, genre, or word count of my writing. But when neither of those inspires me, I turn to writing prompts.
One of my favorite recent craft books, and a surprisingly good source of writing prompts, is Donald Maas’s Writing 21st Century Fiction.
In addition to providing a great overview of the current market, Maas ends several chapters with a series of questions and exercises that generated a flurry of ideas as I read through them.
Here’s an example. This month, spend a little time listing the common tropes in your genre. Then see if you can take one or two of them and write something that is the opposite of the trope. For example, the “handsome prince saves the princess” gets turned upside down when a feisty princess saves herself, and a useless prince, in one of my favorite picture books, The Paper Bag Princess. Another recent example is the way Sarah Prineas questions whether the “fairy godmother” (a common fairy tale trope) is really the good guy in Ash & Bramble.
If this prompt doesn’t appeal to you for whatever reason, check out some of these other great resources. Remember, the important thing is to keep writing!
- Writing Forward Fiction Writing Prompts (if you like these, there’s a whole book!)
- terrible minds hosts a flash fiction challenge every Friday. Even if you don’t enter, Chuck Wendig comes up with some great story prompts!
- Janet Reid hosts a flash fiction challenge weekly on her blog as well.
- Writer’s Digest Writing Prompts
- Poets & Writers Writing Prompts
- Adventure Story Starters: Writing Prompts for Kids (or the young at heart!)
Did these prompts inspire you to write something? Tell us about it in the comments below!
JULIE ARTZ blogs at Terminal Verbosity, writes about local Washington history for Gatherings, and contributes regularly to From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.