Each week, I'll post a writing prompt - a picture, words, or a combination of both. If you miss any of the posts you can still find the prompts by clicking here or on Weekly Writing Workshop in the Categories list in the sidebar.
If this is your first visit to the workshop it might be worth spending a few minutes scrolling down this page.
If you are new to writing and the idea of writing prompts, you might want to read all the way down to Getting Started.
Why do I need a prompt?
If you already get up and write each day and are completing all the projects you've set yourself, you probably don't need extra prompting! But, so often in writing workshops people say to me: "If only I had a writing exercise to get me going each week..."
In face-to-face workshops, everyone writes to a prompt. Words Unlimited Weekly Workshop takes this idea a step further by offering a prompt regularly on your screen. Use the prompts when writing alone, with a writing 'buddy' or with your regular writing group.
Mining the Core
We writers all have our 'core' material, the stuff that makes you want to write in the first place - the poems, novels, stories we're going to write are already bubbling inside of us.
Often it takes something in the present - something unexpected that connects to the core - to trigger a piece of writing. The unexpected - image, overheard, potent phrase - could begin to suggest a way to shape what is pressing and important to you into something others might want to read.
The Third Thing
If you're stuck on a project, often you need something to rub up against, like the piece of grit in the oyster that creates the pearl.
Creating something new involves combining the unexpected, or combining familiar elements in a new way. Maybe that chapter of your novel isn't quite coming to life because the two elements you're working on don't spark each other.
Try throwing a random element into the mix.
Looking out of the window I 'grab' the first thing I see. It happens to be a purple wheelie bin. Okay, what happens if I try to put that in my scene? Well, I have to look at everything in a new light. The purple wheelie bin might not make it into the final scene, but by setting a random limitation, I'll have to look at everything in that scene afresh.
Why not try using the weekly prompts as your Third Thing?
Use the prompts any way you wish - the main thing about them is the element of surprise, something to snag the core imagination, something that you didn't know you were going to encounter.
If you want to develop as a writer - particularly if you want to write a novel - you need to develop a regular writing habit; a habit so strong that you keep on writing even when life gets a bit hectic. Turn up each week at the Workshop and 'meet' other writers through the comments.
If a prompt works well for you, why not leave a comment? The comment section at the end of each post offers a way to connect to other writers. If you can't stand the prompt - let me know why. Often not liking something can be a good way into a piece of writing. So don't give up at first sight! Use your irritation or dislike to power the writing.
Create a Prompt Trail
Or you might want to use the comment section to leave a phrase or even a single word and help create a prompt trail. Try writing a piece by starting with the image and then follow prompts in the comments.Publish Your Work on Words Unlimited
When Weekly Workshop has been running for six months I'll review the feedback I'm getting. If there is enough interest, one of my options will be to invite you to submit, via email, an extract of prose - Maximum of 500 words - or a poem - Maximum of 40 lines. A selection of these will be published on Words Unlimited.If you've worked with writing prompts before you might not need to read the rest of this page. But if you're stuck with a project, or new to writing, take a few minutes to read the suggestions offered in Getting Started.
A prompt is an invitation to do some freewriting.
Freewriting is the best way to get out a first draft. It's simple. Set yourself a time limit - you choose: 5, 10, 20 minutes? Set the timer on your mobile or kitchen timer [not one that ticks, though]. Now that you are safe inside that pocket of time. Just write. Anything. Don't stop. Don't mind the grammar, spelling. Don't mind if it feels as if you are producing rubbish. Keep going.
When the time is up, review what you have written.
Is there a word, phrase, image, idea that gets you excited? Take that and do another session of timed freewriting. You might want to do this straightaway, or come back to it during your next writing session.
Freewriting won't necessarily deliver a poem or story fully formed, but it is very likely to set you on the way to writing one. And, isn't it better to free write to a prompt than to stare at a blank screen?
Using The Images
1. Spend at least one minute simply looking at the picture offered in the prompt post. Examine every detail.
2. Now close the picture. Begin to write an accurate description, seeing the detail in your minds eye. 'Talk' the detail onto the page, as if you were recounting to your friend on the phone/over dinner/in the pub. Keep 'talking' in the freewriting mode outlined above.
3. If other thoughts and/or ideas come to mind, catch them and write them down. Keep freewriting for 10 minutes or for however long you've set the timer.
4. Review what you've written - is there a highly charged image that might grow a poem? A character that might grow a story? A memory that might grow a memoir?
5. What really interested you in what you just wrote? Circle the words/phrases. Now do some more 'talking on paper' as freewiting, around those.
Stuck on your current project? Try this:
1. Spend 20 minutes making notes on a scene in your story/novel that you keep avoiding or find difficult. Try to be in the fictional space - see the setting, what can your character smell, hear, feel, taste? Jot down sentences, key words, sense impressions.
2. Now, go to a prompt picture study it a while - select a detail from the picture that connects - however tenuously - to your character. Write about that detail.
3. Go back to the scene, combine the jottings from 1 and 2 to create a new first draft
Using The Words & Phrases
Sometimes the prompt will consist of randomly chosen words and phrases. Which of these seem potent to you?
Repeat the above exercises, substituting potent words or phrases for images.
Freewrite around the words that are most potent for you.
Does a word call up a picture in your mind? A characters? A mood? An event?
Enough reading, time to start writing ...