Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Writing Prompts

“Exercises teach you how to hear the outside world as a sea of prompts, a sea of exercises for potential stories. Doing exercises trains you to appreciate the value of an overheard conversation, a newspaper story, or a friend’s anecdote, and how it might be used…” -- Pamela Painter in “You and the Piano Bench” [Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction, 2009]
When I began writing, I had mixed results creating stories from prompts and exercises. My first story accepted for publication came from a prompt that instructed the author to choose one of three title suggestions. After that I floundered in a “sea of prompts.” The writing was forced, and the stories lacked something.

This past weekend I participated in my second Writers' Weekly 24-Hour Short Story Contest. For those of you who are not familiar with this contest, participants register -- and pay a $5 entry fee -- to take part. On the designated Saturday, all participants are e-mailed a prompt and word limit (950 for both contests I entered) for the story. Author’s have 24 hours to write a story based on the prompt and return it.

Not everyone agrees with me -- in fact, I don’t know of anyone who does -- but I find this challenge fun. I didn’t win anything the first time I entered, and won’t know the results of this competition until the end of August. I’m sure I’ll be disappointed if I don’t win, but the angst won’t last long. I do it for the challenge of setting a goal and reaching it. Even if you don’t feel comfortable entering a contest, find a few writing prompts online (Mr. Google can help) and give them a try. It may even knock a few chips off the boulder in your head that's blocking ideas from reaching the surface so you can write another chapter or two on the novel you’re working on.


Irfan said...

Even though I am not a writer myself, I, because of personal interest in the craft of writing, do follow material related to writing and writing related stuff. I have to say that I do agree with you that one should once in a while takeup a challenging activity, even if just for the sake of fun.

Jennifer Parker said...

This sounds like fun to me too. Thanks for the tip!