Summer Writing Mini-Workshop: Creative Writing Prompts

coffee

If you’re stuck, write about writing. A book may be static, but our perceptions are dynamic. https://sarahleastories.com/2016/03/06/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-343-theme-poem-about-a-book/

A piece of literature can have many incarnations. When writing such a work, always cite exact quotes, & what work it is based on. I did this with a very interesting short story. https://sarahleastories.com/2016/11/01/poem-a-day-writers-digest-challenge-1-theme-stay-go/

Just as there are numerous genres in which to categorize a story, there are many formats in which to write them. Experiment with some of these lesser-utilized ones. https://sarahleastories.com/2016/09/24/writing-prompt-experimenting-with-hybrid-fiction/

Write a response to another poem, & watch it take on a life of its own. https://sarahleastories.com/2016/04/22/poem-a-day-2016-writers-digest-challenge-21-theme-poem-that-responds-or-somehow-communicates-with-another-poem/

Have fun with the absurd. Have you heard of fractured fairy tales? How about a compound fractured fairy tale? https://sarahleastories.com/2016/02/12/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-340-theme-finally-or-at-last/

You can go for a “multiple ekphrastic”—using 3 (or more) paintings as inspiration for a narrative poem/prose. I married that idea with Rudyard Kipling’s “Just-so” type stories. https://sarahleastories.com/2015/11/05/poem-a-day-writers-digest-challenge-4-theme-once-upon-a-blank/

 

Writing Tips

There is not a single writer’s group meeting I attend that I do not learn something, or at least get inspired or motivated.  I even got a blog post (this one) out of it, plus a possible regional short story idea.  I like to write regional, because as Allison Mackenzie stated (at least in the movie) in “Peyton Place”, there is nothing like opening up a newspaper where the names mean something to you.  There is a peculiar sort of delight when I open up a book and see Pensacola (my hometown) or Poplar Bluff (my birthplace) mentioned.

One of the neatest things I learned was that it is possible to “age appropriate” your writing.  Just as there aren’t any recommended ages listed on children’s books (which I think is done on purpose, to sell more books; I’m such a cynic, I know), I wasn’t aware there was a way to figure out how to determine at what age level my writing was.

For my second collection of children’s nursery rhymes, “Golden Forks and Silver Spoons” (“Golden Stars and Silver Linings” being the first), in the “Just-so Stories” section (a la Rudyard Kipling), I “graded” my poem, “How the Colon Became a Semicolon” (who doesn’t love semi-colons, the noncommittal things they are), and have realized that perhaps I wrote a book of children’s poetry rather than simplistic nursery rhymes.

Because I am a “For Dummies” kind of person (I am consulting the “Dummies” books, rather than my textbook, to help me slog through the college course known as Computer Concepts), I want to share how grading our work is accomplished, screenshot by screenshot (as I am a visual learner).

Basically, just follow the cursor.  In the fourth screenshot, just make sure “show readability statistics” is checked.

2 3 4 5 6 7 8

That is how I wish all computer programing books were laid out, because I would so get it.

Now, onto my list of writing tips (which have helped me).  The 5-minute freewriting challenge that was posed to us at the meeting was on what makes one a successful writer, and this is what I came up with.

  1. Write everyday.  (Stephen King writes at least 2000 words a day.)
  2. Don’t edit as you go.  (For a perfectionist like me, this is extremely hard, but I’ve gotten better, because I’ve found that once I get it on paper, it’s a snap to go back and clean it up.)
  3. Submit at least twice a month.  (I would say once a week, but I haven’t even reached this goal myself yet.  I try to count my blog posts as submitting/publishing).
  4. Become a proponent of lifelong learning.  No matter what your major is, there is inspiration for writing everywhere.  My Anatomy and Physiology class inspired a series of medical poetry.  My ethics (philosophy) class has just plain inspired me.
  5. Nurture your spiritual side.  Just one verse in the Bible can (and has, for me) inspired an entire poem, short story or novel.
  6. Become proficient in Microsoft Word.
  7. Stretch your writing muscles by writing in different lengths and genres.  (I’ve also written the same story in poem and short story form.  However, I have found that before writing a novel, decide whether to write in first-or third-person.)
  8. Share your writing, but also be willing to listen to others share theirs, and give sincere compliments and constructive criticism.
  9. Have another creative outlet, such as photography, crafting, etc.  Anything that gives you a break from the screen, but keeps you away from the television.
  10. Don’t watch too much TV, or at least be purposeful in what you watch.  Don’t just turn it on for the sake of turning it on.  I don’t channel surf.  When I turn the TV on, there is something specific I want to watch.
  11. Be persistent.  What one publisher may not take a shine to, another one might.  Just look at the rejection as another opportunity to make it better.
  12. Once you believe a piece is as good as you can make it, put it away for at least six weeks (Stephen King may say six months, I can’t remember), so you will look at it with fresh eyes.  However, if there is a deadline, give it your best and send it in.  This is where being a perfectionist can be a hindrance.
  13. Read!!!

 

 

A publisher’s market, not a writer’s market

Writers Market

So I ordered the 2013 edition of “The Writer’s Market” on amazon.com, at a third of the price of this year’s.  I’d wanted to get the e-edition (since I’m always on my computer when I’m editing), but I’d heard it was hard to navigate, so I settled for the print edition.

I go through phases with my writing–for awhile, I was tailoring all my work for submission to Harlequin romance (working on my Great American novel all the while, whatever that means), then I got into personal essays/creative nonfiction, and now I’m on a poetry kick, mainly because it works my brain in a different way, and I can dash it off and submit it pretty fast.

I just finished editing my collection of children’s nursery rhymes, which include fractured fairy tales (blended with Biblical allegories), fractured nursery rhymes, and my original “Just-So” stories (in the spirit of Rudyard Kipling), to name a few.  I’ve even included a “Shaggy God” story (“Allison’s Mirror:  A Twisted Retelling”) that combines the story of “Alice in Wonderland” with a Sci-Fi (or Scientology) point-of-view explaining how Adam and Eve hooked up.

I have taken a hiatus from entering fee-based contests for awhile.  Though I never lived them, I miss the days when publishers paid to print your work, rather than writers having to pay publishers just to read it.  Some of them are a racket, but others, I believe, just don’t make anything off subscriptions (I know plenty of people who write poetry, but read it?).  That’s why magazines like “Ladies Home Journal” and “Real Simple” can offer free contests with a big prize attached.  “The Writer’s Digest” offers several contests, but you have to pay (and pay big) to win.  However, there is hope in getting published with them and not having to pay (but neither do you get paid):   http://www.writersdigest.com/submission-guidelines.  You can also submit to “The Huffington Post” here:  https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScrz0kcSTcl6MrGJF-13l2MMSZJ3BBZtt6_znfxb4FwMLQiSQ/viewform, where you will get exposure, but again, no cash.  If you don’t mind writing for free for awhile (what is most blogging, after all?), then these will simply serve as publication credits to add to your “clip file”.

Though I realize it’s important to invest in ourselves (sometimes that means moneywise), and that when we buy a lottery ticket, it’s a gamble, I am still leery of shelling out too much money at one time for an entry/reading fee.  I’m going to exhaust all other options first, which is why I bought “The Writer’s Market”.

One exception I made was paying ten dollars to enter the Saturday Evening Post’s “Great American Short Story Contest”.  See:  https://sarahleastories.com/2015/12/06/more-good-news/.  Receiving an honorable mention (to me) in a magazine like that was like winning first place in a magazine no one has ever heard of.  The only disappointment was that my story was not in print, but rather in an online anthology.  (Print is just far more prestigious.)

That said, the absolute best, up-to-date source I’ve found for finding submission opportunities that don’t charge is http://writingcareer.com/.

Moreover, it can pay to be a college student, as there is a plethora of scholarships which require a written essay.  Scholarships are great because the pool of possible winners is much smaller (at least half of them require you to be a full-time student), so you have a better chance of winning.  Beware, however, as some are based on how many “votes” you get, but if you’re a social media butterfly, those might be the ones for you:

http://www.varsitytutors.com/college-scholarship
https://www.coursehero.com/scholarships/1000012/tier-3k-aug/
http://www.fastweb.com/
https://www.scholarships.com/
https://www.chegg.com/
https://www.cappex.com/
https://www.unigo.com/
http://myscholly.com/#scholly
(this costs $2.99, but it’s worth it)
https://scholarshipowl.com/my-account
(just get the list, but don’t pay; rather google the name of the scholarship)

So there are still a multitude of ways to make money at writing without breaking the bank.  Hope this helps!

Sarah Lea, a fellow undernourished blogger