February 2017
Daily Writing Prompts

A Pen In Each Hand

  1. Start with “February is that 6-week period…”
  2. Use these 5 words: increase, compare, uppity, frantic, stingy.
  3. “I would, but the weather’s terrible.”
  4. Use this line of dialogue: “Oh, wow. I’m a grown-up.”
  5. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: corner, pledge, pestilence, strand, light.
    2. Write about an autocorrect error, or other misreading.
    3. Use the phrase “I didn’t know they were open on Sundays.”
  6. Scenario: everyone leaves in disgust, alone.
  7. “Do it now; we’ll be very busy later.”
  8. Use these 5 words: unhealthy, towering, present, coil, zinc.
  9. A conversation of just one word, repeated.
  10. Use this line of dialogue: “But, like, get over yourself.”
  11. “My new electric fork is on the internet!”
  12. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: these, destination, pianos, hand, means.
    2. Write about getting to know someone very different.
    3. Fill in the blank: “The land is silent, waiting for ____.”
  13. Software suddenly stops working
  14. Include a character who wears clip-in bike shoes.
  15. Writing a letter of reference for your character.
  16. Use these 5 words: bat, shelter, huge, roll, precede.
  17. “You’ll find that on the next page.”
  18. Use this line of dialogue: “Don’t you @%^&$#! say a word.”
  19. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: beyond, spring, stone, synthesis, harbor.
    2. Write about hearing yesterday’s news for the first time.
    3. Use the word “onionsauce” to refer to a non-food item.
  20. Scenario: a reasonably good but slightly dull relationship.
  21. Waiting for a traveler to arrive.
  22. Use these 5 words: mate, annoyed, travel, tough, polish.
  23. An unexpected hole in something
  24. Use this line of dialogue: “Something terrible is going to happen.”
  25. Now where did I put that scrap of paper?
  26. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: ready, glazed, street, moaning, traffic.
    2. Write about getting ready to leave.
    3. Use the phrase, “I do not want to have that conversation.”
  27. “Are we there yet, Dad?”
  28. Start with: I’m not the kind of person who thinks…

January 2017
Daily Writing Prompts

A Pen In Each Hand

  1. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: pestilence, glazed, hands, regard, walls.
    2. Write about something that’s an unexpected color.
    3. Use the phrase, “Tell me some lies.”
  2. Use these 5 words: alcoholic, milky, pretend, repulsive, connect.
  3. Waiting for breakfast
  4. Use this line of dialogue: “Aren’t you just a little bit scared?”
  5. It will get worse before it gets better.
  6. Include a character who is holier-than-thou.
  7. Banter in a short-order kitchen
  8. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: prisoners, comes, light, lunar, life.
    2. Write about busily ignoring something other people are fretting about.
    3. Fill in the blank: “The _______ are advancing.”
  9. Finding a category to fit.
  10. Use these 5 words: versed, numerous, pets, melodic, harbor.
  11. Trying to focus while groggy
  12. Use this line of dialogue: “Maybe you’re not as smart as you think you are.”
  13. Is it supposed to sound like that?
  14. Scenario: a situation that’s both perfectly ordinary & utterly catastrophic.
  15. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: eaten, border, began, stairs, probe.
    2. Write about sunlight revealing something previously unnoticed.
    3. Fill in the blank: “It is the end of a/an _______.”
  16. Use these 5 words: impress, weary, melt, possible, trade.
  17. Asking for help
  18. Use this line of dialogue: “Why are you forcing me to be mean today?”
  19. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.
  20. Include a misfit who’s trying to figure out what to be when she grows up.
  21. Missing something because of a distraction
  22. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: smooth, cannot, convulsive, yard, talk.
    2. Write about finding mistakes slightly too late.
    3. Fill in the blank: “I think they just want to have _______.”
  23. “Are you helping, or just watching?”
  24. Use these 5 words: moaning, pull, border, scarf, stone.
  25. “We play fair: we take turns cheating.”
  26. Use this line of dialogue: “I’m a complete failure as a person.”
  27. Meeting a crush years later
  28. Start with: As a child, I was terrified…
  29. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: poor, cotton, shall, bone, fading.
    2. Write about ignoring instructions.
    3. Misuse the word “alternative.”
  30. Use this line of dialogue: “Where’s my pizza?”
  31. That sinking feeling in your stomach

December 2016
Daily Writing Prompts

A Pen In Each Hand

  1. And so it begins…
  2. Use these 5 words: emptiness, train, artfully, exposure, stone.
  3. Streetlights on in the daytime
  4. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
  5. Note-to-self doesn’t match memory
  6. Start with: “Who is _____ going to kill?”
  7. People on the other side are happy about this.
  8. Include a Supreme Court case in your story.
  9. Holding a contradiction
  10. Use these 5 words: cheats, jealous, riches, stalking, pied-a-terre.
  11. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
  12. Start with: “It’s good to see you here.”
  13. “Am I going to regret this?”
  14. Include a meteor shower in your story.
  15. “I used to be able to do this without thinking.”
  16. Use these 5 words: workout, yurt, cliche, veneer, slower.
  17. Rituals for someone else’s holiday
  18. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
  19. “I am not your metaphor.”
  20. Start with: “Our diversity is our strength.”
  21. Things to do on the longest night of the year
  22. Write about a chimpanzee smoking a cigarette.
  23. A creatively named pub or bar
  24. Use these 5 words: jellyfish, never, inventive, curated, illustration.
  25. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
  26. Start with: “I’m not expecting to ever be recognized.”
  27. “Two days retired, and you’re bored.”
  28. Write about a boot camp.
  29. “I can’t read the label on the bottle.”
  30. Write a story inspired by the first photo you see after reading this prompt.
  31. Merriment makes a character sadder

Coloring Within the Lines

A Pen In Each Hand

By Beaver

In the past year or so, adult coloring books have become very popular, with countless articles written about the trend in an attempt to understand it. Here are just a few:

Some are dismissive of the trend, viewing it as “Peter Pan” behavior by adults who don’t want to grow up, parallel to the rise in popularity of young adult fiction among adults. Others take a more generous perspective, seeing coloring as akin to meditation and other meditative activities such as knitting, a way to quiet one’s mind and be creative within boundaries.

Coloring offers that relief and mindfulness without the paralysis that a blank page can cause. It’s easier in the way that ordering from a restaurant with a small menu is easier than deciding what you want at Denny’s, where you could eat almost anything. This is the paradox of choice, and it’s been well-studied—too many options is overwhelming. But with coloring, you know what you’re working with. You just choose how to fill it in. … [T]he coloring … involve[s] repetitive motion and limited space in which to work, creating a locus point around which thoughts can revolve. [Julie Beck, “The Zen of Adult Coloring Books”]

Like coloring books, writing contests, prompts, and challenges provide a frame to work within. Facing a blank page can be intimidating. Having a place to start can help assuage some of those fears.

This month’s exercise is to choose a frame and “color within in the lines.” Don’t think of the parameters as a limitation. Think of them as freeing your mind to be creative instead of staring at a blank page and stressing about what to write.

Some suggestions for your frame:

  • contest guidelines (even if you don’t actually plan to enter, give them a try)
  • writing prompts (try using more than one at a time) or challenges
  • formal poetry has built-in constraints—make your frame a sonnet or haiku
  • use an existing story (perhaps from another medium, such as a movie or TV series)
    • retell a story (e.g. a fairy tale) from a different character’s point-of-view or in a different time period or setting
    • write a prequel or sequel to an existing story
    • flesh out an existing story
  • make up your own rules, for example:
    • choose a theme (alphabet, seasons, cities…)
    • restrict word length
    • restrict genre
    • write all in dialogue
    • limit the number of characters
    • include a specific person (e.g. a celebrity or another famous person)

If you like, you can transform these pieces later, but first and foremost think of this exercise as a low-stakes warm-up, a way of getting past your blocks, stretching your writing muscles, and easing into your primary writing project (perhaps that one you’ve been avoiding). To make it more like a coloring book frame, have both short-term (equivalent to completing a page) and long-term (equivalent to completing a book) end-points.

November 2016
Daily Writing Prompts

A Pen In Each Hand

  1. Write about a departed friend or relation
  2. Use these 5 words: fingernail, seamlessly, mistakes, tapestry, twists.
  3. “I still have to live with you tomorrow.”
  4. Start with: “Who says it doesn’t snow in _____?”
  5. Being banned from the bathroom
  6. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: round, against, chair, treacherous, juicy.
    2. Use the phrase, “That’s past my bedtime.”
    3. Write about doubting one’s own sanity.
  7. A complete makeover
  8. Write about an annual festival.
  9. Living with someone who works the opposite shift
  10. Use these 5 words: gift, lessons, sensitive, understanding, magic.
  11. The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month
  12. Start with: “I do not believe in _____!”
  13. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: remorseful, toadstools, song, librarian, screams.
    2. Use the phrase, “that’s so tight.”
    3. Write about postage stamps.
  14. Include an Olympic hopeful in your story.
  15. “I really won’t have time for this next week.”
  16. Use these 5 words: radar, signs, alarming, chart, handwriting.
  17. Keep going by force of habit
  18. Start with: “I used to love telling the story of how we met.”
  19. A reflex you didn’t know you had.
  20. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: waterski, against, incantations, funeral, beyond.
    2. Use the phrase, “Look at the hustle.”
    3. Write about a reflex you didn’t know you had.
  21. No sense of the passage of time
  22. Include an impersonator in your story.
  23. Missing an important part of the instructions
  24. Use these 5 words: teacup, log cabin, soup, magnet, hanging.
  25. Write about temporary illiteracy
  26. Start with: “You should definitely try it.”
  27. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: overhead, relations, beach, dress, towards.
    2. Fill in the blank, “I wonder what _____ is doing, right now.”
    3. Write about an inconvenient sunbeam or shadow.
  28. Write about a daring look.
  29. The weirdest Tuesday on record
  30. Make a list of 10 favorite books based on a theme.

Who Are You?

A Pen In Each Hand

By Beaver

This one’s for those of you who find yourself falling down internet rabbit holes when you should be doing something else.

Set a timer. ⏱ How long is up to you—adapt it to the time you have available. For example, if you have a half-hour of free time, set your timer for 15 minutes.

Pick any real person, dead or alive, and find out everything you can about them. Type their name into your favorite search engine… and go! Click from link to link, but with purpose. In the course of your research, if you find someone (or something) more interesting than your original subject, don’t hesitate to make a detour. You’re looking for a story idea—an intriguing character, an unsolved mystery, a fantastic setting.

Time’s up! Stop researching, set your timer for the remainder of your time, and write, using your research as inspiration.

This exercise can be done any time, anywhere, as long as you have your phone with you, and is a great way to make productive use of time you might otherwise spend aimlessly surfing.

October 2016
Daily Writing Prompts

A Pen In Each Hand

  1. Write about a hidden regret.
  2. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: jealousy, means, harbor, misused, crossing.
    2. Write about the end of an era.
    3. Misquote an advertising slogan.
  3. Hurry up and wait
  4. Use these 5 words: urban, royal, waffles, pumpkin spice, humblebrag.
  5. Write about an accidental Spoonerism
  6. “This song is so perfect.”
  7. Write about an extended deadline.
  8. A list of things that will never make sense.
  9. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: stone, wheel, ocean, mine, excerpt.
    2. Write about a donation.
    3. Use the phrase, “… the balance allows…”
  10. Use these 5 words: lineup, people, story, charismatic, struggling.
  11. Write about a deadline that was shortened.
  12. Start with: “Never thought I’d see the day that…”
  13. Write about a craving for an odd food item
  14. A girl detective.
  15. Write about someone who’s nocturnal.
  16. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: hand, done, twelve, light, memory.
    2. Write about insurance.
    3. Use the phrase, “ten straight.”
  17. Filing a report before the work is done
  18. Use these 5 words: calligrapher, work, drawings, elective, mentorship.
  19. Last glimpse of summer.
  20. “Close your mouth when you eat.”
  21. “I can’t believe it’s Friday already.”
  22. A police incident.
  23. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
  24. Use these 5 words: corpse, defomity, brain chip, haunting, wounded.
  25. “I’ve never heard ______ used as a swear word.”
  26. “How much sleep did you get last night?”
  27. Write about giving up something permanently.
  28. Imagine your worst fears.
  29. “Can we make this bigger?”
  30. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
  31. A character hates holidays.

Snapshots: What Are You Reading?

Gallery

This gallery contains 9 photos.

By Beaver Keeping a reading journal can be very satisfying. Not only do you get a feeling of accomplishment each time you add a new entry, but you’re creating a guide you can refer to whenever you need a reminder … Continue reading

September 2016
Daily Writing Prompts

  1. A Pen In Each HandThe cupboard is bare.
  2. Sign on door: “Closed for _____.”
  3. This place is not very old.
  4. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: blond, walks, telephone, spaces, mourners.
    2. Use the phrase, “cough and splutter.”
    3. Fill in the blank: “With ________ comes complexity.”
  5. The list just keeps getting longer.
  6. One of your characters is awarded an honorary degree.
  7. Each day must be better than the last.
  8. Use these 5 words: curiosity, fossils, collaboration, passport, sketchy.
  9. Looking back at a school paper from the beginning of the year.
  10. A hurricane-related storm.
  11. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: color, seducer, windy, tyranny, librarian.
    2. Use the phrase, “What about you?”
    3. Write about repeatedly asking, “Why?”
  12. A character who denies everything when confronted.
  13. “If there’s nothing there, I just _______”
  14. Use these 5 words: reclusive, flagship, brace, southside, impersonating.
  15. Everyone’s lease expires the same day
  16. A new ad campaign.
  17. Ambiguous directions send party goers astray
  18. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: shakes, woman, walks, surface, found.
    2. Use the phrase, “see and be seen.”
    3. Write about working down to the wire.
  19. “Tell me again why I used to like this?”
  20. “I’m going to save you and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
  21. Write about an extinct pest.
  22. Use these 5 words: staycation, dominoes, tango, power outage, heat.
  23. Emigrating to have two summers in a row
  24. Challenging a myth.
  25. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: against, sailor, telephone, depends, hearts.
    2. Use the phrase, “That’s going to be difficult.”
    3. Write about drowsily making a mistake.
  26. A character who’s playing to the cameras.
  27. “Oops, I missed one.”
  28. Use these 5 words: violent, rodents, bowling, cafeteria, prank.
  29. A sudden glut of reading material
  30. “I used to be obsessed with _____. I have no regrets.”

Elements of Style

A Pen In Each Hand

By Beaver

Some writers avoid social media like the plague, coming up with all manner of reasons why it’s detrimental to their writing (and everyone else’s). Other writers enthusiastically embrace it, testing out and playing with new technology, and incorporating what works into their writing practice.

I tend to admire writers who are willing to explore new technology, like Margaret Atwood, who is in her seventies and still trying new ways of writing, over those who dismiss all new technology outright, like Jonathan Franzen, who was apparently born a grumpy old man with a distaste for anything invented after his birth.

For this month’s exercise, visit the websites and social media of some of your favorite writers. Think about what they do well—what aspects appeal to you? what made you hit “follow”?—and then renovate your online writer presence based on your observations.

Some things to think about:

  • Blogging is a legitimate form of writing, and so is serializing work on a site like Wattpad. Writers have parlayed humorous social media accounts and fan fiction into book deals. Keep in mind if you have a knack for a type of writing that’s suited to social media, your social media accounts might not be a distraction from your real writing, they might actually be your real writing.
  • You can’t do it all, so what’s your focus going to be? Which platform gives you the most satisfaction? Which feels most natural? What benefits your writing most? Make that your primary focus, your everyday platform.
  • You may want to have one platform for brief updates and informal interactions with other writers and readers, and another for longer posts or more formal content (book descriptions, event schedules, etc.). For example, many writers enjoy Twitter as the work-from-home version of the workplace water cooler, a place to talk about writing and current events, while also maintaining a blog or Facebook page.
  • If you’re only going to use one platform, make sure anyone can access it whether or not they have an account.
  • Close or make private accounts you’re no longer using. If you want to keep other accounts active, repost content from your primary platform (set this up to happen automatically if you can) or use them occasionally for more specialized content.
  • Some writers like to maintain separate personal and professional accounts; others prefer to combine personal and professional. Accounts that provide a glimpse into writers’ personal lives and other interests tend to be more interesting for readers/followers, but not everyone is comfortable sharing personal content with strangers. Be honest with yourself about your comfort zone.
  • Use consistent branding (same username, design, color scheme, logo, graphics, etc.) and link your accounts together so readers can easily find you on different platforms.