15 for Fifteen

A Pen In Each Hand

By Beaver

This month we’re celebrating 15 years of Toasted Cheese. As we look back on some of our proudest moments from the past decade and a half, we invite you to do the same.

Day to day, progress can sometimes be so slow, it feels like you’re not moving forward at all. Pausing and reflecting from time to time is a good way to not lose sight of the big picture.

Make a list of 15 things you’ve accomplished writing-wise since January 2001. Big or small, anything you’re proud of can go on this list. If you have a writing buddy or group, this would be a great exercise for all of you to do and then share with each other.

Celebrate your accomplishments. Write a blog post or share on social media. (When you hit a low point you can look back on your list to give yourself a boost.) Invest in your writing life. Get yourself some new writing supplies or that software you’ve been meaning to purchase (if you don’t have it yet, Scrivener is well worth the investment). Do something fun! Freshen up your writing space, go to dinner with your writing buddy and toast your successes, throw a party for yourself and your writing group.

What’s next? Set 15 new short- or long-term writing goals. Tuck it away somewhere safe and revisit it in a decade or so to see how you did. Happy writing!

December 2015
Daily Writing Prompts

A Pen In Each Hand

  1. Write about what you would do if you were unafraid.
  2. Write about unseasonable weather
  3. “I wish I knew how to use emojis.”
  4. Imitate auto-corrected drunken typing
  5. Use these 5 words: caucus, commit, refugees, challenge, executive.
  6. Get today’s prompts at Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: beyond, lunar, sailors, crooked, seasons.
    2. Write about a distraction at a critical moment.
    3. Use the phrase, “You lost your shoe.”
  7. A distressing Facebook status.
  8. A reunion where the locals stay home
  9. “We’ve got to get the old guard out.”
  10. Your character has memory loss
  11. Use these 5 words: reboot, sabotage, record-smashing, sequel, dream.
  12. “It’s different where I come from.”
  13. Get today’s prompts at Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: crooked, looking, degradations, together, bark.
    2. A character rapidly summarizes the situation.
    3. Use the phrase, “Today answers the question.”
  14. Look what the cat dragged in.
  15. Add a character who wears a leather vest and a fanny pack.
  16. Sorting someone else’s bookshelf
  17. “Violence is not inevitable, but…”
  18. Everyone else is leaving town.
  19. Use these 5 words: anthem, valuable, referee, collectors, legend.
  20. Get today’s prompts at Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: depends, author’s, strength, o’clock, ready.
    2. A character gets tangled up in words or syntax.
    3. Use the phrase, “How nice for you.”
  21. A fake relationship.
  22. Thinking up new holiday traditions
  23. “He lied about being a scientist!”
  24. “All through the house…”
  25. Use these 5 words: intertwined, nostalgia, snowing, ocean, train.
  26. “It’s all over but the shouting.”
  27. Get today’s prompts at Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: would, shore, forever, corner, clings.
    2. Use the phrase, “It’s a dangerous game.”
    3. Write about something so lifelike it’s uncanny.
  28. “There’s more than one way to do it.”
  29. Tell a story using only found pictures.
  30. Realizing that good posture actually is a good thing.
  31. Your MC gives a speech and… *drops mic*

What Do You Recommend?

A Pen In Each Hand

By Baker

  1. Recommend on social media at least one thing you’ve read this year. If you don’t use social media, recommend in person. Independent authors are particularly grateful for recommendations.
  2. Create some recommendation business cards and leave them with your favorite works in the bookstore. You can print them at home. They could be as simple as the word “recommended” with a thumbs-up or a shelf card that lists why you recommend the book. Don’t put stickers on or in the books.
  3. Ask for recommendations at a used book store and/or independent bookstore. If you’re lucky, your local chain bookstore will have fellow book lovers who are well-versed enough to recommend as well.
  4. Recommend a book to a friend on Goodreads.
  5. While you’re there, write a recommendation of a book. If you’re stuck for one, think of a book you discovered on your own and write the review as though you’re speaking to your younger self.

November 2015
Daily Writing Prompts

  1. A Pen In Each HandGet today’s prompts at Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: rhapsody, understand, light, misused, ranklings.
    2. Write about an unwelcome comment on clothing.
    3. Write about a sudden change of attitude.
  2. Are you nanoing this year? It’s not too late to get started!
  3. Write about the slant of sunlight in the morning.
  4. Use these 5 words: Netflix, tragic, critics, flights, whale.
  5. “I wish I had a backup copy.”
  6. Use this phrase: a spooky story
  7. Multitasking one too many thing.
  8. Get today’s prompts at Twitter.
  9. “You always have to work on date night.”
  10. Start with: “It doesn’t get more traditional than this.”
  11. It’s important to tell the truth, except…
  12. Use these 5 words: Lego, divided, calm, schizophrenia, economy.
  13. When everything has to work at the same time.
  14. Start with: “Psst… hey, kid…”
  15. Get today’s prompts at Twitter.
  16. Use this phrase: kick start the week!
  17. “There’s just one more little detail…”
  18. Use these 5 words: apolitical, connection, risks, arrest, conspiracy.
  19. Intentionally misunderstanding instructions
  20. Use this phrase: atrocities of the past
  21. “Did you get the message?”
  22. Get today’s prompts at Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: Silence, destination, world, white, dead.
    2. Write about overcoming resentment.
    3. Use the phrase, “Repeat after me…”
  23. “Seven Twenty-Three and All’s Well”
  24. Start with: “Look at this craftsmanship!”
  25. Cold snap makes the pets want to cuddle
  26. Use these 5 words: libraries, evil, trolling, delight, trust.
  27. Write about a formal introduction.
  28. Use this phrase: a tentative deal
  29. Get today’s prompts at Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: language, crepe, barking, gloves, switch.
    2. Write about something that’s not done any more.
    3. Write about ignoring a request.
  30. Start with: “ok, you guys, we’re back in action.”


A Pen In Each Hand

By Beaver

  1. Pull any four novels off your shelves.
  2. Flip through the first book randomly. Write down the first name you see. This will be your main character‘s name. Repeat at least one more time (so you have a minimum of two characters) but as many times as you like. (Remember you’ll have to incorporate them into your story, though, so don’t get too carried away.)
  3. Open the second book randomly. The first place name or description you see (e.g. London, bedroom, mountains) will be your primary setting.
  4. Flip through the third book randomly. Write down the first five events you see. These will form the backbone of your plot.
  5. Open the fourth book randomly. Base the theme of your story on the first emotion you see (envy, fear, guilt, grief, happiness, jealousy, love, pride, shame, trust, etc.).
  6. Make the story your own by using your own style to combine these elements.


October 2015
Daily Writing Prompts

A Pen In Each Hand

  1. “We’re even now.”
  2. Use these 5 words: drought, blueberry, ginger, heavily, mournful.
  3. Major party foul
  4. Get today’s prompts at Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: memory, torture, gloves, looking, color.
    2. It’s St Francis day. Write about blessing an animal.
    3. Watching someone else learn to use a tool.
  5. “What are you looking for?”
  6. Use this phrase: my disturbed friend
  7. “And now, a word from our _____”
  8. Start with: “While I’m waiting for this novocaine fo wear off…”
  9. “It’s a really small town.”
  10. Use these 5 words: humanity, engage, conversations, destination, wanderlust.
  11. Get today’s prompts at Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: doves, begin, walls, librarian, weep.
    2. Use the phrase “I used to know how to do this.”
    3. Write about not quite finishing.
  12. Use this phrase: precipice of disaster
  13. Something you used to fret about.
  14. Start with: “The community is in shock…”
  15. Biting the hand that feeds.
  16. Use these 5 words: disparity, violent, diagnosed, escorted, eerie.
  17. Ten years ago today…
  18. Get today’s prompts at Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: found, done, meanness, floors, muffled.
    2. Comment on a song in a language that’s not understood.
    3. Fill in the blank: “Can’t live with ______, and can’t live without [it].”
  19. A sudden change in the weather.
  20. Use this phrase: afternoon tea
  21. What’s in the bottle?
  22. Start with: “Thoughts and prayers are not enough.”
  23. “You are not wearing that.”
  24. Use these 5 words: drones, DNA, sex, shuffled, double-cross.
  25. Get today’s prompts at Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: broken, madman, whose, language, eating.
    2. Today is St. Crispin’s day + 600 yrs. Misquote Shakespeare.
    3. Someone overslept.
  26. Use this phrase: a love letter to fans
  27. “… got every single one of them right.”
  28. Start with: “It may be unhealthy, but I feel that without…”
  29. “That’s not what we expected.”
  30. Write a dating app bio for one of your characters.
  31. A character changes his/her name

Mix & Match

A Pen In Each Hand

By Beaver

  1. Go to random.org and use the Random Calendar Date Generator to pick five dates between January 2002 and the present (leave the Sunday box unchecked).
  2. Go to the Calendar and find the prompts that fell on the dates generated in step one.
  3. Use all 5 prompts in the same story.

Example (5 random dates and their corresponding prompts):

  1. February 5, 2002: Write about a surprise meeting.
  2. July 2, 2003: Write about a remedy.
  3. April 30, 2004: Write about magic.
  4. February 16, 2008: They had a way of walking together.
  5. December 23, 2015: “He lied about being a scientist!”

September 2015
Daily Writing Prompts

  1. A Pen In Each HandWrite about an annoying salesperson
  2. Include this line: “I actually did laugh out loud over this.”
  3. A lazy summery afternoon
  4. Use these 5 words: tribute, suspension, premise, terrifying, mandated.
  5. Write about clever graffiti
  6. Get today’s prompts at Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: workings, burst, street, sailors, pestilence.
    2. Use the phrase, “But not for you.”
    3. Write about picking up after someone else.
  7. A popular employee’s last day
  8. a handmade dress printed with sun, moon, stars and planets
  9. Can’t afford it with the tax.
  10. Include this line: “I don’t remember half of it.”
  11. Important message goes unanswered
  12. Use these 5 words: market, pride, tomorrow, religion, women.
  13. Get today’s prompts at Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: sooner, workings, curve, every, morning.
    2. Write about a delivery.
    3. Fill in the blank: “Like a ______, only better. But not by much.”
  14. writing emails to random friends
  15. It helps to be left-handed.
  16. Include this line: “It’s probably going to be turned into condos.”
  17. An old letter changes things.
  18. Use these 5 words: parade, pleasure, classified, designer, auctioned.
  19. A critical system is near failure
  20. Get today’s prompts at Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: misused, aeroplanes, saying, round, sand.
    2. Write about the last time somebody did this.
    3. Use the phrase, “This could be more exciting.”
  21. Once a season, needed or not.
  22. cracking the case
  23. “That’s a mistake, not an error.”
  24. Use these 5 words: uniform, propaganda, lawns, embrace, journey.
  25. A sad holiday or anniversary
  26. mechanical difficulties
  27. Get today’s prompts at Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: curled, slights, young, begins, slide.
    2. Write about coming home after a time away.
    3. Use the phrase, “only had two.”
  28. Include this line: “I miss [name] on rainy Mondays.”
  29. “That’s not what I intended to do.”
  30. a disingenuous interpretation

A Creative Go-To

A Pen In Each Hand

By Harpspeed

I remember on one occasion back in my undergrad days in a creative writing classroom I was expected to complete a writing exercise on the spot. I felt tired from a long day already spent at my day job and overwhelmed—being at my lowest creative moment of the day. Regardless, I had to write something. So while my peers were scratching and tapping away in their notebooks and keyboards, I was zeroing on a single topic along with some describing words, and whatever literary mechanisms my tired brain could muster up.

In the end, I broke down the assignment from paragraphs and pages to consonants and syllables. I was much like that stereotypical driver driving on empty fumes and magically making it to the gas station before the engine finally conked out for good. In fact, I surprised myself with having wellspring of creativity inspired from my lack of it. Thirty minutes later, I shared a free verse poem about an evening walk with my dog. I borrowed this technique at a similar venue years later. I wrote about the juicy clementine I had consumed minutes before. Success had made free verse my official go-to for creativity-tapping.

So, here’s the thing, if you are ever in creative trouble, don’t get upset or overwhelmed. Instead, think different. Think smaller. Think poetry. You might even consider trying a tanka poem. Here’s the skinny: Tanka poetry originated in Japan and is over 1200 years old. It is similar to haiku poetry but contain more syllables as well as metaphor, personification, and simile. Tanka poems contain five lines. Subjects of tankas include nature, seasons, and emotion.

These are examples I found on the web: [1] [2] [3] [4].

August 2015
Daily Writing Prompts

A Pen In Each Hand

  1. Not the worst ever, but it will do.
  2. Get today’s prompts at Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: sweep, agony, rest, beyond, hear.
    2. Use the phrase “I can’t imagine how I did that.”
    3. Write about something that used to work.
  3. A bad case of the Mondays.
  4. Use these 5 words: evocative, werewolf, stress, quick, holiday.
  5. “I celebrate that holiday every day.”
  6. Start with: Halfway through our international tour…
  7. Our anniversary was a Tuesday that year.
  8. Write about: a false narrative.
  9. Get today’s prompts at Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: happiness, policemen, barking, polished, come.
    2. Fill in the blank: “It’s not nearly as ________ as it seems.”
    3. Write about washing windows.
  10. Use these 5 words: segregated, smart, wrestling, waffle, spearheaded.
  11. Write about a bad attitude
  12. Start with: That’s a great strategy.
  13. “Let’s do that next week instead.”
  14. Write about: a small scale evacuation.
  15. What dog are the Dog Days named for?
  16. Get today’s prompts at Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: slide, bruises, floors, destination, memory.
    2. Write about a special meal.
    3. It’s 3am. Now what?
  17. Some day, someone in this group will discover…
  18. Use these 5 words: skepticism, impossible, cheated, raw, accused.
  19. The cupboard is bare.
  20. Start with: The tables have turned.
  21. It’s complicated.
  22. Write about: being charged with second degree murder.
  23. Get today’s prompts at Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: looking, through, secret, eating, laborers.
    2. Use the phrase, “I hope that will hold it for now.”
    3. Write about an ill-timed sneeze.
  24. Use these 5 words: adaptation, wildly, contaminated, hitting, beach.
  25. Give directions creatively.
  26. Start with: Photographs shape public opinion.
  27. Loss of intuitive sense of the passage of time.
  28. Write about: curing a cat’s anxiety.
  29. “You’re telling me not to talk about it.”
  30. Get today’s prompts at Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: saying, which, lives, wheel, observe.
    2. Use the phrase, “Tell me who you are.”
    3. Write about food of an unusual color.
  31. Too many fresh vegetables at once.