Time for some more writing prompts! Here are some luscious ones that could inspire fantasy, romance, love story (my personal favorite), journaling, or even memoir. It’s all up to you. If you like these, click here for the writing prompts that came before. I may offer more this month simply just because…
You’ve made progress on your novel. You’re on your second draft and past the halfway point. You can’t believe it. Once you’re done with this, the novel will need work, edits, polish, maybe even one more rewrite.
The second draft is coherent in a way that the rough draft was not. The rough draft was a mess. Once you have finished the second draft, you have finally finished a book - a novel that needs work, but still a book.
Then your monkey mind starts swinging through the trees and your ADD goes off the chain. You can’t focus.
You remember you forgot to pay the garbage bill. Then while you’re on your phone to pay that bill, you see 2 Facebook Messenger notifications, and wonder who is reaching out to you?
You open them only to find out it’s a nudge to say hello to your latest Facebook friend and another is an annoying group chain.
You leave the conversation and scroll through your feed only to find garbage. You wonder why don’t have the nerve to disable your Facebook account because the bastards are violating your privacy anyway.
Then you remember that you forgot to pay the frigging garbage bill, and if you don’t pay it today you’ll be charged late fees. So you actually pay the bill, and suddenly, watching your favorite Netflix series sounds like the perfect reward for paying that garbage bill at the 11th hour.
But wait a minute. You haven’t written your pages today. You didn’t write your pages yesterday either, or the day before. You feel the stirrings of panic in your belly and guilt weighing your shoulders down into the I-hate-myself slump.
You lose momentum when you miss writing days. You know every day you miss writing only makes it worse because then the Shame Monster comes to life and laughs in your face.
“Slacker,” the Shame Monster chortles. “You’ll never finish that book. I knew you didn’t have it in you.”
I like happy endings.
So in this version of the story, your will resurrects from the dead and comes to the rescue.
Step 1) Tell the Shame Monster to go *%$# itself;
Step 2) Grab a notebook and pen.
Step 3) Write every bit of nonsense and distraction you can think of, every random thought that comes to your head. Write freely and keep your pen moving. Write until you feel calmer, more focused. If you want to time yourself, go ahead.
Step 4) Have a light snack. This step is optional.
Step 5) Open your laptop (or typewriter, some people still use these) and get to the last chapter you were working on when you got distracted. Read that chapter out loud.
Step 6) Any awkward places or light editing that comes to mind, go ahead and make those changes. That gets you back inside your story.
Step 7) When you get to the last lines of the unfinished scene, WRITE. Even if your writing is clumsy, KEEP WRITING until you finish that scene or that chapter.
Step 8) If the writing sucks, allow it. That’s what rewriting the next day is for.
Step 9) Have a light snack.
Step 10) Keep writing. If finishing that scene or chapter didn’t bring you to your minimum word count goal, continue writing the next scene or chapter until you have.
Step 11) If your writing sucks, allow it. That’s what rewriting the next day is for.
Step 12) Write past your minimum word count goal. You’ve slacked off and you need to push through that resistance until you’re in love with yourself and your writing again.
Step 13) Once you feel complete, close down your laptop.
Step 14) Do a happy dance.
Step 15) Netflix and Chill without shame.
For more advice on how to discipline that ADD monkey mind, click here.
I love dialogue.
Of all the elements of fiction, dialogue is my favorite as both a writer and a reader. I get excited when a come across a long stretch of dialogue in a novel, and as a writer, I work on dialogue for hours.
There is no resistance. I love picturing these scintillating conversations between characters, and I have no complaints working out the kinks as I put those talks to paper.
If anybody has come across some of my work-in-progress excerpts, you would find a lot of dialogue because I love it so much. If you’d like to check that out, go here.
Maybe I should have been a screenwriter. Because splendid dialogue between characters on a movie screen makes me high for days.
For example, Pulp Fiction is one of the best dialogue movies I’ve ever seen. Without the exquisite dialogue in every single scene of the movie, Pulp Fiction would have been awful.
As far as the characters and the plot are concerned, the stories are disturbing. Generally speaking, all the characters are out for themselves and nobody has a moral compass.
There are exceptional scenes of personal growth, like the choice Butch made to save Marcellus Wallace from a hideous fate, even though Marcellus Wallace had put a hit on him.
Also, the epiphany of Jules to quit the hit man’s life, walk the earth as a holy man, in the final scene when he spares the lives of Pumpkin and Honey Bunny, made a breathtaking end to a film that boggled the minds of most people who saw it.
Pulp Fiction took black humor to a new level. Throughout the many psychotic and psychopathic events, the audience laughed hysterically and savored every moment (or almost every moment), and I believe it was because the dialogue was that brilliant.
This was during the days when Quentin Tarantino collaborated with Roger Avary. Either Avary was the dialogue genius, or the two of them needed each other for that magical precision of back and forth verbal volley between characters. All I know is the dialogue in Tarantino’s films has made cringe once they fell out and parted ways. Too many monologues.
I love good dialogue in a novel. I relish the chance to imagine these fictional conversations in my mind and put myself in the story as one of the characters.
The dialogue in Tom Robbins’ work (Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Jitterbug Perfume, Still Life With Woodpecker) makes me want to dance and celebrate the glory of life. But his characters and his plots are every bit as magnificent as the dialogue they speak.
Back in the day, Jane Austen had some pretty luscious dialogues set in Regency England. But Jane Austen had far more fodder to work with. We’ve gotten lazy and unskilled in the act of communication. For centuries, conversation was an art that most people wanted to excel at.
Now that my rant about my love of dialogue is finished, the nuggets of advice I can offer on how to pen dialogue are:
1) Practice and Read Your Dialogue Out Loud. That’s the only way you can hear the rhythm and flow of a conversation.
2) For anybody who really struggles with dialogue, I suggest writing dialogue between the writerly YOU and your principal characters. I suggest doing this one character at a time, to open yourself up to an impression of who they are as people and how they sound, even their quirky and unique expressions. A few exercises like this and you’ll be creating dialogue between the characters with little to no trouble.
I’m also happy to share a lovely article that gives more detailed tips on gorgeous dialogue. Click here.
Did you know that it takes 40 days to change a habit?
According to the late Yogi Bhajan, it is so. It also takes 90 days to confirm the new habit; after 120 days, the new habit is who you are; and if you keep it up for 1000 days, you have mastered the new habit.
I’ve found that 120 days will make some profound changes. 120 days was enough to quit smoking. I did this by replacing a bad habit with a good one. Instead of puffing on a cigarette, I practiced the Kundalini breathing exercises Yogi Bhajan passed on to Western culture.
I focused on 1 or 2 meditations and mantras at a time for 40-day runs. At the end of that winter, I had transformed into a non-smoker rather than an ex-smoker craving a cigarette. That was more than 15 years ago.
Some would say Yogi Bhajan was a cult leader. And maybe that is true. Either way, smoking is a gnarly addiction for a lot of people; it was for me, so the man and his memory have my respect, as well as my gratitude.
Since then the 40-day method has been my standard go-to when it comes to making constructive changes in my life.
I’ll get back to this later.
A few days ago, a gentleman responded to a meme on my Twitter page about writer’s block. From what he had to say with very young children to raise, I gathered that he doesn’t have time to write.
Since I’m new to parenting via the stepmother path, I could sort of relate to what he was talking about.
I got to thinking about all we have to juggle in life – and then there’s the writing. It’s a balancing act that I’m not comfortable with. There was a time when I had the time to isolate for several weeks to write a rough draft because I didn’t really have to worry about anybody but myself.
Even if the loneliness of being that single got to me so much that I suffered some serious writer’s block as a result, I miss having that kind of space to immerse myself in another world. Now, I only get 2 hours of daily writing time - 4 if I’m lucky - before I have to move on with everything else that needs to be done.
As an independent author, I’m also a publisher. I have to find my editors, artists, graphic designers, printers, and whoever else will be involved in the process of giving birth to a new book.
Independent author or not, there’s no getting away from all the social media stuff that needs to be done. Instead of simply working on the creative juice of novels and stories, writers now have to have a platform. We have to blog, tweet, pin, Facebook, and Instagram, etc.
All this for the sake of getting our name out there in the hopes that the world knows our stuff exists and will come to read it and love it. Traditionally published authors have to do the social media thing just as much as the Indies do.
Then there is the stuff of life - relationship, friendships, parenting, day jobs, and beloved hobbies for those who have the time.
Maybe it’s just me, but it seems there are more demands on time and attention and energy than ever before. Or maybe it’s because a child has been thrown into the mix of life, and I’m still getting used to that.
I’ve never been organized in my life, and now I have to be at least a little competent at it. Which brings us back to habits because I had to improve mine.
So about that 40-day method of creating healthy habits…
Or 90 day.
Or 120 day.
Last year, I made a commitment of 4 small yet mighty changes of habit - daily meditation, walking, chores, and writing. I started the day with meditation and walking before getting my morning coffee. Then I wrote at least 2 pages every day and did at least 1 chore.
I did this for 120 days.
Small changes led to big results.
Meditation balanced me a lot more and I could concentrate so much more.
I lost about 15 pounds from walking – just walking.
I usually wrote more than 2 pages a day.
One chore often led to another chore, sometimes 2 or 3 more.
I’m not saying that I’m a neat freak now, but I tidy more than I used to and it has made a difference in how functional I am.
In that 120 days, I finished the rough draft of the novel that I am well immersed into my second draft now. In that time, I finished rewriting and polishing a fairy tale I wrote years ago.
I was more productive during that 120 days than I had been in years. With all the demands on my time and energy, I was much more productive than when I had the time and space to dive into an imaginary world for weeks at a time.
Just in case anybody would like a to-do checklist on consciously changing habits, I got some great tips from the guys at JumpCut, and their Viral Academy on making Youtube videos. Here ya go:
1) Identify the bad habit you need to change.
We lie to ourselves all the time about our habits, and justify them. Don’t do that.
2) Replace the bad habit with a good one.
We rely on our habits to get through the day. Taking away a bad habit without putting something else in its place won’t work. For example: Meditate for 5-10 minutes first thing in the morning, instead of opening your phone to check Facebook. Or do deep breathing exercises that will give you a head rush instead of reaching for a cigarette. That’s what I did.
3) Plant a seed habit.
Start small and build from there. It helps if you put yourself in the position that you have to do it. That makes it easier to do it every day. For example: Walk or ride bike to work. Write 2 pages before checking social media, etc.
4) Don’t break the chain.
This is where the 40 days comes in. If you don’t have a wall calendar, get one. Put a big fat X in any color you want on each day that you do your new, healthy habit. Do this for as many days as you can. Doing this feels deliciously satisfying.
If you make it to 40, try to push it to 90 days. Maybe spread to 120 days. And then…
I should probably aim for 1000 days to make sure these new habits stay with me forever.
Are there any writers out there who have any healthy habit forming tricks you’d like to share? What tools do you have to make it all happen? If you have any insights, please check in with a comment or two. Check in if you struggle with the juggle. Because I’m pretty sure we all do.
Truthfully, I should start another 40-day challenge to get the second draft done. Or 90 day. I’m sure I could get this draft done in 120 days.
For anybody who wants to be a Youtube influencer, or to check out some of Jumpcut’s courses, click here. For the record, this is NOT an affiliate link, and I do not get a commission if you anybody signs up. That one video they did on changing bad habits did me a lot of good and I want to spread the love.
Thanks for reading.