The Twelve (Plus) Prompts of Christmas 2014

Dear friends,

It’s almost Christmas, so it’s time for my gift to you, a whole promptapalooza of writing starts. Use them right now to start stories, poems, articles, songs or whatever or squirrel them away for when the muse is hiding in the closet saying, “No, I don’t want to come out.” Feel free to share the results or your own favorite prompts in the comments.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you. May your words flow easily and your inbox be full of good news.

1. What do I hate most about Christmas?

2. My best/worst Christmas present ever

3. I want to go _____________________

4. I wish I were_____________________

5. He opened the door and ________________

6. As wind shook the house_________________

7. Plop, plop, plop!

8. What?????

9. Oh no!

10. When the phone rang______________

11. The stench_______________________

12. One more stitch

13. Yesterday_____________________

14. Dead battery

15. Next time________________________

16. Flashing lights

17. Ew!

18. Wet dog

19. Wrapped present on the side of the road

20. Bad Christmas cookie

21. With his wife gone__________________

22. As they waited for the ambulance___________________

23. We’re late!

24. As the car pulled into the driveway____________________

Smoking Hot Prompts for Fourth of July

Fourth of July is over now, but if you pay attention, the holiday offers lots of writing possibilities. For some reason, some of the most dramatic days of my life happened on the Fourth. All could be turned into fiction, nonfiction or poetry. I’ll bet you have some Fourth of July memories, too, or just some lessons learned from the fireworks that got out of hand, the potato salad that went bad, or the barbecue that was the most fun you ever had. Maybe just watching the people at the public events stirred up some story ideas. Now, when the holiday is fresh in your head, is the time to put your Fourth of July thoughts into words and get them ready to send out well ahead of the deadlines to be published next summer.

Here are a few ideas to consider:

• My worst/best Fourth of July
• Ten ways to make your Fourth of July better
• Ten things I will never do again on the Fourth of July
• Ten tips for having fun with your children on the Fourth of July
• Fourth of July celebrations gone wrong.
• How fireworks have changed over the years.
• As the fireworks flashed and crackled, she swore she would not ______________
• He stared into the campfire and _________________________
• He watched the child run across the sand into the water and _____________________
• The dog raced across the sand, nose down, tracking a smell. In a minute, he smelled it, too.
• The thing that scared him the most _______________________________
• Oh no, she thought. Not again.
• In the middle of the fireworks, I suddenly _______________________________
• The old woman paraded down the street between the trained dogs and the marching band wearing a red, white and blue tank top and a pink tutu . . .

Now go write!

Now That I’m Retired, How Do I Get Started as a Writer?

A friend who recently retired (hi, Nancy) met with me at Starbucks the other day to talk about how to become a writer. Oh, she has written things before, mostly related to her teaching or government work. She even took one of my classes at the community college years ago and saved all her notes. But now she wants to BE a writer.

This is not unusual, especially as we boomers work our way into retirement. The question is how to get started on this new endeavor at an age when most people lucky enough to have jobs to retire from are kicking back in their RVs, playing golf or pursuing other hobbies.

Maybe you’re just getting started as a writer, too. At any age, it can be daunting. There are so many different kinds of writing and so many different outlets. Books, newspapers, magazines, websites, blogs, YouTube, OMG! This might need to be one more than one post, even a series.

I think anyone who wants to start writing needs to ask some important questions. For example:

Do I need to make money from my writing?

Is this going to be work, art, or just a hobby? If you’re counting on writing to pay the bills, you’ll need to consider what kinds of writing make money (nonfiction articles and how-to books) and what kinds don’t (poetry, memoirs by non-celebrities, columns about your cats). Either way, don’t expect instant income. It takes time to write and sell your work and get paid for it. If you have enough income from pensions, other work, or a spouse with a paycheck, you can write anything you want and not worry about the money. If you need the money, you’ll spend at least as much time marketing as you will writing, and it’s going to be months, if not a year, before you make more than lunch money.

What do you want to write?

Please don’t say “everything.” I know some of us like to dabble in nonfiction, fiction, poetry and maybe even a screenplay. Me too, but what calls you the loudest? What would you feel bad about NOT writing? If you were diagnosed with a fatal illness and only had the time and energy to write one thing, what would it be? Or, try this, say your name and follow it with a genre of writing, such as Sue Fagalde Lick, novelist, or John Smith, poet. How does that feel? Which one feels right?

What do you know a lot about?

Writing about something you are already an expert on will definitely give your new writing career a boost. Maybe you already have tons of information, contacts, ideas, and even some publishing credits that can lead to new writing in whatever genre you want to write. Were you a fisherman in Alaska? Did you serve meals at a school cafeteria? Were you a doctor? A lawyer? A pastor? You’ve already got stories and knowledge you can parlay into books, articles, fiction or poetry.

On a blank piece of paper, start a list of what you know. Go beyond formal education and jobs. You know about lots of things from life, things like parenting, maintaining a home, managing finances, dealing with illness, raising dogs, cats, llamas, children, travel, etc. Make a list. Do you see some things you could write about?

To be continued: I’m going to have to finish this discussion next week, but the most important thing I told my friend is that she has to write. If you want to be a writer, don’t just talk about it. Start writing. Whether you use a pen or computer doesn’t matter. Just start putting down words. You can’t write everything at once, so write one thing.

Today, why not write a page on what kind of writer you want to be?

Now go write.