Archive for the ‘Writing Prompts’ Category

25% less? You kidding?

Friday, April 10th, 2015


25%    That’s how much we Californians must cut our water usage.  Since we’ve already been conserving, it isn’t going to be easy.  But we will do it.

How many words are in your latest manuscript?  Cut 25% of them.

It won’t be easy?  Yes, it’s difficult at first, but soon it becomes addictive.  Make it a game.

How concise can you write?

Writing Prompts:

  1.  Note how many words you’ve written.  Read your piece out loud.  Begin with the last sentence.   Check for clarity.  Are the tenses right?  Can you say that sentence any more succinctly?
  2. Put your writing away for a while.   Time is your friend.  When you read it again, you’ll see your words through fresh eyes.
  3. Share it with a writing friend or writers’ group.
  4. How many words is your piece now?  Have you shortened the word length by at least 25%?

Write Your Way Through Doggy Dementia?

Monday, March 23rd, 2015



Zoie, my eighteen-year-old Yorkshire terrier, suffers from dementia.  Who knew dogs could have people diseases?  She’s deaf and blind, so when we pet her, we place our hand in front of her nose first, so she won’t be shocked when we give her “good scritches.”

On good days, Zoie walks without bumping into walls and furniture, goes to her newspapers to wait, showing us she’s ready to go outside.  On a walk through the neighborhood, she begins slowly, but picks up speed until those sniffs require her attention.

On bad days, Zoie bangs into walls, loses her balance and looks puzzled as if to say, “Why am I here?”  She’ll stand in a corner, forgetting how to back out of it.  She’ll awake from a nap and lose control of her bladder and bowels, not knowing she’s had accidents.

My heart aches for her physical and mental losses.  I already miss her knowing her time on earth is limited.  So I’m learning to appreciate each moment Zoie is in our lives, giving kisses, cuddles, pushing her nose into our hands for treats.

I’ve got one ear listening for her as I write.  She needs to go outside every two hours, except for the evening, thankfully.  I no longer write for hours at a time, forgetting where I am.  I take frequent breaks.   One friend asked how I could write with half of my usual attention.  Habit.  I now know how another friend wrote complete books on her ten minute breaks at work.

Appreciate your daily life through interruptions, work, and play.   Slow down for those good sniffs and moments of joy.

Writing Prompts:

  1.  Are you writing regularly in your life?  Creating art?  If not, make a small goal.  Write for ten or fifteen minutes a day.  Think about your creation another ten or fifteen minutes.
  2. A habit is made when you do it more than once.  How many days can you keep a good, creative habit?  Soon it will be like brushing your teeth.
  3. At the end of the day, recall three moments of sensory details you enjoyed.  What was your happiest moment?   Write about these.  You’ll soon be searching for them regularly.

Missing that ZING! in your life?

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

For the past few weeks, I’ve been immersed in a photo project.  Removing pictures from albums, scanning and numbering them haven’t been creative for me.  I’ve felt dulled, going through the motions but lacking that special zing.

A few days ago I met with my writing group. Surrounded by imagination, I felt that energy returning.  Zing! What a difference it made to my day.

So now, although I’m still getting past family photos in order, I’m reserving some time every day for writing.  Funny how after years of being a writer, I needed this reminder to myself.  Seek that deeper layer and all will be well.

Last week, I met with a friend who has been going through emotional trauma.  While walking on the beach, she took a photo of a fire.

Cross in Fire

“They were burning a cross?” I asked her, puzzled.

“No, Liz.  There WAS no cross,” she said.


“You’re surrounded by spiritual love,” I told her

“I know,” she said.

Seek your other layer.  When you find it, honor it every day.


Writing Prompts:

1.  As you rush through your day, through work, commuting, household chores, and activities, schedule minutes to discover the deeper you.  Write stories, poems, create art.

2.  Honor your spirituality.  Give gratitude every day.   Provide a random act of kindness and see how it makes you feel.

3.  Search into your past for memories.  Write about how they’ve influenced you.  Use humor and story to give shape to your life.

4.  Appreciate others’ creative works.  Read, visit a museum, and an art show.  Let these ways broaden your own projects.

The Bad Guy: Is He Making You Do Things You Shouldn’t?

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

Bad Guy Target Silho


The Bad Guy:  How do you deepen him making it integral to your plot?

In the first draft of your novel, are the villains were plain old stereotypes?

Mines were just bullies, through and through.   How could I create fully fledged three-dimensional characters?

Trying to deepen mine, I free-wrote scenes.  Suddenly the bully turned  into a goody-two-shoe!  How did I do that?

When I woke up the next day, a line of dialogue from this character spoke to me.  Next, I read over yesterday’s work.  I had wasted the whole day!

I started over. When the character spoke to me, she accidentally (?) shared her secret desire.  Bingo.  It felt real.  It felt right.  Now this bully is hanging around with me as I take a walk, wash the dishes, and empty the washing machine.

Don’t worry if your first draft, first ideas, or even second or third drafts don’t quite hit their mark.  We have to wade through our initial thoughts to discover the truth underneath it all.

Remember author Sid Fleischman’s words:  “Nothing is wasted except the paper.”  And in our electronic world, that’s not even an issue.

It’s all part of the process.

Writing Prompts:

  1.  What is your most useful way you deepen characters?  Do you hear their dialogue first?  Discover them through narration?  Illustrate them through art?
  2. Secondary characters are as important as major ones.  Think about them as much as you do your protagonist. Write a journal for them.  What is in their closet?
  3. Revising can be the most fun ever.  When those tidbits and discoveries click your plot comes together.  Write about your process on your latest project.  Save it!  Reread it before you begin your next writing.  It helps to see what has worked for us in the past.



Aussie Makes Me Cry: Saying Goodbye & Writing with Heart

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

Sad Aussie

Today we visited our local animal shelter to donate clean rugs and towels.   My husband and I could feel the sadness as we walked inside.  People held or stood near their beloved dogs.  All were cloaked in an aura of grief.

What were their stories?  The dogs weren’t puppies.  These owners weren’t dropping off a holiday pup just because they didn’t want to go through the bother of house training.  As we walked passed the cages, dogs made eye contact with me, their tails wagging, as if crying out, “Hey, look at me! See how cute I am! Take me home!”

“I’m so sorry,” I whispered.  “We can’t.”  Zoie, our nearly eighteen-year-old Yorkie, wouldn’t put up with it.  And we’re having our hands full giving her what she needs as she copes with her dementia, loss of hearing, sight, and other health issues. We must wait.

These dogs can’t.

On the way out of the yips, barks, and crying, I see an Australian shepherd sitting next to two men.   I knew the answer to my question before I asked it.  “Are you adopting?”

They shook their heads no.  I bent down and scratched the dog, who repaid me with kisses.

“My sister is on dialysis, and can no longer keep him.  There’s been a lot of sobbing and goodbyes.  It’s breaking our hearts,” said the man holding the leash, slumped toward the dog.  His anguish spilled out.

“I’m so sorry,” I said.

Before I could say another word, an official came over.  “It’s time.”  He grabbed the leash, and the shepherd knew.  He pulled back, alarmed with fear.

With tears in my eyes, I beat a hasty retreat.

Writing Prompts

  1. Saying goodbye to animals, people and even places may be emotional and heartbreaking.  Do any of the characters in your writing say goodbye?  In your own life?  Write a story with a character or yourself in this situation.
  2. I know it won’t be long now before I must say goodbye to Zoie.  Although I’m trying to brace myself, I know I’ll be bereft when it happens.  I’ve lost friends, relatives, and my parents. Each experience filled me with grief, but later, with time, became moments of memories.  Write a scene showing those moments of joy and memories.
  3. How does the loss affect you today?  Create a poem, song, story, or another genre of art which expresses you.
  4. Living through tough times may be helped by keeping a journal.  Write about what you and your loved ones are going through helps you survive, appreciate the special moments of joy, and be creative.


Six Essential New Year Resolutions for Writers

Saturday, January 3rd, 2015


How to be the Most Productive and Inspired!

  1. Create a haven for which to write.  It might be in the middle of a busy coffee shop.  It could be in a library or on the subway.  Where do you write best?  Try out various settings.  I know one author who wrote in a closet for fifteen minutes before work.  She wrote several books this way!
  2. Set aside fifteen minutes a day to calm your mind and write.  Tune out list-making procedures and tune in to your intuition.  The best moments to get creative are when you daydream, awake from sleep, or are so relaxed you reach your most inspired moments. Wonder about a character, story, or idea.  Play what if . . .
  3. Notice one new sensory detail each day.  You can be at your desk, in a classroom, on a bus, or lounging in your favorite chair.
  4. Play a simile/metaphor game often. What do you see which reminds you of something else?  Find similarities between two random things.
  5. Read good writing.  Read more than you ever have before.  Keep a reading journal.  Jot down a wonderful word, image, phrase, or character you love from what you’ve read.
  6. Finally, don’t forget to PLAY!  Play in the snow, the sand, and the leaves.  Build with blocks.  Create a puzzle.  Act out charades.  Let go and have fun!

Best of California Travel Photo Contest

Sunday, December 21st, 2014

California Mendocino Photo

Taking pictures is a true art. Photos solidify memories and show specific details, which helps your writing become more specific.

If you live in California, are 18 or older, and not employed as full-time professional photographers, enter this contest! Photos are due by 5 p.m., May 3.   You can submit as many as you like, but if you enter more than one of the same shot, judges will select their favorite.  They will choose and publish only one photo per reader.  Judges won’t consider photos with time stamps, water marks, obtrusive copyrights and alterations (beyond minimal photo editing).

Winners:  Seven winners will have their pictures featured in the May 31 Eat Drink Play section and online at  Grand prize winner receives a three-night stay for two at the Four Seasons in Santa Barbara.  Six other winners will receive $100 gift certificates from Mike’s Camera.  In addition to the seven winners, there will be Best of the Rest honorable mention photos to be featured in an online slide show.  Entries, as they come in, will be displayed at

For more information, visit the above site.  Good luck!

Writing Prompts:

  1. Choose a photo you have taken as a prompt for a short story, poem, or other art work.
  2. Take your camera everywhere.  Practice taking shots.  Discover what makes the best ones. Write about your experiences.
  3. Take a photo class and read about photo techniques.  Become aware of the details that count.  How can this help your writing and other art?

Advice from the Pros: Be a More Productive Writer NOW!

Thursday, December 11th, 2014


  1. What is your number one career “bliss-maker?” How can you spend more time inside your moments of bliss?

Your goal is to focus on that bliss.


  1. While attending a writer’s retreat, a fellow writer advised, “Honor thy workplace.”    The theory is if you clean your papers and stuff away, you’re allowing space for creativity.  Yes, it sounds woo-woo, but stick with me.  Another author suggested, “Un-clutter your office as though you were doing it for someone else. “


I’m here to report this works!  However, un-cluttering is a gradual procedure.  Once you begin, you realize you need less in your life than you thought.


Writing Prompts:

  1.  List your activities and jobs throughout the week.
  2. Prioritize.  What can you “let go” of  allowing more time, space, and energy with your creative process/ bliss?
  3. Choose one activity you can delegate or remove from your schedule.
  4. How can you “do” your bliss first in your day?  A number of people I know have had full lives teaching, plumbing, cleaning houses, etc. while writing or creating their art at 4 a.m.
  5. If 4 a.m. won’t allow you your full creativity, choose a time when you CAN make it your priority.



Good Books I read in 2014

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

Here’s a list of terrific books I read this year.  All but one has been published earlier than 2014.  They are in no particular order.  Numbers 10, 13, & 14  I’ve read before, but longed to enjoy them again.

Einstein's Dreams Cover

  1. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared  Jonas Jonasson.
  2. Enslaved by Ducks  Bob Tarte
  3. Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in everyday Life   Jon Zabat-Zinn
  4. One Summer, America, 1927  Bill Bryson
  5. Me Talk Pretty One Day  David Sedaris
  6. David and Goliath  Malcom Gladwell
  7. Mudbound  Hillary Jordan
  8. Not to Be Missed: Fifty-four Favorites From a Lifetime of Film  Kenneth Turan
  9. This Boy’s Life: A Memoir   Tobias Wolf
  10. The Book Thief  Markus Zusak
  11. March   Geraldine Brooks
  12. The Story of Charlotte’s Web: E.B. White’s Eccentric Life in Nature and the Birth of an American Classic   Michael Sims
  13. Charlotte’s Web  E.B. White
  14. Stuart Little   E.B. White
  15. Einstein’s Dreams  Alan Lightman

Writing Prompts: 

  1. Create a list of the books you’ve enjoyed this year.
  2. As you read, ask yourself what you like about each. Does a paragraph or sentence particularly strikes you? Book mark it and come back to it later.
  3. Model your own writing to a sentence or paragraph you’ve noted.
  4. Read, read, read! It will motivate your own writing, in subtle ways.
  5.  Keep a notebook of the books you read from now on.  You may even jot notes about them, which helps you rediscover good writing.

What WERE They Thinking?

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

Toilet Paper bathroom real estate photoHairdresser Real Estate PhotoGranny Dummy Real Estate Photo


The photos above are from actual real estate agents attempting to sell their properties.

But wait!  What’s the story BEHIND the story?

Writing Prompts:

1. Using humor, choose one of the photos above to show the story behind the story.

2.  Create a poem or story utilizing an unusual point of view.   Who is the narrator?

3.  Read Terrible Estate Agent Photos by Andy Donaldson.  Allow yourself to draw on these to create stories in various genres:  mystery, science fiction, romance, nonfiction, etc.  Play with styles!

Visit for more ideas.