• One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.
    Jack Kerouac
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Randolph Lundine Writing Prompts

Writing prompts, news, information, and resources to help expand your writing community, hone your writing habits, and to waste time in a way that feels like you're working on your writing.

Just Write (65)

I've started to keep a list of rules. These are things I tell almost every author after I've edited their work. I'd like to wrap them in a bow and send them to anyone working on a book, whether they be novelists or botanists.

This week's writing prompt (which is really a revision prompt) is a bit like that list. Rather than telling you what to write, or focusing on words and paragraphs, it asks you to consider the whole narrative. The forest, rather than the trees.

Often I am asked for more prompts for academic or serious nonfiction writers. Each time I say, "but you should do them all because you too are a writer." All writers should think of their craft, language, and storytelling. And this revision prompt is no exception--all prose writers, regardless of genre, should consider questions like these.

Five More Questions to Ask During Revision:

1. Does this draft have a beginning, middle, and end?

2. Do scenes flow logically from on to another?

3. Is there a missing scene?

4. Is the ending too rushed, or to the contrary, too slow?

5. Does the ending leave you with too many questions to be able to say what the piece is about?

--from The Pocket Muse 2: Endless Inspiration for Writers by Monica Wood

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Just Write (57)

It’s not a very well kept secret. My name is heather, and I have some serious luddite tendencies. I’ve confessed (here) my undying affection for people, pencil, and paper.

Don’t get me wrong--I love my computer. It’s handy and pretty (thank you, Apple). But when we write on the screen, there’s an almost overwhelming urge to edit. To scroll up and down, rereading, tweaking, and moving entire blocks of prose before you’ve even finished a chapter.

It’s also easy to fool yourself into thinking these tidy typed words are it. That you’re crafting a finished product that must be perfect, rather than a first draft. This denial of the draft becomes a much more cumbersome feat to pull off with your pen.

So today, I’m forcing my ways on you (bwahahahaha).

Today’s writing exercise requires you to turn off your computer. To pull out a pen (or really do me proud and grab an actual wooden pencil) and a pad of paper.

Choose a discrete part of your current writing project—a single character, scene, or background history—that has been troubling you. And just write. Don’t reread, don’t tweak, don’t edit. Simply put words down on the page.

When you’re done, and only when you’re done, reread it.

When we allow ourselves to finish a section before we monkey with it, our edit is so much better. We can approach our writing with fresh eyes. The gaps, clunky sentences, and thick parts are that much easier to see when we’ve not been looking back all along. We give ourselves time and distance, which gives us perspective.

*Inspired by The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself by Susan Bell

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Just Write (18)

Rewriting is essential. It's the real work of writing, as you likely know. But it often gets overlooked amongst all of the writing tips and prompts out there. I imagine this is because it's damn scary to start and it's damn boring to rewrite. Drafts are often chaotic and messy--and that's okay (take a breath, it's really okay). Most of us, once we get over how brilliant we are, realize what's on the page is really a hot mess with moments of greatness. The trick is recognizing what's worth saving and what's missing. In Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers, a lovely book in which you'll find a whole chapter on rewriting, Carolyn See offers a very deliberate and practical solution to find your way out of the chaos:

Here's my way of making sense of it (and this works equally well for magazine pieces, fiction, and nonfiction). It sounds like a lot of work, but it's no worse than shelling enough peas for a dinner party for six. I take out some blank paper and a hard copy of whatever it is I'm working on, divide the blank paper vertically [please see previous post re: my luddite ways to understand why I can't figure out how on earth one does this on my fancy computer], draw another line across the top, and label it thus: 

Ch. One

     What I Have                                                       What I Need

 

Then I take a look at my troublesome, chaotic, emotion-packed repetitve manuscript.... If it's a twelve-page story, maybe my map will run a couple of pages; I'll break it down by paragraps. If it's a novel, maybe this map will run ten or twenty pages. But by the time it's done, I'l have a very clear idea about what's going on in this 280-page manuscript.... [T]hen I read the manuscript again, but with my map beside me...I keep reading, no more than two hours at a time, and crossing out (or adding) a word or paragraph at a time. After a while, the items in the right side of my column will get crossed out; they'll get "fixed."

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