Making Writing Prompts Work for You

Updated on March 1, 2024.

I occasionally hang around the clock app (AKA TikTok) on Live events. A lot of the authors I follow up there hold writing sprints at 25–minute intervals.

I like the camaraderie of virtually hanging with people who worked with words as much as I do. When I am slammed with a big project, participating in these 90-minute events tend to be more productive than when I work on my own.

However, until recently, I didn’t have any stories of my own to work on telling.

Even though I prefer to work behind the scenes in the book publishing process, there’s still a writer within me. In fact, Denise Leora Madre—one of my closest developmental editing colleagues who’s also an author—told me that great editors tend to also be decent writers.

I decided it was time reclaim my writing roots. Enter a book I purchased back on March 8, 2023.

I joined Medium and started off with trying my hand at fiction writing. I decided on making my go at flash fiction to start. This type of fiction generally only runs up to 1,000 words max.

Though I have shifted into weekly blog posts, I still gained several lessons about writing prompts and how to more effectively use them in my creative process.

Set a daily routine.

I journal twice a day at the same time, every day, no matter what. This routine keeps me accountable and reminds me that serious writers—those dedicated to either finishing their stories or improving their craft—make writing a daily habit. Whether that’s writing sprints on a current project, in a journal, or freewriting using prompts. It’s in my calendar, both paper and digital. My current journal sits on my desk within arm’s reach. In the two months I’ve been journaling, this routine has become a vital part of the start and end of my day.

Write outside your comfort zone.

I’m a burgeoning fiction editor in the LGBTQIA+ romance and LGBTQIA+ romantic suspense genres. My library mostly consists of thriller and romance fiction books. However, when it comes to writing with prompts, my brain has other ideas. This particular book’s prompts are labeled using two categories: Genres (from adventure to poetry) and Story Elements (character to scene to point of view). I’ve drifted into horror and science fiction, which fall close to the bottom of my preferred genres list. Writing outside my comfort zone, though, shows that variety is indeed the spice of life.

Trust your instincts.

My writing sessions range anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. I put on an instrumental jazz playlist and just write. I have no idea where the story or journal entry is going to go; I just let it come to me. This is not easy for someone obsessed with organization and outlining. But once that timer goes off, and I come out of the fugue I put myself in, I’ve been shocked at what my subconscious has brewing in its depths. When you use writing prompts, don’t look at them ahead of time. Let the ingenuity that resides in your brain do the work at the moment you need it to. You might find yourself as shocked at the results as I’ve been.

I have my first nonfiction book and first fiction book planned for Spring/Summer 2025. The nonfiction book will be geared toward self-publishing and independent authors. It will be the first of a four-book series and provide an overview of the developmental editing process and why it’s important not to skimp on it. The fiction novel will be a gay romance featuring an uptight emotionally stunted former Army Green Beret medic and a passionate paramedic who gets it in his mind to worm his way into the taciturn medic’s life.

The writing prompts and writing routine I engage in have been invigorating on several levels. It’s reminded me that maybe I love writing a lot more than I thought I did, and that that love has affected my editing process in ways I didn’t imagine.

There’s nothing wrong with finding inspiration where you can. But don’t let that inspiration languish. Be disciplined enough to follow through with it, and you’ll be shocked at the magic you can create.

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