The Power of Writing Prompts + Free Writing Prompt Giveaway!

The Power of Writing PromptsPeople are often surprised when I tell them I still use writing exercises and prompts when I’m writing a book. There’s a perception that writing exercises and prompts are used by new writers and that writers who’ve written a book or two no longer need them. Well, that’s not true, for me at least. I’ve also gathered together two weeks’ worth of my favourite writing exercises to send to you to help you with your writing in the same way the prompts have helped me. But more of that in a moment.

My approach to the early stages of writing a book is that you need lots of ideas. Every new idea can be turned into a scene. Every scene allows the shape of the story to become clearer to the writer. But sometimes you don’t have ideas. And sometimes you can’t find the voice of your main character so even if you have ideas for scenes, they just don’t sound right. Writing exercises are ideal for both of these scenarios.

Finding Your Character’s Voice Through Writing Exercises

Let me show you what I mean. When I was writing If I Should Lose You, I had trouble capturing Alix’s, one of the main characters, voice. I knew she was grieving and clinical and bereft and lonely and unable to show any of these things. But conveying that precise mix of emotions through everything she said and did was eluding me. I’d done a few writing exercises but none of them had been quite right. Until one of them was. I started with the writing prompt, “I depend upon …

And this is what I wrote:

“I depend upon dead people. In my line of work, someone has to die so that someone else can live. But it was not supposed to be Dan.

You say you don’t know if I love you—I do, you see, but I still love Dan and you will always lose when pitted against him. He has the benefit of being set in the stilled moment of death …”

I continued writing, an entire letter from the still grieving Alix to her new lover. And that letter appears, almost verbatim, with just a couple of words changed here and there, in the final book. It was in the writing exercise as I wrote that second line in particular that I knew I had found my character’s voice. Who knows how long it would have taken me to find her voice if I’d just kept plugging away at writing scenes, without opening up my mind to the new ideas and phrases that the writing prompt gave me?

Shaping Your Character’s Personality and Appearance With Writing Exercises

There is another scene in the book where I have the lines:

“She wouldn’t allow herself to be considered a redhead, although others often described her as such because her hair was really a motley orange colour, like ripe mangoes. It was this orangeness that she would like to get away from.”

This also came from a writing prompt; the prompt began with the words, She wouldn’t allow herself to. Until I wrote the rest of that sentence I had no idea that my character was a redhead, nor that she was uncomfortable with her hair colour, but once I wrote it, I knew it was perfect. Writing exercises and prompts allow me to think beyond the limits of my mind, to write sentences and thus scenes I wouldn’t otherwise write, to discover things about my characters and stories that I wouldn’t otherwise uncover if I just kept writing scene after scene and following the limited path of a known story.

FREE Writing Exercises From NATASHA LESTER copyGreat Books of Writing Prompts/Exercises

My favourite books of writing exercises/prompts are: The Writing Book, by Kate Grenville (great for zany, out of the box ideas that get you thinking differently), The Plot Thickens by Noah Lukeman (excellent for deep character development work) and Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway (especially good for those just starting out). I use these three books whenever I begin writing something new.

Your Free Set of Writing Prompts

But I’ve also developed a series of writing prompts for courses I teach and for me when I want something different to what’s in the books. And I’ve packaged these writing prompts up into a pdf to help you the same way they’ve helped me, to start writing or to keep writing if I’ve lost momentum.

These prompts should last you for at least two weeks; in fact, if you choose two exercises per day and write 250 words per exercise, by the end of each day you’ll have 500 words. If you do this 6 days a week (I’ll give you Sunday off!), by the end of two weeks, you’ll have 6,000 words! Now that’s something substantial.

To get this free set of writing prompts, all you need to do is click here, where you’ll be able to enter your email address and it will be delivered straight to your inbox. I hope you enjoy!

More From My Getting Started Series

In the meantime, please let me know if and how you use writing exercises and prompts. You might also be interested in the other posts I’ve written as part of this Getting Started series. You can click here to read Part 1, my Top 10 Tips to Get Your Book Written in 2014 and click here to read Part 2, which is all about the 10 Things I Need to Have Before I Start Writing. If you’ve been following the series, I’d love to know what you think and whether you have any other burning questions about writing a book that you’d like me to answer. Most of all, enjoy the free writing prompts and good luck!

17 comments

  1. Natasha you are a star, thank you.

  2. I am always astounded by how generous you are with your knowledge. You have such an encouraging nature, driving other writers towards a success, that I feel you genuinely believe they can achieve. I cannot express how much your blogs and encouraging words have made a difference to my writing psyche. While my novel-writing path has veered off its original course (for the time being), it has led me to other things (as you know) that will be advantageous when I finally sit down to finish my novel. You taught me that the more you write, the better you get and the more you read, the more you will find your style. While these seem like obvious teachings, they weren’t to me. By doing both of those simple things I have found a new approach and a new love for writing in all the forms I am currently doing it in. So, I reiterate Rae’s words, you ARE a star, whether you know it or not, you are an amazing teacher, wonderful writer and I know the words inspiring get banned around way too often, but I truly do find you inspiring as a fellow Mum and ex-marketeer!
    PS: On a less gushy note…I’m struggling with the Luminaries!!! How did you go?

    • Thank you! That is so lovely. I’m not sure I’m a star but I’m glad I’m helping people.
      And I can’t tell you what I thought of The Luminaries – yet! I’m going to put up my book club video next week so I’ll tell you all about it then. I hope you drop into the comments on the video and let me know if you agree or disagree with me.

  3. marlish glorie

    Well, damnit all, as littleblackdressproductions has done gone and stole what I wanted to say! You are a star, Natasha, and an inspiration! Thank you for all your wonderful blogs and posts. Greatly appreciated by this reader & writer. Now as for littleblackressproductions believing she is gushy, well readers and writers are I think, creatures of emotion, we’re blessed with imagination, maybe too much, but is that a fault? Nah! I’ve also just started the Luminaries, and thus far, its okay, takes a while with a book this size to get your bearings.

    • Thank you Marlish for your feedback and for being the most wonderful supporter of my blog, and the blog of most other West Australian writers. If I’m a star, then so are you. X

  4. I’ll be tuning into Book Club with an invested interest. 🙂 I must admit Im not that far into the book as its not grabbing me but I will persist as I get the feeling its going to get interesting.

  5. Whoopssie

    Hi. My very thoughtful husband subscribes to all sorts of shopping sites and knows about my interest in Scrivener. He found this and I’ve just bought it for $22.07 (!!) on special for the next 22 hours or so. Please check the link to verify. I thought you might like to alert your loyal band of followers 🙂
    http://www.appsumo.com/scrivener-last-chance/?rf=emst

    • Thanks for putting the link up. I always thought the price of Scrivener at $46 or thereabouts was very reasonable but that’s a steal! So if anyone was wondering whether Scrivener was for them, I’d jump in right now and get that price. Thanks!

  6. Thank you Whoopssie 🙂 Have just purchased xx

  7. kerriepaterson

    Thanks so much Natasha!

  8. Tamara

    A great resource. Thank you Natasha! I’ve also just enrolled in your “Get Your Novel Written” course through UWA Extension. I’m glad it doesn’t start until August though, it will give me time to get a decent amount of writing done 🙂

  9. Pingback: Manage your story ideas better to help you make the most of your writing time | While the kids are sleeping

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