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Where are Stories Born?

In 2011 I was in the midst of delivering on a five book contract with Charisma Media. During the year, I worked on three books at once. The first book was already in Charisma’s hands and I went through the months long process of editing with a professional editor, designing a cover, and approving the final book. The second book was the one I would turn in at the end of the year in its final format. I was editing and writing the final manuscript. The third book was the next book in the series and I was outlining, researching, and writing the rough draft.

So, why in the midst of this would I decide to write two short stories a week? Simple. I had to keep my creative juices flowing and to do so, I availed myself of a wonderful website no longer around called “Storypraxis”. My editor, Andy Meisenheimer was involved in the website and the premise was that every couple of days or so, a story prompt featuring a word or a phrase was released. You then had about 36 hours to free write a short, short story based on the prompt. No editing. Just free write and get it down on the screen. Then, you uploaded the story and if it was “good” enough, it would be featured the next month in the site’s digital magazine.

I recently ran across all of my short stories from that brief time. From the stories I wrote over a year’s time, I chose 63 stories to share with my readers. I have put them together in a short book entitled “Praxis Makes Imperfect?: Prompting Your Story” available at this link.

If you are interested in writing, I challenge you to take a look at the writing prompts. They are listed in the front of the book. Sit down and just let your imagination flow and see what comes out of the inspiration from the word. Then, if you are at all interested, check out the story I wrote from that prompt. Some of the stories are ridiculous. Some are almost sublime. I used this process to explore characters, ideas, what if questions, and possible novel ideas. Some of the short stories ended up in my novels. Others are waiting in the wings impatiently, the characters tapping their toes with arms or tentacles or appendages crossed waiting for me to unleash them into the world of my stories. Patience beings. I will get to you!

So, enjoy this little book. See what stories the prompts inspire in you and write, write, write! Bleed all over the page! Let your imagination soar! And, then judge for yourself I managed to soar. Or to crash and burn!

Now, back to that hunchback wandering in the catacombs looking for that certain book of arcane secrets . . .

Writing Prompts Prompt Good Writing

I posted a blog on the American Christian Writer’s Forum today and I’d like to duplicate it here.

There once was a website called Storypraxis. Perhaps you remember it with fondness. If you subscribed to the site, you would receive a “writing prompt” every 3 days. Your job was simple. Write quickly for 20 to 30 minutes using the word or phrase as stimulus for a short, short story or a poem. No editing. No deep thinking. Just write that story and submit it. If the story was good, you would be featured in that month’s “magazine”.

I participated (participate was one of the prompt words!) and found it the most simulating and exciting writing exercise. Here is why.

1 — Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. Writing prompts force me to try something different and getting true different results. Sometimes this is satisfying. Sometimes it is frustrating. Always, it is a positive growth experience and quite educational.

2 — A rut is a grave with both ends kicked out. I write Christian speculative fiction. The question I need to ask is if I am able to write other genres. Can I write romance? Can I write a historical novel? Can I write an inspirational story based on personal experiences? Writing prompts force me to consider other genres and I have found that some of them I really like!

3 — A cartoonish character is always a problem for me. I want my characters to be as real as possible. Writing prompts allow me to explore new characters. I stretch my imagination and try putting myself into the shoes of many different types of characters, even that of a lawn mower. I have found creating rich, complex characters has become easier.

4 — Editing is the hard work of being a published author. I love to bleed all over the page and to do so with superlative descriptions. Then, the time comes to pull out the scalpel and whittle away the excess fat! Often though, all that is left is scar tissue! Writing prompts force me to write with editing in mind since there is no time to go back and edit. Being on a word count or time deadline helps me to become a better writer up front!

5 — I always have a plethora of ideas. I jot them down, even when I awake from a great dream in the middle of the night. Writing prompts allows me to do a “taste test” of a story idea. If it comes to life on the page and promises there is more than just those few paragraphs, it is an idea I need to devote more time to. Many of my writing prompts have become entire scenes in my books or even ideas for future books.
In short, writing prompts have become a necessary part of my ongoing writing discipline. They are part of my weekly “workout” to keep my creativity, my writing, and my imagination sharp and healthy. Do an internet search and there are many websites, blogs, and twitter feeds devoted to giving you a writing prompt. Or, you can click on the “Flip Side” tab. I’ve uploaded a pdf of a group of writing prompts I received through Storypraxis and the short pieces I wrote based on those prompts. See what you come up with!

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