Writing prompts

We all have times our well of ideas run dry. Throughout the challenge, our guides have offered us prompts to support our development as writers or to offer food for thought to keep us going.

This is a page for ideas. By contributing here we build a bank that we can draw on when our writing ebb is low or when we simply want to stretch beyond our present style. They might make good writing breaks from that bigger project, as well, so that you can come back to it with new perspectives.

Here is the list of the 31 original prompts by Jeff Goins and those which have been continued by Christine Royce Niles. Please reserve comments on this page to writing prompts.

Write 500 words per day for 31 days. Don’t edit or critique yourself. Just write. (Original 31 prompts are found at: https://lift.do/plans/246388/my-500-words

Steps

1.Commit to the plan. Announce it on Facebook. Write a blog post. Tell your neighbor. Do something to declare to the world your commitment to write for 31 days straight.

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 2.Set some goals. Do you want to finish that novel? Start a blog? Just get into the habit of writing? What kind of change do you want to see happen in the next month?

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 3.Get up an hour early. Most of us feel like we don’t have any time to write. So make time. The best time to write (for many people) is in the early hours of the morning, before distractions take over. Writing first thing in the morning allows you to have the “writer’s high” all day long. You know you’ve done something good even before breakfast.

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 4.Learn to free-write. Free-writing is writing without worrying about editing or punctuation or anything. Get into the habit of doing this, so that you can crank out 500 words every day. Otherwise, you might get stuck endlessly editing the same 200 words and never hit your mark. Save editing for later.

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5.Write about the most important day of your life. If you need help getting started, consider this prompt: write a short scene from your life. Try writing about graduation or getting married. Show us what it felt like to become a parent for the first time or to win the homecoming game. Grammar isn’t important (for now); instead, focus on repainting a scene for us.

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 6.Tell someone else’s story. Another writing prompt. This time, tell a friend’s story, or rewrite the end to a popular novel. You could even put yourself in the shoes of your neighbor.

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 7.Write a letter to your kids (or your younger self). This writing prompt is more instructional. It’s a rant, basically. Write something that you wish someone would have told you 10 or 5 or even one year ago. Pay it forward. Share your best advice with the world. It can be for your children or just posterity in general.

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8.Make a list. No thinking or planning. Just write a list. It could be a series of steps to take, a list of best tips for something, or your to-do list. Just write, don’t edit. And make sure it’s 500 words. Who knows what could come from it?

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9.Teach something. Maybe it’s a description of how to replace the oil in the car or why you think every college should study abroad. Whatever it is, put the reader’s needs first; enter his/her worldview the best you can, and communicate something important.

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10.Write about writing. What do you love about the craft? What do you hate? What’re you struggling with, when it comes to this challenge. Write about it, all of it. Channel your inner Lammott or Pressfield or Dillard. Share your passion, your agony, your love for writing. Maybe it’ll inspire you to write even more.

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 11.Persuade me. Write a letter or appeal, something that persuades your reader to join the cause, take sides with your movement, or simply try something new. It can be political or religious in nature; it can be about dieting or exercise or you favorite food to eat. Heck, it can be about anything you want. What it can’t be is disrespectful or libelous. Use your charm and charisma to get someone who doesn’t share your beliefs to change their mind. Or at least, do your best to try.

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 12.Lie. Not in a dirty and deceptive way, but in a way that invokes imagination. Just for this, it’s okay to stretch the truth a little. Rewrite history, imagine an alternate reality, or just plain lie. Whatever you do, have fun with this, and let us know (in your writing) how much you’re enjoying it.

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 13.Tell us about your day. Save this assignment for the evening — or write about yesterday. This is, basically, a journal entry but with a twist: make your day sound interesting. Write a page from your own autobiography, and make it worth reading. Don’t just list the events of the day; wrap a compelling narrative around the events of the day and tell us what were the most significant moments in it. Feel free to take some liberties in predicting your future (e.g. “And that’s when they served me the cappuccino; I sipped it gladly, ignorant of how much caffeine I’d imbibe over the course of my life and how this would habit would lead my into my life’s work as a professional coffee taster.”) If it doesn’t work out the way you prophesy, you could always blame the butterfly effect: that somehow in writing about it, you caused it to not happen. Again, have some fun.

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14.Write about food. Tell us about food: what you ate today, your perfect meal, your favorite seasonal foods. You can talk about junk food or health food. You can rant and rave or even apologize for over-indulging at dinner last night. You can confess an addiction to sweets or a nasty drinking habit. Of course, this isn’t about just what we imbibe and consume; it’s about life and conversation and the people we meet around the table. Don’t just tickle our taste buds; invite us into the experience.

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 15.Evaluate. You’re halfway done. How do you feel? Are you tired, worn out? Or more energized than ever? Write about it all. No judgment or expectation. Just share how you’re feeling and what this challenge has meant to you so far. Are you a better writer, or a worse one? What changes do you notice in your attitude, in your actions? Share it all—and of course, do it in at least 500 words.

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 16.Give hope. We’ve crossed the halfway mark. Now is when the Resistance rears its ugly head. Now is when people fatigue and consider quitting. Now is when you must persevere. But how? You’re tired. The baby kept you up all night. And isn’t what you’ve done so far enough? Can’t you just take a break? No. You can’t. Because this is when you’re just beginning to see the habit form: when it hurts, when you’d rather give up. When you’re about to quit. True skill is built when you push yourself just past the place you think you can go. Perseverance prevails in defiance of what we think is possible. In other words, amaze yourself. Keep going. Don’t quit. And what’s the challenge for today? Write about hope. Take whatever fears and insecurities you have, your internal questions and doubts, and turn them into words that inspire. Don’t give up. And don’t let others. The cost is too great. We can’t miss out on what you have to say.

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17.Pick a fight. Pick a Fight Today, you need to write a manifesto. A short statement of purpose that represents what you believe in. This needs to be a hill worth dying on, something not everyone will agree with (but some hopefully will). Ask yourself: what’s wrong with the world? And then address that problem. Pick a fight with it, and invite others to join your cause. Keep it short (500 words) and punchy and to the point. Make it actionable, so that others know what to do once they’re done reading it. And then… Viva la Revoluçion!

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 18.Write about waiting. Everybody waits. At the traffic light, in line for the bathroom, or for the waiter to come around. Today, write about one of your times of waiting. Even better, write WHILE you’re waiting. Take whatever downtime you have that you might otherwise waste and try to get to 500 words. Writing about the experience as it’s happening may even add a layer of realism to the experience.

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19.Write in someone else’s voice. Borrow the style of your favorite novelist or create an alter ego version of your own voice. Get creative, and have fun. Take all kinds of liberties and explore what it’s like to walk — ahem, WRITE — in the shoes of another person. And when you’re done, see if there’s anything about this new voice that might be worth keeping.

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20.Write about justice. Write about Justice Today, I want you to write about an important cause. Write about Gandhi or MLK; quote Mother Teresa or the Dalai Lama. Help us see what you see — what’s broken in the world that needs fixing. This is different from a manifesto. It should be a personal appeal to our emotions, a stirring of the spirits more than a call to action. Tell us why your cause or organization matters. Help us connect with what it takes to make a difference. And then, yes, you probably should call us to action. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get on with changing the world.

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21.Write a confession. Time to get honest and vulnerable. Share with us an embarrassing fact, an awkward truth, something you wish didn’t happen but did. Or tell us about failure, a time when you totally messed up, and what you learned from it. Use this opportunity to help your audience grow — and tell the story in such a way that makes us trust you. Make it funny, even  amusing, if you can. Entertain us, so that we’re glad it happened to you and not us. And then once, you’ve got us, share a little bit of truth that could change us.

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22.Write about fear. What’re you afraid of? What makes you anxious? Write about that. Tell us your deepest fears or concerns, your greatest worries. But don’t just stop there — this is more than a confession, it’s a battle you’re waging with fear itself. In other words, you can’t just wallow. You have to do something with this fear. Will you fight it, give in, cleverly outwit it? What will you do with fear? And what, as we read your writing, can we do with it ourselves? Get as creative as you want with this. It doesn’t have to be a top 10 blog post. It can be a story you write about your neighbor, a piece of narrative nonfiction, even a poem. Write in your voice and in your way, but make it about fear. As it turns out, this is one thing we all have in common.

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 23.Write the end. Whether you’re writing a novel, planning out your autobiography, or working on a short piece of nonfiction, forget about all the details and begin with the most important part. The end. Think ahead of how you want this thing to wrap up. What do you want the reader to walk away with? What’s the big idea or one-liner you want people to remember forever? Start with that, and when you’ve got 500 words, you can go back and fill in the rest. There will be plenty of time later for the middle and even the beginning. Today, though, we’re going to focus just on how this thing ends.

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 24.Cut the fluff. Write 500 words without using the word “that” or “very.” Try to use absolutely no adverbs (hint: “absolutely” is an adverb). See how much stronger your writing is when you just get to the point? Why not just do that all the time? Don’t worry. You can have your fluff back tomorrow, but see what you can learn from this exercise.

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 25.Write about travel. Whether you’ve sailed the seven seas or simply done a road trip with the family, think of a time when you went somewhere. Anywhere. How did it change you? What did you see? What did you learn? Write about it. Describe the scenery, the places you met and people you saw. But also tell us about you, how you changed and grew and became a different person.

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 26.Write about disappointment. When was there a time when you had an expectation that didn’t get met? Maybe you set a goal for yourself and totally blew it. Maybe you promised something to a friend and had to let them down. Maybe life just didn’t turn out the way you expected. Write about that. Tell the story, confess the failure, and help us learn with you. How can we, even in the midst of disappointment and despair, still find hope? How can we continue when all seems loss? Don’t just talk about heartache; give us hope for change.

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27.Write about work. Tell a story about your job or the worst boss in the world. Make up your dream vocation and write about it. Tell us how you spend your days stuck in a cubicle or raising five little rug rats. Whatever work looks like for you, write about it.

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28.Give your own eulogy. A little morbid, but this is an important exercise. Without a life to write about, the words we craft become somewhat empty. How are you living a story worth telling? Imagine what someone might say at your funeral if you were to pass away unexpectedly. What would you WANT them to say? If that day were today, what would you regret? So take some time and write the ideal eulogy. And then go live like that. Make it true.

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 29.Write what you know. This is basically a free day. Write about anything you know well that you don’t have to research. It can be academic or informal, but just make it something you could do with ease. And write it in such a way that even though we don’t know what you know, we can relate.

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 30.Write about innocence. “Remember when you were young? You shone like the sun.” —Pink Floyd Write about childhood. Write about ignorance. Write about dreams and hopes and when you still believed in Santa Claus. Tap that part in all of us that remembers what it was like to be innocent. Don’t speak to the jaded adult; communicate with the child within. And help us find that person again.

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31.Write about finishing. This is it. Day 31. You’ve done it! Congratulations. Write about what it feels like to finish something, to be victorious in a goal. This was a marathon, not a sprint. Who cares if you missed a day here or there, or if it took a little longer than you expected? The point is you finished. And that’s worth celebrating. So write these last 500 words with joy, knowing you’ve run the race and done the work. And hopefully, when these 500 words are finished, your work will not be. Hopefully, this is just the beginning.

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Christine continues:

Day 32/1 (or somewhere in between): Write about Impact

Our actions and our words affect other people. Sometimes it is clear, like letters to a sponsored child. Sometimes it’s unintended, a word spoken in a hallway, but remembered years later.

Tell us about a time when your words made an impact far beyond what you expected. What happened? How did it feel? What did you learn?

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Day 33: Write about Rest 

Busy is exalted in the world today. We answer “How’ve you been?” with “Busy” as if it’s a badge of reluctant honor. We sprint through our lives. In fact, we’ve sprinted as writers this past month. We’ve written more than ever before. We’ve built a habit that will carry us forward. These are all good, important things.

But when we sprint for too long, our minds can run dry just as our muscles become exhausted. Today, write about the importance of rest. And then make sure to build rest into your schedule for the day.

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Day 34: Make me Laugh 

Funny things happen around us all the time.  Funny little things like a typo on a sign or the phone ringing the moment you sit down in the bathroom. Funny things a child does or autocorrect tries to make you say. Write about laughter, even if you don’t think of yourself as funny.

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Day 35: Write about Relationship

The Internet is here to stay. Modern culture values instant communication and constant activity. Social media encourages quantity of connections over quality of relationships. But it’s the real relationships — the honest, deep, messy ones — that speak to our hearts.

What relationships have meant the most to you? How has an unexpected relationship changed you?  Or tell us about a relationship that went sour.

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Day 36: Paint a Picture  Show, don’t tell. We hear this writing advice all the time, but what does it mean?
It’s the difference between “She barely made it out of the palace alive,” and “She slipped through the crack just as arrow hit the heavy wooden door.” …
Or the difference between “Blake hated Christmas shopping” and “It was bad enough he had to go along with all of this to keep his mother quiet. Spending money he didn’t have on gifts his family didn’t need to celebrate a birthday for a person who wasn’t what people thought and had been dead for two thousand years.”
SHOW us something.
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Day 37: Write about Habit Habits make things easier to keep doing. Harder to quit. Many of us have been at this for a few weeks now. You’ve discovered tricks that work to help you hit your word count goal. You’ve learned about obstacles you never expected to trip you up.Write about a habit today. Maybe it’s about developing the habit of writing every day. But maybe it’s about trying to break a bad habit. Or the effects of someone else’s habit.
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Day 38: What’s the Point?
Attention is currency. Most readers don’t have time to follow meandering trains of thought to murky stations in unknown towns.
When you’re free writing, it’s great to let your thoughts wander in and out of your mind like a cocktail party. But when you get down to business and polish your work, each piece of writing should be about something….
Hope. Agony. Perseverance. Love.
It can be anything. You can take the reader on a journey, but be sure you know where you’re taking them and that, by the end, they understand where it is and why they went.
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Day 39: Surprise! (Thanks, Laura Scott and Arlen Miller! Also sorry this is a bit late today…)
Sometimes things don’t work out the way we expect.  The tables turn.  Maybe a big surprise backfires, or a favor goes awry (like the time our daughter’s boyfriend offered to blow leaves for us and used the wrong gas in the leaf blower). … But sometimes the surprises are pleasant. An unexpected flower delivery or the underdog winning a big game.
Write about a surprise. Build up to it, and then throw in a twist.
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Day 40: Waiting (Thanks, Laura Scott!)
It’s easy to be impatient. To focus all our energy on the next big thing. To forget about the time spent waiting. … Writing about waiting is even harder, because on the surface, it seems like nothing much is really happening. (Unless you’re Jeff Goins. He wrote a whole book about the In-Between. If you haven’t read it, you should.)
But what is waiting, really? It’s decisions and discovery. It’s anticipation. It’s dread.
Write about a time when you had to wait for someone or something.
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Day 42: Disappointment (Thanks Arlen Miller)
Yesterday, we took a look at what worked with our goals. And even though you were’t supposed to, I bet you had at least a fleeting thought about what didn’t work. About where you felt you fell short. … Maybe you hit a personal high on your word count, but missed a few days. Maybe you started late. Maybe a reindeer ate your homework.
It’s OK. None of these things are failures. This challenge isn’t about rules and checking off boxes. It’s about growing.
We might be disappointed when we change a goal midstream or when we fall short. But those are the times we grow the most.
Write about how you have become better after facing a disappointment.
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Day 43: Take a Mulligan (Do Over) (Thanks Anne Gollias Peterson)
Yesterday, I had a bad day. It seemed like everything that could go wrong, did. I didn’t sleep well. One daughter was really sick. I fought with the other daughter. A school bus got stuck in our driveway, blocking our street. … All before 9:30 AM.  (And I really really wish I was making that up. All true. All yesterday. Here’s the picture.)
I wanted a mulligan yesterday.
Write about one day you’d like to do over.
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Day 44: From The Mouths Of Babes (Thanks Arlen Miller – you had a lot of great prompt ideas!)
Who remembers Bill Cosby’s special “Kids Say The Darndest Things”? … Most of us either have kids or know kids or see them on TV, so we’ve probably heard some pretty crazy things come out of their little mouths. They make us laugh most of the time, but every now and then, they pop out some pretty wise things.
As an adult, what is the most impactful lesson you have learned from the mouth or action of a child?
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Day 45: Let Love Rule
It’s Valentine’s Day.
Maybe you think this is a manufactured Hallmark holiday, or you might really believe in the magic of love. …
Romantic love is the big cliché for today. So let’s talk about a different kind of love, instead. A love that isn’t all Cupid and conversation hearts.
Write about a time when love meant stepping out of your comfort zone, making a hard choice, or offering up a sacrifice.
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Day 46 – Checking inWhat are you struggling with?(and this isn’t about writing a 500-word piece about struggle. It’s just an “answer right here and tell us what you’re finding hard about writing” thing.)Day 47: Write About Writing (Thanks Beth Michener Coulton)
We are all here to write. … Whether you’ve been writing all your life or you just started, you’re here because you want to be a better writer. You want to develop a habit of writing every day. You want a bottle of butt-glue.
But why?
In order for a habit to become a way of life, you really need to know why you do it. How did it start? How does it serve your life?
So today, let’s write about writing.
Why do you write?
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Day 48: Have Fun (Thanks, @Tonia Hurst)
Words can carry enormous weight and can change the world. But writing doesn’t always have to be serious. … Have a little fun on a Monday.
If you were an animal, what kind would be? Why?
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Day 49: Take Flight (Thanks, Amy Lewis)
People have dreamed of flying since the first man saw the first bird and thought, “How cool is that?!” … The Bible talks about lifting us up on eagles wings. Mythology teaches us the story of Icarus who flew too close to the sun. Science shows us how every bird flies just a little bit differently. And that the bumblebee shouldn’t fly at all.
Today, write about flight.
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Day 50: Scars (Thanks Lynne Hartke)
Most of us have a scar somewhere. Maybe you split your chin open as a toddler learning to walk or you survived a major surgery. Or maybe your scars are on your heart, and you hide them from the world. … Writing with meaning requires digging deep and finding the universal truth in your own scars. It means using your journey to help others grow.
Write about a scar.
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Day 51: Be Extraordinary (Thanks, Devani)
The world is filled with noise. Opening Facebook is like stepping out onto 7th Avenue in rush hour. Every person in a five-block radius wants to make sure you know they are in New York. It feels like there’s no way to stand out in all the noise. … But there is. It’s just not what you might think. It’s not about making more noise than the guy in the next lane over. It’s sure not about being louder than the pro — the cab driver who screams at traffic all day, every day.
It’s about being extraordinary. Doing something different. Unexpected.
Today, practice being extraordinary. Suggest a radical idea about a typical topic. The wilder, the better. And have fun with it!
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Day 52: Be Generous

Some of the best moments in life are the result of generosity. Maybe you received an unexpected gift just when you needed it most, or perhaps you saw the impact on someone’s life when you were generous with your time and talent.

Today, write your 500 words. But instead of posting your own content, be generous and help another writer out. Offer a constructive critique (to someone who’s asked for it), share someone else’s work with your circle of friends.

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Day 53: Unfinished Business

Stories usually follow a clear structure. Everything comes together in the final scene. All the loose ends get tied up in a pretty bow. Boy gets girl. The hero saves the day.

Life is rarely like that. Plots don’t always resolve.

Today, write about unfinished business. Leave your ends loose. Leave your hero hanging.

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Day 54: Edit

Most days, we free-write with a goal of at least 500 words. (kinda the point of the group, no?) We are learning how important it is to set aside our internal critic and to not judge our work as we write it. So we write, and we go to the next day, and we write some more.

Then what? Most free-writes uncover diamonds of ideas that deserve to be brought out, cut, and polished to a beautiful shine.

Today, go back through some of the pieces you’ve written since you started the challenge. Find a diamond and shape it to make it stronger.

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Day 55: Titles and Headlines
Life is busy. People move fast. We have more sources of information and less time to consume it.
In a world moving so fast, how do you get people to read your words? You have to hook them with the headline. The title or headline of your work is the front door. It’s a promise you make to your readers. It’s an invitation to more….
A great resource for titles is: http://www.copyblogger.com/magnetic-headlines/  Take a few minutes to learn from some of the experts, then go back to a few things you’re written and try out some new headline options.
(By the way, the principles of this still work for fiction writers, but you might implement them a little differently. Share your favorite resource about effective titles for fiction?)
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Day 56: Turning Point (Thanks Denise Beidler Jackson)
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by,… And that has made all the difference.”  — Robert Frost
Write about a turning point or a crossroads.
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Day 57: Let Go (Thanks Carolyn Studer)
I’m a control freak. I like to have a plan, and I like everyone to follow it. But more often than not, plans blow up in my face. People don’t always do what I want them to do. Things don’t always turn out the way I want. … It’s a lot wiser to just let some things go.
Today, write about letting go.
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Day 58: You Are A Writer
Writers write. You write. Ergo, you are a writer. Right? Right!
How long have you been writing? How did you know you were meant to write? How does writing fit into your life?…
Today, tell us about yourself and your life as a writer.
PS. If you haven’t read Jeff Goins’s book You Are A Writer, you should.
You Are a Writer by Jeff Goins
http://youareawriter.com/You Are a Writer is an eBook by Jeff Goins about the writer’s life — how it all starts with one simple declaration.
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Day 59: Two months, y’all! ReflectI hope you can see how much you’ve grown as a writer. I hope writing regularly (*nearly* every day) has become a true habit for you. I hope you’ve found your groove and are able to put your energy into writing great pieces rather than fighting resistance to start.There will still be hard days. These things go in cycles. The key I’ve found to sustaining the writing life is harmony between accountability and grace.Jeff said on the first day, “Write every day. If you miss a day, don’t try to catch up. Just start fresh the next day.” He also set this up as a place with no rules, save one: be supportive of each other. Encourage always. Critique only when asked. Offer help. Lift each other up.You guys have lived up to his challenge and I’m proud to be part of this community. Neither Jeff nor I have *ever* had to ban anyone for being rude or obnoxious or abusive toward members of this group. I’m not sure you guys know how rare that is for a group this size. It’s something you should all be proud of…I know I am.So today, look back on the last couple of months and reflect on how much you’ve grown, how far you’ve come, and how great you guys all are.I raise my glass to you!
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Day 60: What’s Next?
Ok, enough looking back…Time to move again!
We’ve talked about marathons and sprints before. And most of you have had enough time to experiment a bit with writing schedules. You’ve tried getting up early in the morning. You’ve tried starting to write at 11:45 pm. You’ve free-written. You’ve written intentionally. You’ve edited….
You’ve written your own ideas, and you’ve written to prompts.
Now it’s time to set some goals. Look at what pace and schedule work for you. Commit to a schedule that works for you, and tell us about it here.
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Day 61: Write Your Future
I’m going through a little Olympics withdrawal. I especially loved watching the snowboarders standing at the top of the run with their eyes closed, heads tilting and bobbing as they imagined themselves executing each trick.
World-class athletes all talk about visualization as one of the keys to their success. (Well, that, and really hard work!) So let’s take a page from their playbook and visualize our success as writers….
Today, take a few minutes, close your eyes, and imagine what “success” looks like for you. Is it hearing about a life you’ve changed through your writing, or in hitting “publish” on your hundredth blog post, or seeing a tear slip down your daughter’s cheek as she finishes reading your first novel?
Write about what it feels like, and put us right there with you.
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Day 62: Let’s Get Real (sorry this is late…got caught up in the Oscars last night!)
Yesterday, we dreamed of what success would look like for us as writers. Amazing dreams of helping and inspiring and entertaining and growing. You guys rock! … And you’ve been working hard. You’ve experimented and found a writing rhythm that works for you. You’ve shown up. You’ve developed a habit. You’ve taken breaks, and you’ve shown yourself grace when you’ve missed a day.
Today, let’s match those things up. Let’s look at how to leverage your work to take you a step closer to making those dreams come true.
Dreams are a little like fog. They float around and look dreamy and mysterious, but they don’t really do much on their own. It’s when the fog lifts and we get down to business that we make forward progress.
Look at the “success” you defined yesterday, and name the first thing you can write to bring you a step closer to one of those goals.
Maybe it’s “Write an About Me page for a new blog I want to launch,” “Write an outline for a children’s book,” “Journal about a vulnerable story,” or “Write the next section of my dissertation.” It could be anything.  But make it something you can write in one day. Maybe 500 words worth.
Then write it.
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Day 63: Tell a Tall Tale
We’ve been really heavy and focused the last few days, so let’s have a little fun today.
Think back on the past couple weeks and remember something that was mildly amusing. Tell the story, but go over-the-top. Change the names and exaggerate every detail to make the story funnier. …
By the way…if you’ve found your way to this group without signing up for Jeff’s My500Words email list, please take a minute to do that today. (If you’re not sure, just enter your email address and it will tell you if you’re already on the list.)
We have some cool surprises coming up later this month, and we don’t want anyone to miss out!
http://goinswriter.com/my500words/
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Day 64: Take a Tasty Risk (Thanks Arlen Miller)
We are different. We are all over the world and come from many different cultures. But one thing that ties us all together: we gotta eat. … We have our favorites. We have things we love to make (maybe) and things we love to eat (certainly).
We have tried foods that made us thrilled to be alive, and some of may have even had foods that made us wish we were, well, not. (Food poisoning or allergies, anyone?)
Today, tell about the most exotic food experience you have had. Why was it a risk for you? How did it go?
Let us sit beside you as you’re deciding whether or not to eat it. Let us taste it with you. Let us feel it going down, and let us experience whether it stays there or not!
(By the way, for those of us who are squeamish, you might warn us at the beginning of your piece if it ends…not well. My stomach will thank you.)
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Day 65: Get Dark (Thanks Laura Scott)
As artists, we talk a lot about how fear tries to stop us and the importance of facing it. And just as fear is hard for us to face, other negative emotions are pretty awful too.  Horror, sorrow, depression, rage—these are places we typically don’t like to go, and when we do end up there it’s *not* by our own intention. … But facing them, writing honestly about them, can set our readers or our characters free. Help them feel less alone. Help grow a community of support and healing.
Today, write about a dark emotion.
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Day 66: Play with Perspective (Thanks, Richard Dean Basa)
Yesterday we got deep into emotions, so let’s get outside ourselves today. … Put yourself in another person’s character/shoes and write about that person’s struggles in a first person perspective. Third person-first person inception.
(In case this is confusing, maybe my piece could start out this way: “I’m Justin Beiber and I want to tell you about what it feels like to get everything I ever wanted but have no one love me enough to say ‘no’ to me.” Sorry to any Beliebers out there…)
Also, on this one, it’s a great exercise, but be VERY careful about publishing a piece like this in public if it’s about a real person. Like…don’t.
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Day 67: Let’s Talk
Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, eventually you will need to write dialogue. People in your pieces will need to talk to each other.So listen. Listen to the natural rhythm of conversations around you and write a scene between two people, whether they are real or imagined.______Day 68: Write About MentorsMost of the things we know, we’ve learned because someone invested the time to teach us. Whether it was in school or on our own, whether it was a book or video, a large lecture or one-on-one coaching, mentoring is an important part of how we learn and grow our abilities.Today, whether you were the teacher or the learner, write about a mentoring relationship.______

Day 69: Write About Travel (Thanks Arlen Miller)
Jeff is in Italy. (Jealous much? Yeah. Me, too.) … Travel has a way of changing your perspective. The mundane can become beautiful when you’re out of your normal routine. And your life can be changed by coming face to face with the brokenness around the world, too.
What trip in your life has had the most profound and long lasting effect on you?
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Day 70: Emulate the Masters  (Thanks Dale Lavely)It’s been said that Hunter S. Thompson retyped the entire manuscript of “The Great Gatsby” just to know what it felt like to write such a masterpiece. I’m not suggesting you retype a whole manuscript, but emulating the style of  writers we admire can teach us all a thing or two about writing.Today, write 500 words in the style of one of the classics. Bonus points if you choose Shakespeare and write it all in iambic pentameter.______Day 71: As Tonia said, Wing It!______Day 72: SickSorry for missing yesterday, guys. I got some kind of nasty bug and have been hiding out in bed.Whether it’s a 24-hour bug or a chronic illness, being “off” impacts you (or your character). Today, write about being sick.______

Day 73: Silly Fears (Thanks Arlen Miller)

We all have that one thing. The thing we block out of our minds until we are struck with panic. For some of us, it’s spiders. For others, clowns. For me, it’s walking sticks. (Yeah. I know.)

If we dig deep enough, we all have an irrational fear. A silly, pointless thing that makes us freak out and scream like a girl (or maybe that’s just me??) So today, write about yours. Talk about where it comes from or the most unlikely situation you’ve encountered your fear. Or maybe talk about how you overcame it.

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Day 74: Therapy

Writing about truth sometimes taps some deep stuff. Hurts and fears are universal truths, and sharing them  —  getting vulnerable  —  can help us connect quickly with readers.  But that can also leave us raw, bleeding at the altar of the page.

Writing can also help us process and bring us healing. Maybe you can take a fear and flip it on its back like a martial arts master. Perhaps you can discover a life lesson from a painful past.

Find the thing you’re avoiding writing about, and come at it from a different angle. Find its power, or take it away.

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Day 75: Offend Someone

Now, before you get all upset at me…I don’t mean for you to be mean or disrespectful or horrible. Because you guys can’t do that. You’re an awesome, kind, encouraging bunch of people.

But sometimes being a lot of nice can tend to water us down a little bit. We spend a lot of energy tweaking our writing so that it won’t upset or offend anyone, and in doing so, sometimes we remove too much of the strength in a piece.

Today, pick something you feel strongly about. Take a stand, don’t water it down, and expect at least one person to disagree.

(And for the record, no actual wars, please. This isn’t about opening debate over the content…it’s about learning to write strongly and bravely.)

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Day 76: Let’s try something new

For those of you who are new, or who are still just looking for support in your discipline of writing every day, awesome. Keep writing, keep sharing here, and feel free to pull from any of the prompts that have been posted over the past two and a half months:

For those of you who want to go a little deeper and have asked about editing, Jeff shared the basic bones of… his 5-draft process in a thread yesterday.  I’m going to lead us through it this week. Draft 1 is the “free-write, vomit draft” which you all have gotten REALLY good at lately.

So, today’s task is to go back through some of the pieces you’ve written, and choose one to work on this week.

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Day 77: Find The Substance

If you’d like a prompt for today’s 500 words, check the list here and choose one that strikes your fancy:

If you’re joining the 5-stage editing challenge, today review your piece and look for the real substance. A short piece can only support one core theme. So go through your piece, figure out what’s it’s about at its core, and describe it in one or two words.

Faith, redemption, hope, betrayal. Find your universal theme. Then go through your vomit draft, move things around to build up to that one big theme in Draft 2, and tuck the rest away to use in a different piece.

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Day 78: Get Pretty

If you’d like a prompt for today’s 500 words, check the list here and choose one that strikes your fancy:

If you’re joining the 5-stage editing challenge, today take the restructured draft you did yesterday and look at it sentence by sentence. See if your sentences really say what you want them to say, the best way you can possibly say them.

Look for places where you use more words than you need or where you repeat yourself. Look for spots where you can expand a concept to be more clear.

Mix up your sentence structure and read your work out loud to improve the flow and rhythm of your work. Tweak and adjust to make your piece stronger.

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Day 79: Feedback Day, Part 1

If you’d like a prompt for today’s 500 words, check the list here and choose one that strikes your fancy:

If you’re joining the 5-stage editing challenge, today is Step 4, the day of hard truths.

Today, pick/ask for one or two people to give you honest feedback (trust me, more will get overwhelming).

Ask what the reader thinks the piece is about, and see if it matches what you intended. Find out what connects and what doesn’t? Where does it ramble? Where does it need more?

And on the other side, when you are asked to give feedback, be sure to find both encouraging things and ways to improve the work. Be constructive. And keep in mind this step is NOT about proofreading spelling and grammar — it’s about making the content better.

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Day 80: Take What You Like, Leave The Rest

If you’d like a prompt for today’s 500 words, check the list here and choose one that strikes your fancy:

If you’re joining the 5-stage editing challenge, today is the second half of Feedback Day.

Take the feedback you received yesterday and incorporate it. Consider objectively the suggestions your reviewers shared with you. If there was a difference surrounding what the piece was about, consider their perception.

Look at the things they said worked and see if there are any ways you can highlight those.

Look at what they said didn’t work, and consider fixing it.

Also, know that just because a reviewer makes a suggestion, you’re not required to make a change. Just be really sure you know why you are choosing to change or not change. Be intentional with Draft 4.

And…you are ALMOST DONE!

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Day 81: Proof and Publish

If you’d like a prompt for today’s 500 words, check the list here and choose one that strikes your fancy:

If you’re joining the 5-stage editing challenge, today is the last step: “Draft” 5, or…THE FINISHED PIECE.

Proofread your piece carefully. Check spelling and grammar. Look rules up if you don’t know them (Google is your friend).

Then publish it.

Post it on your blog, or on the Wordgang blog. Or submit it to a magazine or another blog or website as a guest post.  Just put it *somewhere* that is not your hard drive.

And WOOHOO! You did it!

By the way, you won’t always go through each of these steps as intentionally for a short piece like a blog post. And for a book, each of these steps could take weeks. But now you know the process. Have fun with it,

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Day 82: Fragile

Every time I hear that word, I think of the movie “A Christmas Story.” It makes me laugh, but it also reminds me that something I might find funny, someone else might treasure.

Many of us just spent the week working through a single piece. Taking one of our fragile treasures from birth to launch. Chopping it to bits ourselves and then letting someone else chop it up further. That’s hard, you guys, and for those of you who stuck it out, congratulations.

Today, write about fragility. Maybe about a fragile person you accidentally hurt, or maybe a fragile object broken or rescued, or maybe your own fragility.

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Day 83: Your First Sale (Thanks Arlen Miller)

Everyone kid has sold something, sometime. Girl scout cookies, lemonade, rainbow-loom crafts. Tell us about the first thing you ever sold to someone who was not your mom. What was it and how did it feel?

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Day 84: Tell Us About Yourself

We’ve got a lot of new people around here (Yay!). Maybe today is your first day, or maybe you’ve been here since the very beginning. Maybe you post your 500 words every day or you just share your wordcount every now and then. Or maybe you get encouragement by hanging out and lurk– I mean reading, but you’re not ready to post your work.

No matter where you are, we’re glad you’re here. Each one of you is important to our community. So today, introduce yourself. (Yeah, you. Even you lurkers. We want to know you! )

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Day 85: Pushing Through Fear
(Thanks, Devani!)

Everyone has fears; the person who says otherwise is lying. And as writers, we have a unique set of fears on top of all the normal ones. Fear of the blank page. Fear of critique. Fear of not being good enough or of not being unique. And those fears can paralyze us and keep us from writing. If we let them.

You win when you push through the fear. So today, write about a time when you were afraid, but pushed through.

Put the reader in the middle of your fear with you. Make our hearts race and our stomach churn. Then bring us with you all the way to the other side.

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Day 86: Repurposing

We tend to think writing is all about creating. And it is. Except when it’s not. One of the keys to being a productive writer is leveraging the words that are already working.

Sometimes, we say something that clicks with people. We see connection through the unexpected. An answer to a question, or a blog post that just clicks with readers, or a vulnerable story brings hope to a complete stranger.

Blog and social media posts typically have a short shelf-life, but with a little well-placed effort, you can extend that life…a lot. You can expand on a comment on Facebook into a full piece. Or you could pull a series of quotes from your book into a bunch of tweets. Or just edit and refresh an old story or poem or blog post that clicked.

Today go back and find something that worked (especially one of the unexpected ones), and use your writing time to find a way to extend it.

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Day 87: Choose Your Own Prompt

Not that you can’t do this every day, of course…you can. But remember during the editing challenge, when we took a first random-herd-of-cats draft, found one important theme or point, and set all the rest aside for later? Well, it’s later.

Pull one of those other ideas/concepts out of the bag and work with it.

And if you don’t have a little notebook or a pile of post-its or an idea-catcher somewhere, use your time today to change that!

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Day 88: The Dating Profile

A few days ago, a few of y’all had a pretty amusing chat about online dating profiles. Stunning how clueless some people can be, right? But really, these can be pretty difficult, especially when you’re trying to write about yourself.

So today, let’s have some fun with it.

Pick a person (real or fictional, just not yourself) and write an awesome, stand-out dating profile for them.

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Day 89: The Best Day Ever
(Thanks Jennifer Hodroge)

Write about your best day ever.

(yeah, that one was worth waiting for, right? sorry for being late. -C)

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Day 90: Chocolate

The title says it all. Write about chocolate. Because Tonia Hurst demanded it. And because Monday.

And because THREE MONTHS, PEOPLE!

Give yourselves a hand, y’all!!

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Day 91: April Fool

Write about the best prank you ever pulled (or wanted to pull but were too chicken)

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Day 92: Place
(Thanks Arlen Miller)

Where did you grow up? What did the ground smell like? How did the air taste? Why was it the best place in the world? Or the worst? Take us there.

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Day 93: Man’s Best Friend

They say that a dog is man’s best friend. I guess that’s a little sexist (gender-biased?), but no matter the gender or species, we all have an opinion about pets.

Maybe you have the best dog ever (except you don’t, because I do). Or maybe you’re allergic to anything that moves, and you’ve never had a pet of your own.

Whether it’s your pet parakeet, or your neighbor’s dog that does her business in your yard, or your crazy brother-in-law’s charges during his summer job at the alligator farm…today, write about a pet.

Bonus points if you include a photo.

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Day 94: Be Helpful

Be helpful. Write about a time when you helped someone else. And then jump in and help/encourage others in the group.

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Day 95: First Times
(Thanks, Stella Myers, photo via Gareth Cliff)

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

Don’t just tell us about it. Put us there beside you. Let us feel the butterflies in your stomach or hear your heart pounding.

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Day 96: What If

We face choices every day. Near misses. She gets off the train just seconds before you hop on.

Take a chance to play a scenario differently. Make a different choice, or hear a different answer, and see what happens.

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Day 97: T-Shirts

A few people who’ve kept the chain unbroken have been suggesting t-shirts to celebrate 100 days of writing. I’ve missed a few days, and that’s OK. We can all celebrate!

If you could design any shirt, what would YOU put on it?

And what would happen when you wore it out in public? Would people stare? Would it start a conversation?

Write about a t-shirt you would love to create. Or see.

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Day 98: Conflict
(Thanks, Roslynn Pryor)

No conflict = no story. What conflicts have you survived, what conflicts are you gearing up for? Or what are you battling as we speak?

How will these conflicts lend meaning to your story?

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Day 99: Follow Your Dreams
(Thanks Beth Michener Coulton)

Your news feed is probably full of pretty images with quotes like “follow your dream,” or “one day your dream will come true,” or “if you can dream it, you can do it.”

But life doesn’t always come filled with rainbows and unicorns. And even when the dreams come true, they come with hard work.

What do you think about dreams? Are we setting ourselves up for disappointment? Or do you feel motivated by the idea that they’re possible?

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Day 100: Mama Told Me…
(Thanks Joyce Schriebman)

Relationships with our parents are complicated. For some, Mom was a trusted advisor and a best friend. For others of us, not so much. But chances are that you’ve learned something from a mom, whether she belonged to you or not.

Today, write about the best advice you got from Mom.

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3 responses to “Writing prompts

  1. I will leave an idea here to get the rest of us started with adding our own ideas. For sports fans out there, on a dry day when you would rather be watching your favourite game or event, why not use paper and pen to become the commentator for what you are watching?

  2. This article about Proust by one of the members of our challenge has a personality trait list that could be used to prompt some writing.
    http://www.wordstakingflight.com/prousts-35-personality-trait-questions/

  3. thank you Linda, you’ve done a great job!

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