Do You Participate in Prompts? Maybe You Should

Image by John W. Howell

Hi, John here with you SEers. First of all, I wish you all a Happy Presidents Day on behalf of the Story Empire team. If you are allowed the time off, I hope you have a wonderful day. If not, at least it is a good time to remember the leaders of our country who have made a difference.

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The subject today is writing prompts. You know what I mean. Those little suggestions that are around on a daily basis that challenge you to write something about them. Most of the prompts I see are those suggested by bloggers. There is a regular stable of them and the prompt cycle is usually a week. You can also download apps or simply Google Writing Prompts, for a ton of them.

Some of the prompts online are photos that beg for an interpretation. Others are a single word or phrase. Many require a specific word count while the rest leave the word count up to the writer.

There are prompts that ask for a recollection, a past experience, a favorite moment, and on and on.  Let’s just say there are plenty of prompts out there. The big question is do you used them?

I have found prompts to be a big part of my writing life. Prompts are almost always an excuse for some short term fun with minimal risk. A writer can let the imagination take free rein without worrying about the effect on the bigger story. This is especially true if the prompt requires no more than 99 words.

I guess I’m suggesting that if you don’t do prompts maybe it is time to start. Some of the advantages to prompt writing are:

1 Lets the imagination soar

2 Allows the writing muscle to be exercised in a different way

3 Allows experimentation in different genres than normal

4 Can stimulate solutions to other problems experienced in writing

5 Can serve to rest the writing brain while maintaining a writing practice

6 Can produce an idea for a short story or full-length novel

I do recommend that every writer take advantage of the writing health benefits of prompt participation. Do you have any prompt experiences you would like to add? Let us know in the comments.

93 thoughts on “Do You Participate in Prompts? Maybe You Should

  1. I have participated in a few writing prompts and have found them to be a lot of fun, and as you say, a good way to exercise the writing muscle differently. I absolutely love all of your responses to the prompts you regularly post. I love how you always manage to insert the incomparable Howell humor. Great post!

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  2. I love writing prompts – I run an “in-person” (thanks Zoom because of COVID) writing group where we have 10-15 minutes to write about a prompt and then we share. Needless to say, they can be the roughest of the rough, but it’s great to get writing as well as share. It’s fun to see how we can all take the same prompt in both similar and different directions.

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  4. I joined in some flash fiction competitions, years ago on Indies Unlimited. I did have fun, and you’re right, they did teach me quite a bit about short form writing. These days I only have a limited amount of energy for writing so I save it for my blog and my fiction.

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  5. I do enjoy participating in prompts, John. I blended one prompt with what had been a periodic series on my blog. I find that it challenges me to fit the two together. It’s a challenge, but I enjoy it Sometimes the prompt is just the nudge I need to get my mind working.

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  6. I do like the prompts, and participate in several. A couple of the prompts led to online series. Soooz and Sue Vincent are a couple of the prompts that I visit as often as I can. One Liner Wednesday and Nancy Merril’s photo challenge are a couple more.

    Prompts keep me writing. They are great when you hit a roadblock.

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  7. I used to do writing prompts, but now I only rarely do them. It’s too easy for me to get distracted by another writing idea. I’m trying to keep myself focused on the ones I’m working on. But I think prompts are a lot of fun. Maybe too much fun for me:)

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  8. Great post, John! I started my own writing prompt challenge when my muse and I were no longer on speaking terms. I needed to force myself to write and taking part as a contributor has benefited me hugely over the last 36 weeks. The added plus of course has been in making new friends who share in this craziness we call writing. 😊

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  9. Every time Soooz posts a new picture, I tell myself I’m going to participate, and then time gets sucked down a black hole and I find that I’ve written nothing when the responses are being posted. Lol! During the school year, I can barely find time to write for my novel, much less anything else. Hopefully, in the summer, I can participate. I do find the value in them. Great post, John! 🙂

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  10. Writing prompts are a lot of fun, and I do try to engage in them now and again. For a while, I was taking advantage of Suzanne Burke’s weekly prompts, then I got sidetracked with editing a novel. I really should get back onboard, because as you said, they don’t take a lot of time, and they’re a great creative exercise. I developed three novel ideas from doing Soooz’s prompts.
    This was a fun post today, John. Happy President’s Day and happy writing. You excel at prompt writing!

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  11. I’ve often been tempted to join in on the Linda Hill writing prompts, John. I participated in Suzanne Burke’s picture prompt for the first time last week, and it was fun. While I grew from participating in the WordPress Daily Prompt, it was a daily grind. 😆 A couple of weekly prompts might be right for me.

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  12. Hi,

    I used to participate in a weekly prompt by Esther Chilton. It was very good and I enjoyed it. However, as I began revising my novel, I stopped. I had very little time to relax, and with that little time, I wanted to use it reading. However, I do think that prompts are great. I just don’t want to commit to one right now.
    Shalom aleichem

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  13. I usually take part in a couple of the prompts here on WordPress – Stream of Consciousness Saturday and Tuesday Use It In A Sentence. They’re fun, and since I am busy during the week I don’t get much chance to do any other writing at the moment.

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  15. Great advice here. I have found inspiration in prompts of words and photos to craft poems and flash fiction stories. As you noted, the prompts rattle your writer’s brain in different ways than you’re normal working. You never know what the prompt will fire in your imagination. And if you add word limits — especially on Twitter — that also rattles your brain on how to shape the story without going over that word limit. Restrictions can boost creativity rather than stifle it.

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  16. I find the prompts great for accumulating short fiction for an eventual collection, and also for giving me great ideas for longer novels/novellas. Also, I love the online community it draws us into.

    If you don’t mind losing at chess, you can use that game as a great prompt too … of course, if you’re like me, you’ll lose often anyway and getting side-tracked with making up stories about the pieces is a fab excuse! lols. 🙂

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  19. You know I do, John. Actually, they are the nudge to get me to write, most times. They can be extremely time-consuming when one participates fully – reading others’ stories, commenting, etc. I’ve taken to participating without leaving my link sometimes because I don’t want to be bogged down with this obligation. It may not be right but it is for me. I had to as I was starting to resent the whole practice! I had stopped participating then realised I was barely writing at all. Had to find my juste milieu.

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  20. Funny coincidence because I had been thinking how many bloggers follow challenges and prompts. I never have, I’m free range! But until Covid we had been using prompts every week for years at writers’ group and some of my novels cn be traced directly back to homework given by our tutor.

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  21. Fantastic post, John! I just started recently participating in weekly challenges. I agree with all your points of what a writers gets out of it. It really does allow me to explore and try new things. I ended up writing a book from one of my prompts.

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