The Power of a Writing Prompt

Over the last year, I wrote two short stories that I never would have written before.

How did I do this?

Through the magic of writing contests, guided by prompts, and inspired by a deadline.

For the first contest, I had a month to produce a 2000-word story. It had to begin with a balloon that had a special message and end with an electrical storm. Along the way, I had to use the words lemon and ecstasy. Fun!

The second contest was even more specific, and had a smaller word count and a tighter deadline. I had one weekend to write a 1000-word story where the genre and location were supplied to me on Friday night! I also had to include a random object (mine was a computer keyboard) somewhere in the narrative. My assigned genre was “thriller,” which made me groan out loud because it is waaaaaaay out of my comfort zone, but this ended up encouraging me to write something I never would have on my own. It felt “stretching.”

And really, that’s the whole point of writing contests and using prompts that someone else has made up. It’s like suddenly being granted special entry into a foreign country or the key to a locked room. It allows you access to places you might never have visited.

I found this experience to be incredibly enlivening and also empowering. As any artist of any discipline knows, sometimes a big part of our struggle is the question of what to create. “Where do I even begin?” is a common question.

Having the guidance of external and specific prompts allowed me to be creative in new ways and made me feel excited about what I was writing. This experience also motivated me to create something specifically for fiction writers (or those who want to write fiction).

15 Days of Fiction is on online course that spans three weeks with weekends off. There will be a daily lesson, a writing tip, and a prompt to get you writing, all delivered by email.

If you’re drawn to fiction, but haven’t done much writing yet, this is a low-risk, safe way to start. If you’re already a fiction writer but need a blast of fresh air, these 15 days will re-invigorate you. My hope is that this online course will ignite ideas you’d like to follow and kickstart a daily practice (which is the only way to get our stories and books written!).

Author: Renée Hartleib