10 writing tips to get you started on your next manuscript

The best part about writing for yourself, not for a class, is that there’s no teacher to tell you what to write…but the worst part about writing for yourself , is also that there is no teacher to tell you what to write. Even the most accomplished writers sometimes find themselves staring at a blinking cursor on a blank screen. Inspiration doesn’t always strike on command. So here are some useful writing tips, to get you started when you can’t quite find the right words.

Creativity can be capricious, after all. When you dreamed in class or at work or at brunch with your loved one’s parents, you just had so many ideas what to write next. You couldn’t wait to get home and start typing. But now that you’re sitting in front of a blank screen…nothing. No. Zipper. Nothing. All the ideas have slipped out of your brain, and so you have to waste all your precious writing time stalking your cousin on Instagram.

No more. Writing is like any other discipline: it takes practice. Some of these writing prompts might lead you to brilliant ideas for your next short story/piece/blog post. Some of them might get you nowhere. Either way, as long as you put in one word after another, you’ll slowly but surely improve in your craft:

1. Submit a Pixar movie

This one has been floating around the internet for a while, because almost every Pixar movie has the same premise: what if _____ had feelings? What if toys had feelings? What if insects had feelings? What if cars had feelings? What if feelings had feelings? Fill the void with something new. What if trees, buildings or stars had feelings? Then pitch the Pixar movie you would write based on that premise.

2. Send a message in space

What if the human race only had a hundred words to send into space? This message will be our first contact with any potential extraterrestrial civilization. Write a brief message to send on a rocket… then write about the aliens who might receive your message. Do they understand it? Does it make them angry? Will they come to Earth to find out more?

3. Write a “Missed Connections”

Have you ever seen a stranger pass by and wished you had stopped to talk to them? Write about the interaction you didn’t have. Or check out the “Missied Connections” sections on Craigslist and write a story based on one of the entries. Are people really meeting this time? Do they get along? Does either of them know something secret about the other?

4. Write a letter to your past or future self

This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you could talk to your past self, what would you say? Do you need help remembering an event from your childhood? Do you have any advice for you younger? And what questions do you have for your future self?

5. Explore a photograph

Write a story or essay based on a photograph. Who are the people in the frame? Who just stands outside the frame? Where are they? Why was this photo taken? To find a photo, you can browse through old photo albums, explore a friend of a friend’s Facebook photos, do a few image searches on Google, or even snap a photo of strangers on your daily commute.

6. Go to page 394

Choose a random book from your shelf (or library shelf) and go to page 394. If the book doesn’t have that many pages, you can choose a random page. The first sentence on this page is the first sentence of your new story. What happens next?

7. Write an ad

Choose a random object in your immediate environment or imagine a fictitious product. You can even choose the last book you read, the food you ate for lunch, or a feeling you had recently. Whatever it is, write an ad for it (it could be an ad, a print ad, or anything in between). Now think what kind of world would have ads for that product you imagined…

8. Fracture a fairy tale

Choose a fairy tale or legend from your childhood and write your own version. You can change the ending, update it for modern times, or write it in a specific style. How about a little black red riding hood? Snow White in space? Cinderella in the world of Game of thrones?

9. Design your utopia

What does your ideal city look like? How about your perfect country? If you could conceive of an ideal society, what would the rules be (or would there be any rules at all)? Design a utopia – complete with maps, if you feel so inclined. Then place a story in your new world: maybe someone just moved into this utopia from another place. Can you find faults in your paradise?

10. Try a different perspective

Write about a day in your life, but not from your own perspective. You could write as if you were an alien studying human culture, or from the perspective of your best friend or worst enemy. You can write from the perspective of your dog, your cat, or your favorite jacket. The point is simply to look at your own life from an outsider’s perspective. What is different? What stays the same?

Pictures: Brothers91/E+/Getty Images, Giphy (8)

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