I went looking for questions to answer…

Last night, as promised, I went searching for a book of writing prompts, something to spur my novel writing along and help me to flesh out the details of my world and story, in a neat little format I could publish here as daily blog posts, in order to keep myself on track and accountable. I mean, I’m not asking for much. What could possibly go wrong?

I wound up sitting at the Barnes & Noble for hours, at first wandering and browsing (I found an artsy Page-a-Day calendar for my desk at work, I love those, and a journal book I plan to bring with us on vacation in July), but the perfect little book of writing prompts for a fantasy novel never jumped off the shelf at me. I had a few close calls — 100 Prompts for Science Fiction Writers by Leslie and Jarod Anderson, and a similar book for Romance writers — but most of the offerings were in the personal, modern, journal style, and not what I was looking for at all.

I finally studied the “Writing/Reference” shelf again, filled with old favorites like No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty (a copy of which I was gifted during my first serious try at NaNoWriMo a few years ago, which I still failed miserably, but it’s a good book nonetheless), and The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master, by Martha Alderson, founder of something called PlotWriMo, which I only just learned about myself by following that link. I grabbed a few books to peruse more in-depth while sitting in the hard wooden chairs by the windows, including Writer with a Day Job: Inspiration & Exercises to Help You Craft a Writing Life Alongside Your Career, by Áine Greaney, and Writing Great Books for Young Adults, by Regina L. Brooks. Both seemed up my alley, despite not being simple prompt books, so I read the introductions and a little bit further in each, and I think they will both be worth picking up sometime in the near future.

But another book had traveled with me the short distance between the shelf and the windows: another of Martha Alderson‘s books had caught my eye, and here’s where it gets complicated. Be careful what you wish for, indeed…

A companion book to The Plot Whisperer, it’s called The Plot Whisperer Book of Prompts: Easy Exercises to Get You Writing. And even though I hadn’t read the original, and even though I’m not sure I’m fully on board with the concept of the “three prompts” —

  • first, just an affirmation about being prepared to write, that you are encouraged to say to yourself in a mirror every day;
  • second, a plot prompt, to get the gears turning about where you’re at in your novel, and using an inverted check mark graph to mark out your scenes; and
  • and last, an actual writing prompt where you write a scene

— and even though I feel like I have my plot already (I have a chapter-by-chapter outline that’s pretty good, I think!), I was still very tempted to bring home this book.

It’s pretty much just what I was looking for — a book of writing prompts that all have the same flow-through narrative, pushing you to explore your own story, with a structure, and, as an added bonus, throws in essays of advice and writing tips to hone your craft. Everything in one neat little package.

But the sad part is, getting this book would derail my blog plan pretty handily, I think. This is not a book where I can follow the prompts and post the results for all the world to see, unless my grand novel plan is to publish the whole thing here for free, and never have a “real” book published.

To top it off, this excursion also seems to prove that my idea of writing my own little book of daily writing prompts might not be feasible, unless it’s in the modern style and in journal form. There certainly weren’t many books like those “100 Writing Prompts” to choose from.

Usually a trip to the bookstore, where I can lose myself for hours, is an evening well spent. This time, I’m pretty sure it’s created more problems than it solved.  So now the big question I have to answer is: what’s my next step?

Tonight, anyway, it’s going to be to post this, and then work on my actual book for the first time since I decided to make this crazy blog three days ago.  That sounds like a plan.


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