Hey all, Sam here.
Here we are at the first official Weekend Writer post! Oh boy, I am both excited and very nervous about this. I’ve been wanting to get back to writing, and I thought I was starting to get my creative drive back a few months ago, but then some stuff happened and I went right back to the idea of writing exhausting me….and I hated that feeling. I love writing. I spent so many hours while in high school and then at college and in the years since writing and editing and talking to people about writing and creativity. When I think back to those times, it sometimes feels like a different person, and I miss that writing machine I used to be.
So in 2023, I’m trying to find her-the creative writer within me-again. I have always found it a bit easier to write when I have some semblance of accountability to keep me focused and motivated. In high school and college a lot of that came from the fact that I posted my stories up chapter by chapter on Fictionpress. But I’m not doing that anymore. I might share some snippets of novels or some short stories or maybe even some poetry or something here on the blog, but the rest of it….well, I don’t know if I want to post any of my novels online like I used to.
I figured I would bring this series back with a discussion about various writing tools first. I’m going to be a bit generalized here, but in future posts I’ll dive a bit deeper into these creativity tools.
For some, studying the craft of writing can help inspire and motivate the process. I have a B.A. in English and a MLIS (Master of Library and Information Science), so I have spent a lot of time around books, and many of my English courses included writing and we studied aspects of the craft of writing. So since graduating, I try to pick up books on writing just to keep in practice.
I have books on starting stories, editing stories, breaking writer’s block, books that deal with specific elements of writing, books focused on fantasy and science fiction, and even books about other aspects of being an author, such as working with agents and editors and dealing with social media and book promotion. To me it feels good to have a working knowledge of writing from start to finish.
A few of these books I’ve already delved into for Weekend Writer, so I will definitely be making a post with links to everything I’ve already done.
But you don’t have to stick with just books focused on novelists. The past few years I have found that game mastering and creative writing go hand-in-hand more often than not. So finding books designed to help with creating sessions or campaigns for TTRPGs can actually be quite useful. You can find books with copious amounts of rolling charts, which you can use to make a writing prompt based on a character or location or quest. I picked up Roll & Play and it’s pretty fun and useful, and if you sign up for their e-mail list, you’ll get emailed new rolling charts every month.
Kobold Press has a line of books that are collections of essays about various topics. The Worldbuilding Volume 2 books is actually essays by fantasy authors about worldbuilding, so you can really see how story writing and game mastering intersect. But there’s books about magic and combat and monsters, and the plots and campaigns book is focused on creating story arcs and sessions that connect plots into a campaign…and that sounds exactly like weaving plots together to make a novel.
So yeah, I definitely recommend looking into TTRPG books as well.
Prompt and inspiration cards. Now these can be awesome things like this storytelling deck from The Story Engine (and they just released a worldbuilding deck too, which is very cool). Or it can be something like the Sidequest decks from Inkwell Ideas. Sure, these were technically created to help Game Masters with their TTRPGs, but why couldn’t they be used to inspire writers as well? Or you can do something like have a deck of Tarot cards or Oracle cards. Draw one card or a few cards and see if the names or the images spark an idea for you.
I’m actually going to have a few of these drafted up as prompts for us at the end of the post.
I have a few web sites to mention this time around.
Obviously I have to mention NaNoWriMo because their annual writing challenges have mostly been very productive for me. I’ve been participating since 2006, in both NaNoWriMo in November and Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July. The original NaNoWriMo challenges you to write 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. Camp NaNoWriMo lets you set your own goal, and has expanded to include editing goals instead of writing goals.
In college I found Write or Die to be immensely useful…but it is not for everyone. You set a word goal or a time goal and then start writing. If you pause for too long then you have to deal with consequences. This could be your screen getting more and more red, or having to listen to an annoying sound, or it randomly starting to delete things. You can set the consequence for yourself. As soon as you press a key again, the consequence goes away. This writing tool worked for me (and I usually set it at deleting things), but I obviously know that writing is sometimes stressful enough without adding in the stress of consequences.
For those people I recommend Written? Kitten! It is similar to Write or Die in that you set a goal for your writing session, but it rewards you along the way. You can set it up for a reward every 100 words or whatever, and then choose what cute animal you’d like as your reward–so let’s use 100 and kittens for the example, and every 100 words you’ll get a new picture of a cute kitten. So you keep writing so you can get to the next cute photo.
I found 750 words while I was in grad school. The whole goal is to write 750 words a day. And it keeps track of your writing with a scoring system based off of bowling…so you earn a spare if you don’t quite reach 750 words and a strike if you meet or exceed 750 words. You can also let it know your mindset about your writing each day, and your stats will keep track of how many words you write each day, how long you spend writing each day, and your mood and mindset over the course of your writing life on the site. It’s actually pretty cool, and simple.
Finally, 4theWords. This is a writing game, basically. You set yourself up as an adventurer, and you take on writing challenge monsters. They have a specific word goal and time limit, and so long as you can write that many words in that time you can slay the monster. It rewards you with experience and loot…and you can level up your adventurer. So basically if you’re looking to gamify your writing, this might be the tool for you.
It’s Prompt Time!
Here we go: A humble researcher in possession of a forged letter wants to reveal the dangers of a kingpin but it will cost them their soul.
Here it is: Gifts, Sacred Space, Ghosts
Use the words, the images on the cards, or both. I used my Urban Crow Oracle Deck by MJ Cullinane for this prompt.
Roll & Play
Fittingly, I chose the First Meetings chart for this particular prompt. Might as well start at the beginning, right? If you have your own 20 sided dice you can roll randomly on this chart if you choose to, or you can go with what I rolled, which is a 6: The group is part of a larger defense against a beast attacking the town.
I used the Arcane Academy deck for this prompt, and decided to go ahead and draw two, so there’s options.
Option 1: Steal the Headmaster’s Hat: Every year a competition is held to take an item of importance from one of the teachers. This year the target is the headmaster’s hat.
Option 2: Surprise: The characters wake up with no memories in a dungeon full of intricate challenges and puzzles of increasing danger. This is an exam area, but a rival rigged it.
You can just stick with the basic prompt at the top of the card, or incorporate more of the ideas and suggestions from the rest of the card. It’s your choice.
All right, I do believe that is all from me for today! Hmm…I think Friday January 27th will be the day of sharing what I’ve written from at least one of these prompts…so if you join in, I’d love to see what you’ve written then as well.
Thank you so much for stopping by, and I’ll be back soon with more geeky content.