Ready, Set, Novel! : Writing Prompts for your New Year’s Resolution


by Debbie Vance

In these last few days of December, it seemed appropriate to offer a little extra oomph to spur y’all on towards those writing projects you’ve been lining up, thinking over, dreaming up, imagining…waiting until the holidays are over and you stop crying to really start into them. (Be honest. We all do this. Who can write when there’s all that food around?! Maybe artists are starving for a reason…)

I should’ve posted this in November for NaNoWriMo–my sincerest apologies–but I figured, heck, why can’t every month be a NaNoWriMo month?

Ready, Set, NovelSo, in the spirit of New Year’s Resolutions, here are a series of writing prompts from Ready, Set, Novel! by Chris Baty, Lindsey Grant, and Tavia Steward-Streit of NaNoWriMo. (You should really check out this handy little workbook. It’s a great way to dive straight into your novel through fun activities, prompts, plot cannons, etc. Even if you never actually finish the darned thing, you’ll have a hell of a time just working through the book.)

To start: 1. Make a “Love List”–brainstorm things that excite, inspire, and intrigue you. 2. Circle at least nine things that you would be excited about putting in your novel. 3. Write them on scraps of paper and put them into a hat. 4. Draw three items and build a “what-if” scenario around them. 5. Freewrite (and you’re off!)

Characters: Draw a picture of your main character (or find a picture of his/her Doppleganger and print it out). Fill out a character profile for him/her. i.e. Name, nickname, age, gender, etc. Where does he live? What’s her profession? What are his political and/or religious beliefs? etc.

Plot: What is the one thing your main character wants more than anything else in the world? This is your character’s cannon: the thing that will propel him to do all the things you have in store for him. Write down all the things that will potentially block your character from achieving this one great desire.

Setting: Is your novel suspenseful, lighthearted, or adventure-filled? Write a scene that highlights the mood of your novel in the beginning of the story, using details about the setting that you’ve established so far. Tip: Before anything dramatic happens, most stories begin with a description of a character in a place. Try having your character give a guided tour of his/her neighborhood, describing what it looks like, what they love and hate about where they live, and why they’re there.

Fun Freewrites: 

Write a scene in which your protagonist and villain get drunk together.

Lock a few of your characters in an elevator together.

Read “Today’s Featured Article” on Wikipedia and integrate something you learn into your novel.

Now grab your favorite pen, that new notebook from Aunt Sally, and a cup of coffee, and write!


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