Writing Ideas

Topics to inspire the writer and put a stop to writer’s block.

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As writers, we don’t have to be told to sit down and write. It’s what we do and what we enjoy doing. But asking kids to write can be a whole different story, especially during the summer season when school's out. If they don’t have to write, why would they want to?

Actually, there are plenty of reasons. Writing during the summer is a great way for kids to practice their skills without being graded or judged. It’s a chance to write about topics they enjoy and explore their creativity in a leisurely fashion. Writing can also be highly therapeutic for kids; it helps them manage stress and promotes mental well-being. And here’s the best part: getting kids to write during the summer might not be so hard after all.

Try these five writing activities for a fun way to keep your kids thinking, creating, and engaged this summer:

Find a Writing Camp or Class for Kids

Kids love camps, and writing camps are filled with fun projects, social time, and learning. Check with local colleges, community education, writing organizations, or the public library for offerings.

Host Your Own Writing Workshop

Can’t find a camp or class nearby that suits the kids? Why not host your own. Make up writing projects and invite their friends over to join in. Add some snacks, and watch your writing workshop take off.

Journal with Your Kids

Journaling isn’t just fun; it’s a way to express and communicate your feelings. Get your kids to open up via a two-way journal. Start by writing a journal entry individualized to your child. If he likes thunderstorms, write about a thunderstorm memory. Then get your child to respond back.

Fill a Box with Writing Prompts

You’ve probably experienced writer’s block more times than you can count. Sometimes getting kids to write is simply a matter of finding the right topic. Fill a box with writing prompts and have them pick until they find an idea that inspires them.

Take It Outside

Writing indoors can be stifling. Have your kids grab notebooks, pens, and a lounge chair, and head outdoors to write. You can supply the encouragement—and the lemonade.

Don’t think your kids won’t enjoy dabbling in your profession this summer. Give them a fun way to explore their writing talent, and watch them grow and thrive at an art that will serve them well for years to come.

Image by Carissa Rogers

 

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Valentine’s Day is all about love, sweets, roses—and writing ideas. What better way to prepare for the upcoming holiday than to write about something reminiscent of it? These Valentine’s Day writing ideas won’t just inspire and uplift you; they’ll help set you up for a sale. So head to your computer and get your creativity—and heart—flowing:

Valentine’s Day History

For history buffs, Valentine’s Day is more than a holiday; it marks an important day in history. Check out this list of key events that have occurred on Valentine’s Day. Any would make an interesting story topic.

A Famous Couple

Bonnie and Clyde? Franklin and Eleanor? Kim and Kanye? Whoever interests you—or not—find a juicy detail about a famous couple and bring it to life.

Puppies

Who doesn’t love puppies? And what puppy doesn’t remind us of love? Craft a story for kids, a piece for a pet magazine, or a personal essay about puppies.

The Color Red

What does the color red signify besides the color of a heart? Write an article on the color red—or pink, white, or purple, other common Valentine’s Day colors. Research what the color signifies to others, or write about an object or event associated with a Valentine’s Day hue.

Heart Health

Heart health is a popular topic today—and not just physical heart health. Broken hearts and how they affect mental well-being makes big headlines too. Actually, just about anything related to the human heart is a marketable story idea and one that's gratifying and potentially lifesaving.

Chocolate

Writing about chocolate might be the sweetest idea yet. If you like this tasty treat, you’ll have even more reason to pen a story or article about it. Plus, there’s plenty to talk about—a new type of chocolate, a favorite family recipe, a country known for its chocolate, you name it. When it comes to writing about chocolate, the sky’s the limit.

Flowers

You might think roses are the flower of Valentine’s Day, but many people get bouquets of lilies, carnations, tulips, or a mix. Which flower do you like best? Find out what’s unique about it—does it have medicinal properties or an interesting past? Even if you’re not a gardener, writing about flowers is a great way to recognize Valentine’s Day, prepare for spring, and sell your work.

Valentine’s Day is more than a time to celebrate love—it’s filled with unlimited writing ideas, too. Pick one of the above, and take advantage of all the great writing potential packed into the sweetest day of the year.

Image by Peggy2012CREATIVELENZ

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cupcakeGood holiday recipes are always in demand—which is why if you’ve got one, chances are you’ll be asked to share it. And share it, you should. Whether you’re participating in a holiday cookie exchange or bringing a crowd-pleasing dish to Christmas Eve dinner, sharing a holiday recipe is a giving gesture and a great way to pass on a holiday tradition. Plus, you'll get to hone your writing skills in the process.

There are no set-in-stone rules on writing holiday recipes, but you’ll want to keep a few things in mind before you get started:

Make Your Holiday Recipe Coherent

Recipes aren’t the place to get creative with words, especially at holiday time. Cooks and bakers want to know one thing: how to make your holiday treat just like you did. The more straightforward you are, the better for them. Write your holiday recipe using easy language, a step-by-step format, and short, succinct (not necessarily complete) sentences.

Pay Attention to Recipe Symbols and Spacing

Typing out a recipe versus handwriting it will help you avoid errors, but be sure to use proper mechanics when writing recipes. For example, 1 14 oz. can might read as 114 ounces. Instead, write 1-14 oz. can or one 14-ounce can. Likewise, 11/2 teaspoons is better written 1&1/2 teaspoons. And avoid confusing abbreviations, like "T" for tablespoon and "t" for teaspoon; spell out measurements instead.

Test Your Holiday Recipe

Holiday cooking is different than everyday cooking: time is limited and stress is often high, so there’s no room for error. If you’re giving away a new recipe—something you haven’t made yet yourself—do a trial run first. You may decide it isn’t as good as you thought or that it needs some tweaks. Test out a new recipe, and you’ll be more confident when you write and share it.

Add Helpful Tips

Do you decorate your holiday cookie a certain way? Does adding an optional ingredient to your holiday casserole make it moister? Do cooking times vary depending on the texture you prefer? If there’s something you do to make your recipe especially yummy, include it. Tips are always helpful for bakers and cooks, especially at holiday time, when success matters most.

Review and Edit

Never share a recipe without looking it over for mistakes. One tablespoon off can turn your favorite holiday treat into a disaster for the next person making it. Look over the ingredient list carefully, double check baking temperatures and times, edit for spelling and grammar, and make sure all the steps are included. Check for minor typos, too—they can throw off a cook.

‘Tis the season of giving, so go ahead, share a favorite holiday recipe. And help make someone else’s holiday as bright—and tasty—as yours.

Image: Courtesy of tawest64

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fall-park-benchEvery year, I get excited about fall. It’s not just because I can start wearing sweaters and jeans again; I like everything about fall - the weather, the changing colors, the approaching holidays, and especially the peace and quiet. Fall is my favorite time to reflect. And write.

But if you’re like me, sometimes it takes a minute to get out of summer mode. The slower pace of August isn’t that easy to part ways with, even though the computer beckons.

What works well for me is doing something new and different to jumpstart my Autumn writing routine. Fortunately, fall is rife with options that are motivating, fun, and profitable. Check out these fall writing activities, and make this autumn your best writing season yet.

Write a Halloween Article or Story

If you’re a web content writer, there are all kinds of Halloween-related article ideas that are sure to sell, like Halloween safety tips, nutrition-based treats, modern-day costume ideas, or the latest Halloween apps. Halloween stories and articles for kids are big sellers, too. Look for Halloween writing contests for places to submit.

Get Ready for the Holidays

October is a great month to start writing for the winter holidays. Article buyers seek material months in advance, so get writing and submitting now. You may have a quick sale if it’s unique and well written. One thing’s for certain: holiday-themed writing is always in demand.

Write Outside

What better time to write outside than on a beautiful fall afternoon? The gorgeous colors, cool temperatures, and light breezes make being outside refreshing and inspiring. Head to the park, sit outside at the public library or pull up a comfy chair on the patio. A change of scene can be highly fruitful for your writing career.

Take a Hike with Your Notebook

Fall hikes are full of adventure - and writing ideas. Take a nature hike with your notebook and jot down whatever captures your attention. Hikes are exceptionally visual activities that can spark all kinds of thoughts, emotions, and sensory descriptions. Be sure your notebook fits in a pack or your pocket, and don’t forget a writing utensil.

Attend a Conference

Fall is loaded with conferences and the perfect time of year to attend one. If you’ve got kids, check into writing conferences that you can do together. Not sure where to look for a conference? Try local writing organizations, colleges or the public library, or look online.

Don’t let fall slip by without taking advantage of this great writing season. Try any of the above fall writing activities, and make autumn productively pleasing from start to finish.

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some grain had been partially harvested nearby, so we could walk into the center of the field and take a few photos.

Summer’s here, which means school is out and there are lots of fun things beckoning—barbecues, a trip to the beach, biking with the kids. Who has time to write?

Just because outdoor activities are in full bloom and schedules have gone by the wayside, doesn’t mean you stop writing. Writers write—year round. The trick is to find ways to fit in time to write so you’ll feel productive and stay devoted to your craft without missing out on summer fun.

You may need to be a little creative and flexible, but finding time to write in the summer isn’t all that tough. Here are five ideas that might help.

1. Carry Your Writing Tools Everywhere

You never know when an idea might strike, so always be ready to capture it. Slip a notebook and pen in your purse, or carry your tablet or laptop in a messenger bag when you go out. Even a pencil and scratch paper stuffed in the glove compartment of your car can come in handy for those days when creativity sudden flows. Don’t count on your mind to remember your ideas; be safe, and be prepared.

2. Rise and Shine

Whether you have the birds to thank or the sun, chances are you wake up early during the summer months. It’s not a bad thing actually. Popping out of bed at the crack of dawn can be a great way to start your day, especially if you use the time productively. Grab some coffee and make a beeline to your desk for an hour or two of concentrated writing.

3. Make It a Family Affair

If you have kids at home, include them in your writing routine. Set up a workshop where everyone writes. Pick a topic that's kid-friendly. You’ll get an interesting variety of writing to read, writing practice for all, and a worthwhile use of your time. Include snacks or prizes to make it more fun. Just don’t be surprised if the kids come running back for more.

4. Be a Weekend Warrior

Summer weekdays can be hectic for families with busy summer routines. Your days of writing alone suddenly become filled with carpooling to sports, making lunches, and cleaning up after everyone. That’s where weekends come in handy. Use the time when another parent is available to hit the office. Shut yourself off for several hours and get some quality writing time in.

5. Plan a Writing Vacation

A writing vacation may not be your idea of a summer trip, but you’ll be surprised at how rewarding it can be. Not only will you get to do what you love, you’ll enjoy the break from busy summer schedules to concentrate on just you. There are plenty of writing retreats available during the summer months (check out the ones on this list), or you can create one of your own.

Summer is a time for fun, family, friends—and writing. Give your craft the attention it deserves this summer, and make the season as enjoyable as it is productive.

Image by Nosha

 

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exclamation-point-64050_960_720Drills aren’t just for military personnel. In fact, just about anyone can benefit from training exercises—writers included. Here are seven simple drills that can boost your writing skills and make you better at your craft. Try one a day this week, and see how they improve your clarity, creativity, and style.

Take a quiz. On something writing related, like spelling, grammar, or vocabulary. Quizzes can be found in magazines or online and can help refresh your memory and expand your writing knowledge. Plus, they’re fun to do. You might be surprised at how much you know—or don’t know.

Rewrite a sentence. Pick a sentence, preferably a complex one, from a favorite book or a magazine or newspaper article. Now rewrite the sentence to make it stronger, clearer, and more readable. Or, using your unique style, revise the sentence to reflect a different tone.

Read content. From pamphlets to signage to blog posts, content comes in all forms, and taking notice of it can help you become a better writer—especially when you analyze it, edit it in your head, and ask yourself what works about it and what doesn’t.

Study a word. Is there a word you’ve run across lately that intrigues you? Look it up, then study its definitions and origin. Use it in a sentence or in speech. Get comfortable with the word and incorporate it into your writing and vocabulary.

Write a filler. You know those short, front-of -book pieces in magazines, like a list of tips, a simple recipe, or a brief how-to? They're easy to create and a great way to learn how to cut words and write short. Give one a try.

Review punctuation rules. Punctuation is often underused, overused, or misused. Review the rules of punctuation from your favorite style book and experiment with using each mark. Keep in mind that rules are meant to be guidelines, not set in stone.

Write an acrostic. Acrostic poems aren’t just fun to write; they exercise the brain. The best part is, you don’t have to be a poet to write an acrostic. Need some help getting started? Check out these tips on writing an acrostic poem.

Do you have any other drills that help boost your writing skills? Please share your thoughts!

 

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groundhogToday is Groundhog Day, a great day to think spring now that Punxsutawney Phil has predicted its arrival in just six weeks. With that in mind, why not leap into your writing by working on some fulfilling and rewarding new projects that’ll make the last few weeks of winter fly by? Here are a few ideas to consider:

Enter a writing contest. In past years, I’ve posted many Spring writing contests around the state and nation. Take a look at my past posts for 2012 and 2013, and check the links for updates. Visit Fanstory.com, and look at the upcoming contest offerings. Or search writing contests in your preferred genre or locale, and see what pops up.  You’ll be surprised at all the options, both fee based and free, for entering a writing contest.

Start a writing journal. I asked for a writing journal for Christmas this year. It’s still sitting on my desk, waiting for my pen to mark up the pages. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how I want to use my journal—as a place to take notes, write poetry, draft character profiles, jot down writing tips, practice paragraph styles, scribble daily thoughts, or all of the above. Of course, you don’t need to put a lot of thought into journal writing. The purpose is to just write, every day. Good advice to self.

Write outside the box.  Have you ever wanted to write a fantasy story but didn’t think you had it in you? Do you sometimes wish you could go back to school and develop your writing skills more fully? Has your fear of networking kept you from meeting other writers and finding markets for your work? Being a successful writer requires stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things. Take a class, try your hand at writing in a different genre than you’re used to, or join a writer’s group. The benefits of your leap of faith will far outweigh the risks.

Happy writing all!

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Happy_Holidays_(5318408861)With many of us still enjoying the fall colors and warm afternoons, it’s hard to believe that the holiday season kicks off next month. For writers, that thought can bring a wave of anxiety, knowing we have only weeks to write—I mean seriously write—before the holiday hustle and bustle set in. But don’t let anxiety keep you from making these next few weeks productive. In fact, now is a great time to get busy writing, make some sales, and get into the holiday spirit.

Need some suggestions on how to get started? Check out this list of holiday-themed writing ideas that’ll lure you straight to your computer.

  1. Think of a particularly funny, emotional, or inspirational anecdote from a past holiday—a long, lost relative who showed up at Christmas dinner; a historical blizzard that changed holiday plans; or a holiday prank that backfired. Write an essay for an anthology or draft a blog post.
  2. Re-read some of your favorite childhood holiday stories, then think of a new way to tell the story, using modern characters, settings, plot twists, and themes. Write your new holiday story and submit it to a children’s magazine.
  3. Need a deadline to get you motivated to write? Research holiday contests, like those from FanStory.com, and choose a contest with a theme that inspires you. Write your story or article, keeping in mind the deadline, and enter it in the contest.
  4. Write an acrostic poem about the holidays. Acrostic poems are easy and fun, and they can be written for personal enjoyment or sale. All you need to do to get started is come up with a holiday-related word. For more information on writing acrostic poems, see my earlier blog post.
  5. Pick an item in your home that reminds you of the holidays. It might be a knick-knack on your fireplace mantel, a table furnishing, a photograph, or just something with holiday colors. Use that item as a starting point for a mystery, romance, or historical fiction story.
  6. Have a favorite holiday recipe that you’re willing to share? Many magazines, websites, and newspapers look for recipe submissions to share with their readers. Consider writing a brief history or background to submit with your recipe.
  7. Many animals remind us of the holidays—reindeer, puppies, and cardinals, to name a few. Choose an animal that you associate with this time of year and research the connection. Write an article discussing the unique correlation between the animal and the holiday season.
  8. Pick a country that you would like to know more about and learn how they celebrate—if they celebrate—the holidays. Stories about other cultures are widely popular with both children and adults. Check Writer’s Market for publications that accept cultural holiday stories, and submit.
  9. If you’re looking for gift ideas, why not give the gift of your writing? Put together a booklet of holiday memories, with pictures, for friends and family. Or, make a calendar filled with favorite photos, and write a short description with each month’s entry.
  10. Start a holiday journal for personal use. Discuss your thoughts on the upcoming season and New Year. You might also use your journal to brainstorm for writing ideas, goals, and plans for the next few months or year ahead.

The holiday season is fast approaching, but there’s still plenty of time to write. Choose any or all of the above ideas, and make these next few weeks and months some of the most productive yet.

For more help on writing holiday stories, see last year's post For Some Festive Fun, Write a Holiday Story.

Image by Marcus Quigmire

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holiday ornamentWith the holidays fast approaching, you might be thinking about writing a holiday story. What’s great about holiday stories is that they aren’t just for kids. Adults love to read stories with a holiday theme, too. But no matter who your target audience, there are a few things to keep in mind when writing a holiday story.

First and foremost, a good story is key. The holiday element matters, of course, but the characters, plot, and writing style matter more. Like any story, a holiday story that doesn’t engage and satisfy the reader—child or adult—won’t be appealing and won’t sell.

Here are some other tips for writing a holiday story:

  • Choose a fresh twist on a holiday theme; overdone holiday stories are just that, overdone.
  • Be respectful of cultural diversity and the many ways people celebrate holidays.
  • Depending on the publication, be cautious about involving religion or overemphasizing it.
  • Aim to uplift, inspire, and entertain the reader, and include humor if possible.
  • For children’s stories, add a creative activity, such as a holiday game, craft, or recipe.
  • Submit a holiday story well in advance of the holiday (check writer’s guidelines for exact deadlines).

Make this season merry and bright, and write a holiday story. Whether you submit it now or next season or just share it with the family, you can’t go wrong. Everyone likes this festive time of year, not to mention a good holiday read.

Image by Domaniqs

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An acrostic poem is a poem where the first letter of each line spells out a word or phrase (vertically) that the poem describes. Here’s an example of a simple acrostic poem:

Loons and laughter,

A boat, water, and sand,

Kicking back, day and night—

Except for the mosquitoes,

Summer’s perfect escape.

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I chose to write about “lakes” because it’s one of my favorite places to go in the summer. It’s a feel-good word for me and a reminder that the cold of Minnesota will soon pass.

Acrostics can do that to you—inspire you—but that’s not all.

Writing an acrostic poem is…

  • A welcome break from a writing project that
  • Can lead to more writing projects as you
  • Research and think about a subject
  • Or just unleash what’s on your mind.
  • So much more, including a useful
  • Teaching tool for children and an
  • Invigorating conversation starter,
  • Concluding, potentially, with a publishable piece.

Mostly, though, writing acrostic poetry is just plain fun.  If you’ve never written an acrostic, it’s not hard to do. Just start with a subject and write the word or words vertically. Then jot down descriptions and ideas about the subject. Next, put it all other. Use the letters of your subject along with your descriptions to tell a story. Acrostic poems don’t usually rhyme, but they do flow like poetry.

Give an acrostic poem a try—and enjoy all the benefits of this simple, inspiring activity.

Note: FanStory is accepting acrostic poems for their May Acrostic Poetry contest. Deadline is May 18, 2013.