Unlock the Muse – March 24, 2020

When the unanticipated comes along and sidelines everything, it’s about all anyone can do to keep moving forward. Priorities have suddenly shifted in a massive way. From full-time employee, I’m about to become full-time homeschool mom. And I know I’m not alone in this new inside-out reality.

In the midst of all of this, it is all too possible to lose sight of the goals set earlier in the year. I know for myself, I have had very little interest in writing anything in the last couple of weeks. On some level, I want to write, but when it comes down to the actual work, I’m just quite simply, exhausted.

All I really want to say this week is wherever you are at in this global crisis we find ourselves in right now, hang in there. We will come out of this. We will come out of it changed, possibly scarred, but hopefully stronger. Have faith, hold on, care for one another and stay strong.

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Start networking. If you write nonfiction, consider attending a business expo for article ideas. If you write fiction, consider joining a writing group. Write an essay about your goals.

In these unique and challenging times, your networking will likely need to occur virtually. But the good news is there is so much available online. Find a webinar in a subject that interests you. Join an online writers’ organization. Even during this time when social distancing is the present norm, we can still reach out to support one another and learn from one another. Even in these difficult times, we don’t have to lose sight of our goals.

Because we can really a little positive right now, here’s a little fun from Rory’s Story Cubes. Use one, or use them all and have some fun.


Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – March 17, 2020

In this weekly post, I try to keep things positive. That is, after all, what this is supposed to be all about – encouraging and inspiring writers to do more and keep writing. I’ve intentionally stayed away from the less pleasant side of life, though I have by no means intended to discount it. Right now, however, life isn’t so pleasant. While we have all watched the progression of the corona virus pandemic, though I doubt any of us anticipated anything like this. Not truly.

We are surrounded by so much loss right now. I would be surprised to learn that there is anyone left who hasn’t lost something to this pandemic – a senior prom, an audience at a soccer game, a family vacation, peace of mind, a loved one.

In the midst of all this, some might find writing to be cathartic. Others might find it completely impossible. Wherever you’re at, don’t give up. Don’t lose sight of your goal. If it’s worth striving for, it will still be there when this season passes. If it turns out it was the wrong goal, choose another. Whatever you do, don’t let guilt destroy what you’ve already accomplished.

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Be creative and redub your family and friends with nicknames. Challenge yourself to search until you find the word that pegs their personalities. (And be nice!)

Try this exercise with your characters. Maybe the nicknames will become a beloved pet name your main character’s dad used to use. Or maybe it will become their military call sign. Nicknames can add unexpected layers to your character. Oh, and you don’t have to be quite so nice with your fictional family!


1. Regard as probable; expect or predict.
2. Act as a forerunner or precursor of.

Dating from the 1530s, meaning “to cause to happen sooner,” from the noun form anticipation. It comes from the Latin anticipare, “take (care of) ahead of time,” or literally, “taking into possession beforehand.”

Later, it came to mean “prevent or preclude by prior action,” (c. 1600) and “beware of (something) coming at a future time” (1640s). Used in the sense of “expect, look forward to” dates back to around 1749.
(from etymonline.com)

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – March 10, 2020

When working toward a long-term goal, one important thing is to anticipate events that will, or are likely to come up that could potentially derail your plans. For example, this past week I knew I had a significant family event to plan and prepare for. It meant giving up time usually dedicated to writing. It was necessary, and it was worth it.

Don’t stop with simply anticipating the road ahead. Work out a way to write around the coming event. Celebrating your anniversary on the weekend? Write extra words earlier in the week and enjoy your time off. Or, arrange to set aside extra time for writing the next weekend. Scale back on the writing goals in the days or weeks leading up to the big event. Just never lose sight of your overall goal.

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

You are in an elevator, and it suddenly stops. Who else is there? How do you get out? Write a short story, make it as absurd as possible.

Don’t over think this one. Write the first things that come to mind. Put yourself (or your character) into an impossible situation. Arm yourself with the most inappropriate tools. Then, get yourself out. Have fun!

I leave you this week with a final thought from author Mark Helprin…

Anticipate Quote 2

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – February 25, 2020

We’re two months into 2020 and – hopefully – we’re making huge strides toward accomplishing the goal we established at the beginning. We have a plan, and we’re going to town on it, right?

Maybe not? Life and other obligations have risen up in the way of working on my goals. Things like work and children, birthday parties and sleepovers and pot lucks. Fortunately, the things I’m up against are good, positive things. I knew they’d come up, and I attempted to plan for them.

This week, take a good look at how things are going so far. Are you still moving forward toward your goal? Be honest with yourself and make sure you’re working on the right goal. Now is the time to evaluate your progress so far and decide if you can realistically accomplish what you’ve set out to do. Do you need to step it up a notch? Or maybe you need to dial it back a little.

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

A character’s regional, ethnic and socioeconomic background will to some extent determine what vocabulary he uses. List a few of your main characters and five words that they would use.

If there isn’t a specific reason for all, or most of your characters to have a similar background, this sort of exercise can help you develop distinguishing traits for each character. This can give them voices distinct from each other, and make your stories more interesting.

It’s play week. During Planning month. Therefore, here’s your roll of the Rory’s Story Cubes, Action edition, along with a plan:


  • Step One: Roll! (Okay, I did that one for you. You’re on your own for the rest!)
  • Step Two: Examine the images. If you find yourself inspired by one or all of the images, proceed to Step Three. Feeling uninspired? Skip to Step Four.
  • Step Three: Write, using one, four, all of the images, for however long the muse leads you.
  • Step Four: Choose a pair of images that seem to have nothing to do with one another. Write for ten minutes putting both images into a single scene.

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – February 18, 2020

Life is notorious for disrupting plans. This past Christmas, for example, I had plans to take my family over the mountains to spend the holiday with my sister and her family. However, a minor health crisis kept us homebound. Our next best option was to use one of the long weekends – Martin Luther King Jr Day in January, or President’s Day in February. This then, is how I found myself spending the weekend at my sister’s looking for snow instead of writing this blog post. Plans are funny that way.

Here’s your writing prompt for this week, courtesy of my sister:

Imaginary friends no longer fade away as children age. Instead, they now grow more real. Adult’s imaginary friends are fully visible and tangible. Tell us all about your imaginary friends.

This is a no-plans-required sort of exercise. Don’t overthink it, just have fun!

1. A detailed proposal for doing or achieving something.
2. An intention or decision about what one is going to do.

1. Decide on and arrange in advance.
2. Design or make a plan of (something to be made or built).

The word plan dates back to the 1670s as a technical term in perspective drawing, and from 1706 as a “drawing, sketch, or diagram of any object.” It comes to us from the French word plan meaning “ground plan, or map” and from the Latin word planum, meaning “level or flat surface.”
(from etymonline.com)

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – February 11, 2020

My focus so far for this year has been to set a goal and make a plan for achieving that goal. I’ve established for myself monthly and quarterly milestones to help keep myself moving forward. The time has come to put the plan into action.

This week, take specific steps toward reaching the first part of your goal. For me, that means 25,000 words added to my draft in the month of February. Which means putting in time at the keyboard. Toward that end, I am designating Mondays, Wednesdays and every other Friday for the rest of the month for focusing on writing.

Here is this week’s writing prompt:

When you have an idea, write it. Sure, it might hit you in the grocery store. Write yourself a note. Plan to write about the idea for half an hour that night.

I don’t know about you, but I take a notebook with me nearly everywhere I go. I keep scratch paper handy at my desk. And when there’s nothing else available, I have my cell phone, and I can jot down a quick note. Ideas are a shifty sort of creature, and you can’t plan on them showing up when you’re ready to work. Instead, you’ll need to plan on working when they show up.

If you haven’t already done so, it’s time to put your plan into motion. The goal is set. The plan is established. Now go!

I’ll leave you with this little thought about plans:

Plan Quote 1

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – February 4, 2020

This week sports fans watched the biggest game of the year in American football – Super Bowl 54. Regardless of who won the game, you know that going in there was a game plan. In preparation of the big game, coaches and players were no doubt busy watching film, drilling plays and making an overall plan of how they want the game to go. They made plans and contingency plans. They made adjustments to their plans on the fly as the game moved forward. At halftime, plans were reevaluated and adjusted again. Plans succeeded and plans failed, but the game moved on toward its inevitable conclusion. And more than likely, even the winning team’s plan did not go exactly right.

Writing is much the same. With the obvious exception of the opposing team. You are competing only against yourself. Still, a plan must be made, complete with back-up and contingency plans for when thing inevitably go awry.

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Make a list of your 10 favorite novels. Then write why you enjoy them. Can they help you with your novel?

The hardest part of this exercise might be choosing just ten favorites. There is a reason we gravitate to certain genres, certain authors. We are drawn to the things that make us feel good, that make us happy, inspire us, or maybe even scare us a little. There is always something we can learn from those who have gone before us.

Last month my focus was on setting a goal. It is intended to be a year-long endeavor. Now, for the month of February, I’ll build on what I set up in January and create a solid plan for accomplishing this massive goal.

First, create the plan. If you haven’t already lined out your plan to accomplish your goal, take this week and draw up a detailed plan. Let’s get to work and do this!

Happy writing!