Unlock the Muse – January 21, 2020

It’s week three of our goal-setting month. I’ve made some progress, though it has been slow. Last week I challenged you to break your large goal into smaller, more manageable pieces. I did this by giving myself a task for each month of 2020 – smaller goals that will bring me closer to completing the larger one. I have an overall goal of 300,000 words which breaks down to 25,000 words per month. This is a much more manageable goal. I also assigned a specific task for each month such as character development, plot outlining and setting construction. I’ve even set aside a month for research.

Life will inevitably interfere with the best laid plans. Some things can be accounted for in advance such as family gatherings and seasonal sporting events. Other things are harder to plan for, things like illness, a broken washing machine, or even an unexpected job opportunity. My point is, make your goal plans flexible to work around life. Plan ahead where possible, but be prepared for the unexpected. And if the truly unexpected happens, it isn’t a failure to adjust your goal accordingly.

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

If you were a college professor of “Life 101,” what would you teach your students?

This is your chance to instill in others the life skills you value most. Is it being prepared for the zombie apocalypse? How to achieve your 15 minutes of fame? Whatever it is, write up your syllabus and prepare your introductory lecture.

1. The object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.

The word goal dates back to the 1530s, of uncertain origin, meaning the “end point of a race.” It appears once before this in a poem from early 14c, with the apparent meaning of “barrier or limit.” It is perhaps from the Old English *gal, meaning “obstacle.” The use of the word in the figurative sense of the “object of an effort,” dates back to the 1540s.
(from entymonline.com)

Setting a goal for an entire year is a marathon. It won’t be achieved quickly. But keeping the goal before you – the “end point of the race” – will help make it possible to achieve. Keep working at it, and you will reach the end! Your challenge for this week is to set up for yourself measurable milestones along the way. Don’t forget to plan a reward for yourself when you achieve each milestone!

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – January 14, 2020

Welcome back to Unlock the Muse for this, the second week of 2020. How is it that January is already half over?

Last week the focus was on choosing your goal for 2020 and writing it down. I did some serious soul-searching this past week trying to narrow down and define my goal. This process turned out to be more deeply personal than I anticipated.

But I did set my goal, and it’s a big one. I have been working on a sci-fi/fantasy novel that is shaping up to be a series. At one point, I thought it might be up to five books, though this is a constantly evolving project. My goal this year is to have a completed draft – very rough draft – of this “novel,” however long it turns out to be.

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Create a story title that would grab the attention of a reader. Then, create an outline for that story.

This is a rather large prompt for what is supposed to be a simple weekly exercise. But sometimes it’s good to go big.


Goals quote

We’ve turned the dream into a goal. Now, let’s work on making it a reality! Your challenge this week is to take that large goal and break it down in to smaller goals. Don’t let the huge goal overwhelm you. Give yourself achievable steps that move you closer to your overall goal.

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – January 7, 2020

The beginning of a new year is a great time for setting new goals. And that is exactly what we’re going to talk about this month. Goals.

Why should we set goals? Well, goal setting allows you more control over the direction your life will go. This can be in any area of your life – parenting, business, writing. For the purposes of this blog, I will be focusing on writing goals.

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Time’s ticking. If you only had one more day to live, what would you do?

Make this exercise even more interesting and set a timer. Let time literally tick away as you frantically write down your end-of-life goals.

The first step in setting yourself a goal is to decide what exactly you want to accomplish. We have the whole year ahead of us. Don’t be afraid to go big. Just not too big. Your goal should be clearly defined, such as finishing a novel or obtaining an agent, instead of something like “writing more.” This last goal is simply too vague, and has no definable end point.

Your goal should also be realistic and achievable. Instead of “write every day,” perhaps try “write 1,000 words a week.” The first is almost certainly doomed to failure as life will inevitably interfere. The second is more flexible, and therefore more attainable.

Once you’ve decided what your goal will be for 2020, take time to consider why you hope to accomplish this. Determining why will help you narrow your focus and provide you with even greater motivation.

Your assignment this week is to decide what your goal will be. Challenge yourself, but keep it realistic. Write your goal down. You’re more likely to achieve your goal if you keep it in front you.

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – December 31, 2019

The next year, the next decade, begins tomorrow. It’s a time of reflection and transition. While we look forward to what the future has in store, we also take a moment to look back at where we’ve been. Take a few moments this week to reflect on what you’ve accomplished this past year. Then, turn your attention to what you plan to accomplish in the next year.

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Write about what love has meant in your life.

The end of the year is a great time for reflection. Take a moment and examine what role love has played in your life this year. How does this relate to your writing in particular?

This is week five, and therefore a bonus week. So, let’s talk about goals. A new year begins tomorrow. It’s a good time for setting new goals.

If you haven’t already, take a few moments this week to really think about what you hope to accomplish in 2020. Write down your goals in detail. You have an entire year, don’t be afraid to go big. For myself, my goal is to have a working draft of my current novel series finished. This is a huge goal, but if I break it down into monthly and even weekly goals, I have reason to believe I can accomplish it.

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – December 24, 2019

There is an unwritten rule in life that if things are not going so well, never ask the universe ‘what’s next’. It’s a dangerous proposition to tempt fate in this way.

While this may be dangerous or unpleasant in real life, in your fiction, this is exactly what you need to do. Ask yourself, what happens next? Put your characters into a place where they wail “what could possibly go wrong now?” And then make that thing happen.

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

What is love? Pretend you were asked to speak at a wedding on this topic. Write a speech detailing what you think this word really means.

Put this wedding into your novel and make your main character the best man. It’s his speech to write. How does he feel about love?

It’s play week, so here’s the next roll of the Batman version of Rory’s Story Cubes. Looks like Batman could have his hands full this week. 


Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – December 17, 2019

This month has been a whirlwind of chaos for me. I’ve gone from Christmas production to jury duty to sick kids and husband, and now I’m sick myself. Now, here it is the middle of December already and I haven’t accomplished half of what I’d hoped to do. I can’t help but wonder, what’s next?

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Raise the stakes in your story. Whatever troubles your character is facing, they could be worse. If you’re losing interest in writing a story about halfway through, it’s probably because there’s not enough at risk. If your character is facing a life-and-death situation, put his relationship in danger or put other people’s lives at risk if he fails.

If you’re not sure where to go with your story, take it to the next level. Burn down your MC’s home. Start the fire with the MC still inside. Whatever is happening, make it worse.

The word next is a versatile word. It can be a noun, a descriptor, or even a preposition.

1. (Of a time or season) coming immediately after the time of writing or speaking.
2. Coming immediately after the present one in order, rank, or space.

1. On the first or soonest occasion after the present, immediately afterwards.
2. Following the specified order.

1. The next person or thing.

1. Next to.

The word next, “nearest in place, position, rank, or turn,” comes to us from the Middle English word nexte, through the Old English word niehsta meaning “nearest in position or distance, closest in kinship.” It is also related to the Proto-Germanic word nekh (meaning “near”) + the superlative suffix –istaz, as well as the Old High German word nahisto, meaning “neighbor.”

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – December 10, 2019

It’s December. And wherever you are, there’s a good chance that means lots of parties, concerts, gift buying, family gatherings, road trips and more. This year I participated in the Christmas production at my church. We had five performances over three days. It was a lot of fun, but I’m worn out.

Up next I get to exercise my civic duty as an American citizen and report for jury duty. I am not one of those people who despises jury duty just for the principal of it. No, I want to believe in the system. But it is an interruption to the normal routine. And, for me at least, it can cause a great deal of anxiety. I don’t look forward to going by myself to a strange place I’ve never been before, spending the day in a room full of strangers, and possibly being chosen to decide the fate of another human being.

Still, I will go and fulfill my responsibility. I’m hoping in the process to carve out some quality reading time, so there is that.

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Saturday. Elton John sang “Saturday night’s the night I like.” Write a song of your own either praising or despising Saturdays. Have the refrain echo the tune of that song.

Last month we played around with poetry for something new. Now, turn your poetry into song lyrics. And don’t limit yourself to Saturdays. Write a song for every day of the week!

I’ll finish with this final thought…

Next Quote 1

What’s your next move?

Happy writing!