Writing Prompt FAQ

What is a writing prompt?

It is something to set off your imagination and get words to come out. By providing a seed, prompts are a way to kick start your writing. It gives you something to build on right away, without restricting you too much.

Why do writing prompts?

As a creative exercise, writing prompts force you to think on your feet and tell stories without overthinking them. This helps with a lot of things, from overcoming Fear of the Blank Page, to making your writer’s brain come up with stuff quicker. It sharpens the mind as well as the pen!

Writing prompts are often used to warm up the creative muscles, but can be used to add an element of randomness to any kind of writing. They are a tool for writers to challenge themselves with, and to step outside their comfort zone. With practice, this makes you a better writer.

Why add a timer?

The timer adds an element of urgency and discourages you from editing as you go. It’s easy to get bogged down with trying to find the perfect phrase or wording for something, but that is what editing is for. When doing a writing prompt as a creative exercise, it’s all about stimulating the old idea generator in your skull and to write without censoring yourself in any way. Keep writing as long as the timer lets you, and you will be surprised at where you may end up.

Can I use it to write a short story?

Absolutely! In fact, many people use writing prompts to start short stories, either shedding the time limit or setting it high enough, that there is enough time to produce a full draft or chapter.

If you are part of a writing club or class, or just have a writing buddy, prompts can be used to set a short story theme for the whole group. It’s always interesting to see how different people interpret and build on the same exact prompt.

Why not spend my writing time on my novel?

You should! Writing prompts are not meant to take up all of your writing time. I recommend starting a writing session with a prompt, much like an athlete starts with a warm up routine. It gets your creative juices flowing and ready for the main event. Plus, it can be a relief to step outside the boundaries of your novel for a moment, and write something else.

Some people try to incorporate their writing prompts into their greater work in progress, or use the prompts to tell side-stories about the world they are writing in. You are free to approach it however works best for you; experimentation is encouraged.

Can’t I just make up a prompt myself?

The challenge of a writing prompt is to have part of what you are going to write dictated to you, hence the “prompt” part of the name. They give you a starting point or a frame to build on. If you define this yourself, you’re not really getting prompted, you are just writing what you want.

Where else can I get my writing prompt fix?

There are plenty of places to go. Wrimuse is on Twitter, so you can follow us there for more prompts. While you’re there, check out the #writingprompt hashtag as well. We also recommend checking out the subreddit /r/writingprompts. There are loads of great ideas to pull from there.