Every Saturday in a small building perfect for authors (read: cozy couches, stocked with tea, and next to a cookie store), I co-host a writing group. Mostly it’s free writing with company, but for the first 20 minutes we snag a writing prompt off a reddit thread and try to beat the clock. Sharing afterwards is the scariest part, and most of us chicken out of actually reading our piece aloud.
Before inheriting the group, I’d never actually done any kind timed writing prompt (AP exams don’t count). Suffice to say, this practice changed me as a writer. I discovered a deep, abiding love of prompts. The high of quick, nonstop writing, the freedom of inventing characters and plot on the fly–all slightly addicting.
But it took me a while to get into the swing of the short prompt and stop writing the beginnings of lengthy plots. (My writing career bypassed short stories entirely and dove straight into novellas and novels.) Figuring out how to tell something briefly and concisely was–and is–a challenge, but one I am getting much better at.
Of course, the lure of the extended adventure still pulls my prompts off course more often than not, but I’ve managed to trim a few of them into satisfactory self-contained stories.
Pictured above: my good intention to write a short story (left) vs. my deep-seated urge to start a new novel (right)