What’s a writer to do when the well starts to run dry? Spend hours googling writing prompts, it seems.

This whole writing well running dry thing has been a huge problem with at least two of my projects during #onemillionwords 2021. These projects are made up of several short stories. For my Keeper Chronicles project, it’s supposed to be all episodic short stories or novella. The other, Chained Heaven, has been planned out in a way that there are two, possibly three short story compilations before the first series of novels are to be released. That’s a lot of short stories and a lot of different story ideas needed. Ones a mix of magical realism and urban fantasy while the other is your stereotypical high fantasy with various magical races and epic battles.

There are only so many story ideas I can pluck from my own mind within a certain timeframe. After a while, I just start going in circles. Luckily, I’ve been finding some amazing prompts online to refresh the well, so to speak. For every ten I find though, only one fits in with my existing worlds and my characters. I have so many saved that are not usable or not usable at this time so I figured I would share the wealth. Might even do this a few times a month just to help others keep those creative energies going. Let me know in the comments if you’d like biweekly or monthly prompt round-ups in different genres.

Here are my top ten fantasy prompts. Maybe, other aspiring writers out there could give them a good home.

  1. Write about a mysterious person who meets with the ghost of an old friend for tea every so often.
  2. Your main character is walking in a snowy wood. They realize after a while, they’re not leaving any footprints.
  3. Your character is already having a bad day. To make it worse, they run into someone from their past that at one time they cared for very deeply. Can that person undo the bad they had done?
  4. Local gravestones begin to disappear.
  5. The ever classic: Body swap but this time with a person they grew up with but haven’t seen in years.
  6. The queen’s son finds there are ghosts in the castle, and they have been passing along messages to him.
  7. A curse of silence is placed on the main or one of the main characters and the only way to break it is by capturing a banshee’s scream.
  8. Every new moon, the townsfolk can hear laughter echo out from the old mine that has been closed for a hundred years.
  9. A new housekeeper for a prominent wealthy family gets hired on and soon family members are starting to disappear and a dark family secret is about to be revealed.
  10. “I saw what was in his mind. I know what he’s planning.”

If you use one of these prompts and feel comfortable sharing, please do. I’d love to see what people make of them. Or if you have some prompt ideas that you’d like to send forth into the world let us know.

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A white sign with a black border against a wooden wall. The sign reads in black letters #DONOTDISTURB

11 weeks in and I am still very beyond on my word count as well as these updates. My word count and productivity levels look like a rollercoaster if they were charted out and I’ve been wondering why.

I guess the ‘why’ probably goes back to the pandemic, like most things do these days. After just about a year of quarantines, lockdowns, and general stay-in-place orders, I have found every single possible distraction present in my house. Some are relatively easy to put aside while others are nightmares that can derail a whole day of productivity.

I, like many creatives, used to be able to go and sit in libraries and coffee shops. A change of scenery or getting together with a writing group always helped me immensely. It took me away from the distractions of my daily life and allowed me to fully focus on my work.

With the global pandemic, not looking to be subsiding anytime soon I’ve had time to reflect on my biggest distractions and have learned to keep them from impacting my work as much as any one person possibly can.

Here are my top three worse distractions and how I deal with them, ordered least to greatest.

A stylized shot of a phone with all the social media apps together.

Social media. I think this goes for a lot of people but as a small business owner and an author, there’s a fine line between ‘mindlessly scrolling’ and networking. It’s hard to balance especially since mindlessly scrolling is perfect for my executive dysfunction to latch on to.

One of the best ways I’ve found to deal with over scrolling is using apps and chrome extensions like Forest that block off all unwanted websites for however long you want. I used another one for a little while that I can’t remember the name of anymore but I stopped after only six months of use. The reason I stopped was that there was no way to turn the timer off, no safeguards. Even if you uninstalled it and had thirty minutes left on the clock, it’d still block everything for thirty minutes. All great in theory but there had been a few times that I needed to stop the timer early and the inability to do so led to some bad situations.

With Forest, you can stop it whenever you want but there is a catch. How Forest works is that with every period of productivity you gain coins that can be used to buy more virtual plants or save up to buy real trees, meaning they partner with organizations to plant real trees in the world. So, with the timer, you can cancel it but if you do you’ll be ‘killing’ the virtual tree and won’t get the coins. This makes it so unless I have to, I do not want to kill that virtual tree and will keep it going. It’s been a useful tool. I even have it on my phone.

A man in a stripped shirt looking at a full wall of pinned papers with various graphs and notes on them. The man is in focus while the wall is slightly blurred.

Over researching or wiki rabbit holes. These are deadly in my opinion since at the end of it all you learn stuff and learning stuff is awesome but it’s been three hours and you’ve completed nothing. Earlier today I went down a rabbit hole starting with American football player Dave Duerson, then moved to WWE’s Chris Benoit which then gave way to Christopher Nowinski before landing somewhere in wiki pages on brain trauma. Wikipedia is the worst but I’ve done similar things with just google. This also goes for over planning. I can spend weeks planning something out only to just fizzle out afterwards.

How I’ve learned to fix this? I’ve been making a list of things I want to look up and why. If it has to do with a part that I’m writing then I put something there and move on. Usually, it’s a random word I would expect to ever be in whatever I’m writing. My last one used was ‘bumfuzzle’, to confuse or fluster. It’s not 100% fixed and never will be. My ADHD also means I have horrible impulse control so sometimes my brain just tells me to do the thing Right. Now. When it does work, I can then dedicate time to my lookup list and not have it impede on productivity time. The most important ones get researched first.

As with the whole using up my creative energies planning and having none left to actually write it out, I’m still learning a balance between the two. If I ever achieve it, I’ll report back.

Two cats cuddled together close in a white Monster Energy box. One cat is all black with a paw out and hugging the other cat, with their head on top of the other cat. The other cat is an orange tiger cat with their head tucked under the black cat's head.
They may look innocent here but it’s a lie. The ginger’s name is Vax’ildan or Vax for short and the void cat is Percival or Percy for short.

My cats. My extremely loud, extremely co-dependent, and extremely mischievous cats. I have two and they don’t even have a brain cell to share between them but the trouble they get up to is legendary. Some days they alternate between who bugs me. Sometimes, Percy, our void cat bugs me in the morning, and Vax, our ginger, bugs me throughout the afternoon. Both yowl, cry, and chirp constantly as well as having no reservations about getting into my face. Sometimes they bug me together which you’d think would be the better days. That way I get to tire them out at the same time then back to work I go. I wish. They hype each other up. If they are both hyper and want attention then it’s never-ending. Vax has a habit of literally climbing the walls if he wants attention and gets into everything. Percy just zooms around yelling and using me as a wall to parkour off of. If Vax gets into something, Percy is right behind him.

How do I deal with this? Well, not as well as I’d like, for starters. Some days when I have the spoons, I try to wear them down. Vax LOVES being chased but only if you say on repeat ‘gimme, gimme, gimme.’ I can say it without moving and he’ll start trotting. His whole walk changes but if you don’t follow through with the chase he will let you know his displeasure.

Percy loves toys, springs especially, and will drop them on my keyboard if he wants me to play with him which consists of tugging, throwing, and getting them out from under the couch.

They’re still young. Vax will be three in May and Percy is a little over 18 months old. There’s a chance that they might mellow out with age. I’m holding on to that hope but for now, wearing them out isn’t an option. Some days I’m able to ignore them until they figure out that I have to get work done. On those lucky days, they come into my office and nap in the boxes we have on the bookcase next to my desk until my husband comes home. Those days are rare.

What are your common distractions and why are they your animals?

Two cats wedged into a destroyed Monster Energy drink box. The black cat has both front paws around the orange tiger cat's neck and shoulders. They have their faces pressed together.

While editing this article and readying it to be published, this is how my cats are at this very moment. They are aggressively cleaning each other and fighting over this box. I have saved them from flipping that box three times in the past twenty minutes. Top distractions right there. If anyone is curious, there is another box three inches to their left, two on the bed behind me, and a full cat tree to my right.

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