I love it when authors stop by to talk writing and process with me, and it’s even better when they write a whole guest post themselves so I don’t have to do anything. This week’s guest is a dude I love hanging out with and we share a mutual love of certain 80’s vampire movies. Besides that, though, he’s amazing at what he does. Today, he’s stopped by to share with us one of the ways he got that way.
I’m often asked what gets my writing motor running and, any more, I don’t have any kind of trick answer. I’m at a point where love and dedication brings me to the table and puts my ass in the chair and my hands on the keyboard. I’ve set aside specific times each day for my writing and editing because I love to write and I’m dedicated to my characters, my stories, and those few people (hi, mom!) I’m fortunate enough to have as fans. Right now, the stories come and they don’t stop and I can hardly keep up. It wasn’t always like that, though, and I had to prime the engine to get thing started.
I sold my first story (Threshold) back in 2001 to an online magazine called October Moon. I sold two more stories between 2001 and early 2002 (Go Beyond and Prior Record: A Christmas Tale), and man, I thought I was on a roll. Then, you know, life happened. Bought a house and found out the wife was pregnant, all within two months. And, you know, I quit writing. I stopped to focus on my family and my new house and do the whole dad thing. I dabbled, of course, jotting down ideas, dialogue lines, and bits of character information. But nothing that resembled a story or a book. My writing stayed dormant until the kid made it into kindergarten. When I started writing again, it was hard to get the flow back, and I only found one thing that worked: timed writing prompts.
I had little slips of paper with a bunch of Judy Reeves’ (http://judyreeveswriter.com) writing prompts on them in a tin. I’d get off work, lock my office door, and set a timer for 10 minutes. I’d pull a prompt, give myself about 30 seconds think time, and hit the timer. Then I’d write. Once finished, I turned the page, and did it again. And then again. I stayed locked in my office for an about an hour and do six prompts. This was every work day for about three months. One day I sat down and just started writing without the prompts; I’d kicked the rust off the bike and I don’t think I’d ever pedaled faster.
But why timed writing prompts?
These worked for me for two reasons, both of which took away my ability to really think about what I was writing. First, the prompt gives you the direction of your content, so it eases the burden of coming up with shit to write about. Second, the time is a deadline and deadlines are a beautiful thing. Also, with the timer being a scant 10 minutes, it acts in conjunction with the prompt to strip away the need to think. With content and deadline determined, once the timer starts, it’s go time.
Over the course of three months, I filled up four composition notebooks. When I look at them now, the patterns are obvious. The first half notebook, those prompts are maybe a page in length, lots of scratch outs, but as the days and weeks and months went by, the entries grew longer, less hectic and marked up. The words, vomited out on the page in a glut of shitty verbiage and bad metaphors, weren’t the best I’d ever written, nor were they were worst. But, the motherfucking words were there. That was the most important thing. I’ve even taken a few of those prompts, reworked and edited them into stories that I’ve sold to various markets.
I stand by the writing prompt to this day. At any point, if I’m feeling lackluster (not often), I’ll bust out some prompts and do a few. In no time, I’m back to cranking on my current project, happy as a pig in … well, you get the idea.
Just remember, your mileage will vary, so if you try the prompts and they don’t work, put them away and try something else, maybe write a story based on your favorite song. Try some fanfiction and kill your favorite character. You can even sit down and write about your day, from the moment you woke up to the moment you sat down to write. All of these things take the pressure away, since they require less work from you in regards to character, setting, and even plot. You’ll be surprised what comes out and how what does comes out saves your writing life and puts you back on the straight and narrow of healthy writing.
BLOOD WILL SPILL
Special Agent Alexandria Maxell believes in human monsters, those whose soul is tainted by the desire for torture, rape, and murder. However, the discovery of a burned body may change her mind as all the evidence indicates the victim and the killer are creatures that exist on human blood. As the body count rises, Alexandria and her team initiate a desperate manhunt to bring the killer to justice, only to uncover a plot to decimate mankind and enslave the survivors.
Jack Damage has hunted humans for centuries, preying on them at will. Now, twice betrayed by his own kind, Jack is conscripted into the impending human genocide, and he must fight the war on two fronts if he hopes to preserve anything from his old way of life. When the return of a vicious, unrelenting enemy threatens the future of both races, Jack must shift his focus from preservation to survival.
Out of time and options, Alexandria and Jack both realize that truth and salvation will only exist when they are among us.
C. Bryan Brown has been hit in the face with a dirty plunger, run over with his own car, and even lived in a haunted house. Now he’s in corporate America with debt up to his ears and he’s happy to be living the dream with his wife, kids, and grandkids. He writes to avoid going to jail and keep his sanity, though he’d love for you to add to his paranoia and stalk him at http://cbryanbrown.net
His latest novel, They Are Among Us, was released on April 14th by Post Mortem Press. You can purchase a paperback or Kindle copy by clicking here!
2 thoughts on “Writing Prompts Saved my Writing Life by C. Bryan Brown”
This dude knows how to write and his advice is worth the effort.
Yes he does and yes it is!