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Fivers for Using Timed Writing Prompts

Holy shit, people. We’re talking about writing prompts today! I am all for writing prompts, and you guessed it, here are five reasons why.

  1. The time element is taken care of. No more worrying about whether or not you’ve written enough words. For reals, people, if you set a timer for ten minutes, and you write for ten minutes, you’ve just hit your first goal. Celebrate and have a beer. Or a cookie. Whatever your preferred method is, do it. Then sit your ass back down and do another prompt.
  2. The writing prompt takes care of your brainstorming, too. Seriously, if the prompt says, “A boy walks into the back yard and finds a dead body.” what is there to think about it? You have your protagonist and the conflict.
  3. With the two elements above (deadline and content) determined, it’s all GO TIME once the timer starts. The two act in conjunction with each other to strip away your need to think about your writing, and therefore prevent you from overthinking and getting bogged down in a paragraph or a bit of dialogue.
  4. Writing prompts are bullshit. And I don’t meant bullshit as in disregard them, but bullshit in the vein of you know they’re not going to be literary gold. You can stop stressing about whether or not these little word nuggets are good or not and just fucking write them down. No one, absolutely no one, is going to be reading them and judging your ability as a writer based on these things.
  5. There’s always a diamond in the rough. So while most of what you write isn’t going to amount to the paper (or computer screen) you’re writing it on, you will find a few that are worthy of pursuing and polishing. The age old adage “The more you write…” applies in spades here. Your prompts will provide you with pages of little nuggets to consider.

Woot! You can’t beat those reasons with a stick. Well, you could, but what’d be the point of that? You can’t go wrong by using writing prompts, especially when the words fight you.

Fivers for Beta Readers

Let’s chat about beta readers for a hot minute. Some writers use them, some don’t. I fall into the former camp, and quite frankly don’t understand those in the latter. But that’s just me, and here are five reasons why I think every writer should use at least one beta reader.

  1. They’re not you. This is the most obvious reason to use even a single beta reader. They don’t think like you, write like you, read like you, or comprehend like you. Neither do your normal readers. This “second” set of eyes is never (read: never ever) a bad idea.
  2. Beta readers provide a mandatory “away” time. This goes along with the first item. You’re too close to your work, and that’s never truer than after working on a draft for three, four, six, eight months. Even if you only give your beta readers a week, that’s a week your brain takes a vacation from this story.
  3. Also working in conjunction with the first point: beta readers are all different, too. Personally, I use “writer” beta readers and “reader” beta readers. In simple terms, I use both writers I trust and readers (you know, people who love to read but don’t write worth a shit) I trust. Each one brings something unique to the table.
  4. Beta readers can be trained. Well, not really, but my point here is that you can ask specific beta readers to evaluate specific portions of your work. I call this focused feedback, and when used sparingly with the right beta readers, can pinpoint serious trouble spots in your manuscript.
  5. Lastly, and this has little to do with making your book better, but more in the marketing vein: depending on who you’re beta readers are, you can as for book blurbs. Respected editor, author, or book blogger one of your beta readers? Don’t be afraid to ask for a short blurb for the back cover or your website. If your mom is your only beta reader, you’re shit out of luck with number five, but at least points 1-4 are still applicable.

Hit me in the comments with agreements, contrary opinions, or additions to the list!