Writing Prompts for New Ideas

Do you use Youtube to help you generate new ideas: here’s an example of what you can do…

I recently watched this brilliant youtuber Abbie Emmons, she has loads of advice for writers and I tried her video working through a writing exercise to
generate ideas. I had a go at developing some new ideas this way and I wanted to provide a step-by-step that helped me develop this idea into a new short story.


The advice in the video asks you to write down your favourite book, the genre, themes and take the plot of a key scene that you love. You do this with a few of your favourites and end up with a load of things you can mix and match. I choose Pride and Prejudice but set it in a modern-day knowing fiction, where
we would laugh at Darcy’s snobbery even more.


To create my new character, she needs Elizabeth Bennet’s sassiness but the rudeness of a blunt modern-day heroine; I picked Eleanor Shellstrop from the amazing The Good Place, a show in which her unpleasantness is central to the character being placed in The Good Place by mistake. In Pride and Prejudice we hear mainly from the indefatigable narrator; Jane Austen’s voice is afterall the powerhouse of her fiction. But this is the twenty-first century so Liza, my new hero, speaks in first person and gets to react and describe her Darcy from her perspective.


I found this mixing of characters a fun way of forming an idea in my head, but I also needed a setting in which they would meet. I had been reading about village life, so they were suddenly at a cricket club. I
liked the fact that this idea sparked. I would not recommend forcing yourself to stick to something to make it a perfect mix and match between two books. It is less derivative for a start to let the ideas form,
but also I don’t think the idea is to create a new Romeo and Juliet but rather that the only thing new in the world is your voice: every story has been told already, but not by you.

the only thing new in the world is your voice: every story has been told already, but not by you.


Finally, to spark off the story, I thought about how the antagonist would get her alone to confess his love. This time we would not expect a proposal but he would be critical and rude of her manners and
how much she drinks, how much she, like Eleanor Shellstrop, loves to party. Unlike in Pride and Prejudice where she has been isolated by her circumstances of being trapped at the Collins’s house. Her
friend Charlotte would not be preoccupied with paying lip service to a formidable aristocrat, instead she would be there speaking up for her friend and in my story she comes to interrupt the fractious exchange.


By the time I had worked through the dynamics of the three people and their motivations in the scene, I felt like I had heightened the tension. Darcy may flinch at being called ungentlemanly, but this character would go away cowering under the wrath of the women he had crossed.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not think this exercise produced something better than Pride and Prejudice or The Good Place. I am not sure if the piece I wrote will even go anywhere, but it was a interesting way to find a new way in to writing. If you are feeling a bit stuck this would be a great way to get started again.

Let me know any channels you follow, here is the amazing Youtuber I enjoyed.

These are a few of my favourite things…

When times are tough it is the simple things that get you through

Slim notebooks, green pen, making a coffee in a favourite cup, all these things help me write. It is often the simplest things that make me happy. I knew this week would be a tough: some appointments, some work commitments and the world news have all reduced my energy levels but this is when I dig deep to find something I can do.

If you have followed me for a while, you know I use the morning pages system from The Artist’s Way– three pages of unedited thoughts dumped out each morning. In this flow this week, I came up with an idea to work on. But what to do with so little time? Writing a few notes on my phone or folding the corner down on my journal sometimes works. But instead this week, I tidied up and tucked myself into the corner of the kitchen table.

My Artist’s Altar

Across from me is my Artist Altar, more a decorative feature where I change over the quotes seasonally. I found this vase on one of my charity shop hunt Artist Dates . Having a pretty place to write pleases me, as do the family photos just beside me on the wall. There is something about taking these positive steps to give myself a little space that helps me work. I set a timer and write a few paragraphs, not sure yet how the scene will play out. And if I am honest, I don’t get that far.

But having this time and a little energy is such a privilege. My son was off school ill the rest of the week, though not too unwell thankfully. So though it is not progressing the scene very well, I take the chance to do something restful with him. We both need a gentle week. I get out the thick socks and we have time under blankets on the sofa. I listen to audiobooks and tackle a jigsaw puzzle. It might not be the productive week I had hope for with my writing but I am feeling appreciative of the things that make me happy right now.

The best thing to do when you are having a difficult time is to surround yourself with your favourite things. (And yes that song is now going through my head too!) Hopefully with some more time to mull over my ideas, I can get back to the page very soon. Afterall my most favourite thing of all is sitting down writing.

Developing Your Ideas

How to get a spurt of writing energy when you get the chance to write

The end of the month comes all too quickly in February. This is a relief when you look at your bank balance, but when it comes to reflecting on what you have written it is almost a bit too soon. When I reviewed my January work, I posited that sometimes the work is done off paper by letting your ideas fester. However it did also push me to work more this month, knowing I would be updating the blog with what I had achieved.

So despite half term (and ill health yet again,) the good news is I wrote two new scenes for my motherhood project. One was prompted by an old photo. Because as much as I feel like I remember those early days, writing about the early years and the joys of toddlers has been blotted out by later tears and tantrums (and joys of course.) My own memories, along with knowing my characters better, helped me develop a scene where we see the strain of dealing with a difficult child through the impact it has on their parents.

The other scene I developed was on the back of the character profiles I have been developing. I wrote recently about avoiding clichés in my writing by using character profile worksheets. I love this activity to get the ideas flowing. I took this a step further and wrote a scene where the antagonist met up with my main character. I had identified both her flaws and the obstacles she faces so that both characters are more fully formed when they interact.

Just thinking about what next…

To really develop the idea, I wrote the scene from the antagonist’s first person and then rewrote it from the main character’s viewpoint. This was a technique that I learnt in a writing class that I would recommend. It is a really good way to develop the scenes because you have full awareness of what each character’s intentions are and are more aware of the tension between the two or more people. Whilst I highly recommend this idea, I would also caution not always do this. I have swathes of writing where the viewpoints have got mixed up either conciously or unconciously. This may be a style you choose to adopt, but it is best to choose a viewpoint and stick to it at least in the first draft.

Finally, to really develop your ideas, I like to leave an unfinished sentence at the end of your writing time. This week I finished the scene where the main character has been allowed into the home of the antagonist and at the end we know she has been invited out to an event. I know now that I have to write next about the event or at least the aftermath so I am setting my brain up to fester on that idea whenever I get back to the paper again.

I would love to hear any tips and tricks you use to keep going at your writing projects.

Good ideas have to fester

Creating something doesn’t always mean getting it down on paper…

In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert talks about grabbing hold of the tail of an ethereal idea and holding on to it before it flies away. I certainly agree that you have to be open and living a creative life for ideas to develop more easily, but her thoughts that ideas can fly away terrifies me. I wrote before how I was motivated by her book but I also feel a different process happens for me with an idea as it forms.

This month I have focused on my motherhood project, I promised to update on the blog more often how my projects are going and in a way I am ashamed to say I have only written another 900-odd words. That’s less than a day’s worth in NanoWriMo! But it is also a sign that I have an idea developing. I was unsure whether there was much scope for the project when I reviewed my year, but a spark came out of writing my Morning Pages.

One of my favourite posts is my Imperfect Guide to Morning Pages . The truth is, it is not always the serene ideal of morning journalling that the internet sells us, but it is certainly a great practice. Reminding myself to use those pages to work out the niggles often prooves effective and if you haven’t yet used Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way – I think it’s essential developing creativity and unblocking your ideas. So along with writing a gratitude diary at the end of each day, I am back at my pages. Bookending my days with the most important things: writing (and reading of course.)

I sometimes remember to write in cafes, not just eat!

And this is why I feel it is alright for my ideas to fester away in the quagmire of my foggy brain. A stewed on idea often comes out more clearly than trying to grasp at the mere suggested ingredients that come to you at first. It’s a slow way to cook up something new but I feel it was a bit more fully formed when I sat down to write. Knowing that I have managed a writing session as well as journalling feels encouraging too. When I review next month’s work, I will have a bit more to report as the characters and relationships develop and more scenes grow in my head. The hope is more of these ideas will have made it to the page.

How’s your writing month been?

Autumnal Ambitions

Planning to be a bit more productive in my favourite season

As soon as I get a sense of the sharper cold of autumn in the air, I get excited. I have written before there is really no better season to get inspired. A time of finding inspiration in nature and curling up in warm socks to write. But this year, Autumn feels even more important. My life is shifting to our new patterns, my husband back to full time in the office and for me managing my condition knowing I have little help for childcare. I am seeking now to establish the baseline level of energy I have, in the hopes that soon I will not crash every weekend and feel able to socialise a bit again.

I am getting asked a lot how is my “long covid” but like many invisible conditions, it’s just there, in the background and for now part of my life. Usually when people ask you about illness they want you to say you are better but instead of saying “I’m getting there” with the usual passive politeness. I am respecting the condition and fatigue “I am learning to manage it.” I am more comfortable with this honest answer even if most people what want you to say is you are fine. Coming in the next few months I have some medical appointments which may help but in the meantime, Autumn will be the time for me to work out what works for me. I need to continue to listen to my body, but also listen to my mind which is calling out to be more creative.

For now it may be more quiet craft sessions though there are added issues I didn’t have to think about before: my markers now trigger asthma, planning out a card to make can be surprisingly fatiguing, I don’t want to add to my tidying up duties by making a mess. Being more aware of what is tiring is interesting. I know my Mum has said to me a number of times that it is very similar to ageing. Simple day-to-day tasks like taking a shower are just more noticably tiring than before. Equally you have to make plans to build in rests more often even if you do manage a busy day.

As I sit to my journal and make some Autumn goals I try and identify what exactly has held me back from writing. I then have tried to add in the element that might make the task easier in my current condition.

Plan a few research trips. It will need to be a Friday so have the weekend to recover. I love exploring the Newspaper Archives for the historical elements of my work in progress. At the British Library, there is free access and I just find being closeted amongst the books so inspiring. I know already that I probably have to build in a rest if not a sleep to travel into London so I may choose to make my next trip on a day my husband could help out.

Continue mindful walks These have helped so much whilst I recover. Getting out in nature continues to be good research particularly as I have gradually been teaching myself about the wildflowers and plants. Finding bright spots of nature nourish part of me that rejects my urban lifestyle and gives me much needed alone time.

Carry a notebook around I noticed that I have written less in notebooks in the recent years. I find that writing by hand really helps. In addition it means I can do just a little work, sketch out ideas and not feel like I have to sit and edit work in the same way because as I type up whatever I have written, I polish the words.

Re-read my work-in-progress It’s been so long since I have been working on my longest, unwieldiest project that I can use this as a chance to look at it all with fresh eyes.

It probably doesn’t sound like I am pushing myself much in the next few months. I haven’t set word counts or minutes per week. Instead I have defined the things that can help me gradually build up to doing more. Knowing that I adding a few things into my life in a realistic way is far more helpful as I recover. It feels like the right next step to get back to what I love.

How do you make progress when life gets in your way?