February 2022 – Jericho Writers
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The Power Of The Subplot

Have you ever read a book and thought, ‘’Wow, that was such an interesting backstory’’ or ‘’I love how that explained why the protagonist did x?’  Well, the shrewd amongst you may recognise this interweaving of information and expansion of a backstory as the subplot of a novel.   Let’s dig deeper and delve into what a subplot means, the different types of sub-plot and how you can write a compelling sub-plot (or two) within your own narrative. What Is A Subplot?  A subplot is otherwise known as a minor story or a secondary plot which often runs parallel to the main plot. It can be about your main character(s) or about another character whose narrative interacts or impacts their narrative. If, like me, you like to personify writing concepts, think of your subplot as your main plots’ loyal and supportive (but less glamorous) companion. It’s there in the background, being relied upon to move the narrative forward and help the main plot reach its full potential.   The story subplot is a highly underrated writing device. In fact, many new writers concentrate so hard on perfecting their main plot that their sub-plots are often neglected, which can make their whole story fall flat. Therefore, it’s important to recognise from the outset (i.e., when plotting your novel), that the possibilities of a well-crafted sub-plot are endless. Not only do they make the story more interesting and complex through the weaving in of multiple themes, but they can also allow you to develop characters further, cement a character’s motivation, create a plausible and rich backstory and/or increase tension and suspense within the story by creating obstacles and hurdles for your main character to overcome.   In short, a subplot is a story within a story.   Types Of Subplots  As mentioned previously, a subplot can be used in many ways with many different objectives. In a compelling, tightly woven novel, you may not even recognise the sub-plot as it will be expertly integrated into the main plot. And often, a sub-plot may have more than one purpose.   Let’s explore some of the different ways to use a subplot.   Mirror Subplot  A mirror subplot occurs when a secondary conflict mirrors the main conflict but doesn’t match it. Your main character will usually learn a valuable lesson from a mirror subplot, which will help them resolve their own issue. For example, in a rom-com, a mirror subplot could be the main character’s best friend also falling in love at the same time, but her love interest turns out to be a two-timing so-and-so. This may help your main character lookout for all the signs of infidelity in her own potential conquest. Romantic/Declaration Of Love Subplot    This is by far the most popular type of subplot across all different genres because it shows a more sensitive, relatable side to the main character and will inevitably help the reader empathise with or understand the character’s actions better. The important thing to note is that it doesn’t have to be a romantic interest, instead, it could be the relationship between a character and their family member, or the blossoming of a new friendship. For example, in a crime or thriller book, this subplot could be a serial killer’s relationship with their mother (in the past or present), which may help a detective anticipate their next move.  Parallel Subplot  Parallel subplots are often referred to as B-plots, C-plots and so on. In fact, some writers argue that whilst they are related to subplots, they are in fact not subplots at all as they function independently of the main plot. Parallel plots often involve interactions between secondary or tertiary characters, but they still relate to the underlying theme of the novel. For example, if your novel is about a woman’s journey of grieving the loss of her partner - a parallel plot could be about another person going through a similar loss, who at some point in the narrative guides your protagonist to find joy and hope in life again.   If you are creating a parallel plot, it’s important to ensure that it doesn’t stray too far from the main plot as there is a risk of it no longer supporting/enhancing the main story.   Conflict Subplot  Conflict subplots seek to do what they say on the tin – add conflict and tension in your novel. They’re also a brilliant vehicle for in-depth characterisation as they allow you to show how a character overcomes certain conflicts. Be cautious about how, and where, in the story conflict subplots interact with the main plot because they have the potential to slow the main plot down.   Expository Subplot  Expository subplots are a great way of adding in backstories – such as a character’s past or childhood, which explains the main plot. Do be careful with this one though. Don’t throw in everything about your character (i.e., what he or she ate for breakfast in 1975 or the name of their childhood best friend’s dog), only the information that your reader needs to know and what is significant in driving the main plot forward.   Complicating Subplot  Subplots that complicate the situation for your protagonist are great ‘in action’ plot points to keep the reader turning the pages. For example, say your protagonist has arranged to meet their love interest at Grand Central Station when the clock strikes midnight, a complicating subplot could be their demanding job that causes them to work late, adding tension and higher stakes regarding reaching the station on time.   Foil Subplot  A foil character in a novel is used by writers to contrast or reflect another character – often your protagonist – by highlighting their traits, appearance, personality or morals. In literature, a foil can take the form of an antagonist, but that isn’t always the case. The uniting theme is that the foil character and their journey shine a spotlight on your main character and their journey.   Foil subplots work in similar ways by literally foiling the plans of your main character. So, for example, your novel could show two different characters tackle the same problem in completely different ways, which at its core helps the reader identify the key personality traits of your protagonist and their narrative.   Bookend Subplot  A bookended subplot essentially frames the main narrative – it’s introduced at the outset and then pretty much left alone until near the end when it’s resolved as part of the main plot.   A real, ‘oh yeah’ satisfying moment!  Narrative Subplot  This subplot design will often take the form of an otherwise throwaway incident or scene that then spirals out of control. Either the character is involved in the scene, or the impact of the scene is so significant that it becomes its own subplot, which then infiltrates the main plot.   Subplot Examples In Literature  Let’s move on to look at some examples of subplots in literature.   Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn  The main plot of the story is the relationship between Amy and Nick after Amy goes missing. But in true testament to Flynn’s skill as a writer, there are multiple sub-plots tightly woven into the fabric of this novel, many of which you may not even recognise. For example, the relationship between Amy and her high-school boyfriend, Desi, which acts as both a complicating and a conflict subplot.   Americanah - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie   This award-winning novel tells the story of a young Nigerian woman, Ifemelu, who immigrates to the United States to attend university. The underlying themes of the novel are identity, race and belonging but there’s a romantic subplot seamlessly woven into the story regarding her relationship with Obinze, highlighting the importance of love and belonging. The Woman In The Window – A J Finn The main plot of the story begins when Dr Anna Fox witnesses a murder from her bedroom window. But a large part of the novel delves into Anna’s backstory as to how she came to be agoraphobic and what happened to her husband and daughter, which works well as an expository subplot.   How To Write Subplots Now we’ve discussed what a subplot is and the different types, here are my five top tips for weaving a subplot into your narrative.   Ensure that your subplot(s) plays second fiddle to the main plot (and continues to do so throughout the novel).  Remember that your subplot is there to compliment and enhance the main plot, not to overpower it. If, while writing, you find your subplot taking over, maybe have a think about reworking the narrative and making your subplot your main plot.    Experiment with your subplot to make your narrative more interesting.  For example, if your main plot is in third person present POV, consider writing the subplot in first person past POV.    Don’t leave a subplot hanging.  There’s nothing that infuriates a reader more than a subplot that’s not wrapped up and not tied to the main plot by the end of your novel. To avoid this happening, make sure you give your subplots a narrative arc (i.e. a beginning, a middle and an end).   Use subplots to avoid a flat middle.  If you find that your main plot starts to drag by the middle of your novel, consider using a subplot to add drama, suspense and action.    Don’t leave your subplot until the last minute.  Subplots that are written as a second thought or in a mad rush are easy to spot. Consider how you can maintain that depth and authenticity of character throughout the narrative arc. What Subplot Suits Your Story Best?  I hope by now that you see the value of subplots in driving a story forward and are brimming with inspiration as to how you might add some exciting subplots to your novel. Before choosing what type of subplot your book needs, consider the topic, the genre, and (of course) the plot itself.  Often, working on your characters first and getting as deep with them as you can, can lead to all sorts of subplot ideas regarding their motivation, their past or any secrets they may be hiding.  And my final piece of advice – don’t get carried away.   Take a step back and take a look at your story structure first, considering where your subplot can seamlessly be woven in without jeopardising your main plot. You may want to do this by writing out Post It notes with each chapter and plot point written on it and moving things about, writing your story arc on a whiteboard, or using a plot-building function on Scrivener or other similar writing programs.  And if you get stuck, simply pick up your favourite book and see how the author has woven their stories together. After all, reading is one of the most invaluable ways of learning how to write well – so if your favourite author can make it look easy, then you can do the same too! 

How To Use Dialogue Tags Effectively

Every writer aims to create pieces of sparkling, seamless dialogue, that captivates the reader, moves the story forward and rings with authenticity.  In this article, I will be illustrating how dialogue tags can be varied in writing to avoid repetition, improve the flow and pace of the story and shine a new light on characters.  I will also suggest techniques to improve conversation writing and show how easy it is to find better words for ‘said.’ What Is A Dialogue Tag?  Dialogue tags are phrases that are used to break up, precede or follow written dialogue to convey which character is speaking, making it easier for the reader to follow the conversation. The most common dialogue tag is the word ‘said.’  The use of dialogue tags makes it clear who is talking and what is being said and they also convey how a character is feeling. However, the constant use of the simple “he said/she said” dialogue tag can very soon become monotonous and bland.  So how can authors use alternative dialogue tags, so that repetitive dialogue can be avoided? And what alternative words are there to ‘said\'?  To Adverb Or Not To Adverb?  There’s a lot of debate in the publishing and writing world on whether adverb speech tags, such as “he said quietly” or “she moaned gently”, should be used by writers. There’s a general school of thought that drawing attention to dialogue tags by using adverbs is defeating the purpose of what they should be there for.  For example, instead of writing:   “ ‘My goodness,’ Sally said with horror.” Most writers would prefer to show, not tell. Instead, they may write: “Sally’s eyes widened, and her hand flew to her mouth. ‘My goodness,’ she cried.” We then know that the way she says ‘my goodness’ is very clearly with horror because of the actions she’s making. Less Is More With Dialogue Tags Speech tags should not be the main focus of writing, but simply a mechanical part of linking a story together by way of dialogue between characters.  Having said that, using well-thought-out dialogue tags to compliment characters, story and pace, can improve the overall rhythm of a story and give it that extra polish.  So where do dialogue tags play their part in dialogue? Well, they feature at the start of a piece of dialogue, in the middle of dialogue and at the end of the dialogue.  Here is an example for each:  Dialogue Tags At The Start Of Dialogue   A much more interesting way to use dialogue tags is at the start of a piece of dialogue. Instead of \"Rose said, \'I’m tired,\'\" it could be:   “Rose sighed. ‘I’m tired.’”    This takes away the need to use the word ‘said’ and shows how the character is feeling without having to use an adverb. Dialogue Tags In The Middle Of Dialogue  Dialogue tags can also be inserted in the middle or at the end of a piece of dialogue too.   For example, in the middle of a sentence a dialogue tag could be, \"\'Look at the weather,\' said Clive’s mother. \'Awful!\'\"  “Said Clive’s mother” is an effective dialogue tag placed in the middle of a sentence. It is sandwiched between what Clive’s mother is saying and adds variety to the dialogue. However, this can be improved upon, by changing the word “said” to “groaned”, to convey her annoyance and disappointment at the weather.  Dialogue Tags At The End Of Dialogue  A dialogue tag incorporated at the end of a sentence is another option: “I’m really tired,” he said. “He said” is the dialogue tag at the end of this sentence. Alternatively, the writer could add a little more flavour, by changing the dialogue tag to read, “\'I’m really tired,\' he whispered\", which conveys much more clearly how tired this particular character actually feels and is a much more emotive speech tag.  Using the tried and tested dialogue tag of “said” too often can become annoying and take over. There should be a fine balance between using dialogue tags and not. Sometimes they are not required at all if the conversation is conveyed in the correct way.  It helps to study the writing of brilliant authors and note how they use a mix of tags in different places to vary the rhythm of the writing.  Action Instead Of Dialogue Tags  To avoid over usage of dialogue tags, the author can implement action prior to a certain character speaking, so that the reader knows who is talking and recognises the tone in which they are speaking.  An example of this is:  “John slammed his hand down on the table. ‘Shut up!’”  Immediately, the reader recognises the frustration and anger in John and knows he is the character who has just ordered someone to shut up. The word “said” has not been used here as a speech tag, but the action of John slamming down his hand illustrates how angry he is and that it is he who is speaking.  Furthermore, by describing the voice in which an individual character is speaking (growled, snapped etc) the author can clarify who is saying what and how they are delivering the words, without having to resort to overuse of dialogue tags.  The clever and intuitive use of speech tags can also provide valuable and teasing clues for the reader, as to what this character who is speaking is really like under the veneer of bluster or smarminess.  This is where the show, don’t tell adage comes into play again. By fleshing out characters and their traits, a writer can make a character or characters express themselves through their actions, rather than the author having to literally spell it all out for the reader.  Discover more about writing dialogue in this Jericho Writers article, and this one on points of view.  Dialogue Tag Alternatives To ‘Said’  As mentioned before, the dialogue tag “said” to show a character is talking, is not the only dialogue tag option available to writers.  There are many other words for \'said\' that authors can use in their work, which are better words than ‘said’ and which convey the tone, emotion and even physicality of a character. But do use them sparingly. In most cases ‘said’ or nothing at all reads a lot smoother.  Here are a few alternatives to ‘said’:  Inquired  Moaned  Sighed  Replied  Whispered  Grumbled  Screamed  Muttered  Asked  Enquired  Mumbled  Growled  Snapped  Hissed  Cried  Shouted  Hollered  These are just some of the very many dialogue tag options out there, which are far more expressive than the word ‘said.’  Of course, authors are not at liberty (nor should they feel pressurised) into constantly using the likes of “moaned”’ and “sighed”, as this too would become annoying to write and to read, but for the sake of variety, it’s good to mix things up a little when writing conversation.  Recognising A Character Via Their Speech Patterns  Sometimes you don’t even need to say who is speaking in your dialogue because the way they speak is evident enough.  An author may have a character who has a predilection for swearing or who has an annoying habit of throwing Latin phrases into their sentences. For a character like this, their way of speaking is so unique the reader will know it’s them speaking without the need for as many speech tags.  Adding Rhythm And Action Beats  Speech tags also provide a natural pause to the conversation – which is reflective of the natural, melodic speech patterns we use in real life that a writer should want to create in their work.  It’s also important to consider what a character is doing during dialogue. Using more descriptive dialogue tags, such as yelled, hollered, bawled etc, allows a peek into their motivation, nature and traits. This is where action beats come in (what a character is doing as they speak).   Here’s an example of an action beat:  “The man strode up to the bar and banged down his pint glass. ‘It’s empty. Fill it.’”  The striding up to the bar and the banging down of the pint glass are what the character is doing as he speaks. The striding and the banging indicate his fiery mood, as well as the short, rude delivery of demanding to have his glass refilled.  Such description can certainly play a part in strengthening a piece of dialogue or scene and is a lot more effective than writing “It’s empty. Fill it,” he said. Or even “It’s empty. Fill it,” he said, angrily. This is why most authors prefer action beats over adverbs.  My Top Tip For Writing Authentic Dialogue  The key to using successful dialogue tags is to endeavour to create a natural-sounding conversation between characters, which could be overheard anywhere, in any pub, home or street. There should be a lyrical fluency to it, with speech tags used to enhance the scenes, and not inhibit them. Therefore it’s important to experiment with a variety of speech tags so that the writing flows and doesn’t become two dimensional or stilted.  The best way to ensure your dialogue sounds natural is to read it aloud and listen out for any awkward or clumsy dialogue tags. Sometimes it even helps to act out what you are saying so you know where to add actions or certain expressions. So Many Different Ways To Say ‘Said’  By channelling characters, their mannerisms and the way they deliver their words, and by using a variety of dialogue tags, you will be able to not only convey who is speaking but how, why and when. It cannot be underestimated that the benefits of using effective, imaginative and alternative dialogue tags in the right context, can bring drama, colour and clarification to dialogue writing.  And, if you’re not sure what to write, remember there’s nothing wrong with a nice and simple ‘said’.   As the very successful author, Diana Gabaldon, famously said: “Don’t go overboard in avoiding the word ‘said.’ Basically, ‘said’ is the default for dialogue, and a good thing, too; it’s an invisible word that doesn’t draw attention to itself.”  And that’s all that has to be said (explained, outlined, expressed, noted) about writing dialogue tags. I hope this article has helped make your dialogue more interesting, authentic and natural, and that you are now a lot more confident about how, when and what your characters are saying! 

How To Describe Sounds In Your Writing

Creating an atmosphere and effective world building are both paramount when engaging your readers. And being able to describe the effect of sounds is important when writing a book.  From bands such as Pink Floyd and Thin Lizzy, to artists and writers like William Wordsworth, Eminem and James Joyce, the use of sound writing to trigger emotion has been used ever since creatives began putting pen to paper.  In this article, I will demonstrate how we can channel the effect of sounds in writing, and how it can be used to chime (sorry for the pun!) with the reader\'s imagination.  Sounds In Writing Writing is about showing, not telling, so being able to use all five senses in a piece of writing is a surefire way to draw your readers into the story. And that includes sound.    There are an infinite amount of words at our disposal to describe sounds in our work, whether it’s the sound something makes or the way someone says something. Everything from \'mumbled\', \'spat\' and \'whispered\' to demonstrate how a person is speaking, to \'shattered\', \'splintered\' and \'cracked\' to add a visual to a sound, helps to add emotion, character and/or tension to dialogue and prose.  Good writers strive to create a picture in their reader’s mind so that the reader is able to see, hear, feel and imagine the same sounds the character is hearing - including tone, volume and intent. Through the use of effective sound writing techniques, readers should feel like they themselves have dropped that China cup onto a wooden floor, or that they’re in the same quiet room when the branch of a tree crashes through the window and sends glass flying in all directions.  So how can a writer describe sounds in an effective way?  Different Types Of Sounds  The different types of sounds that can be incorporated into writing range from pleasing and melodic sounds, to mellow, brassy, banging or a jarringly insistent cacophony of noise.  Writers can use these types of words and descriptions to create different moods (calm, suspense, tension, fear, overwhelm), pulling the reader into the story and heightening the atmosphere.  Five of the most effective methods of using words and language to improve and enhance your sounds in writing are Onomatopoeia, Alliteration, Metaphors/Similes, Hyperbole and Assonance.  So what do these five methods mean and how can they be used effectively to describe sounds in writing?  Onomatopoeia Onomatopoeia is the use of a word to imitate natural sounds. These words sound like the sound they are describing. Using onomatopoeia in your writing is a very effective way to add drama and punch to your sentence, and is used especially frequently when writing for children.  For example:  I trod on the leaves and they crunched and crackled under my feet. By using “crunched” and “crackled”, we are pulling our reader into the sensation of the dry and brittle leaves making such noises under the character’s feet. We are giving the reader the opportunity to recall how it feels to walk on dry leaves.  The wind howled and rattled at the window pane. Again, the use of the words “howled” and “rattled”, personifies the wind, adding a more menacing touch to the sound of the wind outside. There is also an animalistic element to the word “howled” which, used in this context, helps the reader hear the loud, imposing noise of the wind as though it were a wild animal in pain. Again, this heightens tension and atmosphere and makes the reader feel as though they are standing in the shoes of the character.   The bird let out a screech, before flapping away. The words “screech” and “flapping” in this sentence, capture the ear-piercing sound of the bird before it flaps its wings and takes flight. Again, like in the previous sentence, the use of the word “screech” carries frightening, almost monstrous overtones, as we imagine the shrill sound of the bird before flying away. The word “flapping” (instead of simply “flying”) conjures up the sound of the bird’s wings beating together.  Alliteration Alliteration is, put simply, when words start with the same letter and/or sound. An example of this would be “leaping lizards”, “fabulous flamingo” and  “wonderful whale watching.”  Alliteration is about the repitition of sound. It creates a rythym and gives your writing an almost musical element. Poets very often use alliteration in their work, to enhance the sing-song sound as the work is read aloud.   It is also a fun way of writing for children, especially with picture books that are often read out loud.  The book Primrose, by Alex T Smith, uses alliteration really well. In this picture book we meet Primrose, a “princess who lives in a pretty pink palace and has a pretty pink tiara, two prancing pink ponies and a plump little pug named Percy.”  Metaphors, Similes And Hyperbole When describing sounds, sometimes it helps to compare them to something else using a simile or metaphor. Or, you may want to make an exaggerated comparison, using hyperbole to really drive home the tone of the scene.  For instance, instead of simply saying, “She dropped the book on the floor with a bang”, you could say, “She dropped the book on the floor with a thundering bang loud enough to wake her dead mother next door.”  It\'s dramatic, but if this is the first sentence of your novel your readers would instantly want to know what was happening. That loud sound would make them sit up! Assonance Assonance is the repetition of the same or similar rhyming vowel sounds within a group of words.  Here are three examples of assonance:  He was too cool for the new school as a rule. It is the “oo” sound incorporated into this sentence,which matters, not the concoction of different letters. It makes the description soft and rhythmical.  He creeps and sleeps, like an old man in a deep trance. In this example, it is the “ee” sound being used, that gives the sentence a certain resonance and elongates its delivery. It carries an almost easy, sleepy quality when said aloud, which fits in with the description of the old man being slow and sleepy.  His spitting lips and jutting hips. It is the repeated use of the “i” in this description, which gives the idea of the man an almost whispering and soft sound. It is as if the spitting can be heard and the idea of “jutting” hips, is carried along by the extending sound of the “ju.”    Assonance can give a piece of writing musicality, and emphasises particular words or vowel sounds that resonate with the ideas and themes in a piece of work or book.  It is a sound writing technique which is constantly used by song writers, to enscapulate beauty, mood and atmosphere in their music. It also tends to feature heavily in poetry, where rhythm and sound are key.  An Example Of Different Sounds In Writing And how about a paragraph mixing them all up? You don’t want to do this too often, no one likes purple prose, but it can add drama and tension if used sparingly:  So instead of saying, “His feet thud along the pavement as he ran past her” you could say, “He ran past her - a man with a plan. With each step he took the pavement shook as if it were a herd of buffalo running past, so loud the birds in the trees cried out in protest, the frantic flurry of their feathered wings beating a rhythm in time with his.”  OK, this isn’t a great piece of writing, but you get the idea! Why Is Sound Important In Writing?  The most important thing to ask yourself when considering sound in your writing is - what are you trying to achive? What mood or atmosphere are you hoping to create? What do you want your readers to hear and feel?   Selecting the right sound word for writing, can make the difference between making a scene jar or joyful to read.   For example, describing the sound of a wolf as having a “haunting howl,” is using alliteration to create an effective image and conjure up a sound which is both atmospheric and memorable.  Describing a wolf’s cry as a “loud cackle” doesn’t make sense and fails to capture the real essence of what a wolf’s howl actually sounds like. This description, unlike the previous one, is neither chilling nor recognisable to anyone who has happened to hear an actual wolf howl. Using such a description in this way, would make the reader pause and possibly lose interest in the scene – unless your intention is to make the reader stop, re-read the sentence, and wonder whether the wolf is perhaps an evil witch in disguise! This is because a “loud cackle” is an effective piece of sound writing to describe the sound a witch would make. The word “cackle” has a raspy, edgy element to it. It’s similar to “crackle” and “shackle” – all words that are sharp, menacing and quite negative (don’t underestimate the power of the subconcious when using words that sound like others).  Used effectively, sound writing and descriptions can paint pictures, trigger empathy and help the reader to get inside the mind of the book’s characters. By using effective sound writing in books, short stories or poetry, the writer is creating an immersive world for their readers.  How Can Writers Add To Their Sound List?  As writers it’s very easy to find ourselves using the same words to describe the same sounds. So how can we add texture to our work, and describe sounds in our stories in new and exciting ways?  1. Take a stroll through different areas of your neighbourhood and note the cacophony of sounds that can be heard.   Other than birds in the park, what else can you hear? Perhaps you can hear the distant sound of children playing, the scurry of small creatures in the undergrowth, the chattering of people, the squeaky wheel of a pushchair, the leaves rustling in the trees.  What are you reminded of? How would you decribe each sound effectively or originally? Are the cries of the children in the playground shrill and piercing? Or are they distant and happy?   What if you’re in a more urban area? What do you hear?   The sound of car horns blaring, people shouting, the hiss of a teenager spraying a wall with graffitti, the clip clop of heels as a business woman marches by shouting into her phone. But these are all negative city sounds. If you want your reader to associate the same setting with something positive, perhaps you would describe the city having its own beat that the character is walking to, neighbours hanging over their balconies calling out greetings to one another, people laughing into their phones as they waltz by, the soft hum of traffic and the mix of music from different stores.  2. Pay attention to the way authors implement their own sound writing.   How are they able to capture the ringing tone of a bell so succinctly? What writing sound methods do they use? Perhaps they use similes and metaphors to compare the sound to other things (‘the bell chimed one singular time like Big Ben on the first hour of the day’). Or onomatepeia (‘the bell ding-donged once’). Or even alliteration (‘the brass bell binged and bonged’).   How does their description impact on what a character might have heard? Why might an author have opted for that particular method of sound writing? Who is their audience and what genre are they writing?  3. Let your imagination run wild.  Listen out for how you can improve your sound writing. Play around with different techniques, mix them up, break the rules, surprise your readers – but never ever forget to immerse them fully into the story.  Get Writing! Have fun with writing sounds in your work. And remember, by absorbing and paying attention to everyday sounds around you, you will not only benefit your writing but also your readers’ enjoyment, bringing an extra, sharper dimsension to the work. And that’s something every writer wants to hear! 

How To Make Money As A Ghostwriter

Unveiling The Mystery Of Ghostwriting Do you love writing?  But does the thought of seeing your name out there in public make you feel nauseous?  Well, what if I told you that there was a way that you could write and earn the same as an author or freelance writer, but remain completely anonymous?   I bet I’ve got your attention now.   In the following guide, I will be demystifying the ghostwriting profession. Not only will we discuss the basics - what ghostwriting is and how it works, but I will also share with you my top tips for becoming a ghostwriter, should you decide that this is the path you want to take.   What Is A Ghostwriter?  Have you ever seen a memoir or biography in a bookshop written by a celebrity or public figure and thought to yourself, ‘wow, I never realised they could write’ or ‘I wonder if they actually wrote this?’   Well, chances are they may well not have written it at all. Their book was probably written by a ghostwriter.  So, as the name might suggest, a ghostwriter is essentially a writer who creates content that has been commissioned by someone else (usually the publicly named author). The writer’s name or byline will never be attached to their work (i.e. they won’t get any authorship credit – at all), and the person who commissions the work will own the copyright - which means that they can amend and republish the work in whatever manner they like without consulting the ghostwriter.   But ghostwriters aren’t just commissioned by celebrities and public figures. Ghostwriting is everywhere – from book publishing and blogs, to speechwriting and news articles.  ‘Why would someone hire a professional ghostwriter?’ I hear you ask. ‘Why not just write it themselves?’  Well, as we’ve discussed above, a publisher may wish to publish a celebrity’s memoir because they know that it’s guaranteed to sell, however, they may not have confidence in the celebrity’s writing ability. There are other reasons too, such as the person whose name will appear on the cover not having the time to write it, or simply not wanting to.   This works in the corporate world too. For example, a person may have an award-winning blog or website but may not have the time to write all their own material. They would rather spend their time marketing or networking than actually writing.    This is when it might be more efficient and cost-effective to hire a ghostwriter to take away the pressure of creating regular content.   Now that we’ve discussed what a ghostwriter is, let’s move on to talk about the benefits/drawbacks of becoming one, and I’ll also share a little about how it works in practice.   How Does Ghostwriting Work?  A ghostwriting commission is likely to be very similar to a freelance writing commission, except of course that the commission is confidential. This means you will probably have to sign a Confidentiality or Non-Disclosure Agreement on or before your acceptance of the offer.   When you have signed on the dotted line, you will be given a brief that sets out the scope of the commission and any key deadlines. It’s essential you ensure the brief is clear and that you will be able to work within it and adhere to the timescales required.   Then, depending on whether the commission is for an article or blog piece, or a much lengthier memoir or biography, you will have a series of meetings and/or phone calls to discuss the project. Conversations may touch upon topics such as the themes and overarching narratives of the content, as well as the timeline of events in the story and the authenticity of voice and style.   The duration of this initial phase can depend on the type of commission. For example, if you are writing a memoir or biography, this ‘’fact-finding’’ process could take several weeks or even months, whereas the research element of an article may only require a few days. You may want to ask if you can record any conversations to remind you of any key details at a later stage in the process.   Then, after you’ve completed this more collaborative phase, this is where the hard work truly begins as you will have to actually produce the content that you have been commissioned to write!   As with most writing projects, this part can be extremely solitary. You must be prepared to be very self-motivated and disciplined to work hard on a project that may not interest you (and that you will not be able to take the credit for).   Here are some of the key benefits of being a ghostwriter:   Financial reward. Well-established ghostwriters tend to get paid very well. Fees differs from writer to writer, but most ghostwriters are paid up to 15% more than the average freelance writer. And once you are established in the profession, there is rarely a shortage of work.   Diversifying network. Ghostwriting will inevitably expose you to a diverse range of people within the industry, from bloggers, authors and influencers to celebrities and public figures. It is a great way to build your contacts and grow your network.   Objective distance from work. Many authors will often write about subject matter which has personally impacted them, or someone close to them, in some way or form. Being a writer isn’t for everyone as it can be mentally and emotionally exhausted baring one’s soul to the world. So, ghostwriting instead (writing someone else’s story) can take the emotion out of the equation.   But there are also some drawbacks of being a ghostwriter, such as:    Lack of credit. It’s hard to really know how you’ll feel about this until you have completed your first commission. Some ghostwriters do struggle with working really hard on a piece of work and not being able to shout about it from the rooftops! You have to think hard about what motivates you beforehand. Ghostwriting is not for everyone and that’s okay. If you are concerned this might be you, maybe consider writing a novel under a pen name, which will preserve your anonymity, among other benefits.   Ethics. As a ghostwriter you will have to rely heavily on the brief and your project sponsor. There is a risk that you will be forced to run in a direction that you aren’t wholly comfortable with, or worse, follow a brief with little planning or direction. If you are starting out, you may not feel comfortable pushing back or asking for more input.   Inability to develop own portfolio. Many writers feel that they don’t want to be limited by ghostwriting projects, which limit their own creative freedom and time to develop their own personal portfolio. But arguably, the skills, experience and contacts you can develop while ghostwriting could help you further your own portfolio.   How To Become A Ghostwriter- Tips  Starting out as a ghostwriter is very similar to starting out as a freelance writer, in that you will have to find a way of getting your name out there and establishing a client base for yourself in an already very crowded industry.   To help you get started, we’ve set out some easy to follow tips on how to start ghostwriting below.   Establish Yourself As A Freelance writer  Many ghostwriters start out as freelance writers or editors for a reason, as it helps to show current and prospective clients that you have a portfolio of proven experience. If you don’t have this experience, consider offering to guest blog for well-known blogs and websites. Be prepared, however, to offer your services at a reduced rate or even for free to pick up some clients for your portfolio, but this should hopefully pay off in the long run. Alternatively, you could play the long game and consider starting your own blog or website to demonstrate your skills and versatility as a writer.   Don’t Be Afraid Of Marketing Your Services  All freelance writers and ghostwriters should have a website (or a section of your existing website) offering their services and rates. Not only does this show that you are a serious professional who means business, but you can use it to highlight your freelance writing experience and your portfolio of projects/clients.   Make the most of all the other free marketing opportunities available to you, such as using social media to network and interact with potential clients and other people in the community. Another more ‘out of the box’ way of marketing your services is to guest blog about ghostwriting, which will effectively ensure that your name is publicly associated with the ghostwriting profession (it will also help with SEO and Google algorithms).   Learn The Ins And Outs Of SEO  Navigating the SEO minefield is essential. Not only so that potential clients can find you but also to maximise the traction of any content you are commissioned to create.   If you aren’t familiar with SEO, then consider taking a short online course or doing some further research to learn the basics.   Learn How To Diversify Your Voice  Most writers and authors will develop their own voice over time, which forms part of their brand/author identity so loyal readers know exactly what they are getting when they pick up a book or article written by them. But with ghostwriting you are not writing as you. And that is an entirely different skill set to develop.    You will need to be able to identify and embody the client’s tone and style within your writing in order to completely match their voice. This is much harder than it sounds!   In addition to this, if you are ghostwriting books you may need to learn to write across different genres, particularly when you are starting out.   Leverage Your Network  Word of mouth is one of the most underrated ways of gaining a new commission. But people aren’t mind-readers! So don’t be afraid to approach your existing network to spread the word that you are ‘open for business’.   Examples Of Ghostwritten Books  You may (or may not be) surprised to learn that the following books are publicly acknowledged to have been ghostwritten.   Trump: The Art Of The Deal   This was the book that helped make Donald J. Trump a household name. It reached number one on The New York Times Best Seller list and stayed there for 13 weeks. Whilst Trump has given conflicting accounts on the question of authorship, his publisher stated that Trump played no role in the writing of the book and that it was ghostwritten by journalist and popular ghostwriter Tony Schwartz who cited it as his ‘greatest regret in life, without question.’  Richard Branson: Losing My Virginity  This is a memoir of one of the most celebrated and successful businessmen of this century and is a must-read for aspiring entrepreneurs. It was ghostwritten by Edward Whitley, most likely to sensitively draw out a softer more empathetic side to a billionaire.   Andre Agassi: Open, An Autobiography  If you have read this book there will be no doubt in your mind that it has been ghostwritten, and not just by any ghostwriter but Pulitzer Prize winning writer, JR Moehringer. The stunning prose and skilful imagery would never have been captured by a former tennis champion.   Sweet Valley High (The Final Books In The Series) Francine Pascal didn’t have much to do with the final Sweet Valley books, which were penned by a handful of ghostwriters. This is quite common with huge hit series books, which for a number of reasons such as time and enthusiasm may eventually be written by ghostwriters (including a few young men in their twenties!).   Jason Bourne  This extremely well-known series was published over a period spanning 40 years starting from 1980. The original author, Robert Ludlum passed away in 2001 but over 11 bestselling books were published 16 years after he died written by ghostwriter, Eric Van Lustbader.   Is Ghostwriting For You?  I hope this article has unveiled all you need to know about being a ghostwriter.  Ghostwriting isn’t for everyone, so be certain of your motivations before you start. But for those who love to write and collaborate, while remaining in the shadows, it’s the perfect path to publication. 

Beta Readers: Everything You Need to Know

You\'ve finished your book, you\'ve edited it as much as you can, you\'re more or less happy with it - but is it any good? Have you achieved what you set out to do? You need to know the answers to these questions before you invest any more time and effort on a book that may not be hitting the right way. You haven\'t reached the final draft of any book until others have read it too. Which is where beta readers come in. What Is A Beta Reader? A beta reader is someone who\'s prepared to read your entire manuscript at a point where you feel it\'s ready to be read, and whose opinion you trust. Whether you know them personally or not, ideally you will have chosen someone who is the same demographic as your intended readership who you know should enjoy your book (you wouldn\'t ask your 89 year old religious grandfather to beta read your paranormal erotica, for instance). You also need to be able to trust them to give constructive feedback on a number of questions you will ask them prior to reading. So, if beta readers exist - does that mean alpha readers do too? The answer is yes - but they\'re slightly different. Whereas beta readers come in to play once the book is complete and you need someone just like your readers to look at the entire book with fresh eyes, an alpha reader is generally someone who is there at the beginning of your book\'s journey, helping you shape the story from the onset. For some writers this may be their agent, for others a close friend they like to bounce ideas off, or even a fellow author who always helps with plotting, language and pacing. Alpha readers are important - not just to help you get your book off the ground but for motivation and resilience too - but it\'s beta readers who will direct the next stage of your writing journey. They are the one who will help perfect your latest draft into hopefully the last draft. It is your beta readers who stand between you and an agent, editor or your readers. Why Are Beta Readers Important? You may be thinking \'my book is done now, why would I risk a load of criticism at this stage after spending so much time on it?\' The answer is that if you don\'t get feedback on the initial draft of your novel, you run a higher risk of agents, editors, and eventually readers having the same problems with it too. A beta reader is not there to tell you your writing is bad - they are there to answer specific questions so that you can be happy in the knowledge your book has achieved what was intended. How Many Beta Readers Do I Need? And How Much Do I Have To Change? The answer to both of these questions is the same - it\'s totally up to you. I would suggest you ask at least three to five beta readers to read your work at one time, perhaps a mix of friends, family and other writers. And remember, you are simply garnering opinions...it doesn\'t mean you have to act on every one of their comments. With my last novel I sent it out to five beta readers and most of them said the same thing about the same parts (which means they were totally right, it needed changing). Other times their opinions were contradictory, meaning they were approaching the book from different angles. At this point I asked myself what was subjective and what was something I was comfortable changing. Where Do I Find A Beta Reader? If you are a new writer, the idea of anyone reading your work may be terrifying - let alone someone who then has to give you feedback. The easiest way to find fellow-minded readers is to join an author community. At Jericho Writers we offer free membership to our writers community, with thousands of people at different stages of their writing journey coming together looking for help, support and even to swap books and get feedback. Likewise you can join one of the many writing groups on Facebook, follow the #WritingCommunity hashtag on Twitter and Instagram, or join a local writing group. Then simply take a deep breath, be brave, and befriend other writers. I strongly recommend you look for others who write the same genre as you, and are also at the same stage of their journey as you. If this is your first book and you have no agent or deal in place, it\'s highly unlikely that a published author with three bestsellers under their belt will have the time to read your book for fun. They will probably already have a team of their own beta readers, critique partners, and an agent to guide them. Likewise, you should be seeking out writer friends to grow with so you can share the same trials and tribulations together as you progress on your writing journey. You can also ask friends, family members, or even your social media followers if they\'d like an early glance of your book in exchange for feedback. You\' be surprised how honoured people feel when asked and how eager they will be to be part of your process! Do I Have To Pay Them? No. Because a beta reader is normally a friend, a fellow writer, or already a big fan of your work they should be happy to help. Although they may ask you to repay the favour by reading their book too, and /or thanking them in the acknowledgements. Is A Beta Reader The Same As A Sensitivity Reader? No, although you may want to hire one at the same time as having it beta read. A sensitivity (or \'authenticity\') reader is paid and they are vital when covering topics, themes, and/or characters that you don\'t have personal experience of. Hiring a sensitivity reader is no different to paying a lawyer to double check your legal crime thriller, or a police officer checking for any inconsistencies in your detective novel. For instance, if you\'re a straight, white, man and you want to feature, say, a gay Indian girl with disabilities in your novel - it\'s a really good idea to pay a disabled queer Indian person to read your book and check that you haven\'t misrepresented an entire community. Like beta readers, a sensitivity reader is not there to silence you or censor your writing, they are there to strengthen the contents of your book. As authors we are all free to write about whatever we want, but if you want to cover themes that involve aspects of life you haven\'t had direct experience in, it always helps to work with those who have, in order to add a level of authenticity, accuracy and (most importantly) respect to your work. Unlike beta readers, sensitivity readers are paid and often someone you don\'t know. That way they can offer feedback that is unbiased and fair. How Do I Work With My Beta Readers? A beta reader is not: An editor A proofreader A sensitivity reader All of those jobs are performed by a paid professional who is there specifically to look at structure, spelling, or a certain theme that they represent. A beta reader is simply a friend, book-lover or fellow writer, who will read your book and give you their opinion of it based on a set of questions you have prepared for them. They will understand that this is not the very first draft...but likewise, it\'s not the final one either. It\'s a few drafts before the final one, where you still have the chance to move things about and hone characters and plot points. Because this person is someone you have recruited, like with anything it\'s important to be respectful with them and clear about your needs. If they are a trusted friend or fellow author, they may have asked for a favour in return (ie \'please beta read my wip too\' or \'mention me in the acknowledgements\') and all you have to do is honour that agreement. But if you have put together a group of beta readers made up of people you don\'t know well, you may wish to create a Facebook group, and clearly state the guidelines. Within those guidelines will be what you need from them, a deadline for feedback, and what they can expect in return. Likewise, you may want to offer them an agreement or NDA to sign, to ensure your story is not shared outside the group. NDA templates can be found online. Although, legally, a simple agreement you have drawn up may not carry much weight - it will at least show that you trust them and both parties are clear re: expectations. What Questions Should I Ask Them? Are the first three chapters engaging?If they aren\'t, then you\'re in trouble. It doesn\'t matter if you are trying to grab the attention of an agent, an editor, or someone on Amazon who wants to read the first few pages to get a taste of the novel before buying. If you can\'t hook your reader in the first three chapters then they won\'t keep reading. So ask your beta readers whether they were intrigued from the start. Plot and themesThis is an obvious question - but do they like what the book is about? Is it interesting? Is there anything they would cut that slowed down the story? Or is there more they need you to elaborate on? Are the characters rounded? Are they likeable or scary or whatever it is you are trying to achieve. Are their backstories clear? Are they all needed? Sometimes you can combine two characters into one to have them supporting the MC in the same way. Not all characters have to be \'nice\' or likeable BUT they do have to be interesting enough that people want to keep reading. Is the book consistent?If you are working on a series and your beta readers enjoyed the other books, ask them about continuity. Have you forgotten some world lore? Or do your characters act or sound different this time? And even if your book is a contemporary stand alone, you still need to make sure your world makes sense. You don\'t have a nurse living in an apartment and halfway through she\'s a doctor living in a large house! Worldbuilding If you are writing fantasy, it\'s really important that your readers understand your magic system and how your fantasy world works. The same goes if you are writing history - is this world believable and accurate? Again, this is important if part of a series as you need to ensure there\'s consistency. PacingIf it\'s a thriller, were they on the edge of their seat? If it\'s a romance, was their heart beating in the right place? Did the story sag in any places? Or was it too rushed or light in other places? Pacing is really important when it comes to engaging a reader and keeping them turning the pages. LanguageDo they like the way the book is written? It\'s OK at this stage to ask them for any errors they find (ie if the wrong ocean is referenced or a date is wrong) but I wouldn\'t worry about proofreading as you still have a long way to go until you present a final ms and a lot of the words may be cut anyway. What they loved and didn\'t enjoyAnd finally, it\'s a hard question to ask, but knowing what parts of the book they enjoyed and what they didn\'t enjoy will give you a clear indication of what your final readers will think. Opinions are subjective, which is why it\'s ideal to have three or four beta readers, and then if they all agree you know it\'s something you shouldn\'t ignore! How I Use Beta Readers I write both fantasy and thriller novels, and I absolutely love working with my beta readers. When I was a debut author I put together my own team of readers. I created a blog that explained I was looking for a dedicated team of readers, and I sent it to those who I thought would suit the trilogy best. I literally approached each reader, one by one, from Facebook writing groups and Twitter, ensuring they represented a diverse mix of readers. Those who accepted signed a confidentiality agreement and were added to a Facebook group. I capped it at 25 members and after around three weeks my beta reader gang was formed! The group lasted a few years, and they were instrumental in helping me develop my fantasy series. I would ask them questions and opinions, I\'d run competitions to name a character or to be picked to read an early draft, and in exchange they not only got to be part of my journey but were mentioned in the acknowledgements and all received a free book once it was published. Having a squad like this (especially when writing YA or fantasy) is really helpful once you are published too, as these readers have supported you from the very beginning and will continue to support you. My team went on to shout about the book online, creating a lot of organic buzz that\'s hard to build naturally. Now, five years after being published, I have retained some of my beta readers plus have added lots of fellow published authors and a few friends and family members who want a sneaky peak. I have five key critique partners, all successful authors in their own rights, and we bounce idea off one another as well as alpha/beta read one another\'s work. I find it helpful to have a mix of professionals and book-loving friends on my beta reading list as that way I receive feedback in general (ie \'I couldn\'t put it down\' and \'I got bored in this chapter\') as well as more structured professional feedback (ie \'the pacing was off in chapters 5-7\' and \'the motivation isn\'t strong enough for the MC in the third act\'). Plus having critique partners who are also authors means I get to show off that I have read some of the best author\'s books years before they make it to the shops! Being part of that book\'s journey is a real honour! Find The Beta Mix That Works for You I hope this article answers all your beta reader questions and has inspired you to put your own group together. Remember to be brave and offer to swap books with a writer who\'s at the same stage of writing as you...you may be surprised and find they\'ve been just as eager to read your work as you are to work with them! If you don\'t reach out, you\'ll never know. And most importantly, if you don\'t get all those new eyes on your new book, you may well miss the opportunity to change something fundamental that could be standing between you and your perfect agent, editor, or five star review. My books and my career would not have progressed as far as they have without my beta readers, and I truly hope you find your perfect gang too. Good luck!

How Much Money Do Authors Really Make?

Would you ever approach a stranger and ask “how much money do you make?” Probably not.   Yet, as an author of feel-good romance, I have been asked this question by both strangers and those I know quite a few times.  “You must be rolling in it!” they say. “Did you receive a big advance?” and “how much royalties do you get paid?”   Having pondered what gives some individuals the idea they can glibly interrogate authors about their income from their writing, I’ve come to the conclusion that it must be the perceived fallacy that all writers are generously paid for their articles and books, and that we enjoy an indulgent lifestyle.  If only that were true!  So, how much do book authors really make? How much can they make? And how can we, as writers, maximise our earning potential?  In this article I will be answering that question as well as providing suggestions on how to improve your earnings. I have included a list of rough earning potential in both dollars and pounds – but please remember all these totals can vary greatly.  What Salaries Do Authors Make?  The sad truth is that authors don’t make a regular salary, so it’s really a matter of ‘close your eyes and take a stab.’  The answer to ‘how much money does an author make?’ depends on many factors, such as whether the author is self-published or traditionally published, the number of projects currently in their pipeline, how many novels the author in question has previously published, and what the details of these publishing deals might be.   Because the publishing world has evolved to such an extent over the years, many more avenues are now open to writers – making it harder to provide a ballpark figure for author earnings. According to the site uk.indeed.com, the average author salary in the UK stands at $33,078 per annum as of 9th February 2022. Although this may be a generous overestimation if they calculate that by including all the millions authors like J K Rowling make and dividing it by the number of published books out there.   In reality, most writers don’t make the minimum wage from their books and work full- or part-time to supplement their book earnings!  Writing is not like other professions, where there are salary scales and overtime payments. It all comes down to which path to publication you decide to take, how much time you have to write, how you sell your work, and how many books you can produce in a year. That’s just to make money from your first book – because staying a published writer takes even more work!  Ballpark Figures Self-published authors can earn up to 70% royalties from their books, while most traditionally published authors make 5-18% royalties which they only receive after ‘earning out’. That means the books sales have “paid back” their advances and the publishers then start giving them a cut of book sales. From a major publisher, such as one of the “Big Five,” an advance can start from $5,000 for a first-time, unknown author and can go into five figures. This may be more if the author is well-known, happens to have a more established literary reputation, it’s a multi-book deal, or the author has an impressive back catalogue.   Sometimes a debut (or less-established) author can hit upon a very topical idea and write a book that has publishers bidding against one another. Debut Middle Grade author, Anabelle Steadman, recently won a seven-figure book deal with Simon & Schuster (including Sony film rights) for her bloodthirsty unicorn series. So, although very rare, you can get lucky!  Smaller, independent publishers, tend to offer lower advances to their writers – sometimes in the region of $3,000-$10,000. Although some compensate for this by paying their writers a higher royalty revenue, which kicks in sooner as it takes a lot less time to recoup the advance.  Plus don’t forget that advances are taxed, and 15% goes to your agent who negotiated the deal in the first place.  Bearing all this in mind, some may argue that the answer to making lots of money writing books is to self-publish. Yes, you will certainly receive more money per book – but it’s not that simple either.  Author and Jericho Writers founder, Harry Bingham, wrote about this in his recent article for Jericho Writers. Unlike traditional publishing, when you self-publish you have to cover all costs of design, editing, typesetting, distribution, marketing and advertising yourself. You can expect to pay anything between $800-$2,000 to have your book professionally edited and proofread, as well as anything from $100-$600 for a decent cover design.  You may not have agent fees to worry about, but you will also need to be your own publicist – and with self-publishing becoming more popular by the day, that means understanding online advertising and getting your book to market.   Basically, there’s no easy way to make money from your books.   Let’s look at traditional publishing first, and the different ways you can earn money.  Making Money From Traditional Publishing Vs Self-Publishing  What To Expect From Big 5 Traditional Publishers  The biggest publishers, also referred to as ‘The Big 5’, are Penguin/Random House, Hachette Book Group, Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster, and Macmillan. And within those publishers there are many imprints.  If they purchase your manuscript, the sale is generally executed by a literary agent who will keep 15% of all earnings from that book deal (sometimes the deal includes more than one book).   These publishers often (not always) pay bigger advances than independent publishers.   If they decide your book will be one of their lead titles, then they will use their enviable distribution network to make your book available for sale as widely as possible, which means you can expect to see your book in a dizzying array of retailers, ranging from bookshops and online retailers to supermarkets (depending on what ‘path to market’ they think best suits your readership).   They also work closely with the press and, depending on the marketing budget allocated to the title, will support the release with a carefully executed PR campaign.   Being signed with the Big 5 means you are also more likely to receive a five-figure plus advance and your book will almost certainly appear in print, as well as sometimes audio, e-book and even hardback. If you’re lucky enough that your sales ‘earn out’, you will also receive royalties.  Most authors dream of such a deal, which is why they may spend many years (and many scrapped books) trying to be signed by a great agent, as without an agent you will never be signed with a big-name publisher.  What To Expect From Independent Traditional Publishers  Independent traditional publishers work in exactly the same way as the Big 5 – but with slightly less budget, and slightly less reach. But the good news is that they often accept submissions without an agent and are more likely to take on less-commercial books as they are smaller companies with more subjective decision-making.  Although they often pay smaller advances, as mentioned previously they often provide larger royalties and they may choose to pay big bucks as an advance for a book that they wish to make their lead title, when the Big 5 may have paid less and made it one of their lesser titles.  So bigger is not always better. Once again, each book and each author makes a completely different amount of money, but it’s worth understanding how the business works and realistically what’s at stake.  Whether the publisher is large or not, they can both take a book quite far – to audio, abroad, and even to the big screen. Different Ways To Make Money With A Traditionally Published Book  It can be very confusing for a new author to understand how a book makes its writer money. Every book deal is different, and every author earns a different amount. This is in no way a reflection of the quality of the book; it hinges on how well the editors and sales and marketing teams at the publishers think the book will do.  Remember – publishing is a business, and your books are products. If you produce something that is destined to sell well, then you will be compensated as such. The only problem is that books can be mercurial things and what works once doesn’t always work again!  So how do authors get paid? Author Advances  An advance paid by a publisher is intended to cover an author’s expenses while they write the book the publisher has bought. It should be a rough estimate of what the book might earn, paid up front, to give the author support and reassurance. The amount of an advance can vary from a couple of thousand pounds to a seven-figure sum and it is usually paid by the traditional publishers. However, some publishers opt not to pay an advance to writers and instead pay higher royalties. Royalties A publisher pays authors book royalties in exchange for the rights to publish their work in book form. Royalty rates are made up of percentages of book sales and they are entirely negotiable, though some publishers do have standard royalty rates that they try to adhere to for the majority of their book deals. Average retail royalties tend to fall in the 10% - 15% range on hardcover sales, and 5% - 7.5% on trade paperback sales. These are paid quarterly by some publishers, yearly by others.  Foreign Rights Authors who retain translation rights, may submit their book to a foreign rights agent (sometimes their agent works with foreign publishers and reps), or their publisher may commission a foreign rights agent to represent the publisher’s catalogue, or collection of titles.   A foreign rights agent represents translation rights on a worldwide basis or for select languages. Then, the foreign rights agent plays matchmaker, matching books with foreign publishers who have published or are looking to publish similar works.  You get paid by a foreign publisher for every language or territory you sell your book to – this can be anything from $1,500 per book, per territory, to six figures (not as common).   Literary agents receive a slightly higher commission for foreign subsidiary rates and translations, generally 20% commission compared to the usual 15% a literary agent receives.  TV Rights   One of the first steps a TV/film producer makes when developing a project for the screen in which they are interested in, is to obtain story rights. The usual legal vehicle for this is an option contract. The producer options exclusive rights for a specified time to develop your creative work and determine if there is any interest in adapting the work into a film before committing to purchasing the work. The option puts money in the writer’s pocket in exchange for putting the book rights on hold during the negotiated time period. Sometimes that time runs out and the options are sold again, so the writer is receiving money for nothing while the producers try and get the project off the ground. Again, options vary in amount and contractual length, but $15,000 for three years is not uncommon.  This can be handled by the publishers or the agents direct. Most literary agents have experience of such contracts and would be more than happy to handle this on your behalf!   The literary agent commission on film rights and audio book rights is typically somewhere between 15%-20%.  And now for self-publishing. A completely different kettle of fish…but one that more and more traditionally published authors are diving into. Self-Publishing Publishing your own book means you never sell the rights to the book. It’s yours. There is no advance (ie money up front) in self-publishing – it’s completely down to you as the author to make whatever investment you can afford to get your book out there.  Most indie sales take the form of e-books, often taking advantage of print-on-demand services provided by suppliers such as Amazon. But that means limiting your distribution to online sales. For those with dreams of seeing your work sold in physical bookshop and adorning the shelves, this is much harder to do with self-publishing. You can personally go from bookstore to bookstore, many independent bookshops love to support local indie writers, but you’re unlikely to see huge sales of your hardback in Waterstones and B&N if you self-publish.  You are also less likely to see your book in the national press (again, local publications do support local writers, but you have to do all the PR yourself).  But, because you can decide on the price point of your book and have the possibility of publishing as many as you can write a year (whereas traditional publishers generally publish one book per author per year), plus you get a larger cut per sale, you have the possibility of making a lot of money. After a year, some self-published authors are making a living wage from their books. Some are even making millions!   Here is a list of more Jericho Writer resources about self-publishing and how much you can expect to make: Traditional Publishing Vs Self Publishing Should self-published authors turn to traditional publishing? Why A Best-selling Author Chose To Self-Publish How Much Does it Cost to Self-Publish a Book? How to Control Your Self-Publishing Costs How Much Does it Cost to Publish a Book? And remember, unlike traditional publishing which is very subjective and often down to getting the right agent, the right editor, and publishing at the right time, with self-publishing you get out what you put in.   So the question you should really be asking yourself when considering self-publishing is not ‘How much money will I make?’ but ‘How hard am I prepared to work to make enough money?’  Getting published is an amazing experience. However, for the sake of your future writing career, getting published is not the same as staying published!  Securing one good book deal does not mean you can give up your day job. You should therefore try to remain productive and add to your back catalogue of books and articles, in order to establish a steady income.   Luckily, most authors make their money not from their books, but from being a writer. Here’s how…  Tips For Authors To Make More Money  Here are a few tips which you might like to consider for increasing your cashflow as a writer.  Enter writing competitions. Many offer generous cash prizes and it is a good way of potentially boosting your writing coffers. It is also a very enjoyable diversion from your usual writing routine. Come up with pitches for freelance articles and approach newspapers and magazines. It’s a competitive market, but editors are always on the lookout for new ideas. If you can suggest an original and eye-catching pitch, there is money to be made. You might also find if the editor published you once, they will publish you again.  The figures below from the National Union of Journalists website, gives a rough estimate of what you could expect to earn writing articles in the UK (fees vary country to country). For example, once you are an established feature writer, writing a 1,000-word tabloid feature can earn you approx. £800.  Page lead, tabloids - sky\'s the limit, rarely less than  1250.00 Tip-off leading to exclusive or large spread, upward of  1000.00 Splashy features for \"qualities\", per 1000, from  800.00 Normal features for \"qualities\", per 1000, from  500.00 Page lead, for \"qualities\", per 1000, from  500.00 News, for \"qualities\", per 1000 words, from  430.00 Tip-off for news, \"qualities\" - much more for big stories  200.00 Commissioned online blog post - e.g. \"Comment is Free\" from  110.00 Tip-off for diary - minimum  50.00  RATES:  Writing, reporting and researching National newspapers category: Newspaper supplements  Splashy features for \"qualities\", per 1000, from    1000.00  Per 1000 words, generic   600.00  Being a writer, means you have publishing experience. That means you can also get paid to:  Attend paid literary events and give talks (approx.. $200-1,000 per event, depending on how sought-after you are)  Lecture on creative writing, either privately or to uni students (approx. $250-$500 per day)  Write blog articles like this one (approx. $100-$200 per blog)  Become a freelance editor (approx. $750 to $2,000 per book)  Be a proof-reader, beta reader, blogger or sensitivity reader (bloggers and beta readers don’t often get paid, but you do get to read some great books).   Be a writing mentor (you may charge an hourly rate of $80-120)  Become a ghostwriter (this can vary, and some writers get paid in royalties only, but others can get $5,000-$10,000 up front per book)  Explore Different Writing Opportunities I hope this article has given you some indication as to how much money you can make being an author. Sadly, unlike being a plumber or solicitor, the career trajectory of an author is never a straight line and no amount of qualifications can guarantee you more success or money.  But, the one way you can help yourself as an author, is to keep learning and keep writing. The more books you write, the better you will get and the more ‘products’ you have to sell. And with determination and dedication, writing books can not only lead to great things but can also help get you other paid work opportunities.   You just have to be creative – and luckily that’s exactly what we are! 

What Is The Rising Action Of A Story?

Do you want to know the secret to masterful, climatic storytelling that keeps readers turning the pages until the very last sentence?   In this guide, I’m going to show you that a carefully structured and robust plot is really all you need to make the most of your narrative arc.   What Is Rising Action?  The rising action is the second of six essential plot elements, which comes right after the opening of a story, otherwise known as the exposition. It is usually made up of a series of events that lay down breadcrumbs, ask questions, and set roadblocks and conflicts that must be overcome. It also creates tension and suspense, which leads right up to the third essential element, the dramatic climax. For example, in a suspense or crime novel, the rising action could be the protagonist going on a journey to solve a mystery or crime. But in a romance novel, the rising action could be the characters’ journey to falling in love.   Some writers believe that the success of a story hinges on the effectiveness of the climax, but I vehemently disagree. Without a strong rising action (essentially, the fuel that powers your narrative, keeps it moving and prevents it from stalling) the climax will inevitably fall short or seem unbelievable.   In fact, I would go as far as saying that the rising action is your story.   Let’s delve further into the components of the rising action and how it fits into a traditional story structure.   How Rising Action Ties Into Your Story Structure  The rising action is one of six, essential plot ingredients that make up the basic story structure.  Let’s remind ourselves what they are.   Exposition. This is the beginning of the story (the opening chapters). It sets the scene and introduces the main character(s) and their dilemma. You will also get a feel of the underlying themes of the story here. For example, in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games you are introduced to Panem, a North American country consisting of the wealthy Capitol and 13 districts in varying states of poverty. You also find out that every year, children from these districts are selected via a lottery to participate in a televised death match called The Hunger Games.   Inciting Incident. An inciting incident is an event that launches the main premise of the story. It typically occurs within the first one-third of a book. For example, in The Hunger Games, the inciting incident is the main character, Katniss Everdeen, volunteering as tribute and taking her younger sister Prim’s place.   Rising Action. As mentioned above, the rising action is the ‘meat’ of the story. It’s where most of the action occurs. To continue with our example, the rising action in The Hunger Games kicks off immediately after Katniss Everdeen volunteers as tribute. The reader is taken on Katniss’ journey in the games, the challenges she faces, the alliances she makes and her inner and external conflicts that she must overcome to survive.   Dilemma/Crisis. The dilemma/crisis is often confused with the climax of the story, particularly as they come hand in hand (or one after the other). Essentially, the dilemma is the do-or-die moment of the story. A final, life-changing decision for the protagonist. The Hunger Games presents Katniss Everdeen with a continuous moral dilemma, which is tested to the max when her competitor Peeta announces a \"fake\" story of his burgeoning love for her. But as the two grow closer, this moral dilemma is weighted with emotion as Katniss learns that the rules are changed so that there can only be one winner. Will she sacrifice herself to let Peeta live, or will she kill the person she cares for to be able to return home to her sister?  Climax. This is when the building tension reaches a breaking point, and the conflict is resolved once and for all. For example, in The Hunger Games, this is where Katniss and Peeta threaten suicide rather than fight one another to the bitter end.  This is quickly followed by the falling action. Denouement. This is otherwise known as the resolution, and pretty much does what it says on the tin. It ties up loose ends, answers unanswered questions and shows the main character in their new normal, inevitably changed by the events of the story.   Freytag\'s Pyramid Another way of plotting your story is by following Freytag\'s Pyramid, which is the brainchild of nineteenth century playwright and novelist, Gustav Freytag who realised that all his favourite playwrights (including non-other than Shakespeare himself) followed the same distinct, five act arc, which could be plotted into a pyramid structure.   This structure is by no means perfect and is in some ways at odds with how modern-day writers plan their stories. But if you are a visual person, it’s a great starting point on which to build and develop your story because it enables you to see, at a glance, the value of rising action in driving your protagonist towards the top of the pyramid (aka the climax). Its structure differs slightly from the one I described above, but it touches on the same points. Examples Of Rising Action Now that we have grasped what the rising action is and how it fits into a narrative, let’s take a look at some well-known novels to see the different ways rising action has been used.  Example One: External And Internal Conflicts   Conflict is one of the most crucial ingredients of rising action. It is what will make your story unputdownable.   No matter what genre your story sits in – be it crime, romance, science fiction, literary or fantasy  – I guarantee you that your protagonist(s) will encounter some kind of conflict. Because let’s face it, no one wants to read eighty to one hundred thousand words about a main character leading a dull, monotonous life. Heading to the office. Doing their housework. Dropping the kids off at school. Readers want to witness the main character going through real-life trials and tribulations that they can relate to. Getting stood up on a date. Witnessing a murder. Facing the death of a loved one.   And this thirst can only be quenched by internal and/or external conflict.   No Honour by Awais Khan is a stunning novel about sixteen-year-old Abida who falls pregnant and is forced to leave her rural Pakistani village for the dangerous streets of Lahore. And Jamil, her father, who risks his own life to find her.    From this brief synopsis, we can immediately identify the inciting incident as Abida’s pregnancy and escape from the village. The key rising actions – being Abida and Jamil’s intertwining external and internal conflicts- stem directly from this event and drive the dual narratives forward. Abida faces the external conflicts of an abusive husband and keeping her newborn baby safe, while internally being plagued by her youthful innocence. Jamil is weighed down by guilt and fear for his daughter, while navigating the inevitable obstacles of finding her in a city with over eleven million people.   Now, consider your own story and write down what external and internal conflicts your protagonists might face on their journey.   Example Two: Roadblocks  Roadblocks are concrete crises or obstacles that prevent the protagonist(s) from reaching their goal. Obvious examples can be found in the crime/thriller genre with main characters being injured or kidnapped. But you can find roadblocks in other genres too.   For example, in Beth O’Leary’s uplit debut The Flatshare the protagonists, Tiffy Moore and Leon Tworney, save on rent by sharing the same bed in the same flat but never meet due to their working shifts and routines.   As they learn how to communicate via notes left for one another, they soon realise they are falling for one another. The more they try to meet, the more obstacles stand in their way, until the reader is on the edge of their seat hoping the unlucky couple will get their happily ever after.  Now look at your own novel. What roadblocks might your characters face as they strive towards their end goal/purpose?   Example Three: Tension And Suspense  I can think of no better author to demonstrate the use of rising action to create tension and suspense than Agatha Christie, and her world best-selling mystery novel, And Then There Were None.  And Then They Were None follows ten strangers who are lured to a remote British island under false pretences. The inciting incident of the novel occurs at the outset as the guests realise that their host is not there to greet them. Then when they sit down to dinner, a mysterious recording is played to the guests on a gramophone accusing each of them of murder. This dramatic incident triggers a series of rising actions, as one by one each guest is killed, and the remaining guests must find the murderer before death catches up with them too. Rising actions are utilised to perfection in this novel to create an intense, claustrophobic environment with a \'ticking time bomb\' narrative.   But remember, you don’t have to keep killing people off to create tension and intrigue. For example, rising actions can be the revelation of secrets and lies on a family holiday or children trying to sabotage their recently widowed mother’s new relationship.   Can you think of other ways you might use rising action events to keep suspense and tension alive?   To create a strong rising action for your story arc, think carefully about where your main character is now (both physically and psychologically) and where you want them to end up. Reflect on who they are as people (their inner conflicts), the actions they are likely to take, and any challenges (external conflicts) they are likely to face along the way.   Some Final Thoughts On Rising Action I hope I’ve managed to convince you that there is no magic involved in compelling and climatic storytelling, but rather that it is all lies in a well-developed plot.   Once you have the concept for a story, instead of diving right in, take a step back and flesh out how the events might play out, bearing in mind that you need a lot of plot points to keep your reader engaged for the full length of a novel.   Think of your rising actions as the building blocks of the story, a chance for you to develop and refine your plot, flesh out your characters and really get under their skin to establish their strengths and weaknesses. Raise the stakes with dramatic turning points. Add subplots to throw the reader off the scent. And create tension and intrigue that propels your narrative towards the climax.   Remember, this is your story and these are your characters. This is your chance to push them to their limits.   And most importantly, have fun with it. Because when an author enjoys putting their characters through hell, the readers will enjoy cheering them on and watching them win! 

C.A. Lupton: The Ultimate Novel Writing Course and Beyond

Author C.A. Lupton joined us as a student on the Ultimate Novel Writing Course in 2019. Fast-forward to 2022, and her debut novel has just been published by The Book Guild, through a hybrid publishing model. Here\'s how she went from first draft to published book. Having spent many years in academia, I was no stranger to writing for a living: publish, or be damned, was the nature of the game. When I subsequently joined the civil service, I had to learn a very different kind of writing (even down to the font of choice: goodbye the ‘gravitas’ of Times Roman; hello unfussy Arial). Writing was now driven by the need to communicate clearly, concisely (and back-coveringly) with even the dimmest Secretary of State. Finally freed from the linguistic constraints of either setting, I was confident that writing a work of pure fiction would be relatively easy.  Starting out, I was very clear what kind of book I wanted to write, being a long-standing admirer of speculative fiction; and I knew what I wanted to write about: the clear and present dangers of human genetic modification. As a social scientist, I found the task of building a near-future world enjoyably easy, but it soon became obvious how little I knew about other key aspects of the writing craft such as characterisation, dialogue, plotting and, perhaps especially, ‘voice’. I realised I had to forget much of what I thought I knew and get back to the drawing board.   Finding what works To this end, I signed up for the Jericho Writers’ Ultimate Novel Writing Course (UNWC) in 2019 and this proved to be one of the best decisions of my writing career. I received an in-depth, professional assessment of the first draft of the novel, identifying the main areas of weakness and setting out specific ways in which these could be addressed. Encouragingly for a novice author, areas of relative strength were also noted and, for the first time I got a sense that the book might just work. Drawing heavily on the accompanying course materials, and with the sustained encouragement of my tutor, I completed a further, much improved, version of the text.  I signed up for the Jericho Writers’ Ultimate Novel Writing Course (UNWC) in 2019 and this proved to be one of the best decisions of my writing career. Over the following year, I submitted the revised manuscript to innumerable agents, experiencing one or two ‘near misses’, but mostly getting the standard ‘much to admire, but not right for me’ kind of reply. Feedback from the one-to-one agent sessions at the Jericho Writers’ Festival of Writing proved rather more helpful, and I had one promising ‘close encounter’ that in the end came to nothing when it became clear the agent wanted a very different book from the one I wanted to write.  By the start of 2021 I was becoming increasingly despondent; emotionally buffeted by the endless rejections and frustrated by the time the whole process was taking. Determined on a trilogy, I simply couldn’t afford to waste another year on unrequited advances to agents. Self-publishing was the obvious solution, but the more I listened to the excellent Jericho Writers sessions on the topic, the more I realised I did not have the skills, or inclination, to pursue that route effectively. A third way was needed!  The third route So, I began to search for publishers willing to accept direct submissions - a process not assisted by the fact that several of the most promising-looking indies had ceased, or greatly reduced, their operation due to the pandemic. It quickly became clear that there were (are) many sharks operating in the profitable ‘author services’ arena, who will tell you they love your baby and, for a considerable sum, will help you take it to market. I felt I was at risk of sailing too close to vanity publishing waters; a place where a defenceless baby would almost certainly sink without trace (or regard). What I needed was a publisher who accepted agent-less authors but was selective about what it took on.   With the help of the ‘Self-Publishing Services Directory’, produced by the Alliance of Independent Authors (AIA), I identified a small number of publishers who were judged to offer services that were fair, ethical and of good value, and eventually decided on the UK-based Troubadour. This long-established company had an ‘excellent partner’ rating from the AIA and offered three publishing routes: ‘traditional’ and ‘hybrid’ (both, to differing degrees, selective) as well as a ‘self-publish’ option (under Matador). My submission was reviewed by two people and I was offered a ‘partnership’ arrangement on what I considered relatively good terms for an un-agented, novice author.   What I needed was a publisher who accepted agent-less authors but was selective about what it took on. In short, the deal was that I would pay a proportion of the production cost (comparable to what a self-pubber could end up spending on cover design, line/copy edits, marketing, etc) but receive a much higher royalty rate than would obtain on a fully traditional publishing pathway. Should the initial print run sell out, the publisher would bear the full cost of a reprint but would not demand the first refusal on the next book. Most importantly for someone without a social media presence - and absolutely no desire to establish one - I would benefit from the sales, marketing and PR expertise of a large and experienced industry player. Floating or sinking The book went to market on time, actively and, as far as I can tell, effectively, supported by a marketing manager, a production manager, an eBook sales manager and a customer support manager! Would I have written a better book if I had secured an agent? Very probably - although much would depend on the skills of the agent and my relative (un)importance in their scheme of things - and the book would definitely have a greater market impact if it was published (and selected for promotion) by one of the ‘big five’ or genre-specialist indies. But my hybrid route has given me a chance to get my foot in a door that was otherwise proving stubbornly shut.  My hybrid route has given me a chance to get my foot in a door that was otherwise proving stubbornly shut. It may be that my literary baby still sinks without trace, and it may be that the hybrid option will not work for many. But for me the alternatives were unthinkable: to spend precious time in a (likely) fruitless fish for agents or to delay the start of the second book in order to develop the skills and strategies of a successful self-publisher. So big thanks to Troubadour, and big thanks also to the fabulous folks at Jericho Writers without whose support and encouragement - and smorgasbord of excellent learning materials - Red Dirt Girl would almost certainly never have seen the light of day.  About C.A. Lupton C.A. Lupton spent all her working life in the health sciences, initially in a university research unit and later as a research commissioner for the UK Department of Health. She has now retired from paid work and lives by the sea with her family. Buy \'Red Dirt Girl\' here.

50 Christmas Story Ideas, Tips & Prompts

Are you trying to write a festive novel but have run out of ideas? Or perhaps you need some snowy inspiration for your Christmas short story. In this article we will be sharing lots of fun Christmas writing prompts to kick-start your winter writing – plus we’ve also asked top Christmas book authors for their inspiring tips.  Why Write Christmas Novels?  Christmas is a magical time of year. And for many of us who experience it during the darkest, coldest months, it can be the only fun and joyous occasion of the entire season. That\'s why Christmas novels are so popular. There’s nothing cosier, on a bleak winter’s day, than huddling under a blanket with a mug of hot cocoa and a book full of festive cheer, plus all the nostalgia and decadence that goes with it.  That’s not to say all Christmas books have to be romances or women’s fiction. The great thing about writing with Christmas in mind is that it can be applied to any genre – from festive chillers and thrillers, to horror stories and gruesome tales that take place during the most magical time of the year.  Read on to discover some great Christmas writing prompts, plus top tips from leading authors of festive books. Although bear in mind that these are adult writing prompts – so may not be suitable if you’re looking for December writing prompts for your classroom or children!   20 Christmas Story Starters And Festive Prompts  The great thing about writing a Christmas short story, novel or novella is that no one expects anything too serious in winter. So let your imagination run wild! As long as you include plenty of festive fun, nostalgic traditions, and a sprinkle of magic then you’re on to a winter winner.  Here are our twenty Christmas story ideas and prompts, split into four different Christmas genres….  Christmas Rom-Com A teacher is putting on a school nativity play. She don’t get on with the new teaching assistant and things start to go terribly wrong…until they realise love is blooming among the mistletoe.  She hates Christmas day at her parents as all they ever talk about is how she is single and childless. Except this year they’ve invited the neighbours – along with their three very different (and very attractive) sons!  Her boyfriend dumped her on Christmas Eve, so she jets off to an exotic hot country to forget all about the festive season. But the local waiter refuses to let her remain sad and grumpy.  Ever since his cat, Snowy, was run over on Christmas Day Tom has hated Christmas. This year he decides to stay home alone…until a cat appears on his doorstep. A cat belonging to his crazy new neighbour.  Single mother, Carol, has to attend ten different Christmas school events for her three children and she’s at the end of her tether. Then she realises the same handsome man is at all of them too. Coincidence? Or fate?  Christmas Romance She’s gone on a trip to Lapland to get away for the winter as the man she has always loved is getting married over Christmas. But when she’s snowed in at a secluded log cabin only the rugged local Finnish guy can help her.  She’s so frustrated with her annoying parents on Christmas Day that she goes on a long country walk, steps into a secluded old chapel, and finds herself face to face with a very handsome man. The only problem is she’s gone back 100 years in history.  Christmas day 1998 was perfect because Danny, the boy next door, shared his first kiss with her. Guess who just moved in next door to her new house?  Ivy has built a snowman. Not only has he come to life…but she’s fallen in love with him. Will their love last longer than the winter?  She’s new to the village and is struggling to make friends. She’s thinking of going back home for Christmas, until the community pull together to convince her to stay…all orchestrated by one very special someone.  Christmas Thriller  A mother and father wake up one Christmas morning wondering why it’s so quiet. Where are the kids? They go into their room and the beds are empty, the stockings untouched. The window is open and the cookies have been eaten. Next to the carrot is a note.  They thought renting a little cottage in the secluded countryside would be romantic for Christmas. Until they discovered a body.  Nancy is overjoyed to be invited to the lavish New Year’s Eve party that the McPartlans throw every year. Except this year it’s different. This year, every hour on the hour, a new guest is discovered dead.  Sally wants to stay home alone for Christmas. But someone has trapped her in her house, and now she can’t get out even if she tries.  Christmas shopping on the high street is crazy. Holly is convinced she’s seen a store Santa bundling a woman into the back of a car. But no one believes her…until the woman turns up dead.  Christmas Horror  Father Christmas is real, but he’s not entering your house to leave gifts. It’s something a lot more sinister.  Santa’s elves are real and they are living inside the walls of your house.  When Harry kissed Anabelle under the mistletoe he didn’t expect her to grow fangs.  Christmas day in a secluded log cabin is ever so romantic…unless you discover someone is trying to kill you.  No one can hear you scream when it’s midnight, you’re in the middle of nowhere and the world is muffled with snow.  For added fun, why not mix and match some of these ideas or change their genres. Let’s see what wondrous seasonal ideas you can come up with!  10 Top Tips For Writing Seasonal Stories By Successful Christmas Authors 1. Seek Out Other Christmas Book Writers Writing At The Same Time As You  A Christmas Club, if you wish! it\'s a great way of batting over and back in terms of keeping you in the flow and reminding you of those little things that might not be exactly obvious when writing out of season.  Faith Hogan, author of On The First Day Of Christmas  2. Recreate The Sensory Atmosphere Of Christmas  You may want to light some scented candles that smell like Christmas trees, enjoy freshly baked mince pies, make the room dark and put up fairy lights etc. Even watching a Christmas movie or seeking out snowy landscapes (or other seasonal landscape depending on where you are in the world) on Youtube can help too.  Beth Kempton, author of Calm Christmas and a Happy New Year: A Little Book of Festive Joy  3. Plan Well Ahead! I start my Christmas novellas as early as February! Victoria Connelly, author of Christmas with the Book Lovers 4. Follow Your Favourite Christmas Book Author On Social Media  Reach out and tell them about what you\'re writing, they may be able to give you more tips! It’s always good to expand your circle of writers in the same genre as you! Faith Hogan, author of On The First Day Of Christmas  5. Research Christmas Traditions From All Around The World  Our Christmas novella is set in Lapland, and because our books are paranormal romance we created some fun monsters inspired by Finnish folklore, and added plenty of local Christmas customs too. Think outside of your own experiences and talk to people who have other wonderful and (sometimes creepy) customs. Caedis Knight, author of Goblins of Lapland 6. Make Notes Throughout The Winter If you have a long lead time, make notes about your mood and emotions throughout the winter (or look back at old journals). Rereading them will help if you then have to write out of season. Beth Kempton, author of Calm Christmas and a Happy New Year: A Little Book of Festive Joy  7. Give Them What They Came For People who buy Christmas novels expect to see certain things. So give it to them! Make sure to describe the beautiful tree, the hot chocolate, the ice skating, the kiss under the mistletoe. Don\'t try and be clever by adding a twist to what they\'re expecting...it may fall flat. Caedis Knight, author of Goblins of Lapland 8. Listen To Lots Of Christmas music I wrote my last Christmas book during a heatwave, at the height of the pandemic. I listened to a lot of Christmas music to get me in the right frame of mind. Rachel Wells, author of Alfie The Christmas Cat 9. Make a List (And Check It Twice) Make a sheet with five columns for each sensory aspect of Christmas and jot down everything you can think of that\'s Christmassy - from what you smell, see and hear, to what you expect to see at Christmas. This also helps with setting and plot. Rosie Blake, author of How To Stuff Up Christmas 10. You can Never Be TOO Christmassy! Add all the festive cheer fun and heartwarming cheer you possibly can. there\'s no such thing as too much when it comes to this time of year! Emma Jackson, author of A Mistletoe Miracle and One Kiss Before Christmas Ten Top Tips From Author Isabella May  We asked Isabella May, author of deliciously adorable Christmas rom-com, Twinkle Twinkle Little Bar, to share what it takes to write festive foodie fiction.   Here are her 10 tips on writing an unforgettable Christmas story:  1. More Is More This is Christmas we are talking about so there\'s no such thing as too many decorations appearing in your story. 2. Read And Watch Christmas Books And Movies Don\'t try to emulate what others have done but look at the many festive tropes that are out there and try to bring your own fresh angle.  3. Immerse Yourself In The Tastes And Smells Of Christmas It may seem a little extravagant but eating that Christmas pud that\'s been lying in wait since FOREVER in the kitchen cupboard and/or buying yourself a fragrant pine-scented Yankee candle, will turbo boost your festive thoughts and lead to some great plot ideas. 4. Think Snow Globe Community Spirit! The most successful Christmas books have all the characters united in festive fizz... eventually. \'Tis the season of goodwill, after all. 5. It\'s Back To The Senses Again Dust off the Wham/Cliff Richard/Mariah Carey and play all the Yuletide jingles. You\'ll cringe at first but honestly, this is another tried and tested way to get in the spirit and up your daily word count.  6. Think Of Christmas Past No, not in a Scrooge way... but reminiscing on the highlights of your own Christmas holidays from childhood can shape and inspire so many scenes in your book. 7. Fact Check It\'s easy to get carried away with the celebratory side of Christmas when we are knee-deep in a glowy, hygge, and twinkly-light festooned story, so we need to be certain that the Italian festive foodie delights we\'ve just added to our MC\'s dialogue really are typically served in December (and spelt correctly). 8. Research Your Destination Well Nobody is saying you can\'t set your story in Iceland (complete with those tantalising views of the Northern Lights) but if you haven\'t been to the location of your Christmas book\'s setting, you\'d better do some serious armchair travelling (and talking with locals who are native to the area, if possible) to give your readers the most authentic portrayal of the place. 9. Keep It Light The best Christmas stories are fluffy, frivolous and entertaining. There are always exceptions to the rule, but generally speaking, bookworms turn to festive fiction for escapism/to get themselves in the Christmas spirit when their own may be flagging. Always remember, Christmas can be a hard time of year for many people. Avoid sensitive and/or trigger warning subjects. Readers want to be uplifted and entertained. Your goal as a writer is to give them that warm fuzzy feeling from tip to toe; a hot chocolate hug in a book. 10. Once You Start Writing Christmas Books, Know That It\'s Almost Impossible To Stop!  Readers have a VORACIOUS appetite for Christmas books and this genre is growing by the season. It\'s fine to dabble but your fans will expect an annual festive work of fiction from you (if you first went down with the joy of a Bailey\'s on ice), so it\'s best to have a word with your inner Grinch before you commit to typing your very first Christmassy word...  Christmas Title Ideas  And finally, no Christmas book is complete without the perfect title. But how do you choose one that demonstrates it’s a Christmas book in your genre, yet isn’t a title that’s been used a million times already?   Here are our top ten title tips!  1. Look At Other Festive Books In Your Genre Check for consistencies and see how many words they use. Thrillers tend to be 2-5 short words and really self-explanatory (ie The Christmas Killer, Alex Pine), whereas Christmas romance and romcoms can have longer, prettier, and more intricate titles (ie One More Christmas At The Castle, Trisha Ashley).  2. Describe The Story Unless you are writing literary fiction, it helps to have a title that makes it very clear what the book is about. So if your book is about Christmas on a desert island, then call your book something like ‘A Desert Island Christmas.’  3. Use Lyrics From A Christmas Song Or Hymn  ‘All I Want For Christmas’ is a popular book title for romance novels, as is ‘Silent Night’ for thrillers and horror books. So get original and have fun seeing what matches the theme of your book. For instance, you may write a book about two best friends and call it ‘Holly And Ivy’ or a rom-com set in the 50s called ‘Rocking Around The Christmas Tree.’  4. Don’t Be Scared Of Puns  Christmas is the cheesiest time of the year, so don’t hold back from getting corny if need be. You may name your rom-com novel about reindeer farmers in Finland, ‘Looks Like Rain, Dear,’ or your Christmas horror ‘Santa Claws Bites Back’. These are all silly suggestions, I know, but you get the idea. A much classier example is Isabella May’s Christmas novel ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Bar.’  5. Make It Clear That It’s Part Of A Series If you’re writing a series of books, your cover designer will no doubt ensure that they all look the same but different – so do make sure the titles match too. Nancy Revell has done that with her Shipyard Girls books (Shipyard Girls Under The Mistletoe, Christmas with The Shipyard Girls and A Christmas Wish For The Shipyard Girls).  6. Use The Word ‘Christmas’ In The Title This may sound simple, perhaps too simple, but it works. If you’re writing a modern Cinderella retelling, calling it ‘A Cinderella Christmas’ means people who are looking for a Christmas book that’s like Cinderella, and type those words into Google or Amazon, will find your book more easily! 7. Keep It Simple  People looking for a festive read are rarely interested in anything too complicated or highbrow. Depending on the genre, choose a title that reflects the mood of the book – but keep it simple. Instead of calling it ‘The Haunted Mind and Festive Regrets of Peter Cumberbatch’ you could simply call it ‘Ghosts of Christmas Past’.  8. Use Words Associated With Christmas If your book is more literary or a thriller, and you don’t want readers to think they’ll be getting a cutesy festive read, then use words associated with Christmas that are a little more serious: Snow, Winter, Snowflake, Midnight, Night, Cold etc. 9. State Where The Book Takes Place  If you’re writing cosy Christmas romance or women’s fiction, ‘Christmas at (insert location)’ Works really well. It may seem formulaic but there’s a reason why these books sell well. ‘Christmas at…the cosy café…the olde bookshop…Mannering Manor…Penny Lane’ – you get the picture.   10. Have Fun With The Title Sometimes people don’t even know they want to read a Christmas book until they see the title. So choose something that will make them feel nostalgic, make them smile, or make them yearn for the comfort and excitement of Christmas. Get Cracking! We hope you found our Christmas prompts and ideas article interested. Once you’ve played around with some fun festive ideas, made a note of our top author tips, and seen what kind of titles will get the attention of agents, editors and readers, you should be ready to get started on your Christmas cracker of a novel.   There’s snow time like the (Christmas) present. Get writing and have fun! 

69 Romance Writing Prompts

Romance novels continue to be one of the top selling book genres, with lots of different sub-genres to explore. So, if you’re looking for heartfelt inspiration, some super swoony ideas or even saucy erotica prompts, then look no further.  We’ve compiled 69 romance prompts to kick-start your imagination and help you get your readers’ heart a-fluttering.  Dark Romance Writing Prompts  Not all romance has to be light and fluffy. Romance, like anything in life, is many shades of grey (ahem). So take a look at these thrilling and mysteriously sultry ideas if you want to add a little suspense to your romance.  Your ex has wronged you for the very last time. It’s time for revenge. It’s time to get in contact with the mysterious and sexy ex you have stayed away from for so long...   I was hired to kill you – I didn’t realise you were the person I used to have a crush on.  They were paid to kidnap the evil sister, not this one! But now it’s too late, and if they can’t find the correct sister, they risk killing an innocent woman and their chance for happiness and redemption.  The plan was to kill everyone in the bank and steal the money. He didn’t know that his long-lost love worked there. The only option was to take her with the money... but will love conquer greed?  They realise they’ve been stalking each other for a long time and both know a lot more about the other than they bargained for.  Seeing as we’re both trying to murder the same person, should we team up?   At school they were friends, but their mob families are enemies. When love takes over, can they escape their toxic families and start a safe life for themselves and their child?  Fantasy Romance Writing Prompts   Fancy a bit of magic with your romance? In fantastical worlds full of monsters and mayhem, can love still win?  The world is ending and only two rival tribes remain to save it. Can two young people from opposing tribes come together to save the world, and each other?  Being a witch is hard enough without falling in love with a witch from a rival coven...  Three apprentice wizards get caught up in a love triangle when they are abandoned by their mentor and left to fend – and learn – for themselves.  A werewolf falls in love with a vampire – but they must keep it a secret or risk death from both parties.  The ghost in your house has fallen in love with you and starts leaving romantic notes on the mirror.  They are the last two fertile people on earth. Problem is, they hate each other.  Romance Prompts From The Classics  Some of the most famous love stories of our time were written years ago. So why not take inspiration from these classics and turn them into modern day treasures full of contemporary challenges!  Romeo and Juliet both lived, but what happened next?  What if it wasn’t Mr Rochester that Jane Eyre fell for, but, instead, his first wife in the attic?  Imagine that Elizabeth Bennett didn’t put up with Mr Darcy’s unpredictable moods, and in fact fell for a delightful servant in the building?  Pretty Woman, only feminist and on OnlyFans.   After learning about Stockholm Syndrome, Beauty and the Beast decide to give couples therapy a try.  Snow White must marry the prince, but she’s much happier hanging out with her seven wonderful friends. But what she doesn’t realise is that Grumpy is only grumpy because the prince has called off their secret love affair.  Contemporary Romance Prompts Love isn’t just reserved for the olden days or for princesses from fairytales, there’s a lot of romantic inspiration you can find in your everyday life. Especially when you throw online dating into the mix! Here are a few contemporary writing prompts to get you started...  You text the wrong person in a hurry and the person who replies is an old flame...  You bump into someone who you matched with years ago on a dating app/site but never got talking to. He recognises you and you hit it off, except he’s now engaged.  You go on a double date with a friend – what are you supposed to do when you like their date too?   When you start talking about your romantic history with the new love of your life, you realise that you share an ex...  You meet at the vaccine center after one of you passes out. The awkward part is he’s the nurse and he passed out!  On your third date, you decide to follow each other on Twitter. When they get up your profile, you see they already have you blocked. Then they remember why.  In order to get over his ex, he tries to get under someone else. He meets an older man on Grindr who invites him over for dinner but seems to want nothing else. Is our young protagonist about to learn that love doesn’t always need to be about sex?  You meet your date but they look nothing like their profile picture, which was taken before the accident. Can you look further than the surface and see what really lies underneath?  They start leaving notes for each other on the pinboard of their local coffee shop. But they have no idea they’ve already met before.  She sells a sofa on a local Facebook group, and he replies. Then she remembers she left money in one of the cushions. Should she contact him?  Your mum set you up with the snotty kid who used to live next door. Except he’s hot now and you’re...not what he was expecting.  General Romance Prompts  Romance is romance is romance, there’s no need to put a label on it. Here are some general romance writing ideas to inspire you.  What starts as a ‘fake’ Visa wedding, starts a complicated but intense relationship.  You didn’t realise that when you arranged to meet, they would also bring their boyfriend.  You’ve been making eyes at them across the office for months but never spoken. Only now, on a team-building day, are you forced to speak and he’s nothing like what you expected...  They’ve been friends for years, but a disaster in their friendship group brings them closer than they ever imagined.  She hires him to help her build a website selling the products she started making after her husband’s tragic and early death. But she never meant to fall for him.  After a head-injury, you’re forced to re-live every one of your previous relationships while in a coma. But who will be there when you wake up?  Our children are best friends. I thought your kid was a bad influence on mine and now I think you’re becoming a bad influence on me...   They meet at a gallery, both looking at a painting that unlocks secret from their mysterious pasts. You’re a tattoo artist and they visit your parlor twice – once to get their partner’s name tattooed on them, and then a month later to have it covered up. You ask if they want to talk about it.   No one can tell the difference between you and your twin – but he can.  The new girl across the corridor looks really familiar, but why won’t she look you in the eye?  I’m locked out of my flat and I really don’t want to wait in the snow until my flat mate comes home – can I come in? I promise I’ll be really quiet, you’ll barely know I’m here.   You’re my child’s favourite teacher and I don’t want to ruin it, but we have so much in common and you’re really attractive.  They’re co-stars on a comedy special. Both trying to out-do each other to win a writing contract. But when they get together over drinks and realise that two heads are better than one, can love beat ambition?  You’ve moved to the Scottish Highlands to renovate your late great-aunt\'s cottage. The only local tradesman is the last person you want to see, but after an unexpected snowstorm hits, you’re both stuck there for the night and the past is unearthed. Can you put it aside and move on, together?  You’ve both gone to a silent retreat to heal from past events. Although you’re not allowed to speak, the chemistry is palpable. But will it be the same once you can speak to each other?  In Transit Romance Prompts Nothing says romance like being stuck in a car, plane and train together. Take a look at these ‘love in transit’ prompts and meet cutes, and get your romance novel going full speed!   You fall asleep on a plane and your head falls on the shoulder of an attractive stranger next to you. When you wake up you’ve missed your stop and they offer to get you home.  The tube lurches and you grab for the nearest pole to hold on to, and so does someone else...  You lock eyes in the queue for a train ticket and are delighted when their allocated seat is in front of yours.  The person next to you on the train is reading your favourite book. Do you strike up a conversation? Or pretend to be the author?  A cyclist knocks the coffee out of your hand and offers to buy you another one. You get talking...and realise he’s the guy you nearly ran over last week. Will he notice?  You’re getting on a plane for the first time since a traumatic incident. It’s a long flight and the last thing that’s on your mind is sleep. You start to talk to an insomniac flight attendant. The plane hits trouble and has to make an emergency landing. the last thing you expect is to be saving someone’s life...  You – both single parents – ride your children’s micro-scooters back from the drop-off and accidentally scoot face first into each other. You have always hated one another. But now, with two broken noses and stuck in A&E, you have no choice but to talk.  They pulled up to the hard shoulder to help you . Neither of you knew that a lorry would crash into both your vehicles and leave you with no choice but to spend a night in a road-side hotel together. But (you guessed it) there’s only one bed!  Sci-Fi Romance Prompts In space no one can hear you scream. Even screams of pleasure! From robots to planetary travel, when it comes to romance there’s no frontier that can’t be crossed. Here are our sci-fi romance prompts to take your readers on an out of this world adventure.   You’re the only two surviving people on a spaceship heading for Venus.  They are the artificially created clone of your deceased ex-colleague and secret love.  You have finally met the perfect person for you... the only issue is that you have to work for a corrupt government in order to be with them. Will you do it?  When you inherited the moonstone necklace, your dying grandfather told you to find the owner of the other half. Connecting the necklaces is the only way to save the world, but when you find each other, and fall in love, you realise that it’s not as simple as you thought it was.  You didn’t read the small print on a medical trial and discover it\'s a year-long residency where you had to give up all technology and move to an off-the-grid island outside of Alaska. With one other person. Who you really really hate...or do you?  There are limited seats on the spaceship to Planet B. You decide to seduce the captain to guarantee your safety, but things are complicated when you fall for the co-pilot instead...   Things haven’t been the same since the crash. All the young people have been drafted to fight, you are the only one left under sixty. Can you make it to the next planet to find someone special? Is love worth dying for?   Only the very rich can afford electricity and the internet these days. When people are not allowed to speak in person to anyone outside their immediate family, how do they fall in love?  YA Romance Prompts  There’s nothing more special than first love, and there’s nothing more painful either. Everyone remembers their first kiss...and more. Here are our young adult writing prompts to help you write your teen romance novel.  You are in rival BMX troops/cheerleading groups/chess teams, but when push comes to shove and the national competition looms, will you sacrifice your potential chance for happiness for a year-long residency in LA?  Your friends have been trying to set you up for years, but the night they finally get you in the same room, disaster strikes and you need to work together to save your friends. And, more importantly, save the rest of the world.  The class ‘bad guy’ and ‘bad girl’ are both sent to a residential weekend for badly behaved children as a new incentive to change disruptive behaviour. When it turns out that the course is run by con men and criminals, they need to work together to escape.  Your parents are leaders of a cult. You hate it there. When a new family joins, you and their oldest child form a bond that is unbreakable and decide to leave the cult and start a life for yourselves. But it doesn’t come without sacrifices...  He has psychotic episodes. You work as a trainee mental health nurse. What if his diagnosis is wrong, and he’s trying to tell you something from his dark past that might also be the key to free him?  You haven’t spoken a word since the incident two years ago. When they join your class, and you discover they can’t hear anything, you strike an unlikely friendship. But can it ever be romantic?  You’ve been ignored for so long at school that you’ve turned invisible. When the new kid in class says hi, you think you must be imagining things...   Relish Writing Romance And there you have it, 69 writing prompts for you old romantics.   Now, you may have noticed that we didn’t include any erotica scenarios and that’s for a good reason...because ANY of these can be turned into an erotica novel. They meet on a train (but what do they get up to?), they’re new neighbours (but he wants more than to borrow a cup of sugar). Neither did we include an LGBT section – because any one of our romance ideas can be applied to any couple!  So have fun adapting each prompt to a different romantic sub-genre, or better yet combine two or three together to build your plot and spark your imagination.  We hope you LOVED picking through our romance prompt, and we can’t wait to see what beautiful stories you create!

From First Publication to Second – What I’ve Learned, by Sarah Linley

We last heard from Sarah Linley when she told us all about her journey to publication for her debut, The Trip. Now, her second novel is about to be published by One More Chapter (the digital imprint of Harper Collins). We caught up with Sarah two years later to find out how things have been since the publication of her debut, and what she\'s learned. JW: We last spoke to you ahead of the publication of your first novel, ‘The Beach’ (subsequently retitled ‘The Trip’). Now, two years on, your second novel publishes next month. In what ways did the process for the second book feel different?   SL: I think I had more confidence going into the process of writing and publishing my second book. I knew more about the craft – structure, plot, characters, theme – and I had more experience of the editorial process, so I knew what my flaws were (weak characterisation and overuse of the word ‘just’ being two of them!).   The Wedding Murders is classic crime meets psychological thriller. Libby is a plus-one at a celebrity wedding in a grand manor house in the Yorkshire Dales. She’s the guest of her boyfriend Matthew, who used to be in a pop band in the 90s. It’s the first time the old friends have got together since they split up and Libby soon realises that they have secrets to hide…  Having someone on my side, championing my work, made me feel much less alone in the process. I really enjoyed writing The Wedding Murders and the research was a lot of fun. This time around, I found it less daunting to approach experts and ask them questions, and I had a much better understanding of story structure which helped because this novel is set over a tight timeline.   That said, the second book produced some curveballs. Not least having to rewrite the first chapter about twenty times because I couldn’t find a good way to start the story, which hadn’t been an issue with The Trip. Writing my debut, I didn’t understand the importance of book bloggers and I had never heard of NetGalley. Engaging with readers has been one of the best things about being published, and that was a surprise, as I was quite scared of that aspect before I was published.   I also thought I would be less nervous as publication day for book two approaches. I’m not!  JW: You navigated your first book deal alone but had an agent for the second. How did the two experiences compare, and would you recommend finding an agent before approaching publishers?  SL: Having someone on my side, championing my work, made me feel much less alone in the process. I am represented by Camilla Shestopal and she is absolutely lovely. One of the reasons I enjoy working with her is that she really cares about my writing. She speaks about my characters as if they’re real people, and I thought only I would feel that way about them!   Camilla did a lot of editorial work with me before we submitted the book which meant it was in much better shape and that made the structural edits easier.   Negotiating a book deal on my own wasn’t my first choice. I couldn’t get an agent interested in my debut, despite around 30 submissions, so I decided to go it alone because I really believed in the book.  Digital-first publishers are happy to work with unrepresented authors and I found the process quite straightforward. I read two great books by Harry Bingham and Rhoda Baxter and my friend is also a lawyer which helped. Once you have a book deal, you can join the Society of Authors and they will look over contracts for you.   Having an agent is great but not essential. They are inundated with submissions so it can be quite difficult to stand out among their huge slushpiles.   If you feel that having an agent would be helpful, I recommend trying this route first, and giving it a real chance (i.e. 20-30 submissions, not a handful), but don’t be afraid to represent yourself. Arm yourself with knowledge about the industry, ask a lot of questions, and have confidence in your writing.   JW: What kinds of resources have you found useful throughout your writing journey? SL: Jericho Writers is a great resource for writers. You can learn everything about the writing and editing process, approaching agents, self-publishing and marketing your work - but one of the best things is meeting other writers that are on this journey with you.   Don’t be afraid to represent yourself. Arm yourself with knowledge about the industry, ask a lot of questions, and have confidence in your writing. I have been involved with Jericho Writers since I was shortlisted for the Friday Night Live competition in 2014. The Festival of Writing in York was always such a great social event as well as a chance to learn, so I was apprehensive when it moved online due to lockdown. However, I have found the digital festival even better in some ways. Being able to watch the videos on replay meant I could pace myself a bit more and attend more sessions. I do miss the social aspect though.   I completed Debi Alper & Emma Darwin’s Self-Editing Your Novel course last year. After the course, the students set up a writing group over WhatsApp, and we are now in almost daily contact posting articles and questions, helping each other through problems, and cheering each other on. We meet weekly on Zoom to do virtual write-ins which are brilliant for staying motivated!  JW: What have you learned since publishing your first book, and what do you feel you still have left to learn?  SL: I’ve learned so much about the industry and the editorial process through publishing my debut. Writing a novel can be lonely but once you are working with a publisher, you become part of a team. You have to let go of your darlings and appreciate that putting your book into the world is a collaborative process.  There is so much still to discover about writing and publishing, and I think I will be learning for the rest of my life!   A useful piece of advice I got in the early days was to reinvest everything you earn from your first book into developing your craft. There are some great courses out there and you might want to pay for editorial help or mentoring as you write your second book. Everything helps!   Writing a novel can be lonely but once you are working with a publisher, you become part of a team. You have to let go of your darlings and appreciate that putting your book into the world is a collaborative process. I read a lot of books about the craft of writing and I am always learning from other writers. I love attending writing festivals and have found the move to digital has meant this has become much more accessible. This year, for the first time, I attended Bloody Scotland (virtually!). One of the highlights was an interview with Stephen King – it was amazing to be able to hear such a legend talking about his writing (and get a glimpse of his study!). I’ve also been lucky enough to attend online events with Margaret Atwood, Philip Pullman, Tracy Chevalier, Marian Keyes, Dorothy Koomson, and other writing heroes, which wouldn’t have been possible before lockdown.   JW: What’s your best piece of advice for writers who are querying right now?   SL: Never give up on your dreams! Rejection is part of the territory of being a writer but it’s not personal. If someone doesn’t love your work, then they’re not the right person to represent you. Try to be patient and wait for ‘the one’. It may take a while to get published, and you may need to write a few books before you do, but it’s worth it in the end!   About Sarah Sarah Linley lives in Yorkshire and works as a Communications Manager for a housing charity.  Her debut novel, The Trip, was published by One More Chapter (the digital imprint of HarperCollins) in February 2020.   Her second novel, The Wedding Murders, will be published by the same publisher in February 2022.  When she is not writing, she enjoys reading and walking in the Dales.   Visit Sarah\'s website. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @linleysarah1 View The Trip on Amazon. View The Wedding Murders on Amazon.

80 Story Prompts From Top Thriller Writers

80 Thriller Prompts To Get Hearts Racing  Thrillers are commercially one of the most competitive genres to write in. Walk into any bookstore or visit any online shop and you’ll see bestseller tables covered with thrillers. So how do you make your thriller stand out from the crowd? How can you ensure your story idea is unique and engaging and able to stand up against the greats?  We’ve reached out to some of the best thriller authors around for their story ideas, as well as adding some writing prompts of our own. Whether you’re writing a psychological thriller, a thriller suspense, murder mystery, crime drama, historical or contemporary, we have something for everyone. Why Use Thriller Prompts?  The key to all successful thrillers is creating a sense of suspense. Your reader wants to be kept on the edge of their seat while they fly through the pages of your novel because they simply can’t put it down.   Thrillers don’t tend to have many (if any!) comedic events, instead you must maintain a level of suspense, excitement, and interest throughout. Your aim is to pull your reader in, and keep them there, with your suspenseful and plot-driven narrative.  Although ‘thriller’ is the over-arching term, there are a number of sub-genres you might choose to explore.   Psychological thriller  Crime thriller  Mystery thriller  Spy thriller  Action thriller  Political thriller  Legal thriller  Historical thriller  Sci-fi thrillers  Why Are Thriller Writing Prompts Helpful?  Thriller writers find the interesting in the ordinary, everyday things. But sometimes the pressure in making the ordinary into the extraordinary is overwhelming. That’s where our thriller writing prompts come in – here to help break you out of the self-imposed pressure to find the right twist and simply encourage you to start writing.  So welcome to our 80 writing thriller prompts!  These won’t necessarily be the basis of your next novel, but what they will do is inspire you and help you break through the writers’ block and think outside the box. They may even remind you of something, maybe a character will resonate with you, or perhaps all they’ll do is encourage you to write your own prompt.  Thriller Prompts Psychological Thriller Prompts If your thriller focuses on the psychology of its characters as well as a pacy and plot-driven narrative, then it’s likely you’ll find these psychological thriller writing prompts helpful. If you’d like to see some comparable titles then try Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn), Misery (Stephen King), and The Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins). On the third Friday of every month, you switch off your phone and disappear for 24 hours. No one knows where you go, until now……  When clearing out your late husband’s things, you discover a list of names titled ‘conquests\'. The first name shocks you to the core.  When your daughter doesn’t come home on Friday night, the last person you want help from comes to your aid.  Two women catch the same 7:20am train every day, never talking. Until one day when one desperately needs the other...  You barely knew your neighbour. So why did they have your name on a note in their pocket the night they died?  Your daughter says a man has hurt her. You know she’s lying because that man is dead - except no one but you knows that.   It’s 10pm on Monday night. You haven’t left the house in 271 days. If you don’t leave before midnight tonight, you never will.   An email lands in your inbox with instructions for how to save a life. But the email was never meant for you.   You\'re walking through the city centre when a woman hands you a package then flees. What\'s inside turns your stomach.  You\'re a happily married father of two. So why has no one seen your wife for 36 days?  Crime Thriller Prompts A crime thriller tends to focus more on the premise that a future crime hangs in the balance, while your characters work to prevent it. Think: Both of You (Adele Parks) and The Thursday Murder Club (Richard Osman).  A man gets off the Eurostar in Paris. His luggage seems oddly heavy. Opening his suitcase in the taxi, he finds a severed limb. Whose is it?  The old ghosts club: A detective, a judge, and a hitman can’t go to heaven – they haven’t learned enough on earth. But figuring out crimes and making people pay? That’s easy for them. Not just easy, it’s a pleasure. And maybe they’ll learn something on the way …  Eight years ago, a young woman disappears from a Welsh valley. A sexual crime is suspected, but no body is ever recovered. Today, a different woman is found, dead, in a nearby village. There are no marks of violence. The first incident suggests a crime without a corpse, the second one suggests a corpse without a crime. What’s going on? (This is the actual premise of Harry Bingham’s The Dead House, by the way, but you’re welcome to use it.)  The IT guy keeps himself to himself. But he used to work for the Pentagon. His coding skills are exceptional. He’s a highly skilled diver and a judo black belt. And what exactly does he get up to at the weekends?  Cally had truly loved him. It had taken her years to get over his death in a train wreck. Her marriage to Noah now always seemed like a bit of a second best. But why does she have a letter from him today? And how the hell could he be quoting yesterday’s newspaper headline?  The British Crown Jewels are the best defended precious objects in the world. No one in the world could steal them. No one except …  Moriarty’s Story: Sherlock Holmes always gets all the publicity, right? But Moriarty’s story is darker, older and more interesting. It all began one foggy London night in 1889 …  A man wakes up in Texas / Wolverhampton / at the end of your street. It is a starlit night. He has what looks like a bullet-wound in his thigh. A scrap of paper in his hand, with an address on it. No name. The man remembers nothing except for one word  - “run.”  Wall Street’s most famous hedge fund manager, Ponzi Scheme owner and all-round bad guy is finally in court facing a 150-year sentence. But one juror isn’t who he claims to be. For the juror, this isn’t business, it’s personal.  The first paragraph of your story: “The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?” I stare at the court and the judge. “You must know by now that I am an expert liar. It’s my superpower. I’ll raise my hand if you want me to, and say whatever nonsense you have on this paper, but truth? No. I’ll lie and lie and make you believe me anyway. So help me God.”  The last paragraph of your story: “Reader, I murdered him.”  Detective Inspector Ryan Jackson is diligent, successful, hard-working, boozy, and sometimes a little too prone to use his fists. What worries him, though, is these memory blackouts he tells no one about. Ten of fifteen minutes, to start with. Then an hour or two. Once a whole weekend. And why are his fists sometimes red and blooded? And why did his shotgun smell of powder?  She’s the perfect wife, with the perfect home, and the perfect husband. There’s nothing wrong with them, nothing. Her husband isn’t too controlling. And that’s definitely not arsenic in the cleaning cupboard.  “A murder club?” I asked. “Do you mean solving it?” It was Davina who answered. 16 years old. Pretty, pouty, preppy: all the Ps. “Don’t be boring, darling,” she said. “Solving it, committing it. We go both ways you know.” She kissed the tip of her finger and ran it down my face, over my lips to my heart.  A detective in recovery from Cotard’s Syndrome – a real life condition in which sufferers believe themselves to be dead. (That’s Harry’s detective character, by the way, but you’re welcome to take the idea and use it however you want.)  Mystery Thriller Prompts Mystery thrillers tend to work in the opposite direction to a crime thriller: revealing a crime, and then working backwards so its characters can solve it. You could try You (Caroline Kepnes), Sharp Objects (Gillian Flynn), or The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (Stuart Turton) for inspiration.  No-one believes you, but you are certain the daily newspaper crossword is spelling out a warning… or a threat.  You check into a secluded hotel where you’ll sleep in a luxury stilted hut on the private beach. The first morning that you wake up, someone has written ‘DO NOT TRUST THEM’ in pebbles.  From the comfort of your bed, you check your video doorbell to see if a disputed delivery was left yesterday and who took it. Instead, you see a stranger letting themselves into your house. You do not see them leave.  Someone is sending you diary extracts, a new one every day…  You go to collect your teenager from school, but they aren’t there. When you ask in the office, they are confused – they’d agreed you could take your child out of school for a holiday, they show you the form with your signature on it and look at you strangely. But you didn’t sign that form and you had no plans to take them anywhere…  You move into a new house and start to dig in the garden. You find bones and they look human. But there’s a reason you can’t call the police…  Your father died when you were still a baby, but you’ve just been sent an obituary for him, dated last week.     You wake in the night and can’t find your partner. There is no trace of them in the house and no-one knows where they are. When you report them missing to the police, they say there is no record of them existing. So who is the person you’ve been living with for five years?   When you turned 10, your parents died in mysterious circumstances. On your 20th birthday, your best friend was murdered. It’s your 30th next week…   Best friends are both accused of murder. Each insists the other one is innocent. Who is to blame?   Spy And Action Thriller Prompts Spy and action thrillers tend to focus on secret agents and espionage. Packed full of action-adventure, suspense, and spy stories – think race against time to uncover an unseemly plot or overthrow a coup! Try Jason Bourne’s The Bourne Identity, Robert Ludlum, or Clear and Present Danger by Tom Clancy for some background reading in this sub-genre. You’re a special agent, chasing an international art thief across Europe. Finally, you find something in Prague that leaves you wondering: is the art theft a cover for something even more heinous? And are you the right person for the job?  You’re a probationary special agent. The lowest of the low on the career ladder. You’re charged with research and filing. When you find something that could finally bring in an international arms dealer, no one believes you. It’s up to you find the proof needed to bring him in.  8.07 am on the tube was always an experience. Commuters crammed into carriages. Hot air emphasising the distinctive sweaty, stale smell of the Circle Line. While a tinny voice proclaimed “Euston Square” over the tannoy. A pair of eyes found her through the crowd. They trailed her as she hopped off the carriage, narrowly avoiding the gap between platform and tube. They followed her as she ran up the escalator; clearly late, again. And surveyed the path she took as she made her way through the commuters, her red hair glinting in the sun. A different route this morning. It could only mean one thing.  It was a short walk back to the house after Lou’s surprise birthday drinks, but it took an age. Blisters threatened to render Kat’s toes useless for days to follow. Toes throbbing and head dizzy from the vodka lime and sodas, Kat reached for the door. Before the tip of the key could graze the lock, the door swung open. Stepping over the threshold, a neon yellow post-it note caught Kat’s attention. Sitting on the hall table, beside a lidded sharpie, a note lay expectantly.  You’re the victim of a crime, but you don’t report it. Why? Are you guiltier of something worse? What are you hiding? Who are you hiding from?  James is a creature of habit. Everyday the same routine. Until one day he starts running…in the wrong direction.  Political Thriller Prompts Your political thriller should be set against a political backdrop – perhaps a power struggle or political intrigue with suspense and high stakes throughout. Try reading The Sum of All Fears (Tom Clancy), or House of Cards (Michael Dobbs) for some ideas.  There in the tree line a gloved hand waited; a finger poised and ready to take the photo they’ve come for. Crunched-up leaves and broken branches litters the ground beneath their feet. Biding their time. Waiting. Patience has always been his gift.  You’re a journalist and receive a tip that could change everything in the election next week. But first, you need to validate it.  An assertive knock on the inner door announced the visit she’d been dreading.  COBRA’s been taken hostage.  Legal Thriller Prompts Similar to the crime thriller, a legal thriller focuses on the procedures and investigation, whether that’s the police procedural or the court case. Think The Partner (John Grisham), The Devil’s Advocate (Steve Cavanagh) or You Don’t Know Me (Imran Mahmood).  “Decisive” was not a word you’d use to describe DC White. Changeable; dim; easily manipulated. But “Decisive”? Not at all. Or at least that’s what they banked on.  After finishing work late one night, you find a brown paper packet neatly tied with red string on your passenger seat. Alongside a note: “He’s innocent.”  The cell door clangs shut behind you. Looking down at your hands you see dried mud, dirt, and something that looks a lot like blood.  You arrange to meet your client in your office. When they don’t arrive, you go out to find them.  12 years, 17 days, 6 hours and 32 minutes. That’s how long she had been locked away for. Away from her family. Away from her child. Away from the world as she knew it. But, 12 years, 17 days, 6 hours and 32 minutes is also how long she’s had to plan her revenge. And in 12 minutes she’ll finally be free to do it.  There’s something not quite right about Mr Hallow.   They’re hiding something. You can’t put your finger on it, but you know. Your 30 years on the force is telling you there’s something they’re not saying.   Historical Thriller Prompts The historical thriller is just that, a thriller set in the past. Make sure to research how to write historical fiction novels too, so you can get the balance between embedding the story within the historical period and keeping the narrative pacy and suspense filled. Titles for background reading could include The Alienist (Caleb Carr), The Doll Factory (Elizabeth Macneal) and Liar (Lesley Pearse).  The rain came early that year. Forcing Fowler and his farmhands to sprint back to the field to bring the rest of the harvest in. It was now or never. Stealing out from behind his hiding place beside the carriage, he headed towards the house. Tucking himself into a dark corner of the entry room, he waited.  The truth behind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: who was the real Frankenstein and how was he injured so unrecognisably?  The year is 1536. A time when everyone was at risk of losing their head, even the queen. Clay did what he had to do to survive, even if that meant he was the executioner.  Her masque hung listlessly on a seat in the corner of her bed chamber. The blue damask gown she had ordered specifically for the masquerade that night lay ruined at her feet. Tinged with the brownish-red hues of now dry blood. What had she done? What was she going to do now?  Somewhere in the French Quarter a saxophone serenaded the inky night sky. The streets thrummed with music and laughter, while colours rebounded off the buildings and along the streets. New Orleans in 1932 was something to behold. But here, in this tiny side street taunted by the distant celebrations, a private investigator was finally closing in.  The funny thing about not attending your wife’s execution is that you didn’t actually witness her death. In Henry’s case, his wife is back and she’s ready for revenge.   Life in Victorian London is hard, but especially so when your fiancé has been accused of murder and you have to fight to find the true killer.   Science Fiction Thriller Prompts A science fiction thriller tends to place the action in an alternative reality – whether that’s a dystopian society or a different planet all together – the action and intrigue of the thriller will be heavily laced with Sci-Fi themes but will remain within the confines of existing science to create a believable risk scenario. Think 11/22/63 (Stephen King) or 1984 (George Orwell).  Fairgrounds are normally bright and colourful, alive. But today, today it feels different. Cold. Empty. Dark.  You’re on a carousel. High up above the crowds you spot something in the distance. Unsure what you see, it takes a while for your eyes to adjust, but when they do, you realise things will never the be same again.  You run a Detective Agency with a twist: specialising in paranormal crimes and activity.  Liam is tired of being called a conspiracy theorist, but nothing will stop him from proving that the president is not from this earth. His proof? He isn’t either.  Some might want to use a time machine to see the future, but I know where I’m going. Back to 7th February 2004 to find out who really killed Suzy.  In a post-apocalyptic world, all that stands between building a new future and certain death, is you.  In a dystopian world technology has become the currency that life depends on, that is until something threatens the very core of that technology. No kissing is allowed in this world, let alone sex. Babies are made by machines and love is against the law. But one couple have fallen for one another and she\'s pregnant. Will they escape before it\'s too late? Ten Bonus Prompts 68. Two non-identical twins are separated at birth. One of them is murdered and the other twin\'s DNA is found all over the dead body.  69. Sarah Daniel\'s credit card is rejected at a coffee shop. She calls her bank who tell her she isn\'t Sarah Daniels. Sarah Daniels is dead.  70. A stranger hands Michelle a phone before jumping off a building to her death. The phone contains a voice message from the stranger accusing Michelle of her death.  71. Tania\'s best friend Mariah disappeared fifteen years ago. Her body was never found. A young woman moves in next door who looks exactly like Mariah did, back then. But then she vanishes too.  72. Rachelle wakes up to her sleep talking husband confessing to a murder. 73. A man lies on his death bed in hospital. He whispers into the nurse\'s ear. \'I know what you did and your son will pay.\'\' Her son doesn\'t return home from school that afternoon.  74. You come across a news story about a missing person. A woman in her forties, with mid-length black hair, brown eyes, 5\'5. It\'s you. Your face, your description, only... a different name. The story is dated with tomorrow\'s date. But you\'re safe. Aren\'t you? 75. You\'ve been getting away with minor crimes (fraud, theft, a little arson) for a while now. And you\'re ready for something more challenging. But what will it be? Maybe you could do something about your rude neighbour... 76. Your cat saunters in, carrying what you imagine is yet another mouse in her mouth. Only it\'s not a mouse. It\'s a finger.77. A woman returns home after a work trip away. She opens the front door and there is a strange family sitting in her kitchen, at her table. They claim to be her family, but they\'re not the family she remembers at all. 78. A woman tweets \'\'Live or die\'\'. The votes are 65% in favour of death. The next day she is found murdered in her home. 79. A recent widow takes a sole cruise around the Atlantic. One by one passengers start to go missing. Scraps of paper found in their rooms spell out the name of her dead husband. 80. A woman wakes up in a stranger\'s bed with no memory of what happened last night. Then she sees the dead man lying next to her and his blood on her hands.  Follow The Footsteps Of Top Thriller Writers A huge thank you to our guest contributors for sharing some of their psychological and crime thriller story ideas and prompts. Find out more about them and their latest projects here:  Harry Bingham Harry is not only the founder of Jericho Writers, but he\'s also the bestselling author of a dozen thriller novels and multiple works of non-fiction. Published all over the world, his work has been adapted for TV, he\'s been on prize short- and long-lists, and had worldwide critical acclaim. Click here to discover his books. Holly Seddon Holly\'s first thriller novel, TRY NOT TO BREATHE, was published in 2016 and went on to be a bestseller in the UK, Ireland, Germany and Australia. A USA Today bestseller, it was also an audiobook, paperback and e-book bestseller in various countries. Her second novel, DON’T CLOSE YOUR EYES, was published in July 2017 in the UK, USA and in many other countries. In May 2018, it hit number one in the audiobook charts. LOVE WILL TEAR US APART was published in June 2018 and THE WOMAN ON THE BRIDGE is out March 2022. She\'s also one half of the Honest Authors, co-hosting a fortnightly podcast on the realities of life as a published author. Click here to pre-order her new book! Sophie Flynn Sophie is a Cotswolds based psychological thriller author with an MA in Creative Writing from Oxford Brookes. Her debut novel ALL MY LIES was published by Simon & Schuster in April, 2021. Alongside writing, Sophie is also the Head of Marketing at Jericho Writers.  Meera Shah Meera Shah is a psychological suspense writer based in London, UK. Her debut novel will be published by Hodder Studio, an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton, in Spring ’23. To follow her journey to publication you can visit her author website or Twitter page. More Thriller Writing Tips I hope these thriller writing prompts helped you fight off your writers’ block and sparked a source of inspiration for you.   If you want to learn a little more about thriller writing, check out our favourite Jericho Writers thriller articles below.   How Crime Writers can Research Police Procedure Tips for Writing Crime Fiction and Thrillers How to Get an Agent for Your Thriller  7 Top Tips for Writing Gripping Thrillers How to Plot a Novel (Using our Easy Plot Template Technique) – Jericho Writers  How to Create a Great Inciting Incident – Jericho Writers  And remember, even the very best thriller writers started out staring at a blank white blank page. So don’t worry if you haven’t hit upon the perfect idea yet; start out by looking through the story ideas we’ve listed here, or better yet, start listing your own prompts from inspiration you find in everyday life.   You never know, a tiny spark of an idea may inspire you to write something you weren’t expecting and you will be joining the greats at the bestselling thriller table at your favourite bookstore! 

100 Poetry Prompts

100 Phenomenal Poetry Prompts To Inspire Your Writing Poetry is an expressive and compelling form of writing, but it can be hard to know where to begin. Between form, structure, and content, there are lots of factors to consider when you’re deciding how to write a poem. These poetry prompts will help you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and give you that all-important start.  These prompts are separated into 6 categories containing 15 prompts each, with one miscellaneous section at the end: Poetic form prompts  Imagination focused prompts  Nature/the outside prompts  Media and objects as inspiration prompts  Sentimental/reflective prompts  Structure prompts  Miscellaneous prompts  Sometimes coming up with a clear, exciting idea can be the hardest part of writing poetry. But luckily we’ve done it for you! So let’s get started with our poetry prompts.  Poetic Form Prompts  When it comes to writing poetry, deciding on the form you want to use is a great place to start. Whether you’re deciding between writing in free verse or using a regular rhyme pattern; wondering which era of poetry you want to reflect; or what type of poem (acrostic, sestina etc) you want to write; knowing the overall shape of your poem will help you get started. So here are some poetry prompts in the realm of poetic form.  Write an acrostic poem using your name or that of a loved one.  Write an ode to someone or something you love. Start with your favourite thing about them.  Write a sonnet or rewrite one of Shakespeare\'s or Petrarch’s. (Sonnets are 14 lines long and are traditionally written in iambic pentameter. But feel free to bend the rules a little; it’s your poem!)  Write a poem in the style of, or in honour of, your favourite poet.  Flick through a poetry book. Find a line which resonates you. Use that as your starting point and carry on from there.  Write a poem that is also a letter. To your past or future self; to a friend; to an emotion; to a loved one who passed away.  Write a poem in a \'stream of consciousness\' style.  Write in the style of a poetic era which interests you (romantic poetry, metaphysical poetry, Renaissance poetry).  Write a sestina (an unrhyming poem consisting of 6 stanzas of 6 lines and a final 3 line stanza). To help you get started, write about the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning.  What’s your favourite/lucky number? Write a poem consisting of that many lines.  Write a poem listing and connecting mundane objects around you. Consider how you interact with them, and how they interact with each other.  Write a poem without taking your pen off of the paper. Your starting point is your favourite vegetable.  Write a haiku (5 syllables in the first line, 7 syllables in the second line, 5 syllables in the last line). For your starting point, use any word which interests you that begins with the same letter as your surname.  Write a poem using the poetic ‘I’. Write about your day so far (feel free to exaggerate and embellish).  Write a poem personifying whichever emotion you’re predominantly feeling right now.  Imagination Focused Prompts  Poetry is very focused on images, which means you can truly let your imagination run wild when writing it. Be descriptive, have fun, and don’t be afraid to lean into the bizarre. These creative poetry writing prompts will help you craft unique, engaging poems.  Pick a colour. Use the 5 senses to explore and inhabit it.  Keep a notebook by your bed. When you wake up in the morning write down everything you can remember about your dreams. Then write a poem based on your notes.  Write a poem about a mirror.  What was your favourite fairy tale/fable as a child? Write a poem from the perspective of a secondary character (like Little Red Riding Hood’s mum) or the antagonist (like the wolf).  Think of a cliché which irritates you. Write a better version of it (think ‘show, don’t tell’), and build your poem from there.  Think about your favourite scent. Write a poem depicting the things and activities it reminds you of (fresh laundry, apple picking, the ocean, blossom on the trees).  Write about the aftermath. Of an argument, a panic attack, crying, a break-up, a dizzy spell, the best news of your life.  If you were an animal what would you be? Write from an animal’s perspective.  There are flowers on a doorstep. Write a poem about them from the perspective of the sender or the recipient (or both). Are they a celebratory gift (for a birthday, promotion, engagement etc)? An apology? A thank you present? Explore.  Think of something bizarre or ridiculous you once saw or heard about (the dream you had about a 20-foot-tall flamingo playing the violin, or your niece’s conversation about the elves who helped her with her homework) and use that as the opening to a poem.  Write a poem which takes place in a time of transition. On the bus home, in the moment between being awake and falling asleep, the day before starting a new job...  If you were to create your own Coat of Arms, what would it look like? Consider what animal, what kind of plant/flower, and what colours etc you would include. Write a poem describing the details and what they represent.  Write a poem about a secret.  Think about a big decision you made. Write a poem exploring what may have happened if you’d chosen differently.  Write a poem about a terrible birthday.  Nature/The Outside Prompts  Classical poetry is what most people think of when it comes to poetry. Lush forests, budding flowers, babbling brooks. Some may think it cliché, but it’s a classic for a reason. And a good reminder to writers to get some fresh air every once in a while. Use this as a nudge to take a break, go for a walk, and who knows; maybe a half-finished poem will come back with you. Try these nature and outdoors focused writing prompts for poetry.  Write about the month you’re in now. What comes to mind when you think about it/this season? Draw from memories, the five senses, seasonal activities.   Which element (earth, air) is aligned with your star sign? Write a poem exploring it.  Look out the window or go for a walk and admire the nature around you. What draws your attention? Write about it in as much detail as possible.  Write a poem that starts with a tree. Think about what season you want it to be and thus what it looks like (are there leaves/blossom/bare branches)? Think about where you are in relation to it (sat underneath it, looking at it from a passing car, walking up a hill towards it). See where the poem takes you.  Write about an open window. What kind of building is it in? What’s on either side of it? How high up is it? What does it represent? People watch as you gaze out of the window, or look at the people across from you as you walk down the street. Make up a life/story for them in your head. Craft a poem around it.  Write about a bonfire or a fireplace. Are you someone who loves the smell of them, and how it lingers on your clothes afterwards? Or someone who hates that the smoke gets in your eyes and you have to get really close to them if you want to escape the surrounding cold?  Write about water. The ocean, drinking a glass of water, washing yourself or the dishes, the rain.  Where’s your favourite place to be? It could anything from the corner of your bedroom, to a small cafe in town, to an African island. Write a poem about it.  Write a poem about the weather.  We always want what we don’t have. Write about the season (autumn, spring etc) you wish you were experiencing now.  Write a poem about being snowed in or having a power outage. Explore the intimacy of being in close quarters with others or trapped alone.  When you’re out and about, pay attention to the words around you. Write a poem based on the tail end of a conversation you overheard, the slogan on someone’s t-shirt, or the curious sign in the shop window.  Think of any old buildings near where you live or grew up. Contemplate who might have occupied them 50/100/200 years ago. Write about them. Write a poem from the perspective of someone sullen and sitting alone on a park bench. Media And Objects As Inspiration Prompts  When trying to figure out how to write poetry that is compelling and meaningful, there are many available options. In a technological world, using media as inspiration is one of the simplest solutions. Let your interests converge and use the images/messages/themes from your favourite forms of media to help you write your next poem.  Write a poem based on the first news article which comes up on your TV/phone/the internet.  Find a picture of you as a child. Write from the perspective of your child self. Look back at the picture from time to time as you write.  Fill in a crossword puzzle or other word game. Write a poem using as many of the words from it as possible.  Write a poem about your favourite book.  Think about an item of clothing or an accessory (the t-shirt that’s worn and well loved, the dress you wore every week when you were in your 30s, the necklace that’s been in your family for generations) that means a lot to you. Write about it. Think about all the places you went and emotions you felt when you wore it. Conversely, personify the object and write a poem about what it experienced with you on those occasions.  Write a poem about or from the perspective of one of your favourite (or least favourite!) characters from a book/TV show/movie.  Listen to a song which you enjoy/resonates with you deeply. Dance, close your eyes; do whatever comes naturally. Once it’s finished, sit down and write whatever comes to mind. Think about a key lyric, how it makes you feel, or what your experience was like the first time you heard it.  Pick a photo you love, your favourite piece of art, or search for interesting images online (volcanoes, Victorian furniture, classical paintings). Write a poem responding to the image.  Watch the trailer for an upcoming film you’re eager to see. Write a poem based on an interesting moment, or in response to it.  Think about a memorable concert, play, or fair you attended as a child. Write as though you’re experiencing it now.  Pick a quote that resonates with you/which you admire. It could be an old adage, something your parents told you, or from a famous writer. Ponder over it for a while, and then write about or in response to it.  What’s the oldest object you own? When did you get it? What does it mean to you? Write about it in detail.  Write a poem set in a school. You can recall your own school experience to help you, entirely make it up, or use a scene from a TV show or film as inspiration.  If you keep a journal, write a poem based on one of your journal entries. Pick an older one (such as the entry you wrote exactly a year ago today) so that you’re a little distanced from what you were experiencing then. Reflect. Contemplate. Use the power of hindsight.  Spend five minutes or so on a social media or gaming app. Jot down any words or images which interest you or evoke some kind of response in you. Use them to help shape your poem.  Sentimental/Reflective Prompts  Poetry writing can be very reflective and personal. When you’re in need of inspiration, sometimes the best place to start is your own experience. Whether you favour poetry that is sentimental and melancholy, or nostalgic and exuberant, these prompts for poetry will help you out.  Write about something that you aren’t ready to say out loud yet.   Write about the age you are now; the stereotypes of your demographic, how comfortable you are with your current age, the joys and sorrows it has bought you.  Think of a really happy day/experience you had in your childhood. Maybe it was when you made a new friend, or read a great book, or went on a trip to a museum. Write a poem describing your unadulterated joy.  Write about the experience of losing something dear to you.  Write about someone who taught you/helped you grow but who wasn’t your teacher, parent, or caregiver.  Think about a memorable birthday you once had. Write a poem about the first one which comes to mind.  Write a poem about a nightmare or a ‘there’s a monster under the bed’ type fear which you had as a child.  Write a poem to/about someone, addressing the things you regret not telling them.  What was your favourite toy/game as child? Write about the devotion you had to it. Are there any parallels between it and your favourite hobbies/passions now?  Write about a small random thing which brings you joy (your favourite cup of tea, your cat running towards the door to meet you when you come home, the smell of a cinnamon scented candle).  Write about a haircut/hairstyle or sense of style you once had that differs from how you present yourself today. Who was that version of you? In which ways are you different now?  Write a poem about a theme or topic which is important to you (animal rights, mental health, education) without explicitly naming it.  What does home mean to you? Write a poem ruminating on it as a concept and a physical space.  Write a poem about a cultural moment which resonated with you (past or present).  Write about a time when you were overlooked. How did you react? Would you respond differently now?  Structure Prompts  The structure of a poem is as important as the words which it contains. And it can be just as meaningful. Starting with the outline of what you want your poem to be like gives you some restrictions so you don’t feel overwhelmed by the myriad of things a poem can be about, while also giving you the freedom to explore your ideas. Here are some creative writing poetry prompts associated with structure.  Open any book. Write a poem based on the first word which draws your attention.  Pick a number between 5 and 100. Write a poem containing that exact number of words.  Make a copy of one of your favourite poems and adjust it to make it your own. Rearrange stanzas/lines, cut out words, change the layout, remove every 5th word and see what happens.  Using a random name generator- or just flick through a dictionary/thesaurus/book- come up with 5 random words and craft a poem around them.  Write a poem without using the letter e.  Write a poem with each line representing a year of your life (you can do it in calendar years e.g. 1989, 1990, 1991 etc, or in ages e.g. aged 29, 30, 31) and the key memories/emotions/experiences from that time.  If you speak a second language, try writing a poem in that language instead.  Write using a different medium. If you usually type your poems on a computer, use pen and paper instead. Or try writing on a whiteboard, in coloured marker on a huge piece of paper, using scrabble tiles, in chalk on your garden path, or on a typewriter.  Write a poem with nouns which start with the letter of your first name.  Find a poem which you have written but aren\'t satisfied with. Read through it, and try and figure out what you don’t like about it. Then, either pick out a line you like and use that as a starting point, or rewrite the poem focusing on its key themes/thesis.  Write a poem using commas as the only form of punctuation.  Write with a friend! Agree on an approximate poem length (for instance, 16 lines). Choose someone to start by sending the first line to the other person. They then send the second line back in response. Continue until your poem is complete.  Write a poem without any full stops.  Pick up a pen and a paper and free write. About your day, your state of mind, anything. Set a timer for 5-15 minutes and keep writing the entire time. Don’t correct your spelling or cross things out. Just. Keep. Writing. After your time is up, go back through and circle/highlight/underline words or phrases which you like. Use one or two of them and begin crafting a poem.  Write a poem structured as a poetic transcript of a story a loved one/relative is telling. Use spacing and punctuation to indicate pauses, and include fillers.  Miscellaneous Prompts  There are so many different types of poetry that it can be hard to define as a writing form. And hard to write prompts for, apparently! So here are some extra prompts which refused to be defined by any one category, perfect for the poet whose imagination cannot be contained.  Write about silence. Is it eerie, peaceful, anxiety provoking? Explore.   When was the last time you danced? Where were you? Were you alone/who were you with? How did you feel? Write about it.  Write a poem about any traditions you have, and whether or not you’re attached to them.  Think of an act of injustice/news story which upsets you. Write about its intricacies and why it angers/saddens you.  Listen. What’s the most prominent sound you hear? Write about it.  Write about a part of the body. Any one! Explore all the things about it which you take for granted and the ways in which it brings you joy (arms for hugging, legs for dancing, eyes for watching the sunset etc).  Write a poem exploring the etymology of your name and your relationship to it.  Do you have any physical injuries? Write a poem about how you got them and, if relevant, how they affect you now.  Write a poem about a coincidence that you experienced.  Write a poem about the gestures/facial expressions you frequently use and what they communicate. How do the people around you use gestures?  Using Poetry Prompts  We hope these poetry prompts give you some great inspiration for new avenues to explore with your writing. Many of these prompts can be used again and again if adapted slightly. You can use them as the basis for a brief freewriting session, to help edit or focus poems you’ve already written, or to help you develop your skills in an area of poetry you’ve been working on (maybe you’re trying to become an expert in all things sonnets). Feel free to adjust these poetry prompts in any way which suits you; we find that a shift in perspective often helps. Happy writing! 

150 Horror Prompts, Settings And Characters

Whether you\'re looking to scare, horrify, or make your readers jump, we are here with all the inspiration you need! We\'ve created a horrific list of 50 horror writing prompts to give your writing that hair-raising, back-of-the-neck eerie touch. Why Use Horror Prompts? Horror books (as well as movies and TV shows) exist because human fear exists. And all readers love to feel something with each genre! Classic horror fiction books aim to frighten, and over time authors have found a myriad of ways to do that. Common themes include ghosts, ghouls, monsters, vampires, werewolves, demons, zombies, murderers, serial killers, paranormal forces, witchcraft, apocalypses, psychological fear, and gore. So if you\'re feeling uninspired, you think all the good ideas have already been taken (they haven\'t), or you simply want to kick-start your imagination - take a look at our horror prompts list. We have included 50 specific examples of horror story ideas organised under sub-genres. We hope some of them send a tingle down your spine and inspire you to write your own creepy novel! 50 Horror Story Prompts Word of warning: in keeping with the nature of the genre, most of these prompts contain violent or upsetting themes. Comedic Horror Prompts You survive the apocalypse purely due to a series of happy accidents. It turns out, an alien race orchestrated the doomsday events on Earth to see if humans were ready to ascend. As lone survivor, you\'re selected to be the sole representative of humanity in the new world order. Unpopular new arrivals in a town that treasures natural beauty, Michaela takes pity on her plastic surgeon father and goes to bed one night wishing that all of her classmates’ worst fears of their physical insecurities would come true. You work at a Zombie Rehabilitation Centre in LA. It was your dream job until you realise you\'re stuck teaching \'Bite Inhibition\' classes. Flattered to be one of the few freshmen listed on the most popular sorority\'s website \"Fresh Meat\", you turn up to a party in your honour at the Kappa Kappa house. At the end of the night, you discover a secret book containing a step-by-step plan of \'How to eat the class of 2022\'. Former beauty pageant queen transforms into a hungry werewolf on the most important full moon of the year, on the prowl for the ‘next pretty young thing’. This year\'s pageant hopefuls are armed to the teethed and willing to fight for the crown.  You\'re a vain, ancient witch adapting to the 21st century by getting a job at the Apple Store so that you can enchant teenagers\' smartphones and sap their youth through their devices. Demonic Possession Horror Prompts Stacey’s perfect family life begins to unravel one day when a malicious spirit moves in and inflicts itself upon its host, jumping around between her, her husband, and her two daughters.   You terrify your family when you wake up floating two metres above your bed. An exorcist tells them he\'s cured you, but the demon doesn\'t actually leave your body. It\'s learned to come out only when you are alone. Taking part in a prison experiment for extra credit, 11 university students are unable to explain the violence that overcame them, and the brutal death of the 12th student, citing demons over any psychological element. You\'re trying to put your house on the market. You\'ve lived there all your life, and you\'re the last surviving member of your family. Every estate agent you bring in to the house dies in a tragic accident days later. Gore Horror Prompts Uni student Jamie was looking for some extra cash when he signed away two weeks of his summer vacation to take part in a simple clinical trial. But when he realises patients are having their organs harvested against their will, his experience turns into a brutal, bloody nightmare.   Someone in your neighbourhood has been committing grisly acts of violence on people at night. You set up a camera to investigate and catch an exact replica of yourself in the act. A well-intentioned break-in turns nasty for a group of friends who become trapped in a ‘chalet of death’ as the stunning vacation home turns into a gruesome automated killing machine at night.  You take a summer job at an amusement park. When covering for a coworker on the rollercoaster booth one night, body parts start flying off the ride. You stop the train and find that all the passengers are long-dead corpses. Monster Horror Prompts Night-time brings terror for caring but agoraphobic cat lady as her six beloved pets transform into flesh-hungry demons as soon as it’s dark out. You’ve seen The Quiet Place and Birdbox, but what if the monstrous entity who invaded Earth destroyed humanity through touch? Each ‘spore’ is as big as a city, growing bigger each time it absorbs a victim. A pack of survivors must spread out if they want to make it through an ever-narrowing world in order to find, and destroy, the epicentre. Susie is a wedding photographer whose camera starts to reveal monsters unseen to the eye that prey on the love of newlyweds. When Susie’s clients start to disappear from their honeymoons, she is the only person who knows what\'s really happening to them.   You\'re a teacher chaperoning swimming lessons at your school. You inspected the pool yourself, but when the kids get in you see an enormous, invisible creature come to life. The first drowning is ruled as accidental, and to your horror, the lessons continue. Paranormal Horror Prompts College student Josh is tapped as a pledge for an ultra-secret society via coded messages, which are unbeknownst to him left by the ghosts of past members who each met gruesome ends. The final test forces him into an abandoned storage facility where he must carry out increasingly punishing tasks on other pledges. A close relative who died before you were born is standing in the upstairs window of the house across the street. You have no doubt it\'s them. When you work up the courage to break in to the neighbour\'s house and confront them, you turn to see the person you came to find now visible in the window of your own house. The local sheriff’s night turns hellish when the man he locked up uses his telekinesis to lethally booby trap the station. A mother of three does all she can to protect her family from imminent doom when she begins having visions of their collective deaths. You\'re out walking the dog one afternoon when you find yourself caught in a physical endless loop in the woods. You feel yourself losing time but you can\'t find a way out. Post-Apocalyptic Horror Prompts Humanity took to the sea to survive the rising sea levels caused by climate change, but now their ocean rigs are massively overcrowded, resource-poor, and steeped in disease. A deadly class struggle breaks out on one of the stations.  A wayward AI has slowly infected all computers and devices, subtly turning humans against each other. Now living in a culture of suspicion and distrust running on the currency of violence, nomadic young Kit refuses to kill to survive. You\'ve grown up as the next generation of the most wealthy and successful humans who survived the end of the world. Your world unravels when you realise that those raising you have in fact been the robot overlords who destroyed humanity. They copied the skins of those they found locked in an emergency bunker and started to artificially grow humans as pets and slaves. Trapped inside a small cabin by her phobia of the rain, one of the last surviving human women on earth tries to survive the night when a horde of those infected with the plague (that wiped out most of the human race) track her down hungry for blood. Psychological Horror Prompts After a tragic accident on his 21st birthday, Peter gets back in touch with his estranged father via email. He flies 6000 miles to stay with him, but when he arrives he\'s pulled into a deadly catfishing game carried out by a wolf in sheep’s clothing. You wake up in your childhood bed, look down at yourself, and find that you\'re 12 again. You can\'t see yourself in the mirror, or in photos, but everyone else can see you. You\'re convinced you\'re going to disappear altogether. Suspecting his wife of infidelity, Ben hires a private investigator to catch her in the act. When she disappears without her lover, Ben begins to suspect the man he hired had something to do with it. You work the graveyard shift at a 24 hour on-campus library. While snooping around you come across a handwritten book that was started three decades ago. It contains a record of all the accidents and atrocities that have happened at the school since then. A week later, a girl falls off the roof and dies. During your next shift, you see a beloved professor writing in the book. You start to doubt everything when the death is ruled an accident. Religious/Folk Beliefs Horror Prompts Summer is excited to be spending her semester abroad, until she witnesses some locals performing a horrifying ritual on her fellow traveller. Your parents reveal a horrid secret to you on your 18th birthday. Your idyllic lifestyle in a small, isolated community will come to an end if you don\'t start participating in the cult\'s obscene rituals. If you refuse, you\'ll be sacrificed against your will for the cause. Born into a futuristic fringe community that abhors physical contact, a young woman’s attempts to break free are met with the harshest repercussions.   Slasher Horror Prompts Callie is delighted to be driving to college in her graduation gift – a brand new electric Mercedes – when an EMP attack leaves her stranded by the side of the road. There’s nothing but forest around for miles, until a lumberjack with a dark past pulls up beside her.   Ten years after you said goodbye to your imaginary friend, you see their face on the evening news next to the headline \'The Redfield Ripper\'s Recent Attacks\'. An insane chef renting a cabin in the woods sharpens up their knife skills on whoever is unlucky enough to disturb them. Vampire Horror Prompts Cal is a postman resigned to a boring new route in a rural valley when he comes across three beautiful sisters living alone in a big house. He finds himself there almost every day hauling curious packages. A bout of bad weather knocks a tree down on the only road in, and a few days later, Cal is greeted with a terrifying scenario at the front door.   For months, your dog keeps waking you up at the same time every night. He barks at the window. When you look out onto the street, you see the same stranger watching you. The stranger can\'t be recorded, and nobody believes you when you tell them. One night, thinking yourself delirious, you invite him in. Told from the POV of the youngest sibling of an ancient coven of vampires, Clara and her family are ‘monsters’ living their lives in fear of a powerful new hunter who has trapped them in a small town and is threatening to pick them off one by one. Witchcraft Horror Prompts Down on her luck librarian Eliza idolises famous American movie star Marsha Green. When she comes across an ancient tome under some rotten floorboards and begins to meddle with unknown forces, she sets events in motion which alter Marsha’s life forever. You win the lottery. But every time you spend some of the money, no matter what you use it for, bad things happen. You go back to where you found the lucky ticket, pinned to a tree, and it\'s now covered in unfamiliar symbols. A revolutionary new computer game downloads itself onto the laptops of a group of 11-year-olds. After playing all night, they return to school to find their in-game actions inflicted on their classmates. Suspecting their strict teacher to be behind it, the kids must figure out how to undo her spell and reverse the damage they have done.  You\'re an overbearing mother who wishes she could give her daughter the perfect life. You do more harm than good with your cosmetic spells and emotional enchantments, nearly destroying the life of your sixteen year old, who eventually exacts her revenge in equal measure. Working late one night, an exec finds himself unable to leave his bewitched office chair as a scorned investor instructs him to perform humiliating acts in front of his webcam as penance. Zombie Horror Prompts A teenage girl goes to an illicit gathering in the woods one night and meets a boy. Their encounter ends badly. She wakes up to find teeth and nail marks, and realises she is a little less alive than she was the day before.   You dreamt of the zombie pandemic as a child. You dedicated your life to preparing an antidote, waiting for the outbreak so you could develop a cure. You are shunned from the scientific community for your \'fringe beliefs\'. At the first signs of sickness in your loved ones, you kidnap them and take them to an underground research facility where you push yourself to your limits and make dire choices in anticipation of saving the human race. Years after her best friend is murdered, detective Alana’s latest case leads her to a mansion overrun by a horde of zombies led by a hauntingly familiar face. You\'ve never questioned your landlord\'s odd behaviour, desperate as you were for cheap rent. But when the fuse blows and no one is around to fix it, you uncover a nasty truth in the basement\'s freezer. It\'s overflowing with brains! You\'re a doctor volunteering in the latest wave of deadly outbreaks across Europe. When you\'re morally unable to kill patient zero in the early stages of a new unknown strain, you must live with unleashing the zombie virus across the world\'s population. 50 Places To Find Inspiration For Your Horror Story The setting of a horror story is everything - but not all scary novels have to take place in a scary place (in fact, sometimes the most mundane of places can be given a horrifying twist by adding a bit of the unknown). When looking for inspiration, it really helps to physically go to a place, or research old relics, to help kick-start your imagination. Take a look at our 50 places that may inspire your next creepy tale. In fact, see if you can think of a horror book or movie set in some of these places (we certainly can!). An empty school A graveyard Look at old paintings Go through old photo albums An empty house The basement The attic A toy store after closing time Visit an old library A museum An old lady\'s house that hasn\'t changed in decades A scrapyard The dessert The ocean (the deeper, the scarier) A secluded island The forrest on a misty day A snowy tundra A corn field A zoo A shopping mall An abandoned...well...anything A hospital Prison A locked room A hotel A log cabin A swelteringly hot day Suburbia...but different A run-down urban street A room full of puppets Backstage of the theatre Empty corridors leading nowhere A morgue A rubbish dump An empty road in the rain The top of a mountain Ancient ruins The inside of a church A fairground after closing hours A circus A cave Beneath the streets of a big city A metro station/the tube An airport The kitchens of a hotel or restaurant A factory An old stone quarry Overgrown railway line A bookshop A boat 50 Horror Story Characters To Inspire you Sometimes, the most simplest of storylines with the most mundane of setting, can be utterly horrifying of you add one very complicated character. Of course you can use monsters and fantastical characters you have created, but often the best effect is mixing an everyday character with a setting where they belong; for instance a clown hiding inside a car at an empty scrapyard, or a little old lady, bony and bent double, in the middle of the jungle. And remember - these characters can be the good gifs, the bad guys, or maybe a mix of both! Clown Little old lady Troubled teenager A person with no eyes Police officer Nurse Woman with dramatically applied make-up Lumberjack Writer Gangster Sex worker or pimp Someone with blades for fingers Baby in a crib Toddler that doesn\'t speak Girl in bedclothes with hair that covers her face A character that belongs in another time Scarecrow Animal that can talk Person with wings for arms A very normal looking mother. A bit too normal. Robot Someone who is meant to be dead Thief Zoo keeper Chef Librarian Teacher A goody-two-shoes child Cowboy Airline pilot Captain of a ship Firefighter Scientist (everyone loves a mad scientist) A single dad A mother with more kids than she can handle Farmer Waitress Sewage worker Lion tamer Builder working on an new house Archeologist Security guard Traffic warden/meter maid Artist Someone with wheels for feet Judge Prison warden Door to door salesperson Shy secretary Nun or priest Writing Horror Doesn\'t Have To Be Hard We hope our list of writing prompts for horror, along with settings and characters, has sparked your imagination! If not, here\'s how to take our horror ideas to the next level: Found a horror story prompt you like but unsure of where to take it next? Let\'s take #8 from the top list, for example, and add a few interesting characters from our list and choose a setting or two. Then start to build an information bank on your protagonist from there. At this point focus on the character, not the plot - because often one thing can lead to another. The Prompt: You\'re a troubled teen who terrifies your family when you wake up floating two metres above your bed. You just moved into an old house in a quiet, creepy suburban street. An exorcist tells your family he has cured you, but the demon doesn\'t actually leave your body, and learns to come out only when you are alone. You\'re still a teenager, living at home. Your name is Jackson, but you go by Jax. You\'re a second generation immigrant and you speak Greek at home with your family. Your father named you after his favourite American baseball player. You have dark hair, dark eyes, and when you would steal your grandmother\'s baklavas off the kitchen counter she would say she could see the devil in your face. You spend the weekends riding the coastal roads on motorbikes with your friends, doing your best to stay out the way of your spoiled little sister and your overworked father. You\'re closest to your YaYa but too afraid to tell her where you spend most of your time. Moving house unsettled you and took away everything you ever loved. Or, why not map out a rough plot first? The inciting incident for this prompt could be: You\'ve snuck back into your room after a long night out with your friends. You left the window open. Four hours after you collapsed onto your bed in your clothes, you wake with a start to find yourself hovering inexplicably in the air. Your body is locked into position. You spend a panicked hour trying to wriggle free of its grip, but you can feel another presence inside your own body, forcing you down. You\'re going to be late for your new school, your sister is turning the doorknob and your father is yelling for you. Your feet frame the pure terror in the three faces at the door as your eyes strain to see them. Your grandmother recovers the quickest, stuffing her komboskini into your frozen fist and running out of the room to phone her priest. Whether you start your horror story with just a vibe, a small seed of an idea, a great setting, character, or a full plot - it doesn\'t matter. A great story can start anywhere, you just have to make sure that (like any scary monster) you keep feeding it and watch it grow bigger and more horrifying every day!

140 Fun Fantasy Prompts

Creative Writing Prompts And Ideas To Inspire Your Fantasy Writing Writing fantasy stories can be a lot of fun, but where do you find inspiration when it feels like everything has already been done before? N J Simmonds (RONA shortlisted fantasy author and Jericho Writer’s Head of Community & Editorial Commissions) shares her 140 fantasy book ideas and writing prompts to help get your creativity going and transport you to another world. These story prompts are divided into 7 different fantasy categories, with 20 suggestions for each:  Historical Fantasy prompts  MG Fantasy prompts  YA Fantasy prompts  Fairy-tale retelling inspiration  Paranormal Fantasy ideas  Magical Realism prompts  High Fantasy ideas   And don’t forget, these are all just starting points, so feel free to add to these ideas or twist them up. Better yet why not pick two or three creative writing ideas and mix them together? See what crazy story you can come up with by combining some of the most dissimilar concepts and creating a plot from them.  Are you ready? Hold on tight, it’s time to see where my fantastical writing prompts are about to take you and your writing...  1. Historical Fantasy Prompts Re-writing history can be fun (especially if you mix it up with a little magic and monsters!). So whether your book is a time-slip novel, your character is thrown back in time, or you’re imagining history completely differently just for the hell of it – remember to have fun and don’t hold back. Did you know Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was not only a successful book, but it was also made into a very entertaining film? There are no limits as to where you can take your ideas. Here are 20 to start you off. Henry The Eighth only pretended to kill and divorce his wives. The reality is that they weren’t human - and now they’re out for revenge.  Jane Eyre (but vampires). We all know Egyptians didn’t build pyramids. But what if aliens did? And what if Hieroglyphics were their warning to us about what was to come?  She’s a rich Victorian lady looking for a suitor – when she’s not prowling the streets at night looking for monsters.  Amy has found the perfect man; the only problem is he’s just arrived from the year 1782.  During a visit to a three-hundred-year-old stately home, Sam finds himself transported back in time and is mistaken for the master of the house.  A distant relative of a Reiki healer was burned at the stake for being a witch. The two woman are linked by one very special family heirloom that is about to change everything.  Emily and Hooper’s son keeps talking about his past lives. So many lives, all linked by one woman...his mother. Can his parents unravel the stories and stop the cycle?  She can’t die and for two hundred years she’s been looking for the one other person the same as her. And then she finds him.  The Great Gatsby (but zombies).  Jack the Ripper was a werewolf. Only one woman knows how to make him human again, as long as he doesn’t find her first!  Pick a famous battle in history, any battle, then add magic.  Macbeth, except the entire story is from the point of view of the three witches.  She’s just about to say I Do to the love of her life when a storm destroys the church. When she rises from the rubble her husband is no longer there, just one very handsome Roman soldier.  A history scholar believes the Nazis were using dark magic. When he comes across Winston Churchill’s diaries, he has all the proof he needs. Except dark magic never dies.  The only reason Sir Francis Drake was able to circumnavigate the globe and bring back so much stolen treasure was because of the dragons. But nobody knows that...until now.  He’s an Elizabethan ghost, she’s a modern-day Tinder and coffee addict. It will never work. Will it?  She told her husband she didn’t want to build their new home over an old graveyard. Now every room belongs to a different time.  In 1867 someone nearly caught the Loch Ness Monster and went on to shape history. This is his story.   Machu Pichu was built by magic. This is how it came to ruins.  2. MG Fantasy Prompts Every child loves a magical story. Take a look at these fantasy prompts for children’s books and see if any of our ideas inspire your next Middle Grade novel. Writing fantasy kidlit didn’t do J K Rowling any harm, that’s for sure!  Henry is scared to look under the bed, because he knows that’s where the monsters live. Then one day he looks and finds a portal to another world.  Before he died, her Grandfather gives her a magical red stone. ‘Get this to Mannering,’ he says. ‘He will teach you how to use your powers.’ Those were his last words. What now?   No one believes Kimmy when she says that the new teacher is an alien - that is until Miss eats the class hamster!   Kate has never felt part of her family. Then one night she grows wings, and she realises exactly what she is.   Tommy’s not looking forward to spending the weekend at his creepy Aunt’s house, but then his Mum takes the wrong turn in the woods and they arrive at a very magical place!   Garden gnomes are not real – so why does Sally have a terrible issue keeping hers under control?  What if a boy had tentacles instead of fingers?   Every time Kayleigh wishes for cakes and candy, her wishes come true. Until the day everything and everyone she touches turns to sweets.   The story of the monster in a child’s closet – from the point of view of the monster.  Fairies have stolen Clara’s baby sister!   Tilly lives in a world full of darkness...then one day, a boy arrives. A boy made of sunshine!  Saee can step inside every painting she draws. Then one day she gets trapped!  Everyone in Noah’s family has a magical power...except for him.   Rosie loves her garden, but she had no idea of the magical creatures that lived there.   Imagine a world with no parents...just robots!   Strange objects keep appearing in Jeremy’s room. Then one day he discovers who’s been leaving them.  Zara’s cat can talk, and she has something very important to tell her.   It’s Christmas, but Santa has been replaced by three children in a trenchcoat. And they aren’t very nice children!   Santa, the Easter Bunny and a Halloween ghost have all decided to swap jobs this year. This is not going to end well!    When Sofia eats broccoli, something very magical happens... 3. YA Fantasy Prompts Being a teenager is hard work, so is it any wonder so many of them choose to lose themselves in fantastical books? From books such asTo Kill a Kingdom and The Six of Crows, to Ready Player One and The Hunger Games - killer mermaids, fantastical worlds, and games that will kill you are all great fun when it comes to capturing the imagination of young adults.  School is already tough as it is, but this school is even more of a challenge. Because in this school everyone but Toby is supernatural.   Two sisters move into an old house. One of the rooms won’t open. When they finally get inside, they’re transported to a different world.  Tom is really good at chemistry and Dan will do anything for a dare. But when Tom dares Dan to drink the new potion he’s made, the last thing they expect to happen is THAT!  Rashid has always been told to stay out of the basement, but one night he disobeys his parents. The room is empty except for one strange key in the middle of the floor – a key that is glowing.   Every 20 years all the teens of the kingdom are entered into a competition to become the next ruler. All they have to do is win a fight against a dragon...and not die.  Tia’s dreams always come true. Literally. One night she starts dreaming about a very special boy. Now she just has to wait for him to enter her life.  He can talk to animals, and she’s accidentally turned into one. The problem is, they both hate one another.  They used to be the best of friends, until they discover who they were in a past life and what they did!  Clare has a magical gift – she can bake emotions into cakes. Tomorrow is the school bake sale and things are about to get interesting.  She’s a pirate, he’s a prince, and they both want the gold!  People laugh at new girl Kit because she’s hairy, but what they don’t realise is that every full moon she turns into a werewolf. People better start behaving!  Giant spiders live in the trees, scaly dragons live in the ocean, and sharks can fly. In this world nowhere is safe...but it’s this world Tariq has to cross to save his sister.  Two warring families but only one kingdom. And to make things worse, both heirs to the throne have run away together.  Romeo and Juliet – but in space.  Teens hackers get more than they bargained for when they accidentally bring computer characters to life.  Her best friend was murdered. Her best friend is now a ghost. Revenge has never been more fun!  She made a big mistake and wishes to go back in time. On her birthday she does - but she didn’t expect to go THAT far back.  When best friends swap bodies for a week, all hell breaks loose. Tim is in a coma. His family think he can’t hear them, but he can do more than that...he can float about and see what everyone is up to at all times. When he discovers a huge secret, he has to try and wake up before it’s too late!  When Harry was seven, he kept a newt as a pet. Then it grew, and grew, and now (15 years later) he has a giant monster in his dad’s shed. Except the shed door is open…which means the monster has gone.   4. Fairy-Tale Retelling Inspiration You can’t go wrong with a classic fairy-tale, but you CAN make them more current and fun. Fairy-tale retellings are huge in the book world (especially in self-publishing and YA) – so play around with old ideas and make them as outrageous as you want.   Snow White stumbles upon a house where seven other people live. What they don’t know is that the girl they just took in is a serial killer.   The three bears are not happy. It’s time for them to visit Goldilocks house.    Rapunzel is stuck in the tower, but when she lets down her long hair for the prince she pulls him up to her instead. They’re both trapped. Now what?   Sleeping Beauty isn’t asleep, she’s dead. The prince just bought a blood-thirsty zombie back to life.   Cinderella doesn’t care about the ball, or the prince; she wants her father’s house back and she wants revenge!  Tinkerbell loves Peter, Peter loves Wendy, but Wendy loves Tinkerbell. Someone\'s heart is going to get broken.   When Aladdin rubs the lamp it’s not a genie that comes out, it’s the last person he ever wanted to see!   Puss doesn’t like boots...he likes stilettos.   Ariel swaps her fin for legs. The only problem is that now the woman whose legs she has, has got her fin, and she needs Ariel’s help!   She kissed the frog but instead of the frog turning into a prince, it turned into a princess.  Everyone has heard of Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood – but what about the Pink and Green Sisters?   Wendy kills Peter Pan and takes over Neverland.   Goldilocks and Snow White are professionals when it comes to breaking into people’s homes. But this time they’ve met their match!   Little Red Riding Hood, but from the point of view of the wolf...because it was her family who slaughtered everyone he ever cared about!   Hansel and Gretel...except the children are evil and the old lady has no idea what’s coming. Beauty and the Beat. When a provincial girl from a small town stays in a mansion with a grumpy famous DJ, she soon learns that she has lots to teach him about compassion, community, and love.    Jackie and the Bean Stalk. When Jackie climbs a giant plant in her garden she’s taken to another world. But this time she’s the giant!   The Emperor’s New Clothes. Except it’s British politics.   The Princess and the Peanut. The heir to the thrown has a peanut allergy. Who hid them in her bed and who killed her?   She’s kissed so many frogs she’s not only given up looking for her prince, but she now has a skin infection. Luckily, her sexy doctor has the perfect cure.  5. Paranormal Fantasy Paranormal fantasy generally involves monsters, ghosts, spooky happenings and, often, plenty of blood (think Twilight and The Picture of Dorian Grey), but that doesn’t mean it has to be scary or full of forbidden love and angst, it can also be humorous, fun and a little bit saucy. Check out these paranormal prompts and take your monsters to the next level.   Don is hesitant about moving to an old creepy house that’s meant to be full of Victorian ghosts. So imagine his surprise when he discovers his new house IS haunted, but by a family who died only 20 years ago. A family with a secret.  She used to be a vampire until she was bitten by a werewolf. Now she’s completely out of control.  She killed her boyfriend...and now his ghost is going to kill her right back.  This tooth fairy needs your teeth (and doesn’t care if they’re still attached).  Banshees protect themselves by screaming, but this one has lost her voice. What will she do now the bad guys are nearing?  They’ve fallen in love but are unable to touch one another because they’re both ghosts. But what if they were to jump in the body of two people who are alive?   Zombies can’t run very fast – but robot zombies can!  She doesn’t know she’s a witch until she accidentally puts everyone she cares about in mortal danger. Now she just needs to find the right spell to turn back time.  He knows his boss isn’t human. Will he save the world...or join him?  Her baby was playing in the park, then she crawled into a fairy ring and disappeared.  Every day Rowan and Stan take a walk in the woods, until one day Stan walks away and returns with a different personality.  She was recording something for work and left the voice recorder app running. When she plays it back, she’s shocked by what she hears.  The children’s boarding school has a high fence. It’s not to protect the children from strangers, though, it’s to protect the public from them!  His job is to collect nightmares and destroy them – but this time he’s decided to sell them to the highest bidder. Who is about to have their life ruined forever?  She’s dead. No one can see her. Then one day a very special boy does.  When Harriet’s Grandmother died she was gifted a ring, a ring that gives her the power to know when someone is lying. That’s when she discovers her entire life has been a lie – including her family, her friends, and her boyfriend!  He hears voices. They tell him to do things. He says no. Then one day they start to control his body too.  She’s a nurse working the night shift. But where have all the patients gone?  He’s a security guard at an old shopping centre after hours. What the hell did he just see on the security camera?   Cate loves how her boyfriend leaves her messages in the mist of the mirror. The only problem is he’s been dead for a year.  6. Magical Realism/Adult Fantasy Ideas Fantasy doesn’t have to take place in another world or be full of scary monsters. Sometimes everyday life can be sprinkled with magic. From Chocolat to The Ten Thousand Doors of January, strange goings on set against the backdrop of very normal places can be a lot of fun to write (and read).  It’s always hard coming to terms with new powers, but Katie has a particularly difficult time when she discovers hers at her 60th surprise birthday party.   Clara wakes up one morning to find she has laid a large, pale blue egg overnight. The egg is warm and somehow eager, or expectant. She decides to keep it warm ...   The village was pretty and dated far back to Medieval times. The little village green had always had the same two stupid attractions: A wishing well and a large stone with a sword protruding. One moonlit night, Tom realises he can easily remove the sword.  Alice used to have an imaginary friend as a child. And now he’s back.   Words have power, but Rayanne had no idea just how much power her writing had over others.   He first saw her when he was 18 and fell madly in love. Then he saw the same woman when he was 22, and now again at 30. Who is she, and why does she never age?   “There’s one thing you need to know,” her mother always used to say. “If you try really hard, you can get people to do whatever you want them to. You will know when your magic comes in.” And she was right.   As a child, as soon as the wind changed direction, they had to move on to the next place. She used to think her parents were restless travellers – then she discovered the real reason.  These boots were made for walking...and now he can’t stop.   They say bad pennies always keep coming back. But there’s something strange about this one.  Her garden is full of flowers. Very special flowers. With each one she hands out, she’s changing the life of that lucky recipient.   Every window in the house opens up to a different view. She loves being a dressmaker, just be careful what emotions she’s stitching into the clothes she’s making you.   Ever since she was a little girl she loved to dance. Yet she had no idea she was the only one who could hear the music.   One for sorrow, two for joy...every Magpie is her toy.   ‘Sleep is for the lazy,’ her father used to say. ‘Real dreams live in the meadows during the witching hour.’   She’s woken up in a strange bed, in a strange house, with no memory of the night before. All she remembers is what the fortune teller told her.  Her husband has been having an affair. Luckily she has the ability to see into the future, and it’s not panning out as she imagined it would.    She hears in colour, and she sees in taste. Life is very different for Molly Jones.   The story of a magical painting has been passed down her family for centuries. Then one day she finds a painting hidden in the walls of their family property.  7. High Fantasy And Epic Fantasy Writing Prompts High fantasy book ideas can be a lot trickier than your average fantasy inspiration because they involve in-depth world building and creating entire races of people out of your imagination. But you don’t have to stick to whatever worlds George R R Martin, Sarah J Mass, or J R R Tolkien created. Be inventive and have fun with it. After all, Terry Pratchett never held back from adding magic, humour and political justice to his Discworld books!  Elves, Orcs and Wizards are meant to hate one another. But not these three. They have to keep their polyamorous love affair hidden from the rest of the kingdom.   Unicorns aren’t horses, they’re giraffes. Have you ever tried flying on a giraffe?   A spaceship crashes into an uninhabitable planet. Except it’s not empty and uninhabitable...everyone is hiding from something awful.   A Wizard put a spell on the land. Everything and everyone will die in one month if the chosen one doesn’t bring back a leaf from the Tree of Plenty. What a shame five people believe they’re the chosen one.   The Village of Imps is the lowliest of the land, until they discover they are the only ones who can keep the Trolls away.  Three families. Two worlds. One throne.   It’s a race against time to cross the ocean and rescue the princess from the island. But the sea is full of dangers...most of which have more than eight legs.   In this world, the young are wise and the old are stupid. The only problem is the old are faster and stronger.   Two worlds connected by one mirror. If the mirror cracks, all hell will break loose.   Pirates and angels don’t normally mix. But then again, this isn’t a normal voyage.  A magical crown, a key, and three sisters that will stop at nothing.   In a world of evil Elves and kind Trolls, only the Dwarfs know how to bring peace to their land.  At the grand feast of Dawn Day the King of Sentary declares his daughter is to wed a prince. The only problem is his daughter has just been turned into a crow.   One spaceship, two planets, and three choices. What a shame he made the wrong one.   Star Wars – but at sea.  She loved reading her book about a magical land...until one day she fell into its pages and couldn’t get out.   When her brother goes missing, she must cross the four Etheral Kingdoms with just a talking Ferret by her side.   Life is hard for Sal because he lives in a land of giants, monsters and deadly creatures - and he’s just a slug.   In a land of superheroes, the one who has no powers is the special one.   She rides a dragon, he rides a unicorn, and they’re both racing to be the first to reach the crest of Mount Orndorf and find the golden chalice. The only thing they must not do is fall in love.  Fantasy Inspiration Is Everywhere I hope you enjoyed dipping into these fantasy writing prompts and seeing what ideas they sparked in your fantasy writing. Why not take a look at our article on how to write fantasy characters for more ideas?  Other ways you can find fantasy inspiration include:  Looking at old paintings and photos.  Walking in nature.  Looking at nature’s real beasts.   Studying myths and legends.  Watching fantasy and sci-fi films and giving those stories your own unique twist.  And remember, there’s no such thing as an original idea. Some of these concepts may have already been written, one way or another; but with a setting tweak, different characters, new motivations, and your own unique voice you can create a fantastical story that is brand new and will be enjoyed by your readers. 
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