Got Nothing to Say? Tips to Get You Writing

With just 23-days to go before the Exeter Writers Short Story Competition ends, you still have time to enter. 

I do hope you took me up on the 21-day writing challenge posted last month. If this is something you didn’t get around to then it’s not too late to begin. 

The basic premise is to get you in the habit of writing every day in a free-flowing style. 

Writers blocks are caused when you stop to think about what you’re writing and how you’ve written it and also the judgments and expectations of others. 

Yes, you will have to go back and edit your work, but the idea in this exercise is to reclaim spontaneous storytelling. 

My guideline is to do this exercise three times a day for 5-10 minutes each time. 

Writer Louis L’Amour once stated: 

'Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.' 

He was absolutely correct. 

Once you sit down (or stand to be more ergonomically engaged) and write something, the motivation to add to whatever it is you’ve written builds. 

For me, it has always been the preparation for the story which takes me the most time. Once I have my storyline and characters firmly in my mind, I can then sit down and craft the story. 

Some writers are called ‘pantsers.’ That is, they allow the characters to tell the story and let the storyline go wherever they take it, i.e., by the seat of their pants. 

The opposite type of writer is a 'plotter' who carefully outlines the characters and storyline before beginning to write the story. 

Being a plotter or a pantser is a personal preference that will reveal itself the more you commit to writing daily. 

There is a truckload of excuses I can think of to focus your attention away from writing your short story: the garden needs weeding, I have some bills to pay, a new Netflix series everyone is talking about must be watched, I should be doing yoga, the fence needs painting (where is Tom Sawyer when you need him?) or I need groceries. 

The pandemic has provided us with way more than usual stay at home time. Having said that, many writer friends of mine are finding it challenging to focus on their writing when all around us is in turmoil. 

The following are a few prompts you can use to get the creative juices flowing:

  1. Look at a photo or picture you like and think of a storyline to go with it. 
  2. Describe a time you said something you regretted. 
  3. Write about a time you’ve been lost. 
  4. Describe the most boring job you’ve ever held.
  5. Update a classic fairy tale for readers in the 21st century. 
  6. Describe a time when you pretended to be someone or something you’re not. 
  7. Describe the skeletons in your family’s closet. 
  8. Tell a story that centres around a recipe. 
  9. Invent a perfect crime. 
  10. Describe your most memorable holiday and explain what made it special for you. Did anything disrupt this ideal moment in time? 

Perhaps one of the above prompts will give you an idea for a story to write and enter our competition! 

Once you have completed writing the first draft of your story, the work is not done. Walk away from it for a few days and in the interim, let some trusted colleagues read the story and provide feedback. 

No matter how much I’ve liked to think a story is as good as I can write it, I have found that well-meaning editors, writing colleagues and friends can suggest revisions that I haven’t considered. 

When several days have elapsed, go back to your story, carefully reading it aloud and consider the suggestions others have made. 

If you have time before the last day to enter (February 28th), then reread your story aloud until you are sure your story is as polished as you can make it. 

We look forward to receiving your entries in the Exeter Writers Short Story Competition. 

Happy writing and good wishes,

Jane Crossman (Co-coordinator of Exeter Writers Short Story Contest, 2021).


Jane Crossman, originally from Canada, joined Exeter Writers in 2018 bringing her wonderful Canadian charm and bright ideas to the group. She has published many short stories, had a 10-minute stage-play performed, and a poem engraved on a granite bench at the Thunder Bay marina where she lived and worked for 40 years.