How to move forward one word at a time

Kinda like walking, one foot in front of the other.

Time for  WordPlay!


As a writer, it doesn’t take long before you hit a point, a snag or slam right up against a damn wall that leaves you blank as a blue screen.

Might be days, weeks or months, but sooner or later you will run out of juice.

What then? Do you go and sulk in a corner and wait for inspiration?

Well, that’s one way. But for some of us it could be a mighty long wait.

I’ve got a better solution.

How about a game of WORDPLAY?

Or I guess you could call it MYOP (Make Your Own Prompt)

Recently, Patricia Lynne over at Story Dam issued a challenge that for fifty straight days, you write at least fifty words on a WIP. Now I hate, I mean hate committing to the constraints of time projects. But the more I thought about this, the more this idea began to percolate in my mind.

However, lately, I’d been on a hot steak with my writing, working on not one, but two books and feeling pretty good about myself. So, I shelved the 50/50 idea.

Did I mention I was on a writing hot streak?

Guess you know what happens with hot streaks? Especially when you brag about a writing boon? BURN OUT! That’s what happens!

And when my writing flame sputtered out like a campfire doused by a thunderstorm, Patricia’s idea floated to the front of my mind.  What’s 50 words? Anyone should be able to crank out 50 measly words, right? So, after a few days of staring at a blank screen, I decided to try to write So after, a few days of staring at a blank screen, I decided to try to write just 50 words.

Now, writing 50 words may sound easy, but it’s not if you can’t decide where to start or what to say. I mean, if I knew where to start I wouldn’t have spent several days typing and over and over hoping for a magical muse to finish the sentence.

But then a lightning bolt of understanding hit me. I love writing word prompts. I could write a prompt of 50 words by picking a random word from my WIP. Lo, and behold 50 words became 250 or 500 or 1000! Success!

Here’s how it works.

  • Pick a word. Any word located anywhere from your WIP.
  • Look it up in the dictionary, and thesaurus. Mull the word over in your mind.
  • Write random sentences using the word or definition. Play with the word. (Doesn’t have to be relative to the story at this point.)
  • Write 50 words using or relative to that word as it relates to your WIP.
  • Now go back to your WIP and see where your new piece fits. 

Here’s my latest example:

I selected the word follow, located at the end of this sentence.

 “Nothing for me to do but follow.”

  • Definition: to go or come after or behind (someone or something)
  • Thesaurus words: trail, shadow, goes by, admire, track, monitor, stalk…
  • Play with the word meanings. Write several sentences doesn’t matter if it’s a lot of gibberish.
    • I trail behind her like a puppy dog. To watch a person is to know them. She does not admire him when he talks trash. He will go with her anywhere but there.
  • Now go back to your story and write.

The paragraph below is what I ended up with.

The last thing I wanted was to make a scene. I shouldered my purse and trailed after her like a reluctant child. She stopped at a table in the back near the railing. Small white Christmas lights hung in nearby trees cast a warm glow over the deck. Glasses clinked as whispered voices mingled with the soft sounds of music. I was forgotten. I relaxed in the anonymity of the evening.

I managed to squeeze 71 words out of 1 word!

Now when I’m stumped this is my routine to jog myself forward. Sometimes I select a word in the middle of a paragraph, sometimes a word at the end of a sentence. On occasion I end up with something I can incorporate into my WIP, other times it’s trashed. But always, this exercise gets me thinking about the story from a different angle. I may see a different side of a character or problem, and before I know it I’m off and writing.

Give it a try. See what you can do with one word.

What do you think? 

Have you considered MYOP?

A big thanks to Patricia Lynne at Story Dam for the inspiration. Check out her blog!


3 thoughts on “How to move forward one word at a time

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