500 Words of September

When I was researching Advice on Writing from Everybody, it was clear that one of the most valuable things a writer can do is write every day. A pal and I are entering into a pact: we’ll write 500 words each day every day for all of September.

We are doing this to build up our writing muscles. If you write every day, you start to get good. He and I have both written before, and we know that it’s like exercising before you compete. If you write, you build up your ability to write, so when you have something important to say, you can say it. So this deal is sort of a gym-buddy thing. Clearly needed, from that last flabby sentence.

Since he agreed, I have a number of friends who also want in, because they want to get their chops better. If you want in, here is the deal

  • write “in” in the comments, or email me with the subject line “in” Join This Group: 500 words a Day
  • I’ll email you a prompt and a reminder.
  • You say by end of the day if you did it or if you bagged.

That is all.


Scroll down for 2014 prompts (or check out group!)


IN order to keep this all together in one findable spot, I’ll add the writing prompts here. feel free to put links to your writing below in the comments, if you are feeling pleased with yourself. 😉

“Although the weather had not yet changed, the light had. There was no denying September was here. And with it…”

9/2/13 nonfiction prompt
“Intuition is compressed experience” — Lawrence Prusak
How does this quote to apply to a craft YOU care about– design, cooking, art, etc.

Think of a door. Starting writing about the door. What does it look like? where is it? what is on one side? The other? Why do you think it mattered enough for it to pop in your mind?

Write a letter of apology to a body part.

Take a 30 minute walk. This stimulates blood flow to the brain. On the walk, pick something up and stick it in your pocket. When you get home, write about it.

Write a 500 word essay on a topic you wish your boss knew more about, explaining it simply and clearly. For extra points, mail it to her.

A Visual prompt

Sundays are for revising. Take an earlier piece of writing, and revise and extend it.

Interviewer: How much rewriting do you do?
Hemingway: It depends. I rewrote the ending of Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, 39 times before I was satisfied.
Interviewer: Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?
Hemingway: Getting the words right.
(Ernest Hemingway, “The Art of Fiction,” The Paris ReviewInterview, 1956)

Let’s kick off Monday with a non-procrastination effort. We’ve all been putting off something, right? a book proposal, a talk proposal, an essay that’s important enough we are scared to get it wrong? Well, roll up your sleeves and do Monday right: a first draft! let’s kick it!
and for any saints who don’t procrastinate:
Think of a superhero who annoys you. Why?

no prompt due to illness, though you could always write about that. Illness that is.

What’s your “signature dish?” The food everyone asks you to make, and you make so well? How do you make it, and what makes is special?

Write the opening of your child’s bibliography of you. If you don’t have a child, it can be a pet, or an imaginary child.


Do you have a trick you do that makes your work life better? Write it up and share!


Last night at a Yom Kippur party we wrote what we want more of and less of in the coming year on a piece of paper, and burnt them. I suggest you write 250 words on each theme: I want more of this and less of this. You can make it professional or personal.


Let’s start the week positively: What is something you love, and what makes it lovable?For a professional prompt, make it a website, app or a game, and be thoughtful in your analysis.  For personal make it food or a place or a tool….


Have you ever had a perfect moment on vacation? Describe it, and what made it perfect.


do you have a trick you do that makes your work life better? Write it up and share!

Last night at a Yom Kippur party we wrote what we want more of and less of in the coming year on a piece of paper, and shred them.
I suggest 250 words on each theme, I want more of this and less of this. You can make it professional or personal.

Hemingway also wrote 500 words a day, though some days when he wanted to go fishing the next day, he wrote 1000.
He also used a standing desk– which reminds me, have you stretched today?

Ok, ok, a prompt:
Have you ever had a perfect moment on vacation? Describe it, and what made it perfect.

From the wonderful wonderful Swimming to Cambodia

Spalding Gray: Look! I had a vision of myself right now, as a kind of wandering bachelor mendicant poet, wandering all the way down the beaches of Malaysia, eating magic mushrooms all the way as I went until I reached Bali and evaporated in a state of ecstasy in the sunset.

What do you think about when you are awake in the middle of the night?

Today’s prompt is from a song, finish this:
I woke up in your arms. I didn’t know where I was at first.

9/23 (there was international travel,and prompt failure)
Prompt: You are a holding a key. What does it look like, how does it feel and what does it unlock?

The weather is now truly cold, and the furnaces are turned on. The leaves change, and the Halloween pop-up stores arrive. What does this change mean to you?

Who are the gods in your life? How does religion affect how you live your days.. or does it?

Here is a prompt form Poets and Writers http://www.pw.org/writing-prompts-exercises

Medicine Cabinet

There is truth in medicine cabinets. Despite the lies we tell ourselves and others, our medicine cabinets know us better than anyone. Medicine cabinets are full of worry, memories, encroaching death, and continued life. The prescription bottles, skin moisturizer, and frayed toothbrush reflect our humanity and vulnerability. Study your medicine cabinet. Write an essay about what is in it, and what it says about you.

Dorothy Parker – “I hate writing, I love having written.”

Try to keep that in mind as you “feel the burn” of another 500 words!!

Your prompt: think of a recent annoyance. What should change so it doesn’t happen again?

That’s all I see in the group so either prompts did not go out, or they went out via another channel. which is possible.




500 words on perfect childhood bliss. Where were you? How did you feel? Who was around you? Paint a picture!


Take one of these phrases from Nanowrimo’s forum, and go!  http://nanowrimo.org/forums/word-wars-prompts-sprints/threads/119417

Lighter Ones

“Wait, so you didn’t want me to die the dog’s hair pink? Are you sure?”

“Why the hell are you sitting in my car naked?”

“Last time we got in this situation, you went home with my underwear in your pocket.”


Darker Ones

“I didn’t mean to kill her… She just wouldn’t listen!”

“I think I’m going to jump this time. I think I’ve finally hit my breaking point.”

“You never told me no!” “I never said yes, either.”



Today’s writing prompt comes from Amelie

Mom: There are no ghosts here! It’s such a safe house. I feel like this house was made for family’s
Kid: sometimes I think it was made for families, but maybe it wasn’t made the right way


Write an essay about the worst website ever.

Write a story about a critic, but a critic who criticizes something abnormal like cement mixers.

If you spell faery with an e instead of an i, then it’s for grownups, right?

Today’s prompt is write an updated version of Red Riding hood (or another faery story, should you prefer). You can put her in a modern town (Red in Freemont!), write a NC-17 version, bring in machine guns, or whatever you like!

Extra-credit: try out the M.I.C.E. format, from the Writing Excuses podcast  (transcript)
MICE: milieu, idea, character, and event. Milieu: where the story takes place, starts when you enter the space, ends when you exit it. Stories about setting. Idea: start with a question, end when you answer the question. Character: start with a dissatisfied character, end with satisfaction or at least reconciliation. Event: something is wrong with the status quo, and ends with a solution. The MICE framework can be used at multiple levels, story, chapter, scene. Make promises and fulfill them. These can be nested, but close them in the order you open them. (Actually, reverse order — MI … IM).



The Hero of the Most Boring Story Ever—your job is to make it interesting.
or image from the writingprompts tumblr


If your family was represented by a dish, what would it be and why? (can be the family you grew up in, or your current)


Watch Ian McKellen explain how to act. Then let it inspire you…

What does pretending do for you (or your character!)


Today’s prompt: Is there a responsibility that comes with this role? Or perhaps a high cost? 

Arthur O’Shaughnessy. 1844–1881
6. Ode
WE are the music-makers,
  And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
  And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world-forsakers,          5
  On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
  Of the world for ever, it seems.
With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world’s great cities,   10
  And out of a fabulous story
  We fashion an empire’s glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
  Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song’s measure   15
  Can trample an empire down.
We, in the ages lying
  In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
  And Babel itself with our mirth;   20
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
  To the old of the new world’s worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
  Or one that is coming to birth.http://www.bartleby.com/103/6.html

Fiction prompt: Take Goldilocks and the Three Bears, apply the Campbellian Monomyth, and give us a short story. from http://www.writingexcuses.com/2013/01/13/writing-excuses-8-2-heros-journey/

Non-fiction prompt: Are there actually male interfaces and female interfaces?


What is something that people knew in the nineties (or 80’s, or oughts) that seems to have been forgotten now? Why is it important?



Inspired by writing excuses (again!) Listen to this podcast on Character foils (15 minutes) 

Generate a list of five character pairs. Pick the most interesting of the set, and write about them.

Examples: Jobs and Woz, Sergy and Larry, Holmes and Watson, Krusty the Klown and Sideshow Bob….
We are hitting the mid-way point! in honor of that, let’s talk revisions!

Today’s Prompt:

Take a work you didn’t feel like you could publish. Perhaps something form Sept 1 or 2? Find what is good in it, and revise it.
Find a piece of nonfiction and write it as fiction,  or vice versa. What changes?
I’m at asilomar and the smells here always trigger memories: fireplaces, ocean, pine trees. What smells remind you of coming home?
Non-fiction prompt: an you think of a time when you passionately argued for exactly the wrong thing?

Fiction prompt: You have literally painted yourself into a corner. a magical corner….


Today’s prompt from my friend Cinnamon

What piece of advice does someone close to you need to hear, and why will you never, ever tell them?
Write about someone who is not there when you need them. What are the consequences?
Write about a place that is full of secrets and mysteries. Is it hot or cold? Dark or bright? Big or small enough to sit in your hand?
from Writing Exercises “When you click the button, three random nouns will be generated (one abstract, two concrete).
Seen together, what do they make you think about? How does your mind connect them?
I recommend treating this one as afreewriting exercise. Give yourself a time limit and keep writing – notes, ideas, sentences, whatever comes to mind!”Low tech version: use a dictionary


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