How Can a New Year’s Resolution Help My Writing?

By Jennifer Hallmark

new-years-eve-1941665_960_7202017. Relief washes over me as I realize it’s a new season. A time to start again, with a feeling almost like spring bursting forth in all its glory.

Except it’s cold. And nothing is blooming.

But it’s still a time of newness, and many people make resolutions or set goals every January for what they’d like to do, see, lose, gain, or buy during the New Year. Others, like myself, don’t like to promise to do things (mainly lose weight or write more) since they probably won’t follow through. But resolutions are worth looking into…

I pulled up and looked up the definition of a resolution. They say a resolution is: the act of resolving or determining upon an action, course of action,method, procedure, etc. A decision or determination; the mental state or quality of being resolved or resolute; firmness of purpose.

Oh. This sounds more like a plan than wishful thinking. Maybe there is something to making resolutions. But first, I always pray about a focus for each year. A thought or scripture to wrap my mind around so when life gets hard, I can remember and not lose heart. This year, my focus is to be thankful. Just pure, simple gratitude.


Okay, so I have my focus to remember to be thankful. And maybe coming up with a plan is not a bad thing. I’ve researched this and found some very useful articles. So if you’re a writer and need help getting started this year too, here are the results of my research:

(1) Writer’s Digest. How to Develop a Writing Plan.

(2) Writers Helping Writers. Will This Be Your Year? Making a Writing Plan and Take Out the Guesswork.

(3) The Write Conversation. 9 Writing Productivity Mistakes to Avoid.

(4) Helping Writers Become Authors. 5 Ways to Make Better Writing Resolutions in 2016. 

(5)  Writer’s Digest. The Setback: How to Successfully Start Writing Again.

pencil picCheck them out. Then, like me, sit down and write out a plan or guide to keep you moving forward in 2017. And if you decide on choosing a focus, write it down and place it where you can see it often.

And let’s keep on writing!

Writing Prompt: Edith stared at the computer screen. She’d written Chapter One at the top of her page. Her first novel began with three words, the ones she couldn’t get out of her head. They were…

Writers and Research

researchThe month of November is dedicated to writers and research here on the Writing Prompts blog. By definition, research is a diligent and systematic inquiry or investigation into a subject in order to discover or revise facts, theories, applications, etc. Another way to look at it is to search and search again.

Whether you are writing an English paper in high school or the next great American novel, research is vital for a good story. You want your narrative to have a true-to-life atmosphere about it. Even if you’ve invented a fantasy world on an exotic planet, ground it in research from our world. If its a jungle setting, research the Amazon. If an artic setting, study ice and cold. Make it so real that people believe this planet could truly exist.planets

All month long, we’ll be looking at many forms of research, different research links, and other useful information. Make sure to bookmark our site and join us every Tuesday and Friday as we delve into the subject of writers and research.

Also, 2014 is fast approaching and there will be a few changes on the writing prompts blog. You’ve noticed our updated appearance and we’ll be adding bigger and better prizes. Woo hoo.

Enjoy the research and a slew of Christmas articles in calendarDecember while you wait for New Year.

Classic Literature and a Trip Down Memory Lane

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.

Sir Francis Bacon, English Author, courtier, and philosopher, 1561 – 1626

Wikipedia Commons

Louisa May Alcott

Welcome to our May topic: Classic Literature. I’m a big fan of the classics. When my sons were growing up, we’d make biweekly trips to the library, where my guys would make a mad dash for the children’s section. I’d wander over to the classics, where I had an unobstructed view of my children. I didn’t trust them to behave themselves on their own. My attitude was born of experience.

For months, I chose books from those same shelves. Adams, Alcott, Austen, Bronte, Carroll, Dickens, Dumas… My list goes on and on. I loved them all. So why is it when asked to write about my favorite classics, the only ones I could think of were Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre? I knew I had to dig deeper. I’ve read an enormous variety of classic books, all the way up to and including the more obscure Mosquito Coast, by Paul Theroux. Not a classic, you say? In looking up classic booklists, what I learned is, it all depends on who you ask.

There are many and varying opinions on who should make the list. The beauty of the internet is, we can find and peruse all those opinions, then construct our own list. I was in the process of doing just that, when I happened on this wonderful website: Aesop to Oz, Classic Book List:

What I like so much about the author’s listing is, the classics are listed by year of publication. What is so great or special about that? Read on:

Issue: One of the characters in your work-in-progress (WIP) has an extensive library, visits the library, or loves to read. You must choose the works you put in their hands (or on their shelf). Choose carefully, based on the era and or setting of your story.

I have just given you a wonderful tool. Please bookmark the website now: Aesop to Oz.

Throughout the month, my blogmates and I will be discussing various ones of these wonderful classics. I hope you’ll drop back by on Tuesdays and Fridays to see what’s up next. Better yet, follow our blog to receive updates via email.

And just for fun, here’s another site that may interest you:

The Ultimate Reading List – Classics That Endure This is a list of classic comics that were published after World War II. It includes 167 titles with the original’s year of publication. For brainy comic book lovers everywhere. Okay, who remembers those?

And while I’m on the subject of memories, I read Little Women when I was a child in elementary school. When I reread it as an adult, I was amazed at the amount of preaching and philosophy contained in its pages. Many of these classics reflect the ideologies of the times in which they were written. What will our literature say about us? Who will ascend to the heights and be remembered in later years? Which of our novels will sit on the classic shelves of the future?

In lieu of a prompt, tell me, what’s your favorite classic novel? Your comments will qualify for entry in our monthly prompt contest. Thanks!


A Challenge: Write Your Own Prompt

As I’m preparing this post I’m sitting at the local coffee shop listening to some jams. Now I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea… er coffee, but I love it. I love hearing cover renditions and original pieces. It doesn’t matter if it’s acoustic, acapella or a bunch of discordant tunes, I love it. I love the creativity expressed.

Some of that could come from the fact that our family is a bunch of musical nuts. My dad has played the drums since he was three. My three girls have various musical talents, and my son, well I think he’ll find his voice, but for now I’ll just listen to his creative interpretations of rap music.

I tell you all of this because it is the same with writing. When I read the creative pieces inspired by our prompts, it never fails to put a smile on my face. I love how one prompt can produce several different stories in several different genres.

I wrote a couple of blogs on my personal blog called So You Want to Be A Writer.  The first part was on writing. If you want to be a writer you must write to succeed. You can’t want to pick up a pen and never do. The words won’t just write themselves.

And so, if you want to be a writer, you write. You take advantage of opportunities, even small ones like our monthly prompt contests. Allow the prompts to inspire a story inside you and allow that story to come to life on the page.

Later today we will announce January’s prompt winner, so keep an eye out, but until then I challenge you to expand your horizons, think outside the box. I leave you with a few items to incorporate in writing your own prompt.

1. a blue seal

2. a feather

3. a wick

4. a crone

5. AND… honor of February’s topic, a motorcycle

May I Have a Word?

Portrait of Jane Austen, via Wikipedia Commons

What thought processes are set in motion by a simple polite question? “May I have a word?” or “May I speak with you?” or “We need to talk.” Can you tell the difference?

I’m a big fan of Austen. But her prose is a little like Shakespeare’s. It takes time to get comfortable with it. Consider this passage, taken from Pride and Prejudice, Chapter Thirty-Six:

The extravagance and general profligacy which he scrupled not to lay to Mr. Wickham’s charge exceedingly shocked her; the more so as she could bring no proof of its injustice.

At first reading, it may be a difficult passage to understand. You must translate it into modern, American English. But how polite a statement it sounds. While profligate used as an adjective means: recklessly extravagant or wasteful in the use of resources; the noun form means: licentious, dissolute.

Synonyms for the noun profligacy: extravagance, excess, squandering, waste, recklessness, wastefulness, lavishness, prodigality, improvidence, immorality, depravity, debauchery, abandon, corruption, promiscuity, laxity, dissipation, degeneracy, licentiousness, wantonness, libertinism, dissoluteness, unrestraint.

About halfway through the list of synonyms, you start to get the picture. The guy’s a reprobate. And since I now know the book so well, I understand Wickham’s character very well. Austen’s “…he scrupled not to lay to Mr. Wickham’s charge,” tells us Mr. Darcy withheld some information and Elizabeth reads between the lines and sees far more. The truth dawns on her, and she is embarrassed over her misunderstanding.

The word “scrupled” means he hesitated because of the impropriety of the truth. He held back because he was a gentleman, and she was a lady. In more modern times, he probably would not hesitate to tell her everything. She would see it on the news or read it on Facebook or Twitter–he may as well be the one to tell her of it.

So do you begin to get an understanding of what Elizabeth thought of Mr. Darcy in this passage? He was much too polite to bring the true charge against Mr. Wickham, because of its extremely immoral nature. The man Wickham was a depraved drunk who chased after skirts. But in proper society, a true gentleman (Darcy) never laid such a charge on another man in the presence of a lady.

What a great burden is placed on us as writers to convey to our reader exactly what we want to say in a way that is clear to the modern reader, yet maintains the purity of the era we’re writing about. How do we start? By reading books written in the era and translating them to modern. Then you can begin to piece together a work that sounds like the past, but can be easily understood. Never “dumb down” your writing, but make it clear and concise, with your reader in mind.





On my personal blog I have a segment I call digging deeper. I had decided weeks ago to write on the word Shalom. It’s not an English word but most of us have heard it, know it. With all that has happened, in my local community where two police officers were shot and killed Sunday evening, Newton, Aurora, Oregon, and the Middle East (the list goes on and on), I thought it appropriate to revisit portions of a blog I wrote during the Easter season.

So here it is:

I’ve been thinking about the whole idea of prayer, repentance, taking care of the poor and fasting. I’ve also been thinking about the forty days Jesus spent in the desert and the forty days Moses spent on the mountain and how those forty days tie into Lent.

As I began to pray over what I should blog about today, God very clearly told me to urge His church to pray for Jerusalem.

But now I have chosen Jerusalem for my Name to be there, and I have chosen David to rule my people Israel. 2 Chronicles 6:6 (NIV

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.” Psalm 122:6-7

Many of you know that the Hebrew word for peace is shalom, but do you know that the word shalom means nothing missing, nothing broken?

I love Psalms 137:5-6 If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy. (NIV) The Jewish Study Bible says, “let my right hand wither . . . if I do not keep Jerusalem in memory even at my happiest hour.”

On a side, according to the commentary in the Jewish Study Bible (JSB), the breaking of glass at the end of wedding ceremonies is to remember Jerusalem at their happiest moments.

The commentary also suggests that if the right hand is useless and the tongue sticks to the roof of the mouth, then it is near impossible to play music or sing praises.

Are the prayers for Jerusalem an Old Testament edict only? I don’t think so.

As he [Jesus] approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace-but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

There is that word peace again~nothing missing, nothing broken. But more importantly, this incident occurred right after the triumphal entry.

And Paul’s letter to the Romans says, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”

During the preparation for this Easter season, please remember to pray for Jerusalem, especially with the escalation of violence in the Middle East.

It’s me again, today, December 18, 2012. What do you think of when you think of Jerusalem? Definitely not peace. It’s been the center of conflict for thousands of years. When David made this holy city his capital it was the capital over the tribes of Judah. After Solomon’s death, it was the Capital of Judah. There are so many things in the Bible that point to Jerusalem, this city of Zion, past, present and future. The Bible talks about the ‘new’ Jerusalem.

יְרוּשָׁלַם  Jerusalem

According to Strong’s Concordance, Jerusalem is the teaching of peace. The past days have been difficult, not only for our Nation, but for the entire world. Well, to be honest, many people have lived difficult lives since they took their first breaths, but in a nation where we are blessed with prosperity and liberty, even those of us find it hard to make ends meet, these days have been difficult. Our understanding lacks, our words are few, our tears many, especially since these horrific events happened as we prepare for our holiday seasons, but may our prayers be many. Prayers of comfort, prayers of peace.

Christmas is supposed to represent a time of joy, a reflection of the greatest gift given to mankind by our Creator, but too often it is filled with stress. Christmas should be a time for giving with cheerful hearts. No, not with expensive, breaking the bank kind of gifts, but ones that come from the heart.

I was just telling a friend of mine that my heart breaks at the thought of the children who won’t have anything under the tree this year, if they even have a tree. My heart cried at the little tags still hanging from the Angel Tree at one of your local Walmarts. My children have plenty. They have two praying parents, a roof over their heads and clothes on their backs. They know, without a doubt, their parents love them. They know they are cared for, not just in a monetary sense. Those children, represented by a piece of paper, may not know such things. Not that I believe a package of socks will give them that sense of well-being, but if the heart is in the right place, I believe God will bless the receiver and make them feel cared for.

So during this Christmas may we be ‘teachers of peace’ the kind of peace where ‘nothing is missing and nothing is broken. May we be used on God’s behalf to bless others.



Sherlock By Jennifer Hallmark

Historical words in December? Hmmm. While I searched for a good word, I was drawn to one of my favorite genres to read. 

Early twentieth century British mysteries.

Huh? Yes, I love writers like Dorothy Sayers, Margery Allingham, and Agatha Christie. With sleuths like Lord Peter Wimsey, Albert Campion, and Hercule Poirot, what’s not to love? And who can forget Miss Marple?

In recently purchasing and reading The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers, I came across several passages alluding to Sherlock Holmes.

“I’m sure I don’t know,” said Mrs. Venables, gingerly examining the  objects before her. “I’m afraid I’m not a Sherlock Holmes…”

“A colleague, as Sherlock Holmes would say, after my own heart,” said Wimsey, as he unfolded the thin enclosure.

“…My dear Watson, it’s staring you in the face…”

There was also the term “sherlocking” used in another place in The Nine Tailors, referring to someone investigating in a way similar to Sherlock Holmes. I found it fascinating that this novel by Ms. Sayers written in 1934 referred to this character so many times, a character first introduced by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887.

 I conducted my own investigation at  Sherlock is an old English name meaning “fair-headed.”  
Also Sherlock-noun, informal.  1. a private detective. 2. a person remarkably adept at solving mysteries, especially by using insight and logical deduction: Who’s the sherlock who can tell me where my pen is? A 21st century slang for Sherlock means a clever and perceptive person.

Books, comics, short stories, television, movies, games, puzzles, radio, societies and screen plays have all sprung from a single character evolved in the mind of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Amazing.
What character names or phrases do you know that have taken on a life of their own?
Today’s writing prompt:   Lila twirled a blonde curl as she winked at the young man in front of her. “Who do ya think you are? Sherlock Holmes?” Her laughter rang…
Pictures from Wikipedia Commons.