Writing Assignments

I’m working hard on being disciplined enough to write every day. My goal, as I’ve mentioned before, is 1000 words a day. I’ve been doing okay with that, but not great. I also haven’t been posting everything I write in my daily exercises; much of it is even worse than the things I do post.

Sometimes the hardest thing about writing every day is coming up with something to write. Many days, I work on stories I’ve already started (like The Legend of Slottsfjellet or previous exercises which I think can be worked into something longer). But on days when I’m stuck, or just don’t feel like working on one of those pieces, it’s hard to come up with something new. I need ideas. I need inspiration. I need help.

That’s where you come in.

I would like to ask you, all of you, for writing assignments.

Here’s an example to get you started: One of the most difficult writing assignments I ever had came from Traci Gourdine, who I was lucky enough to have as a writing instructor two different times about 10 years apart. The assignment was to write a short story, at least 1 page long, using only one-syllable words. Coming up with something descriptive without using any of the longer words I love was challenging, but even shorter, simpler words were out. In one paragraph, my main character was injured and trying to hobble down the center of a well-traveled but poorly-maintained rural highway. Yeah, how do you say all that with one-syllable words? When I turned the paper in, I said that he “had to ignore the pain and hop down the spine of the old road.”

Maybe not the most brilliant line ever written, but the process of getting to it was invaluable, and has stayed with me for all the years since.

Your writing assignments for me can be topics, or constraints, or characters, or anything else you can come up with. Put the assignment in the comments for this page, and I’ll try to get to every one of them. Your assignment can be designed to be challenging, or it can be aimed at forcing my creativity, or it can just be a story you’d love to hear me tell. I can’t promise to write more than 500 words for each assignment, and I can’t promise to get to more than one assignment each day, but if you’ll play along it should be entertaining for both you and me. When I use your assignment, I will give you credit and link back to your comment.

Let the Writing Games begin!

12 comments on “Writing Assignments

  1. Here’s an assignment I hope will challenge your creativity:

    Write a short story in first-person narrative from the perspective of someone who is very much your opposite. Specifically: opposite gender, different ethnicity, either much older or younger than you, from a place (on Earth, not an alien planet) you have never been to or know little about, and whose views and opinions contradict your own.

  2. I love playing the “and then” story game with my kids, so I thought I’d give you a story starter. Feel free to write the rest of the story on your own, or grab a partner (even me) for back-and-forth collaboration:

    As he stepped through the sliding glass doors and out into the sunlight, Ian realized something was terribly wrong.

  3. Rossio says:

    Write a story about you, your wife, and kids. In your story you are not a programmer, but a construction worker or a plumber or something and you are poor. You should still be Mormon and you live in a small roach-infested apartment in the Suisun slums (pretend they are still there or pretend that it’s sometime in the 80’s). Write it from the perspective of one of your kids.

  4. For the Story a Day in May challenge, I came up with some of my own assignments/prompts. The prompt for Day 2 was “Write a short story which takes place in a future where, like the fire department in Fahrenheit 451, a government organization has evolved into a perversion of its original purpose.”

    • In the “flash fiction” response to my own assignment, I decided that Child Protective Services had become so invasive and replete with proscriptive definitions of “Child Safety.”

      In this future, the simple fact that a couple would do either of the following was demonstrative proof that the parents were too irresponsible to be entrusted with a child in their home:

      • Conceive a child through intercourse (outside of a conception clinic)
      • Have a second (or third, etc.) child without difficult-to-obtain CPS approval [following a lengthy home study that determined the parents would be able to handle the rigorous state-defined caregiving requirements without neglecting the first child(ren)’s needs]


      • Nicole Bailey says:

        Don’t get me started on CPS. If you ever wanna know why, I’ll send you an email. But that’s a great reason for your prompt and piece.

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