Kristina Elyse Butke
Moxie Books: December Writing Prompts
These prompts come from Moxie Books, a website from the UK that's devoted to helping out writers. There's a lot of fun stuff there to look at, so I hope you check it out. Anyway, these are meant to be daily prompts (and particularly used on Instagram) but I'm using them for a single blog post.
This month's prompt calendar is different! Vicky decided to make an advent calendar for Christmas filled with special deals and goodies (which you can get here if you sign up for free, but the presents expire quickly and may already be gone). There are writing prompts included, too, but there will only be 25 this month since it is counting down until Christmas. She's also emailing prompts every day, and that's how I've been accessing them, hence me posting this much later than usual this month.
You're highly encouraged to follow the creator of these calendars, Vicky Quinn Fraser, on Instagram -- @tinybeetlesteps. You can do the posts daily on Instagram, too! Have fun with it! My goal was to do these for one year, so this will be my last Moxie Books post. Enjoy!
1 - What would make December a win for you? What would you like to achieve in your writing? Now, what’s the first tiniest beetle step you could take to get there? The smallest possible thing you could do?
Right now I'm working on rewriting The Name and the Key. My original goal was to finish it 12/31 but that's impossible, so I'd like to redo my goal and allow me more time to write--I'd like to finish it May 2023. The problem is, I haven't really been sitting down to work on it due to my health, so the smallest step I could take to get to writing would be to turn on my PC, open up the file, and write one sentence.
2 - What are you procrastinating on right now? Why? How does it feel in your body and mind? What’s the smallest thing you could do to get started?
This kind of goes with the previous answer, but I'm procrastinating on writing the next book. I don't seem to feel anything in my body about it as far as I know, but in my mind, I feel a lot of guilt and anxiety about it. And the same answer for the smallest thing I could do: write one sentence.
3 - What’s the tiniest version of a normal-sized thing you’ve ever seen?
I've seen light-up bookend dioramas (like this) with an entire library or bookstore carved inside of them. They're the height of a book and maybe the width of two of them, but you put them among the books on your shelf. They look really cool.
4 - What’s a podcast (or radio show) you’ve listened to recently and enjoyed?
Did it create The Driveway Effect (when you’re so engrossed you just in your car and finish listening when you get home)? Why?
I don't listen to podcasts. I don't listen to audiobooks, either, It's a concentration thing.
5 - Open the nearest book to page 83 and point randomly at the page. What word or phrase did your finger land on? What does it prompt you to think about — and write?
I have the original graduate thesis of The Name and the Key next to me--I bound it as a trade paperback to make it easier for my family to read--and the word I landed on was "quay." This makes me think of Wales because I never knew this word existed until I went over there. You pronounce it like "key." I think I first heard it when I was in Tenby, a gorgeous seaside town in Wales (known in Welsh as Dynbych y Pysgod.) Tenby was one of the inspirations for the town of Mariner in my book!
6 - Think of a movie or book you hated — what about it didn’t work?
I'm not going to name and shame the book...I didn't hate it but I DNF'd it. I felt a great disappointment with it that prevented me from continuing on. It took forever to set up the characters. There was too much emphasis on worldbuilding and not enough forward movement with the plot. There, in general, was too much information being spouted but not enough for me to get a sense of the world. It felt like reading an old history book. The magic system was cool but all of the characters the magic summoned had really similar-sounding names, which made them hard to keep track of. Overall, this came from an author whose work I really loved, and whose writing helped inspire me...so when this book didn't work for me, I felt so sad!
7 - There is no right idea. Or wrong idea. Just ideas you can try. GO. Set a timer for 5 minutes and make a big old list, or mind map, or spider diagram, or word spiral, or interpretative dance, or doodle, of all the possible ideas you could ever turn into a book.
I don't feel comfortable sharing all my book ideas online. What I will say is that one of my ideas involves demons and grimoires and another idea combines Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast. That's all you're getting from me!
8 - You have to earn the right to write a book. Discuss.
There was a video associated with this prompt but I didn't get through all of it because my concentration was so-so (It was a 30-minute video). If you want to watch it, it's here.
Anyway, I don't agree with this statement. I think anyone should be able to write a book. The discussion talked about people writing books in a week, which I find laughable, but I still think that if you want to write a book, you should be able to--there shouldn't be anyone stopping you from doing so. Now, in terms of quality for publishing, you need to go through the rigmarole everyone else goes through--use critique partners or beta readers, write several drafts, do developmental editing, line editing, and proofreading. This should happen whether or not you go traditional or self-publish. But what's stopping you from writing? Nothing! Go write that book!
9 - Do you get as much done as you want? Why/why not? Is it you, or is it capitalism? Ooh, deep thoughts there.
I never get as much done as I want to. Right now, due to my mental health, one of my symptoms is sleeping all the time. I do it because I'm tired but also, to be honest, I think it might be an avoidance tactic as well because I'm too depressed to do anything.
Also, I have always had difficulty following a routine, even when I'm well. So that's part of it, too. I guess I bear some of the blame for my inefficiency and lack of motivation.
As for the capitalism part, I would say that that has some bearing. I wrote a book while working full time, but it took forever, and I tended to only write on the weekends if I had the energy to. The daily grind makes it hard to write regularly.
10 - What is generosity? What does it mean to you?
I think generosity involves the giving of time or resources, or just the giving of things that bring joy. When I think of generosity, I think of my family and friends. It can be little things or big things. My friend gave me a jacket recently because I didn't have one that fit. My mother has been supporting me while I try to reestablish myself in Ohio. My sister got me something from Nepal. All of these things make me feel lucky and grateful!
I also have a lot of memories of the generosity of people in Japan, whether it was little gifts of omiyage or the baker in the sweets shop who gave me a maneki neko for no reason at all!
11 - What’s the best book launch idea you’ve ever seen? What could you do to launch your book (or, indeed, anything else you’ve created)?
When I think about it, I don't really see things on book launch day. It's more like the authors I watch are building up to things until right before launch day, and the thing that's caught my eye the most are preorder campaigns because of all the swag you can get from them (I even wrote about it!). For my preorder campaign, I want to do signed bookplates and 3 character art postcards. To be honest, I'd love to do an enamel pin as well but I'm worried about how much money that will cost. But I love collecting them!
12 - What is imposter syndrome, really?
I always understood imposter syndrome to be the feeling that you're not good enough to deserve your success and that you doubt your place in the world ("Do I deserve to be here? How can I be called a writer when X, Y, and Z?"). Because I haven't had any great successes yet, I actually haven't succumbed to imposter syndrome yet, but if I were to do something like find myself on a curated bestseller list somehow, I'd probably freak out and doubt myself.
13 - What questions do you have about writing a book?
I would ask, "how do you write every day while dealing with bipolar disorder or depression or other mental illness?" and then I would ask, "Do you have an advice on plotting that doesn't always default to The Hero's Journey?" and lastly, "how do you keep the middle of the book from sagging?"
14 - What type of publishing do you want to do? Traditional? Hybrid? Indie? Why?
I've talked about this before, but I keep going back between self-pub and traditional pub. Son of the Siren was originally intended to be self-published, but I ran out of money preparing to do so. Self-pubbing the right way is very expensive, and I didn't get very far along on that journey because of how much it was costing me. Plus, despite the numerous benefits and appeal self-publishing has for me, there are certain things I cannot figure out how to do on my own with the lack of money I have, and traditional publishing provides a team of support behind you and your work. True, I'm still expected to market myself no matter which way I go, but there are a lot of things traditional publishers can do that I think would be better for me to rely on as opposed to me doing it myself. But I have to tell you, the original cover design to Son of the Siren is fire and if my book fails to be published traditionally, I won't rule out self-pub.
15 - Do you ask for what you want and need?
I have a hard time with this. I'm slowly getting better about it, but I really struggled with this when I lived in Japan. I felt guilty about asking for help--and I needed help so frequently--because I just didn't know enough of the language to take care of things myself. I particularly needed as much help as possible preparing for the move back home to the States. I had to cancel all my services, do banking stuff, do tons of shipping of items home, pay for garbage disposal, and hire a professional cleaning company to take care of the apartment. I couldn't have done this without my tantousha, but boy, did I feel guilty bothering him all the time!
16 - What do you feel when you see a blank page?
When I sit down to write and see a blank page, I have mixed feelings. First, (and maybe tiniest), I get a sense of possibility. But mostly, I feel a little dread, like, "oh no, I can't have a blank page just sitting there, I have to fill it." So sometimes it feels like a chore to me, or a source of pressure. I hope to have a better attitude about this as I continue to write.
17 - Who would you love to talk to [on a podcast]? Who’s your celeb crush?
I don't really do podcasting but if I did I would want to talk to my favorite voice actors, David Matranga, Jason Liebrecht, Matthew Mercer, Emily Neves, Laura Bailey, and Luci Christian. I don't have a celeb crush right now (maybe VAs?) but for the longest time I did have one on Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd, ever since I saw him in the movie Titanic. If I could interview him, that would be pretty cool, too. I'd try to speak some Welsh for him, but honestly, I've forgotten most of it so it would be pretty rough!
18 - What do you think makes a good interview? Why? And, conversely, what makes a terrible interview?
I think rapport between the interviewer and interviewee helps--that they're warm enough to each other and that the interviewer makes the interviewee feel comfortable enough to disclose a decent amount of information. I think a terrible interview is when the interviewer asks too personal of a question, or isn't friendly, or the interviewee clams up and says very little. I tend to overshare in interviews, so I think if I ever get interviewed for one of my novels, for example, I'd have to be very careful with how much I share about it. I also get nervous during interviews and botch what I mean to say, literally floundering over words or spitting out the wrong ones. But I think I'm a pretty friendly person, so it's easy for me to talk about myself and my writing. Can you tell? I've done a gazillion asks and self-interviews on this blog already!
19 - What does busy even mean? How do you define “busy”? How does being busy make you feel?
I think if you're busy, your schedule is filled with enough things to keep you occupied with very little left over for free activities. That's what it always meant for me, anyway. If I ever had time to do what I'd want to do, I'd always feel guilty, because I'd be like, "I should be doing X, Y, and Z instead of A, B, and C." But my outlook on busyness is probably warped and doesn't reflect how it should be. Like, maybe I should schedule in "free time" as a part of my routine. I know I need to schedule in writing that way!
20 - What’s the last thing you wandered off to learn about, even though it had nothing to do with anything you were supposed to be doing? Why did it interest you? What did you learn?
I did a Wikipedia search on Kristen Wiig because last night I watched Barb and Star go to Vista Del Mar which was weird as all get-out. But it didn't lead me down a rabbit hole at all. Usually the research rabbit holes happen when I'm writing. Like, the most recent research I did for the book involved what happens when someone dies during the Regency era--who conducts the funeral? Who cleans the body? etc. And it all goes in the book for maybe a single sentence or two tops,
21 - If you’ve been thinking of writing a book, but you’ve not done it yet, you probably have questions. Ask ‘em! Let’s figure out what’s stopping you, and start you up.
Well, I've already written two books and am working on a third, so I don't have questions about starting because I have already started. My questions are about how to plot loosely (but still have an outline) for people who are pantsers, and what to do to revive a sagging middle.
22 - Emotions: are they appropriate in books? What books have you read that made you laugh, or cry, or enraged? How did they get you to tap into those feelings?
I feel like this is such a weird question to ask because I feel like if there weren't emotions in books, I wouldn't read them, and if they didn't create any emotions in me, I'd never read them again. I think not only are they appropriate but they are needed as a way to engage the reader in the text and to experience what the characters are going through. Books build empathy and understanding! As for books that made me cry, The Fault in Our Stars had me cry when I first read it, and then Ghosts of the Tsunami absolutely wrecked me more than any book I've ever read. I can't think of books that have made me laugh, though, even if they were funny...and as books that enrage me, usually that rage comes from a book not meeting my expectations or simply not being very good. Then I DNF.
23 - Who makes the rules anyway?
The context of this question involved writing, so that's how I'm going to answer it. When it comes to writing, I feel like writers make up their rules all the time and then go on Twitter and speak about those rules as if they are firm for everyone, lol. And then there's a ton of discourse after that where people fly in and say, "But I don't do it that way!" I feel like as soon as someone experiences a modicum of success or hits some kind of goal, they feel that gives them the authority to disperse advice, and then advice somehow morphs into "rules." This is why, if I'm ever successful, I'm going to be wary of mentioning writing rules or make it very plain that what works for me may not work for anyone else.
24 - If you were to write a MicroBook, what would it be about?
I'm not really interested in writing shorter books, but if I did, it would be a reader magnet for this blog affiliated with Son of the Siren to promote it. I have some ideas, but I don't want to share them here yet!
25 - Your best gift today.
For the first time in six years I got to spend Christmas at home with my mother. That was lovely.