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All Monthly Writing Challenges

Writing Exercises and Prompts from About.com's Monthly Challenge


Each month from September to May, the fiction writing site at About.com supplies a monthly writing challenge and posts reader responses. Read the challenges from past months and submit a response to the most recent writing challenge.

1. October 2010: Apparitions

For the October challenge, we borrowed a first line from a story in Lord Halifax's Ghost Book as the writing prompt. Begin your story with the words "After dinner, our host, who was then renting the place, told us that the house was said to be . . . "

2. September 2010: A New Perspective

For September, we did a writing exercise suggested by a reader named Orven. The instructions were to think of an episode from your own past and then rewrite it from a perspective other than your own. Click through the link above for full instructions and examples.

3. May 2010: Description

For May's writing challenge, we turned to John Gardner's classic book on writing, The Art of Fiction. The writing exercise offers the chance to work on description, and to experiment with how description can be used to reveal a character's state of mind.

4. April 2010 Poetry Challenge

In honor of National Poetry Month, we wrote poems this month, with a writing exercise from a reader named Patrick. The instructions were to write a poem or prose poem about something very small and compare it to something very big.

5. March 2010: Historical Writing

For the March writing challenge, the instructions were to write a poem, prose poem, or short-short story from the point of view of an historical figure. The phrase "historical figure" could be taken broadly -- anyone from Nicholas I to Nellie Bly's mom was fair game -- so we got some very creative responses.

6. February 2010: The Wedding Cake in the Middle of the Road

With Valentine's Day in mind, the writing challenge for this month was to compose a story of 2,000 words or fewer incorporating the image of "the wedding cake in the middle of the road." (Longtime NPR fans may recognize the prompt from a 1990s series.) The prompt appealed to me as it offered excellent material for both cynics and diehard romantics.

7. December 2009-January 2010: Prose Poem Challenge

The December and January 2009 writing prompt challenge was inspired by the writing of Russell Edson, whose prose poems often stem from an impossible statement, such as "A man had a son who was an anvil" or "A father with a huge eraser erases his daughter." Read more about the challenge, and submit a response of your own.

8. November 2009: Past and Present

In November we challenged readers to write 500-600 words, starting in the present moment, going back to some moment in the past, and then returning to the present. Though the November challenge is now closed, feel free to try the exercise on your own and post the results in the forum under "Share Work."

9. October 2009: Why I Stole It

The instructions in October were to find an object in your house that interests you, however strange or mundane: a feather boa, a meat grinder, and a roll of toilet paper are perfectly good options. Then sit down and write out, in your character's words, why she or he stole the object. It's a great way to get to know a character from an existing work, or start something entirely new.
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