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.
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 . . . "
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.