How To Use Writing Prompts During NaNoWriMo

Sprint timers and stats bars and word counts, oh my! It’s a whirlwind of activity as we kick off our first week of NaNoWriMo. Our minds are fresh, the excitement is contagious, and that leftover Trick or Treat candy is coming in handy.

How To Use Writing Prompts During NaNoWriMo

The greatest challenge of NaNoWriMo is keeping those word counts high, especially once we’ve run out of ideas. Today, I’m sharing one of my favorite methods for sparking new inspiration, writing prompts!

What’s a writing prompt?

Writing prompts are themes or topics that you can use to help generate new ideas when you’re having a hard time deciding what to write next.  I like using them during NaNoWriMo, especially on a slow day, because they have a way of kicking the creative brain into gear.


Where do you get them?

Just about anything can become a writing prompt. You could pick things that are directly related to their project or go with something totally random and see where it takes you.

Things you might use as a writing prompt:
~favorite lyrics or a quote
~some sort of object or prop
~a photograph or piece of artwork
~emotions or sensations
~fun words or phrases

You can also find tons of writing prompts on Pinterest or use an online generator. It might be tempting to stick with things that already go with what you were planning to write, but I encourage you to challenge yourself now and then. Sometimes it’s fun to just run with something totally random and see what happens.


How do you write with prompts?

For NaNoWriMo, I recommend finding a selection prompts you’d like to use before you start writing (or prep them the night before) so that you don’t have to spend time finding a new topic.

  1. Start a new page with your prompt as a header.
  2. Set up a 15-20 minute word sprint and brainstorm how that theme might fit your work in progress.
  3. If any of your ideas is really speaking to you, do another short sprint and flesh it out a little further.
  4. Set up a new page with the next prompt and take a quick break away from the computer (make some tea, take a stretch, pet your dog) to reset your brain.
  5. Repeat the process until you’ve reached the end of your prompts list or once you hit your daily word count!


Does it actually work?

When it comes to creativity, it’s hard to know if something will work until you give it a try. For me, writing prompts are like a game. It keeps me engaged and interested in what I’m doing, which means I’m writing longer and still enjoying myself.

Every topic might not produce book-worthy content, but NaNoWriMo is all about discovering your story, and using prompts is a fun way to do just that! Give yourself the freedom to explore your writing, worldbuilding, characters, and their emotions in a totally different way.


If using writing prompts sounds like fun, give it a go! I’d love to know if it worked for you, and which prompts you decided to use.

Feel free to send me a buddy request on NaNoWriMo. If you haven’t signed up to participate yet, it’s not too late! Log on and get writing at

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