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15 summer writing prompts for your personal, professional, & creative writing practices

“In summer, the song sings itself.” —William Carlos Williams

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Personal

1. Are you the type to make “Summer Bucket Lists,” highlighting all the things you hope to achieve and experience this summer? Consider making one especially for your creative life. Do you want to take more pictures, cook more (or cook less), practice freewriting each day, go on a retreat, spend more time in nature? How can your creativity best flourish in this warmest and brightest season? What does it need to thrive?

2.Make a list of 13 sensory details – smells, sounds, etc. – you associated with your childhood summers; compare them to details you experience in the summers you enjoy today. What has remained constant? What has changed? What do you miss, and what newfound sensations do you treasure?

3.Many summers can be defined by the one song that seems to be on constant repeat on our stereos; more recent examples include 2021’s “good 4 u” by Olivia Rodrigo or 2012’s “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen, while TLC’s “Waterfalls” dominated Billboard charts in 1995, just as Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” did in 1982. Make a playlist of the top-charting songs of the summer during a critical period in your life. Where do you remember hearing these songs most often? What memories do they evoke?

4.Let’s play a summer edition of “I remember.” Grab a pen and start a blank piece of paper with the sentence “I remember one summer…” and see what comes to mind. If you need more specificity, try “I remember one summer vacation…” or “I’ll never forget one particular summer because…”

5.Write about your most memorable summer romance. But don’t limit yourself to notions of traditional “love:” Your most memorable summer fling may not have been with a person at all but rather with a comic book series, a sport, a writing genre, etc. Be creative in your definition of “romance” and write about the strongest infatuation that comes to mind.

 

Professional

1. If ever there was a perfect time to catch up on your TBR pile, it’s summer. Take stock of the books that have come out recently in your genre. (Even if you’re unpublished as of yet, it’s still important to keep stock of recent publishing successes in your field – you’ll need to be familiar with this landscape when it’s time to query.) Make a reading list in order of priority at the beginning of the summer and chip away at these titles all season long at the pool, in your sunny hammock, or out on the balcony with an iced coffee.

2. One of the best things a writer can do for other authors? Leave reviews! Even the briefest of reviews posted on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites can do a world of good for your fellow wordsmiths. It’s easy to fire off a few starred reviews from your lounge chair, making this a great work-from-backyard activity.

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3. ‘Tis the season to take a writing retreat, whether it’s organized by others or a do-it-yourself affair. Make a mood board of what your ideal writing-fueled weekend would look like. Are you in the woods, by the water, in a metropolitan hotel? Are your meals provided, or does cooking spark your creativity? How can you create the optimal conditions for a burst of writing productivity? When you know what you need, mark your calendar and make it happen.

4. If an organized start-of-summer writing sprint sounds more up your alley, consider participating in Jami Attenberg’s popular #1000wordsofsummer series, where participants write 1,000 words each day for two weeks. Stay in the know at 1000wordsofsummer.substack.com (and subscribe to Attenberg’s excellent Craft Talk newsletter while you’re there).

5. While the rest of the Northern Hemisphere has beaches and barbecues on the brains, savvy freelancers know it’s time to start dreaming of snowballs and sugarplums – at least for outlets with long lead times. Start honing your holiday pitches now in the hopes of landing a festive byline – and paycheck – come the end of the year.

 

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Jump-starts

1. Take inspiration from “The Year Without a Summer” of 1816, when (due to a massive volcanic eruption at Indonesia’s Mount Tambora) the Northern Hemisphere experienced highly unusual cold temperatures that ultimately led to an agricultural crisis. Either write from the perspective of someone in 1816 experiencing the strange phenomenon or imagine a “year without a summer” set in the near future. How does the weather impact your world’s inhabitants? How do they cope and change as a result?

2. Your character has been planning an epic summer road trip for months – only to have it go horribly, terribly awry at the last minute. What’s gone wrong? How does this impact your character? What will they do about it?

3. There’s a reason why so many romance books have other people’s weddings at their core: Weddings are rife with drama, expectations, high stakes, and an abundance of strong emotions. Your character is about to attend a summer wedding they aren’t looking forward to. What does this event mean for your character? Why are they experiencing dread? How do you think the eventual wedding will (or won’t) change your protagonist and their expectations?

4. Summer jobs offer many teens and young adults their first taste of employment. Write about a conflict that occurs at a character’s first summer job. What’s at stake for your protagonist? How will the dispute ultimately be resolved, and how will your character change as a result?

5. Choose one of the following summertime settings and let a story grow from there, taking care to capture the time and place fully and richly on the page:

  • A beach at high noon
  • An amusement park in the future
  • An ice-cream parlor just before closing
  • A struggling drive-in movie theater
  • A swimming pool in the 1960s
  • A kitchen sometime before the year 1915
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