Letter from a fan

Here’s a prompt that will help you rev up your confidence and your focus with your work-in-progress.

  • Sit quietly for 10 minutes and imagine the reaction of one reader who picked up your book and didn’t put it down until she was finished, because she was that engaged. (Woo hoo!)
  • Grab your notebook and have that reader write you a personal letter about how your book moved them, or helped them, or otherwise made their life better, even if just for the hours they were sharing your story.
  • When you’re feeling stuck, read that letter — because it is truth.


Type up the letter from your adoring reader and post a couple of lines in the comments below and in the Facebook group to get your well-deserved “AttaGirl!

Dream reviews

A couple of years ago I was working on a creative non-fiction manuscript. Think, ‘ memoir-lite’. In my mind, the story had a strong dark humour element. On the page, though, it was earnest, with a capital “Blah.” To help me stay focussed on the tone I was aiming for, I pre-emptively wrote a series of book reviews for the (still) unfinished manuscript. I posted the page of reviews to my wall and found that they helped me stay true to my voice with the book I ultimately did finish and publish, Mother Teresa’s Advice for Jilted Lovers, which is 100% fiction.

Whether you’re struggling like I was or not, this is a fun and useful prompt to help rev up your confidence as well as remember your voice and keep your storyline in-line with your writing goal.

  • Find four or five titles that match the genre and tone of book you’re writing
  • Read the front matter where top review snippets are showcased
  • Write down the reviews that you would love to one day have written about your book
  • Replace the author’s name with yours, the book title with your own, and specific story qualities as necessary

Here are some examples from my own ‘Dream Review’ tear sheet:

“I’m Not the New Me is the hilarious, painfully honest, totally compelling, (surprisingly) suspenseful, and strangely comforting story of  a girl trying to lose a few pounds and not disappear in the process.”


“The Reluctant Atheist is the hilarious, painfully honest, totally compelling, (surprisingly) suspenseful, and strangely comforting story of  a woman trying to find her soul but not give up her beliefs in the process.”

And following the same approach…

“Both inspirational and forgiving. Barker’s memoir makes curiously compulsive reading, which is enough to make any reader happy.” (Adapted from a review for The Happiness Project)

“If a more likeable writer than Barker is currently in print, I haven’t found him or her…Barker’s prose is fuelled by a mix of intelligence, wit, and a colloquial exuberance that is close to irresistible” (Adapted from a review for Eat, Pray, Love)

“Hilarious, enlightened and inviting, this feisty memoir made me instantly want to befriend Barker just to keep listening to her smart take on everything from feminism to family therapy.” (Adapted from a review for Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress)

“Barker writes in a furiously funny voice, even when she writes about awful events.” (Adapted from a review for Expecting Adam)

Your turn! Post both the original blurb and your own Dream Review in the comments below and in the Facebook group to get your well-deserved “AttaGirl!”

What if … ?

What if… it’s probably my favourite prompt. A simple… what if?

  • What if … your heroine discovered she had a super power?
  • What if … your hero was able to communicate as well as a mature woman can?
  • What if … all the secondary characters in your story suddenly became gingers?

Post your ‘what if…’ and up to 500 words of a related scene in the comments below.

Help wanted

A comment from my editor on a draft of my novel inspired this prompt. Assuming your characters have jobs, readers want to see how well-suited they are to their job. It adds depth to the story.


  • Choose a significant character in your story and have her (or him) write a cover letter as though she’s applying for a new job.
  • In this letter have her give three concrete examples of why she is exceptional in her field, regardless of whether she’s a neuroscientist or a dog groomer or a greeter at Walmart.
  • Have her provide a concrete example of her talent.
  • Be sure to write in her voice, her tone and with words she’d use.

Post your cover letter in the comments below.


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