Can’t Afford Fiction Writing Courses? Pick Up a Creative Writing Prompts Book Instead

I understand that not everyone can spare hundreds of dollars to participate in the best fiction writing courses. There were many years when I was one of those writers who just couldn’t justify that expense no matter how badly I wanted to improve my skills. The good news is that I discovered one resource that allowed me to learn about the craft of fiction without a big financial investment: the creative writing prompts book.


What Is a Creative Writing Prompts Book?


A creative writing prompt is an image or exercise that serves as a jumping off point for creative writers. It gives you a theme, a character attribute, a unique setting or some other element that allows you to start writing. A creative writing prompts book is simply a book filled with great writing prompts that you can use over and over again.

Are you worried that using the same prompts as other writers will lead to fiction story ideas that are too similar to those used by other writers? Even if 1,000 writers use the same writing prompt, they will all come up with their own story ideas and plot structures.

Think about popular literary journals like The First Line or Thema. They require that all submissions use the same opening line or theme, but the variety found within each issue is amazing.creative writing prompts book

Prompt Books vs Fiction Writing Courses


A fiction writing prompts book won’t deliver everything that you get with some of the leading fiction writing courses. For instance, some writing courses allow you to submit short stories or chapters from your novel for the instructor and your peers to critique. You don’t have that participation when working with a book of creative writing prompt ideas of a free list of creative writing prompts found online.

Even with some limitations, there are a lot of similarities between prompt books and writing courses:

  • Fun creative writing prompts allow you to practice different elements of fiction writing without worrying about perfection. You may practice dialog with one prompt and then come up with a character that you adore in another. That practice will help improve your short stories and novels.
  • Books with daily creative writing prompts will get you in the habit of writing daily. This is critical to the success of a writer, especially if you want to become a successful self-published author with many books on the market. Simply showing up day after day without excuses is what separates successful fiction authors from hopefuls who never make it into print.
  • You can come up with amazing short story and novel ideas by working with fiction creative writing prompts. Many of your prompts will do nothing but give you a chance to practice, but then you will suddenly complete one that leads to a full story or perhaps your next bestselling novel. You will never get to those amazing ideas if you don’t work with your writing prompts consistently.
  • Working with a variety of prompt books and online prompt lists will teach you new things about writing fiction successfully. Once you think that you know it all, you will stop growing as an author. It’s important to learn new things, and working through every creative writing prompts book that you can find will ensure that you’re constantly absorbing new ideas. You should even do the prompts that relate to poetry or other genres because that experience will have a positive influence on your fiction writing style.


creative writing prompts bookMy Favorite Fiction Writing Prompt Books



The 3 A.M. Epiphany by Brian Kiteley – While this book is loaded with writing prompts, they’re arranged according to common writing problems. This makes it easy to skip around, doing the prompts that will help you grow at this stage of your writing career. This is important because your needs as a writer will change with time. I consider this a prompt book for serious students of the craft of fiction.


Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg – This is an older book that I first worked through more than 10 years ago. I still consider it one of the best books for writing prompts because it never fails to get my fingers tapping across the keyboard. I will note that the author talks a lot about spirituality, but you can easily overlook that if you keep an open mind. It’s definitely not religious in any way, and you don’t have to follow a specific spiritual belief to benefit from the ideas presented.

The Daily Poet by Martha Silano and Kelli Russell Agodon – Yes, this is a poetry prompt book rather than a fiction prompt book. I believe that your writing style will benefit by practicing poetry, even if you never consider yourself a poet or try to publish your poetry. I often use poetry prompts when I want to stick to my daily writing habit but don’t have a lot of time to explore fiction creative writing prompts.


1,000 Creative Writing Prompts Box Set by Bryan Cohen – This is an eBook set, so you can’t get it in print. I recommend it as an excellent starting point if you don’t want to invest a lot of money in prompt books because you receive 5,000 creative writing prompts for less than $10.


Your Turn!


If now just isn’t the time for you to invest in fiction writing courses, pick up a creative writing prompts book and start writing. The practice and exploration of new writing concepts will elevate your writing skills without a big financial investment.

If you want to explore a variety of prompt books, consider a Kindle Unlimited membership. For just $10 a month, you’ll get to read many prompt books plus books on the craft of fiction writing. You check books out just as you would in the library, keeping up to 10 titles at a time.

4 thoughts on “Can’t Afford Fiction Writing Courses? Pick Up a Creative Writing Prompts Book Instead

  1. Jill says:

    Hi Theresa. Thank you for the article on writing prompts books. I have a 15 year old daughter who has written and published 2 books so far and is almost done the editing on her 3rd. She is a very introverted girl and I can rarely get her out to writing coursed because, well, she prefers to not speak! I think this is an excellent idea.
    I have a question. Something that I found interesting on your post was when you mentioned literary journals requiring the same opening line or theme? Really? I just find that so crazy? Where can I take a look at that? Anything online for free so I can take a peek?
    Thanks again.

    • Theresa Hammond says:

      Hey, Jill! Social anxiety runs in my family, so I totally understand your daughter. Online courses are a great option because she will improve as a writer and get tons of inspiration without leaving her home, and her level of participation is up to her. 

      For themed journals, look at, and Those are the major journals that require all submissions to share a theme, first line or last line. Think of it as a writing prompt that can give you a publishing credit and a bit of cash.

  2. tracy says:

    This is great as a lot of people are put off getting into writing due to monetary constraints.
    The kindle offer is fabulous and one I didn’t know about. I will certainly be looking into the list you have given also.
    I enjoyed reading the other comments on the post. Inspiring and positive.
    Thank you.

    • Theresa Hammond says:

      Thanks for reading, Tracy! Publishing online can be expensive, but improving writing skill doesn’t have to be.

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