What’s Your CCC Process?

Let’s let other people see how we manage to use all 10 words and create our submissions.

By letting other people see our individual processes and thoughts as we create a submission, we may just help someone become more creative.  You can use any of your past submissions as examples. Our analytics show we have many more readers than submitters. Hopefully, this exercise will get them off the fence and let us enjoy their writing.

Have at it in the comments.

Ex. CCC#144: I saw the word shocked and I said, “Bobby has to be shocked that he’s not getting the million dollars.” Then I saw the word spot and said, “Ah ha! Spot is a dog name. I wrote in the past that Bobby had a dog that died. Let’s make the bones I wrote about in CCC#143 some dog bones and not a dino.” And the rest is just creatively noodling the other words into this concept box.


41 Comments on “What’s Your CCC Process?”

  1. Lydia says:

    I see you decided to make a new post for this topic. 🙂

    I’m going to use one of my first CCC submissions as an example, #138. My submission was about a cardiologist who loses a young, very sick patient during surgery. A coworker takes him out for a late night burger to try to get him to talk about what happened and realize that it wasn’t his fault.

    The story gelled together as soon as I saw the words catacombs and maelstrom in the list. The former reminded me of the hospital my mom worked at when I was a teenager. Sometimes we’d meet her for dinner in the cafeteria (which was at the end of one of the eeriest hallways ever to be found in a hospital basement! It always seemed to be draped in shadow and smell faintly of something moist and painful.)

    The latter reminded me of a friend who has a really tough time processing certain emotions or thoughts. Sometimes she’s so concerned with doing the right thing and being a good person that she taken on blame for things that she couldn’t possibly have changed.

    A note for lurkers – I lurked here for months. Sometimes I’d begin a challenge but get stuck on a particularly difficult word. Eventually I decided to not even think about word #9 until I’d used up words 1-8.  Often by the time I get to the hard words the story has presented me with a way to fit it in that doesn’t feel forced. It was a little scary to post my first submission but I’m so glad that I did!

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Lydia: I love this backstory stuff. I might just add it to each of my submissions from now on.

      • Jen says:

        I love this. Lydia, my “process” seems similar. Some words have such rich resonance with me in my memory that when I hear them I’m taken immediately to a scene. Other words are so repulsive to me that the sound of them in my ears takes me somewhere else. For example, grass is a word that positively vibrates with meaning. Pudding is a word I can not stand. When I hear the word pudding, I know I’m going to be writing about something slimy. To be clear, I enjoy eating pudding, on occasion. I do not enjoy the word. My point is that the words write the story with my memory. How high and mighty does that sound?

    • Kelly says:

      Lydia—I think it’s fascinating that there are longtime lurkers here, and I think it’s great when folks decide to give it a try.
      Now that you’ve been doing it for a little while, I hope it seems like “What was I waiting for?!” This place is so supportive, I don’t think I could have stayed away once I jumped in.

  2. Julia Martin says:

    I will use these words from CCC#144 to explain my creative process for CCC challenges!


    Since I didn’t write a submission for the last (#144) challenge, I decided to see if I could answer your question with the seemingly random words from that challenge.
    I’ve only been doing this for a few months, but the bottom line is that if I don’t get an immediate, almost visceral reaction when I first look at the words in each challenge, then I don’t attempt the challenge! If I do get an immediate reaction, however, it’s based on something I very suddenly feel when I see the words, and it quickly gels in my mind. I spot a few words that set off the thought: for example when I look at them and see the words “lilac” and “new client” and “bell” like in CCC#136, it gave me an idea of “rustling lilac” bushes right before a fairy godmother appears. Or like in CCC#116 (my first!), I keyed off the words Queen and boil and peach to write about someone cutting out and boiling gizzards that end up looking like peach pits–I always follow my first instinct–then I come up with as wild an idea as I can.
    Before I begin writing, I copy and paste the words into a simple text editor; I bold words as I use them (in the list and in the story) so I can keep track–because the worst feeling is if I forget a word then need to somehow work it in. If I write too much, or use too many weak unnecessary words, then I just cut some when I’m done. I don’t like my responses to be too long!
    Once I’m happy with the result, proof it once or twice, then I copy the text I’ve written and paste it into the comment section of CCC. Then I hit the send button. It may shock you to find out that I rarely spend more than 5 minutes writing any of these challenges. They really help spark my writing, though. I have often gone on to write things on my blog (like about a genie granting three wishes, from the fairy godmother challenge),but I’ve only once posted the actual challenge text on my blog.

  3. I’ve fallen off the wagon. But I remember the Good Ol’ Days.

    In the Good Ol’ Days, I would see a word and it would remind me of something. Or I’d put two words together at random to see if it made sense…or if it could be twisted to make sense.

    This was usually the opening sentence – or somewhere in the opening paragraph, if I had to set it up. Occasionally it was the closing scene when the word combination was the punchline.

    Once I had the hook, I started writing whatever story wanted to leak out of my head at the time, whatever the words reminded me of, whatever I had been thinking about, just…whatever.

    Many times I erased it all and started over. Sometimes it all flowed out right the first time.

    Usually, I’d get to the end, having used all of the words, and then get stuck. Stuck for an ending. Stuck for something to make Shane spew coffee on the monitor. Something to wrap it all up without a lot of exposition.

    Most of the time, that something would occur in a few seconds. Sometimes I’d have to let it sit, ignored, for hours or even days.

    But almost always an odd twist would occur that wrapped everything up. Sometimes it really was clever, sometimes it felt like cheating.

    And sometimes, it just ended.

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Steven: You must have been busy with … say … writing a book or something. You should tell everyone about it.

      • Oh yes well there is that. http://stevenalowe.com/sxsw-peeps-book

        Everyone: Shane Arthur is the best editor on the planet. Hire him immediately. Your book, ebook, poster, presentation, treatise, manifesto, birthday card, and/or graffiti will be 1000% better when he’s done with it.

        • Shane Arthur says:

          @Steven: I love reading quotes like this. Thank you kindly. I’d love some more CCC clients. Your book was a blast to edit/proof.

          • Thank you. It wasn’t a book until you got done with it.

            I mentioned to a certain someone that you had edited my book, and he said “Oh yes, Shane is the best. I use him for all of my ebooks and such.”

            While I don’t have permission to identify the gentlemen in question, he is a highly respected blogger, and a total badass.

    • Clarabela says:

      I have a similar method. One of the words will spark a bit of a story or an idea, then I just take it from them and then I lead the story in the direction that will use all the words. It is a great way to stretch my brain and stimulate my writing skills.

    • Kelly says:

      Steven— “Stuck for something to make Shane spew coffee on the monitor.”

      Well, I just got a big LOL out of that, whether Shane did or not. That is the unofficial object of the game, isn’t it?

  4. Chris Fries says:

    I do the challenges two ways.  For my current series, I have a definite plot arc I’m trying to fit each episode into, so my brain-storming is much more constricted than it would be otherwise.  With the one I just posted for challenge #144, it was easy to take most of the words and fit them into a discussion about Sharpe’s promises to take Joan Dawkins — his ex-girlfriend librarian / researcher friend — out to dinner, a theme I’d introduced in CCC #140.  He was getting more info from her in this episode, so it all fell into place rather easily.
    Sometimes, it’s not so easy.  With a piece set in 1949, it’s sometimes tough to squeeze in modern words.  In one, I cheated and used “quark” as a sound effect.
    But with my earlier pre-series CCC submissions, one word would jump out at me, and I’d take it from there, where-ever the story led.  Like in the second one I ever did (“Invaders” back in CCC #119), “shield” leaped out at me and made me think of a sci-fi thing (“raise the shields!”), and “report” then guided me to an agent reporting in on a mission, then “fail” added the drama.  “Absinthe” was the tough one, but it somehow led me to, ‘this cat’s gotten into the absinthe again’, which immediately gave me the ‘aliens in a cat shell like a reverse-Avatar thing’ idea.
    I’m really enjoying the constraints of an on-going series where I have a pre-defined plot line, but I actually prefer the ‘take-it-where-ever-it-leads’ improv vibe of a regular challenge, and am kinda looking forward to getting back to those.  In like another 7 or 8 episodes…

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Chris: I know what you mean about improv submissions. I want to do something besides Bobby and Billy, but each time I can’t escape them.

    • Kelly says:

      Chris— “In one, I cheated and used ‘quark’ as a sound effect.”

      Me, I’ve cheated and broken words up… like “Finally, there was an end to the rain. ‘Bow,’ said the king…” if the word was rainbow—but I never thought of sound effects. Good idea!

  5. So I’m extremely new to this CCC thing.  I was introduced to this site via the story-a-day challenge where Shane hosted today’s prompt.  To be honest, I normally am horrible at using this sort of prompt – but something about the list of words (posted on story-a-day, I didn’t see them here) just spoke to me.  See below and I’ll explain my ‘process.’

    1.  Regular
    2.  Sun
    3.  Wild
    4.  Muck
    5.  Shoot
    6.  Frustration
    7.  Hand
    8. Take
    9. Push
    10. Trip

    I stared at this one for awhile, eventually thinking I might have to ignore the prompt and use my own.  However, as I read them out loud, somehow a picture formed in my head – I believe based off my previous life experiences.  Regular didn’t scream anything to me – but Sun, Wild, Muck and Shoot immediately brought to mind images of a horse.  There it was – a setting – the genre, a Western of sorts. The next four or five words didn’t spark anything specific, but I knew I could work them in.

    The result, I posted to my blog (which you can visit if you’d like or I can post it here, whichever).  As a newcomer, I did not QUITE get all ten words in.  I never used trip, although I had the horse actually trip, so maybe that gets half a point. Also, I believe I missed push, somehow.  And muck…I just didn’t fit muck in.  Wow…now that I spell that all out it seems like I missed a lot.  Oh well – I’m a newb!

    Anyway, glad to meet you all – this seems like a sweet site.  I’ll have to try some of the prompts again sometime!

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Alexis Hunter: Great to see you here. Just think, when you officially post here, we’ll give you a link to your site on our CCC Community page. Google loves link love. 😉

    • Kelly says:

      Alexis— “And muck…I just didn’t fit muck in.” LOL! You have no idea how many times I’ve felt like one word was gumming up the whole works, but it’s a great feeling to conquer the challenges. Hope you do come back and give it a try again!

  6. Rebecca says:

    I look at the words and think about what type of ‘story’ I want to write. Suspense? Mystery? Ghost story? Historical? Poem? Something for YA or adult? I like to digest the words and allow them to soak into my mind. Usually, one or more words stand out to me. For CCC #144, the words “wild, follow, and spot” stood out to me. I knew I could use these words to write a story that leaned towards the paranormal and or supernatural.
    Don’t force a story. Allow it to unfold naturally. Think about what you like to read (mystery, ghost story, sci-fy, graphic novel, comic book, fantasy, crime, historical, memoir, etc.) and create your own story using the words provided in the CCC. Give it a try!

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Rebecca: Thanks for sharing this. I hope those fence sitters get to writing. I’d love to see what they can do.

    • Kelly says:

      Rebecca—Funny how many of us find that a word or three jumps at us, to give us a push—I didn’t realize that was so normal ’til I read these comments today. Yet we come up with such different styles!

  7. Kelly says:

    Hm. Okay, I’ll bite…
    I write stories, sometimes traditional ones and sometimes more like snapshots of a time and place, poems, and songs here at CCC. I’ve done nostalgic, sad, goofy, romantic, social commentary, thrillers/nailbiters, fable/fantasy/myths, and as often as I can, those last sentences have a twist or some other type of gut-level gotcha. Even in the sweet soft ones, I try to end my stories with a pow.
    The object of the “game,” for me, is to be as completely loose as I can be, and (I know this sounds like psychobabble) to try to let the story flow out of me, rather than trying to craft it too much. I find when I look back on them I can tell the ones where I overworked it from the ones where I just let my pen fly along of its own accord quite easily, and personally, I like the flying-pen stories much better.
    So if I were trying to encourage CCC-readers to come out of the closet, my best advice would be not to overthink it too much. Just see where the words and your imagination take you.
    I have three processes that I use at CCC, and I (almost) never know which one I’ll use in advance.
    —Most of the time, I print out the words and stare for a minute. One word will grab me, and I’m off. (A peculiarity about my CCC writing—if the words seem to be trying to push us toward a certain type of story—if, for instance, they’re all words associated with horror, or romance, or fantasy—it’s almost a guarantee that I’ll write a story that doesn’t go in that direction. It brings our the stubborn in me.) Very often, I haven’t a clue from the way the story starts inside my head, of how (or when) it will end—and I wish I had some folks’ gift for consistently ripping out really micro-short stories here at CCC (I don’t do many like that)—but I just have to wait until the end comes to write it.
    —Sometimes, I’ve got a “bee in my bonnet” about some subject and I when I sit down to write I realize “Aha! I’m going to write about that, whatever the words are today.” Whether it’s a conversation I was a part of, something on the news, the weather, or something I saw, I just can’t wait to re-shape it into a CCC story. Again, I usually have no clue what I’ll shape it into, it’s just that the idea is in place, sparking those stories, before I’ve seen the words.
    —Less frequently, I have a sentence or a whole story in my head in advance. Sometimes I even write those, 100%, before I’ve clicked through to the challenge, so the words won’t take me off track, and then I figure out how to replace words in the story with CCC words to get the challenge done properly. (Those often go fastest because the words aren’t dragging my thought process around.)
    Now, having said that I let the stories use me as a vehicle, blah-blah-writerly-talk, I’ll reverse—and say that at the end, I do stop and read my stories. Out loud, if I can, because then you notice awkward phrasing or parts that don’t make sense. I can’t spend all day because I have clients to work for, LOL, but yes, I do edit. I do look for repetition and try to correct it by taking things out or varying my word use. (I do also insert repetition on purpose, to create rhythm and recognition for you folks as you read.) I do look for boring phrasings and pump them up. I do sometimes take the last sentence I wrote and make it the title or the first sentence of the story—one thing I love is telling the end, lulling you into forgetting all about it, then slamming you with doh! I should have seen that coming when the story comes back around. I do check for pacing (can’t all be fast, and can’t all be slow, for a story to work) and clear mood. The prose (usually) gets a lighter edit. With the poems, even though I usually do free-verse, and with songs, which of course need meter and rhyme to work, I sometimes have to move stanzas around quite a bit to be sure I’ve got the right effect.
    One thing I never do is to read other folks’ stories before I write. I want to reach into someplace I’m not even conscious of, inside of my experiences and thought processes, for my stories—and I’m deathly afraid that reading other people’s wild ways of putting the words together will cause me not to able to say anything that’s authentically “me”—that I’ll feel like I’m competing or trying to top somebody or something. This is my play place, my access-the-subconscious place, my total escape place, and my artsy-fartsy “pure” place.. I’ll be cutthroat and competitive someplace else.
    None of these processes seem to affect how the stories are received, though—so my second piece of advice is no matter the words, no matter the subject, just “be you.” Write like you are just telling a friend or a kid about the events. You do that every day! You just don’t normally write it down (or change the names and the circumstances so it’s fiction, probably). Tell what you see, how it makes you feel, and how the story went, without worrying about what your high-school English teacher would say.
    And in case you’re wondering, “How can I write, when I’m not very good at it?”—well, nobody is when they start. I’ll leave it to other folks to say whether my writing’s enjoyable here at the CCC, but I can tell you that a lot of folks here blow me away with their talent regularly, and I doubt any of them just started writing yesterday. Even if you’ve got a “gift” of some sort, good writing takes practice! I do a lot of business writing now, both at my blog and for clients. That stuff keeps me conscious of ways to engage a reader and of structure. I’ve also written creatively all my life. I’ve had my creative writing published in little ‘zines, back in the long ago when I didn’t need to worry as much about putting food on the table, but I’m no professional writer. I just keep at it.
    There are no grades here, and if there were, they’d all be As. That’s what makes this place rock. No matter your skills, if you do this as often as Shane & Co. will let you, you’ll get better and better at telling stories—something we all do in real life all the time.
    Darn it, Shane, you forgot to tell me that the CCC is actually good for me!!
    (P.S. Like with the challenges, I didn’t read anyone else’s answer before I wrote this. Seems I had a lot of thoughts on the subject of CCC process! Hope it’s not too long for what you had in mind, Shane.)

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Kelly: Amazing! I never would have thought to write a story, then replace the words with CCC words. I’ll have to try that one time. Your response was fantastic. Such a great look into the thoughts that go into such great stories of yours. And I agree that not looking at what other people write helps us be original. Even with picking the words, I try to pick them in under a minute so that my subconscious doesn’t alter the randomness of the words.

      • Kelly says:

        Shane— ha ha, that’s what I do when I send you a word list, too. Like I’m trying to be the Salvador Dalí of the CCC (tapping the unconscious, y’know).

    • Chris Fries says:

      Wonderful, Kelly!
      Thanks so much for the entertaining and enlightening insight into the mind of a true CCC-Master!

      • Kelly says:

        Chris—Thanks! I think this fell under the category of “Be careful what you ask for.” I just got to thinking, and thinking…
        Trying to dissect how you do something you usually don’t think about consciously is funky!

    • Lydia says:

      One thing I never do is to read other folks’ stories before I write.”
      I couldn’t agree more with this!

  8. Rebecca says:

    @ Kelly … I know! If I can’t think of something to write straightaway, I’ll let the CCC challenge sit for a day or two. By that time, I hear something on the radio/TV or read an article that ‘sparks’ and idea.

    • Kelly says:

      Rebecca—I’d love to let ’em sit and percolate, but a day is usually my max. Or one challenge behind at most!!
      I’m notorious for what happens to me if I let ’em go for “a day or two”… I can wake up one day a month or two behind.   😦

  9. Anne Maybus says:

    I take the words into my head and let them run around in that big vacant space. Eventually they start to send out some sort of feeling and the feeling tells me if it needs to be a story or poem. Then it starts to fall off the end of my fingers onto the keyboard. When it has written itself i go over it but only quickly (as you can tell by some of the grammatical errors and less than neat way of phrasing things that I sometimes have.) I don’t spend a lot of time on them at all. I use them to kickstart my brain and imagination. I’m also a lousy typist who reads too fast and misses typos.

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Anne M: I like your process. Leaves no time to second guess and self edit. I need more of this.

    • Kelly says:

      Anne— I love “Then it starts to fall off the end of my fingers onto the keyboard.”

      I don’t get that feeling often enough, but boy, that’s what the really great moments for me are like. Definitely!

  10. sefcug says:

    The first thing I do is print out the words of the day and put aside until lunch time, without looking at any of the comments so I am not influenced by them.
    At lunch, I look at the words for a minute or two, then start handwriting my thoughts on the print out, marking the words of the day with an asterisk to format bold before submission. After all my thoughts are written down, I start typing into my text editing application, editing and rearranging as I go along.
    Once I have put everything together to my satisfaction, I proofread, figure out what I am going to use as a moral, paste into the submission text box, bold the words of the day and submit.
    After submission, I find an image (royalty free, or Creative Commons licensed for use) and post the image and submission to my blog referring back to  CCC.

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