30K in 30 Days Archive

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Day 1 – Writing time

Perhaps you've already written your quota for Day 1 (If so, amazing! It's Sunday!), but for those of us who haven't just yet, it's worth thinking a little about time and the timing of your writing. Will it be a set time every day? Or will it be when random opportunities arises?
For me, when I do writing challenges, I prefer a dawn writing frenzy before I'm fully conscious of what I'm writing – i.e while the mean critic is still asleep. Also, it's done and I can get on with the rest of the day. But 6am doesn't always happen. So, then it becomes a patchwork of writing through the day – 200 words here, 300 there, etc. Doing these kinds of challenges is great for noticing the writing windows in your day – sometimes it's amazing what, where and when you can write when you're under this kind of pressure.

Today's writing exercise

When is your story/project set? If you're not sure, perhaps pick an era that discomforts you. Think about that time, whether it's in the past or the future, and write about a room – any room – filled with details from that time. What's on the table, the bookshelves, the TV, if there is one, what's the design on the bed sheets? Whose room is this? Don't forget scents and sounds too. Write non-stop for 10 minutes.

Expert advice from the archive (aka procrastination tools)

There's some great advice on our website about starting out on a writing project. Check out Cory Zanoni's advice on finding the right writing apps for you, Amie Kaufman on taking the plunge and Demet Divaroren on trusting the fire in your guts.

 

Day 2 – Space and Setting

Hopefully, you're feeling excited about the work you did yesterday and raring to go today. But maybe you're not – and that's OK. Even if you've done similar challenges before, these early days are about adjusting, finding the time, place and setting that works best for you and shutting off the internal editor until the words are down. It will probably feel odd writing for quantity not quality, but you'll get used to it, and you'll get better at it. Like exercising for the first time in a while, it might even hurt a little (or a lot) for a few days, but it gets easier and it's worth it.

Today's writing exercise

Yesterday we looked at what era your story could take place, now we need to ask, where is your story set? Location changes the mood, depth and feeling of the scene. Brainstorm ten different locations and pick one that sparks your interest. From here, describe every part of this location with the five senses. What time of the year is it? Does this change the temperature, the lighting? How far and wide is this space? Is it open, or tight and closed in? Use your imagination and write to detail; bring the reader into the space. 

Expert advice from the archive

Have a look at these links for advice on creating your perfect setting. Check out Significant Objects by Lorna HendryMess it up by Maria TumarkinAnalysing Photographs by Carmel Bird, and First, Picture the Forest by Cate Kennedy.

 

Day 3 – Character and desire

Character desires – conscious and unconscious – inform and drive story, sometimes in synergy, more often in conflict. What does this mean, exactly?
Think about what it is that your main character/protagonist wants. Now break that down into two strands: What does your protagonist think they want? And what does your protagonist really want? The things that they think they want are conscious desires. (They want a promotion, a lover, a holiday.) Conscious desires are typically fleeting and liable to shift. Unconscious desires (they want to defeat their brother, for example) are buried deep and this is where it gets interesting. It is often these desires that form the story's spine. You can even think of plot as being the events that push the character's unconscious desires to the surface.

Today's writing exercise

Think about your main character's conscious desires. Write about these things in your character's voice. Why do they want these things? How will it improve their situation? Now consider your character's unconscious desires. How would your character write about these things if they were conscious of them. Are they shameful secrets? What are they linked to? Why must no one ever know about these desires? What do they tell us about your character? Write for 20 minutes – do you sense potential for conflict in your story?

Expert advice from the archive

There's some great advice on our website about creating character. Have a look at Inhabiting Your Characters by Lee Kofman, Showing Not Telling by Rochelle SiemienowiczPossible Selves by Leanne Hall and Take your character for a walk by Angela Savage.

 

Day 4 – Self-talk

When you’re writing, what’s your inner-dialogue like? Are you gently encouraging yourself, are you silencing the inner voice, or is your mean internal editor leading the conversation? Whether the mid-week writing blues are upon you, or you’re full swing into your practice, it’s good to set aside some time for a little self-care. Just like our characters, what we say – especially to ourselves – impacts our work, our relationships, our lives. Make sure you acknowledge your writing achievements, even the the 'small' stuff, hitting your goals, or just fronting up to the page. And be generous to yourself. If things have gotten in the way and you haven’t hit the daily goal – no stress. Make up the word count on a day off, or readjust your goal: make it 29K in 31 days (or variations on this)! Writing is hard – be kind to yourself. Check in with other 30k-ers at #30Kin30Days and know you're not alone in the writing!

Today's writing exercise

Today we take inspiration from Lucy Treloar's Making your characters talk. This exercise is all about the process of writing and less about the product. Pick two characters from your story, or two completely new characters, and get them talking: write pure dialogue without going back to edit. Try and unpack these characters to each other through their conversation. What does their voice reveal about them? Do they have a particular accent or dialect? What about tone – are they expressing different emotions, or talking at cross-purposes? Write for two to three pages then read what you've written. What have you learned about your characters through this interaction? Now go back in and flesh the scene out with descriptions of setting, time and character gestures and reflection.

Expert advice from the archive

There's some great advice on our website about getting dialogue moving. Have a look at Enrich your dialogue, enrich your stories by Luke Ryan and Making your characters talk by Lucy Treloar

If you're interested in exploring the craft of writing dialogue in greater detail, later this month CS Pacat is running a Writers Vic workshop: Writing Sharp, Satisfying Dialogue.

 

Day 5 – What's happening?  

It might be early days, but it can be useful to have some direction for the coming 25 days and beyond, so let’s talk plot. Plot is the events – and the connection of the events – that make up your story and this applies whether you’re drafting fiction or non-fiction. Most stories riff on the three-act structure (even if it doesn’t look like it), which comprises the following:

Act 1: Beginning: exposition, inciting incident, turning point 1
Act 2: Middle: rising action, mid-point, turning point 2.
Act 3: End: retreat, climax, resolution.
 
There are variations on this, such as a four-act-structure, a five-act structure or Michael Haugue’s six-stage plot structure. Whichever you favour, choosing to use plot points like these does not mean your work is unoriginal, it just gives your story a basic framework.

Today's writing exercise

Let's sketch a draft plot. You can use bullet-points, full prose, verse – or a combination of things. Ensure you cover brief descriptions about the key events and interactions. If you're not sure about the happenings for any particular sections, write that: 'Georgia does something here – not sure what. Talks to someone or something like that – and then it all happens, but then it doesn't. I'm seeing a lake, though', you never know, something might come through.

Beginning
For about 250 words, outline your beginning – the first quarter of your story. It should include an intro to character and their everyday life, an inciting incident/opportunity (call to adventure), and the changed situation following that incident: your protagonist outside their comfort zone.

Middle
The middle will take around 500 words. It does a lot of heavy lifting this section (and causes the most headaches for writers). It covers roughly 50% of the story (from 25%-75%). The first half is all about your protagonist making progress in their new situation until a mid-point of no return, then setbacks and higher stakes lead to a major complication for your protagonist. A good starting point is to brainstorm a bunch of scrapes your protagonist could get in.

End
Sketch the end in about 250 words. This is the last quarter or the story and should cover a retreat for your character (think, dark night of the soul), then a renewal leading to the story's climax (eg confronting and overcoming the antagonist) and the resolution (or tying up some loose ends). 

 

Day 6 – Structure play

Now that you have a sketch of your plot, how are you going to present those elements in your story? Will events unfold chronologically or might you start at the end? And structure is not just the overarching stuff, consider also the structure of a line, a paragraph, a chapter. How do you typically structure your work? Are you experimenting with something different for 30Kin30Days?

Today's writing exercise

Today we move from yesterday's big picture view to the page (or a couple of pages). If you feel your lines are stagnant, your paragraphs out of whack, this can be a fun exercise to refresh your perspective. Pick a scene that will be long enough for your word goal. As you write, start the first paragraph with the most action, and make it the longest paragraph. The second paragraph slightly smaller, and so on until you have one sentence as your final paragraph. This might feel nontraditional, but ask yourself how you can work with this new method to land on a strong and sharp statement at the end. If you are looking for a further challenge, restructure this piece how you usually would and notice any differences. 

Expert advice from the archive

There's some great advice on our website about structure. Have a look at Structure is Everything by Jenny ValentishBegin with the End by Kirsty Murray and Doing the cards by Graeme Simsion.

 

Day 7 – From dreams 

The world of dreams is mysterious, lawless and downright freaky – therefore, a great place for writers to hang out. This week, you may have even had dreams (possibly stress-dreams) about your current writing project! Many writers capture their dreams in scraps for later use – I once got three short stories out of a dream I had that Miranda July visited me in hospital. Do your dreams inspire your writing?

Today's writing exercise – capturing the thread

Think of a recent dream you’ve had – maybe even from last night. Is there an image, a thread, that is lingering? If you can capture it (try some automatic writing), use this to inform and inspire today’s writing. Think about your dream image and your character. Now bring them together in some way on the page. Does this generate some creative ideas for your story?

If you don’t have a dream-image at the ready, here’s another option for you. Let’s get back to the unconscious of your main character. What kind of dreams would they have? Flesh one out. What does it say about them? Does it tap into some subconscious fears/desires?  

Expert advice from the archive

For more writing tasks on the intangible, head to our website. Have a look at, Giving the scene energy by Kate RichardsDigging up themes in your life by Spiri Tsintziras and Personal experiances, memorable stories by Dr Sian Prior

 

Day 8 – Time to reflect

It is one whole week since those first tentative words were written. Ah, those innocent times. Seven-thousand words (more or less) later, you may even have found a rhythm, a pace that works for you. Here at Writers Vic, we are seeing a community coming together, committing to their practice, supporting one another. Take a moment to reflect on your work today – it’s a huge achievement. 

Today's writing exercise

Writing a thousand words a day is challenging (hence, this is a challenge) even if you have plenty of time. In fact, sometimes having more time makes it harder … there’s more opportunity to talk yourself out of the writing, for starters. Anyway, today we slow things down a little.

Pick a scene you’ve written that you want to unpack, or a new moment that you feel deserves careful attention. When writing/rewriting this scene, take things slowly. In particular, focus on detail. What does the scene need to give it more depth? Think external detail, like landscape, décor, someone’s appearance etc and internal too: some memory, or emotion. What does this focus on detail do to your scene, your chapter?

Expert advice from the archive

For more writing inspiration on detail, read Lee Kofman’s Why do I Write About Strawberries.
 

Day 9 – Place and character 

The settings of your story are not just convenient backdrops. Place is something that can be entwined with character and plot – mirror moods, foreshadow events, and so on. Sometimes place is a character in its own right. As Tony Birch puts it: 'Writing place and landscape, whether in fiction or non-fiction, is a vital component to any piece of writing. Writers need to consider whether an essay or story utilises the characteristics of place as a 'backdrop' to the writing or whether place is a character itself.'

Today's writing exercise

Today we are going to create a relationship between your main character and place – in particular, somewhere where they feel uncomfortable, out of place. Describe the scene from their point of view. For example, one character might see a theme park as a fun place, another might see a succession of frightening, unstable traps. Think about why your character feels this way. 

Expert advice from the archive

For more writing tasks on setting, have a look at our website. Tune in to the How Setting Can Enhance Your Story webinar with Angela Savage,  Distance yourself by Maxine Beneba Clarke and Cate Kennedy's First, Picture the Forest.

 

Day 10 – A question of perspective 

It's Day 10 of our writing challenge – double figures! Have you reached 10,000 words yet? Let us know if you have. By now, you may have found a point-of-view for your story that seems right, or you may be still be experimenting. Are you using first person (I, we, me), second (you) or third person (they, she, he) point-of-view? If third, are you favouring third person limited, or omniscient? Are you switching point-of-view characters? Point-of-view can get complicated pretty quickly, that's for sure. If this is your first draft, then keep an open mind – many writers don't settle on a decision until later drafts. For more info on writing point-of-view, Allen and Unwin has this great resource.

Today's writing exercise

Today's exercise comes courtesy of Demet Divaroren (Living on Hope Street). Your character is sitting on a train when a man and a woman start arguing a few seats down. Write a 300 word scene in first person or third person point-of-view detailing your character’s reaction. Is your character conflicted? Scared? Courageous? Indifferent? Do they intervene? What does your character notice? What do they think? What happens? Get to know your character better by questioning their thoughts and reactions.

Once you've written the scene look at the words on the page. Does your chosen point of view limit or enhance your character’s voice/perspective? Is it allowing you enough access to the character? What are the words telling you about your character’s personality? Are there words that jar or don’t fit? Replace and/or rearrange words to play with diction and meaning, and get one step closer to your character’s voice.

Expert advice from the archive

 

Day 11 – Unspoken Dialogue   

It's Wednesday again and we are looking at dialogue! Last week we had a look at self-talk and the inner critique that can stop us from writing all together. Today we are looking at all words left unsaid. Communication takes many forms outside of spoken word. When communicating with others, we pick up physical signals that communicate someone's state of being. In what ways does a writer have characters communicate without spoken word? 

Check in with the writing community at #30Kin30Days and see what they are saying too!

Today's writing exercise

Dialogue can be a difficult area to write without the inner editor critiquing at every word choice. We are going flip the switch on dialogue today, and write a scene of two characters conversing without saying a word. Their form of communication is purely body language, hand gestures and facial expressions. Write for as long as you can in this mode of communication. Are they in a space where they need to be quiet? Has something awful happened that can't be said? End the scene with one character saying a single sentence. Alternatively, chose a message for one character to say to the other. Perhaps something urgent has happened, perhaps they have their own secret code. What would your characters do to communicate? 

Expert advice from the archive
(aka procrastination tools)

There's some great advice on our website about getting dialogue moving. Have a look at Enrich your dialogue, enrich your stories by Luke Ryan and Showing, not telling by Rochelle Siemienowicz.

 

Day 12 – Conflict 

You've made it to Day 12! As we discovered last week, plot points can hold a story together, and keep the reader on the page. And key to plot points? Conflict! Today, we're getting dramatic. 

Today's writing exercise

In this exercise we are looking to find different opportunities for conflict in the same plot point. Take two or more characters and a point of tension. Perhaps one character makes a confession, or someone does something hurtful to another character. For example, Jen smashes Max's favourite mug, or Jen confesses to cheating on Max. When you're writing the scene, note the thoughts and feelings from each character's perspective. Now switch it up – change the conflict instigator. For example, now Max would smash Jen's favourite mug, and so on. What does this role reversal reveal to you? How does it change the pace and movement of the piece? Did you find any character development gems? 

Expert advice from the archive

There's some great advice on our website about creating interesting plot points and conflict. Have a look at Writing Conflict by Eli Glasman, the Short Stories and Conflict video by Laura Jean McKay and Voice and point of view by Demet Divaroren