Writing Workouts

Writers Vic tutors and guest writers share some of their tips, tricks and writing exercises for exploring and developing your fiction, non-fiction and more...

A portrait of Kate Richards

In memoir we don’t have to create our “characters” from scratch, they are living or have lived in all their complexity and vulnerability and with all their mannerisms and habits and ways of being in relationship with others. So in one sense we have an easier job than fiction writers. However, our challenge in another sense is exactly the same as that for writers of fiction: to bring these people, these “characters”, to life on the page so that readers come to care about them. James Wood, staff writer at The New Yorker calls it, “getting these people out of the aspic of arrest and mobilised...

A portrait of Max Barry

This is a ten minute exercise. By then, you won’t want to stop, so really it’s longer. But I’m saying ten minutes because that’s all you need to discover it’s working. Because if you give this ten minutes, you get one of the best characters you’ve ever written.

A portrait of Alice Pung

Writing from the voice of a character who is not the same gender, race or age as yourself is one of the hardest skills to learn. The trick is not in concentrating on the writing, but on the listening. These characters call for greater authenticity, which means they are going to be more convincing if you don’t make things up about them. Making up, say, ethnic characters out of the blue, may lead to the danger of resorting to cultural stereotypes. Sometimes, writers defiantly go the other way and render these characters so opposite to their “expected” tropes that they become flat and two-...

A portrait of Nicole Hayes

Sometimes I can’t stop writing. Sometimes the words tumble out of me like some writhing, living beast that refuses to be contained. Where the story emerges, almost unbidden, and it’s all I can do for my fingers to keep up with the rapid pace of my mind. Suddenly the dreaded white page is covered in satisfying black—whole chapters completed, an entire story driven home. Perhaps in a single day. Perhaps in just a few hours.

A portrait of Peter Rose

Imagine someone gives you a marvellous interview at an early stage. You recognise gold when you see it and you write it up. It becomes an important facet of your argument in the book. Then, at the eleventh hour, your source regrets her candour, her indiscretion, and very much hopes you won’t use it. What should you do? What will you do?

A portrait of Spiri Tsintziras

Our lives are so big. Where does one start in making sense of and recording one’s life story?

A portrait of Carmel Bird

From Description to Storytelling: Carmel Bird shares a writing exercise.

A portrait of Maria Tumarkin

Nice and neat is the enemy of good writing.I am talking about, let’s say, neat sentences and paragraphs, or a lovely symmetrical structure with the action spread evenly across the length of the work like Sheridan linen on a bed in a good hotel, so there are no air bubbles and nothing is bunched up anywhere. I am talking about everything being rounded off at the level of a paragraph, a chapter, or a whole manuscript.

A portrait of Kirsty Murray

Too often, we spend so long building towards the climax of our story that we’ve lost the reader long before we get there. A good exercise in understanding the structure of your story is to begin with the end. Take the climax of the closing scene and move it the beginning of your story. Often the most powerful writing in your story is at that intense moment of resolution.

A portrait of Laurent Boulanger

The most basic grammatical skill needed is to be familiar with the eight parts of speech and knowing how they work together in the construction of a sentence, including the proper usage of punctuation. If you don’t know the rules, you won’t be able to break them for effect.