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

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
 

Day 13 – Changing it up  

Have you found a routine or structure that helps you write? If this pattern is working – or isn't, try changing it up. If you're a night-writer, how does it feel to start writing in the morning, or getting a few words down before lunch? I found a quick way to get words and ideas down is to voice record myself when I'm on the go or feeling inspired. Listen to these recordings later and jot them onto the page! 

Today's writing exercise

In this exercise we are going to begin with the end. This writing exercise is inspired by Kirsty Murray's article on our website. In this task, we are asked to start our story with the climax of the piece. Open up a new word document or grab a fresh page, and write out the climax scene of your piece. Imagine this is where the reader is first meeting all your characters and plot. Kirsty assures us to 'trust your reader’s intelligence and allow them to piece together the meaning of that early dramatic scene by carefully revealing what led to the dramatic opening without burdening them with a convoluted explanation.' After you have written this scene, look back over it with fresh eyes and see if the story is more compelling or if you were able to make sense of the scene altogether written this way. 

Expert advice from the archive

There's some great advice on our website about plot and structure. If you need further inspiration, have a look at our example above with Kirsty Murray's Begin with the end article, or Redrafting with Paddy O'Reilly.
 

Day 14 – Sparking inspiration

As we tackle the core pillars of character, plot and setting, sometimes you need a fun writing task to get the inspiration sparking in a different way. What do you usually do in your writing life to spark inspiration? Are there photos of your manuscript's setting stuck to your wall? Or do you have a go-to writing exercise of your own that breaks through writer's block? Let us know online and share these tips with your community at #30Kin30Days. 

Today's writing exercise

In this exercise we are working with the alphabet. The task goes as follows: start each sentence with the sequential letters of the alphabet. Your first sentence starts with A, the second sentence starts with B and so on until you reach Z. Once you have written your 26 sentences, go back and fill in the gaps. Notice if this stricture gave you the guidance to write or if it stunted creative ideas. Do you prefer working with a clear structure or are you more free-flowing? 

Expert advice from the archive

There's some great writing workouts on our website that can help spark inspiration. Check out Open your ears by Meg Mundell and Making your characters talk by Lucy Treloar.
 

Day 15 – Writing time  

Today mark the halfway mark of our 30K challenge! This day is a great chance to reflect on your use of time. Sometimes we can spend hours at a desk with few words to show for it, and other days we can't keep up with the ideas in our head. It's important to note that a commitment to writing, or anything, is a challenging thing, but showing up, if only for a moment, counts toward that goal of writing. Check in with the 30K community on twitter at #30Kin30Days. 

Today's writing exercise

When we are short of time and in need of some fast words, nothing works better than stream-of-consciousness writing. Set a timer for 10–15 minutes and create a clear space. Once you start the timer, you have those minutes to write whatever comes to mind. The trick is, you can't stop writing. Keep the pen to paper or fingers to keyboards, and keep writing. Even if at some point your words are 'I'm not sure what to write, I've run out of ideas', just keep going! After the timer is up have a look at what you've written. Are there any golden lines in there? Or perhaps just an idea that can spark a larger piece? Go back and have a look with fresh eyes, and see if there is anything that inspires you. 

Expert advice from the archive

There's some great writing workouts on our website that can help spark inspiration. Have a look a Give the scene energy by Kate Richards, and Write yourself a letter by Max Barry.
 

Day 16 – Setting with the senses  

It's the start of our third week in 30K and here at Writers Victoria we are thrilled to see the engagement of the writing community! It has been wonderful reading yours best lines on Twitter, and keeping up to date with your momentum. We're over half-way – how are you feeling so far? Do you have a plan for the week? Check in with your energy levels and availability, and commit to your writing! Keep engaged on Twitter at #30Kin30Days. 

Today's writing exercise

Setting can be a great platform to set the scene and create a mood. Pick a key setting in your piece. Write three to four paragraphs that describe the setting. Once you've finalised the piece, get a highlighter for each of the senses and mark each sense. Which colour can you see the most? Is the setting mainly described by sight or do you have a variation of senses? Reflect on your main mode of description and try to add more of the other senses. Watch your piece become increasingly colourful! 

Expert advice from the archive

There's some great writing workouts on our website that can help write setting. Have a look at Showing not telling by Rochelle Siemienowicz and Significant Objects by Lorna Hendry.
 

Day 17 – Character belongings  

Today is a chance to revisit your characters' motives and intentions, their conscious and unconscious desires. It's a wonderfully daunting experience to create a psyche on the page, to work and learn with them until you know a character as you would a best friend .... or even yourself. Today we are taking perspective, belongings and character to flesh them out even more. 

Today's writing exercise

In this writing exercise we are going to look at how our character relates to setting and objects. Describe an object that you think is ugly, then write about it from the point of view of a character that finds it beautiful. Begin with the senses. What does this object look like, feel like? Why do they find it beautiful? Create a point of view that changes the object entirely. 

There's some great writing workouts on our website about creating character. Have a look at The self on the page by Lee Kofman for all the non-fiction writers out there! Possible Selves by Leanne Hall is another article to spark character work. 
 

Day 18 – The unsaid

There is arguably more power in the unsaid than the said, so time to talk around the issue. We've set our characters in dialogue and got to grips with subconscious desires, now to explore indirect communication: creative speech, gestures and well-timed eyebrow raises.

Today's writing exercise

In this writing task we are looking at subtext and tension. This task is all about the various ways we communicate in conversation. The task: take three characters, and create a scene where two of them are talking in front of the third person, about something that involves that person. It could be parents and a child, adulterous lovers in front of a spouse, work colleagues in front of a boss. Play with the tension, frustration, and comedy of the situation.

There's some great writing workouts on our website about writing dialogue, spoken and unspoken: Enrich your dialogue, enrich your stories by Luke Ryan, Open Your Ears by Meg Mundell and Can I Have Your Phone Number by Lee Kofman.
 

Day 19 – Themes 

Sometimes we write knowing exactly the themes we're going to address; sometimes they don't emerge for a draft or two; and sometimes, the themes aren't clear until the thing is done. If you haven't got a set theme in mind just yet, don't worry, often we're working to a theme subconsciously – and our very clever writer self has already provided requisite symbols and foreshadowing in the text. 

Today's writing exercise

Begin this exercise by making a list of any images or symbols that come to mind when you think of your story. Or, if you are writing something new, make a list of images you would like to work with in your story. Do these images align to key moments in your story? Is there is a uniform theme or idea linking them? Now, create a fresh page and write about this symbol or theme. If it is an image or symbol, how can you allude to it in a new scene? If it is a theme, write a new scene to this idea. 

For more writing tips on plot and theme visit our website Check out Digging up the themes of your life by Spiri Tsintziras and Analysing photographs by Carmel Bird
 

Day 20  – The end in sight

With ten days to go, the end of this challenge is in sight. What about the resolution of your piece or story? As the name suggests, the resolution should tie things up – not everything and not necessarily neatly but certainly the key threads you've laid down through the novel. (Another term for resolution is denouement, which is from the French denouer – to undo or untangle.) In this post-climax zone, it's a place for your characters and readers to reflect as they adjust to the new situation you've created for them.

Today's writing exercise

Take the very first sentence of your work-in-progress and pretend it's the first line of the last chapter. What does this prompt for you? A sense of bringing things or ideas together, perhaps? How will the end connect to the start? If this doesn't prompt anything for you, look in your first chapter for a key line of dialogue, or any images or symbols and play with those instead.

For more writing tips on playing with structure visit our website and check out A Very Clear Idea by Marija PeričićMess it up by Maria Tumarkin and Begin with the end by Kirsty Murray
 

Day 21 – Growth

Spring is officially here and all around us, flowers and trees flourish and blossom (and sensitive eyes dribble). This is a time for beginnings, fresh starts and rejuvenation (and a new box of tissues). Don't worry – we don't mean you have to start your draft over. Today, we are simply using spring as a springboard to some fresh ideas about your character's growth. 

Today's writing exercise

Place a key character in a situation that puts them under great pressure: a scenario that is immediately confronting. This might be seeing someone collapse in the street, being mugged as they walk home from a night out, or having to a give a presentation at work when someone calls in sick. Write this scene twice – first thinking about how your character would react at the beginning of your story, then second, how they would react once they've gone through everything that happens in the story. How does your character handle things differently?

For more writing tips and workouts visit our website. Check out Crucible for character development with Angela Ackerman, Voice and point of view by Demet Divaroren and Impersonating writers and Inhibiting characters by Kate Holden. 
 

Day 22 – Time to check-in

It is the start of our fourth week of #30Kin30Days. How has this challenge felt for you so far? Have 22 days flown by or have they dragged? And, more importantly, what have you learned about yourself as a writer? Have you grown through the weeks? Like our character in yesterday's exercise, how have you responded to pressure? 

Today's writing exercise

Today it's about reflection. Use half your daily word-count to write a letter to yourself about the past three weeks, how you feel about yourself as a writer, how you feel about the story/work so far. Now, tell yourself about the week to come. Where do you want the story to go? Outline the scenes you might write, the beats you want to hit, and tell yourself where you think you'll be at the end of the challenge.

For more writing tips and workouts visit our website. Check out Unblocking writer's block by Lee Kofman and When the words won't come by Nicole Hayes
 

Day 23 – Use your environment

We've thought a lot about the setting of our story throughout this challenge, but today, we're going to use our own surroundings to prompt our work. Whether your story is set in your hometown or on planet Zyrxus in the XX986 system, we can use our own surroundings to support our work – we can think about what is there around us, and perhaps, what isn't there. 

Today's writing exercise

Get outside today – IRL preferably, but virtually if that's not possible – and go to a familiar spot, such as your front step, a cafe, a park, the train to work, the local shopping strip. Take ten-fifteen minutes to just take it in. Do you hear neighbours arguing, is there road work going on, cooking smells? What do you notice? What would your character notice? Now, back to your computer or paper and pen, and write automatically/non-stop about the details you've noticed for ten minutes.   

For more workouts, check out our Finding Seeds article. 
 

Day 24 – Change of character

You might think you know your main character/s pretty well by now – their likes, hates, foibles etc. But let's see what happens when you switch things up and change perspective. 

Today's writing exercise

Write about a main character from the point-of-view of someone else – another central character, someone peripheral or someone you haven't even written yet. If its someone close to them, they might have some pretty strong feelings – love, hate, resignation, or perhaps they're just a bit sick of them. Why? If it's someone they don't know, there's the chance to explore your character at a surface level with fresh eyes – how they look, speak, move. Start with a paragraph and see where that takes you. 

For more writing tips and workouts visit our website. Check out Making your characters talk by Lucy Treloar and Distance yourself by Maxine Beneba Clarke.

 

Day 25 – Dialogue details 

When you are talking with your friends and family, you know who is speaking by their tone of voice, word choice and mannerisms. There might be a phrase that a person says often, or a word they consistently mispronounce. It's these small details in our personality and speech that make us who we are. Too often we can forget about the way in which our characters speak. Today is all about dialogue details! 

Today's writing exercise

For today's exercise we are working with Luke Ryan's Enrich your dialogue, enrich your stories and looking closely at the word choice and speaking pattern of our characters. Write a conversation with two characters, only using the dialogue. Can you create movement and flow within the scene without 'they said' and 'they spoke'? After writing out the scene, go back and try to personalise the words. Do your characters pause at a particular time? Do they use word choices that make it clear that it's them speaking? The aim of this task is to make it clear who is speaking without explicitly letting the reader know. 

For more writing tips and workouts visit our website. Check out Showing not telling by Rochelle SiemienowiczOpen your ears by Meg Mundell, and Voice and point of view by Demet Divaroren

 

Day 26 – Writers' choice 

Earlier in the week we did a call-out on Twitter and asked for your best tips as well as the topics you'd like to hear about! The feedback ranged from writer motivation to line-by-line editing. We've only touched lightly on editing in this challenge (for good reason), so let's have a little look at the things that might be helpful as you review what you've written this past month. Of course, when you're working on early drafts, it's important to keep your inner editor at bay (lock them up, if you must!), but once the story is down, the sorts of things you should look out for are: spelling and typos, unintentional repetition of words or phrases, and grammar and punctuation consistency.

Today's writing exercise

For today's writing task (or one to save for later):

  • Repetition. We all have go-to words and phrases but often we aren't aware how often we use them in our own writing. Read through a piece of writing you did some time ago, and see if you can find your word. Once you find a pattern, highlight wherever you use it. Go back through the piece and see if you can expand your vocabulary in these instances. 
  • Consistent grammar choices. Are you a fan of em dashes or en dashes? Double quote marks or single? Max caps or min caps? Are you unsure of what these mean? No worries – go through your piece and highlight all the grammar you use. Have you been consistent in these choices? Why do you prefer one thing over the other? 
  • Your own style guide. A style guide is a set of rules and guidelines to follow on grammar. Most publications have a style guide they follow. This keeps the work consistent and coherent. After you have gone through your piece, list your grammar, punctuation and spelling preferences. For example, I prefer writing 'in single quotes' and using limited italics only to create emphasis, I favour Australian English spelling choices and usually refer to Macquarie dictionary when in doubt. This exercise doesn't need to be elaborate. Simply make a list and note what changes you make throughout your writing. 

For more writing tips and workouts visit our website. Check out Redrafting by Paddy O'Reilly and Test your grammar by Laurent Boulanger. 

 

Day 27 – A second look     

How are you spending your public holiday? If you're feeling behind in your word goal this is the perfect opportunity to catch up! Sketch out some time today to write to your heart's content, or use the day for some writing reflection. Thinking about your draft, is there an early section you would like to revisit? A part of your work that you know needs a second look? Sometimes, reworking a section can promote new ideas, new directions.

Today's writing exercise

Today's exercise is to take a second look. Maybe there was something that came out of an earlier writing exercise and you want to expand it, or a scene that was exciting to write and you'd like to flesh it out? Or maybe there is a part that just isn't working. Can you re-write or add to these scenes to give it a little more life? After you have made some changes, give it a read over aloud and see if your editors skills have given it more flow. How did it feel to re-read an older work? 

For more writing tips and workouts visit our website. Check out Voice: The most elusive of all writing elements by Josiane BehmoirasRedrafting by Paddy O'Reilly and The voice of the other by Alice Pung.

Please share your own tips as well as your favourite lines of the day with us via Twitter or email – those lines that sing with lyricism or those that delight for their sheer nonsense. We’ll choose our faves and you’ll have the chance to win a spot on a short workshop of your choosing.

 

Day 28 – The unknown  

It's the last weekend of 30K in 30 Days and we have gotten to know our characters well. We started with desire, and moved into hopes and fears. We learned their likes and dislikes and we've put them in uncomfortable settings. Getting to know your character is like knowing your best friend. They are so familiar to you, but every now and then something comes up as a surprise. What is it that you don't know about your characters? Or if you write memoir, about yourself? What is it that your character wants to keep quiet? What is the value in the unknown from a writers perspective? 

Today's writing exercise

Today we're going to work with known and unknown intentions. Whether you are writing non-fiction or fiction, this prompt applies to both. What advice do you most often give and least often follow? Why? What does your character shy away from that they know to be true? Who are they often giving this advice to? Why don't they follow it? Take a moment to dig deep into the psyche of this character and reveal some truths.

For more writing tips and workouts visit our website. Check out Personal Experiences, memorable stories by Dr Sian PriorDigging up the themes of your life by Spiri Tsintziras, and Impersonating writers, inhabiting characters by Kate Holden.
 

Day 29 – A step back in time       

30K in 30 days is coming to a close. We have written so many words! We have worked through character, plot, theme and much more. We've developed scenes, crafted our storyline and fleshed out our characters. It's been an intricate and dedicated practice, learning the who, what, when and why of our draft. But what about before your story began? Sometimes it's hard to know when the story starts and the writing begins. I've started stories at the birth of my character, written all the way up to their mid-twenties before realising the actual story begins in their fifties. I wouldn't have known this without writing it all through. So, where does your story begin? 

Today's writing exercise

Today we are going to flesh out the life of your main character before the narrative takes place. Before we meet them on the page of your novel, short story, poem or memoir. Who is this person before the main events begin? You can start by writing a day in the life. When do they wake up? Do they eat breakfast? How do they interact with the world? Let us into the life of this character, pre-plot. This sort of writing can be used later as flashbacks or in other ways.

For more writing tips and workouts visit our website. Check out The self on the page by Lee KofmanThe truth is out there by Marie Alafaci and Synopsis and Pitch by Clare Strahan

 

Day 30 – The end or the beginning?  

You've just about done it! The final day of 30K in 30 Days has arrived. How are you feeling? Is there a sense of relief, of completion? Throughout September, we have seen our wonderful writing community grow and connect through this challenge. You've shared us your best lines, your writing tips, your struggles and your achievements. Whether you've stuck with us the entire way, taken breaks or intermittently checked-in, you're a 30K-er and your words make the writing community what it is.

Thank you for being with us throughout this challenge, as we celebrate 30 years of connecting and supporting writers. 

Today's writing exercise

We're closing with another letter. Consider this a letter of gratitude to yourself, a moment of consideration, acknowledging all the times you showed up and got words on the page. What have you learnt about yourself as a writer? Your role as storyteller? Have you developed any writing habits or foibles along the way? If you've written every day – or most days – what has motivated you? Now think about the coming weeks.
What's next for your writing? Do you want to maintain the momentum and write into October and beyond – maybe do NaNoWriMo? Come at this letter with an attitude of gratitude and intention.

For those of you wanting to give this another go (in your own time), the 30K in 30 Day emails are archived here.