Week Seven – Writer’s Festival Journal
How to get published at The Malthouse Theatre, Southbank, Melbourne
One (1) Putting Pen to Paper – Robin Freeman
Exercise One: Writing into the void
This is an exercise in self-discipline. Sit down at your keyboard or with a pen and paper and write for a given length of time or for a given number of pages.
As an alternative give yourself a topic to write to. Remember feature writers have to become adept at writing on a range of topics, and to short deadlines. They don’t have time for “writer’s block” but must discipline themselves to sit at their desks until the job is done.
Exercise Two: Mind Mapping
An approach for getting the ideas for your story in order (whether fiction or non-fiction, short story or long) is to use the technique of mind mapping. Originally invented as a visual note-taking technique, mind mapping can be used to explore directions in your story or to develop your characters and their relationships.
Maps are created as a tool for the writer and can be adapted to suit your particular purpose. The basics are the same for mapping ideas for a novel, as for a non-fiction story.
The difference being, of course, that non-fiction restricts you to use of the truth, as you know it. Fiction gives you more control over your character and the outcome of your story.
Researching your topic
As a writer you may need to travel. Research may be required to place your characters in a believable setting, be that somewhere foreign to you in a different time. You may need to observe a particular place, to get the feel of a town and its people or experience the beauty of a natural wonder.
Research may also take the form of an interview with one or more people in order to get a perspective on a person, place or an issue, confirm information gleaned from other sources or to listen to and observe a particular person in a particular environment, drafting and redrafting your work.
Character: Characters are created by what a writer chooses to tell the reader about someone they meet (non-fiction) or someone they create (fiction).
Characters are not “real” people but are representative of them.
Setting: The time and place in which your story takes place – if it’s short; or one of the places and times if it’s longer.
Point of view: When we discuss point of view we mean who is telling the story and, therefore, what are they able to know about the plot and the other characters.
Voice: Whose voice? Your narrator’s? Who is your narrator? He/she may be a version of the writer or a character in the story.
Conflict: What happens in a story is called the plot. But conflict is what drives the story, what makes it more forward to its conclusion.
Structure: Stories (whether fiction or non-fiction) need to follow a strictly chronological structure. As the writer you can control, for example, whether you begin your story in the present and take the reader on a journey into the past.
Editing your Writing
You are basically satisfied with the plot and you like your characters. You’ve dealt with structure, conflict, and point of view. Now is the time for you to edit your text.
Try to be as objective as you can at this stage. Read each sentence carefully, searching out its meaning and thinking.
Consider your use of tense in each sentence or paragraph. Have you jumped from present to past inadvertently?