Today’s book review of a writing guide is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey.
The 30-Day Writing Challenge: Begin or Enhance Your Daily Writing Habit
The 30-Day Writing Challenge encourages beginner and advanced writers alike to stretch their writing muscles and create or enhance a daily writing habit. Each day, a new writing exercise/prompt is presented in an inventive collection that focuses on technique, inspiration, and craft by taking a comprehensive look across multiple forms and genres of writing.
Sara Crawford is a writer and musician from Marietta, GA. She has a BA in English from Kennesaw State University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of New Orleans. Her poetry has appeared in such publications as Ceremony and Illogical Muse. Her play, The Snow Globe, was published via YouthPlays in the fall
of 2013, and her play, The Spins, was a finalist in the 2011 Playwriting Contest from The Essential Theatre.
She was voted Best Local Songwriter by Creative Loafing in 2010, Best Local Vocalist by Creative Loafing in 2011, and she was previously one half of the indie band, Pocket the Moon.
She is the author of the upcoming young adult series, The Muses, and she is represented by literary agent, Marie Brown of Marie Brown Associates. For more information, please visit http://saracrawford.net or http://crawfordwritingblog.com.
The Contents page promises a vast array of goodies to come over the next eighty pages (I’m reading the pdf version) which included the greatest hits (tips) of creative writing together with a selection of genres, so something for all writers.
The introduction encourages us not to set unrealistic goals (as many do New Year’s Day) but to write every day. I encourage my students to write something every day and when I tell them that 300 words a day equates to a 100,000-word novel, they’re encouraged by that feasible number.
The ‘Using This Book’ section explains that each day is designed to take at least 30 minutes so ideal for a lunch break of time-out after a busy day. Writing is therapy, after all, and Sara says not to ‘beat yourself up’ if a day is missed. Although this book is designed to be done from day 1 to day 30 (the exercises get longer), like a lot of writing guides, it can be used as a ‘dip-in’ book so that if something doesn’t appeal, Sara says we can skip and come back to it.
There’s a new section every tenth day which consists of…
- Section 1: Creativity and Inspiration;
- Section 2: Technique; and
- Section 3: Exploring Different Forms and Genres
So a natural progression. Each section has a short introduction page before the exercises begin. Each day has an encouraging quote from a variety of established authors including Stephen King, Ernest Hemingway (whose ‘The first draft of anything is shit’ is day two’s).
Characters are without a doubt the most important aspect of any story and Day Four lists some great characters with their traits, some locations and conflicts which we’re then to put in a ‘hat’ and pick one of each. This is something I do with my students and is one of many ways in which they see it doesn’t take much to create stories. Photographs are another prompt I use in my classes and this is Day Five’s theme. I’m torn between the third and fourth.
Other senses feature in this book with music prompts as well as visual.
The second section concentrates on the techniques of writing and I often compare writing to painting and playing a musical instrument. No one would sit you in front of a blank canvas or piano and expect you to create a masterpiece. We put pressure on ourselves to create a perfect first draft but we know Mr Hemingway’s thoughts on that. He also features as Day Eleven’s quote, a day which includes the really useful ‘Hero’s Journey’ (story structure).
Day Thirteen concentrates on character and as I mentioned earlier, Sara says “are what make the story” and this day’s exercise has a great list of character questions. You should know as much as you can about your main character (especially for a novel) even if you’re not going to include them all in your story.
Day Fourteen’s title is ‘Varied Sentence Structure’ and this is something that’s often overlooked. Long sentences (generally) slow the pace, short ones speed it up. Like dialogue and description, it’s always advised to have a good mixture of both.
Speaking of dialogue, this is the topic for the following day and although it’s something that my students often struggle with, I love writing dialogue, especially with no ‘he said / she said’ tags. If you’ve never done it, do try. It’s fun.
After a day on revision, we move on to Point of View then Foreshadowing (which Sara explains is ‘a way of providing the reader with hints or clues of what’s going to happen’).
Equally important to writing is researching and is covered on Day Nineteen. Like knowing the inside of your characters, you should know as much as you can about your subject but again, not put so much in your story that it will feel to your reader that you’re showing off.
Section Three concentrates on forms and genres covering non-fiction, poetry, scriptwriting (plays and screen), prose, as well as spoken word (not just poetry), as well as touching on fan fiction, which as Sara says ‘is very controversial’. Days Twenty Eight covers Imagination (children’s books) and Twenty Nine world building (fantasy, science fiction, or dystopian) which is really useful even if you don’t write those genres, and finally, Day Thirty is ‘Jumping Off’ where Sara sums “up all the previous days in one sentence”, actually there are twenty-nine sentences, and they’re great ones. If you don’t feel inspired by the time you reach Day Thirty then I don’t know what will.
Rating: 5 out of 5
The theme is the book is to enjoy the exercises and each day has chatty (but informative) text on the relevant topic before the exercises are set, each day being a short enough chunk to easily follow what’s being said, great for readers on mobiles, tablets etc.
It’s a great book for writers of every experience and ability, whether you’ve just ‘found’ creative writing or you’ve been writing for a while and want to remind yourself of the ‘nuts and bolts’.
If you can only afford one writing guide, this could well be the one for you.
Or… if you can afford two or three, I’ve also published a couple of writer’s block workbooks (listed at the top of http://www.amazon.com/Morgen-Bailey/e/B007SNIBF8). 🙂
Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a prolific blogger, podcaster, editor / critiquer, Chair of NWG (which runs the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition), Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction Competition and creative writing tutor for her local county council. She is also a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog, https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on Twitter, Facebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page). She also recently created five online writing groups and an interview-only blog.
Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List ($0.99 / £0.77) and she has six others (mostly crime) in the works. She also has eight collections of short stories available (also $0.99 / £0.77 each) – detailed on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/books-mine/short-stories.
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