Ask the right questions at the right time, of the right person… including yourself.
Interviews can be formal or informal, and the level of intensity of questions asked ideally reflect the circumstances of the interview.
This is a practical exercise that you can utilise over and again in your writing research.
Write down a topic you need to research for a writing project – now or in the future.
Make a list of possible people to interview.
Choose one person from your list and learn as much as you can about them in relation to your chosen topic.
Brainstorm a list of possible questions to ask this person about your topic.
Cull this list to focus on the most appropriate questions, given the interviewee’s background.
Check each question to identify whether it is an Open Question or a Closed Question.
Re-write any Closed Questions, which would be more productive as Open Questions.
Arrange the questions in order, ready for your interview.
Familiarise yourself with the process you plan to follow, to give the interview every chance of running smoothly.
Enjoy the interview, be flexible, and be open to surprises…
Read books that will inspire you to write books.
Questions and Writing
Questions are used throughout the writing process… from decision-making about what we’ll write, through the research and planning stages, the writing, and on to the marketing and promotional stages.
Make a list of all the ways you use questions in your writing life. Begin by brainstorming, then add to your list as new examples come to mind.
Reshape your list by rearranging items into positions that feel right to you.
Take some time to ponder the list, and the significance of questions to your work.
Write a piece that highlights the usefulness of questions in relation to your writing.
Ask yourself how many questions you asked during this exercise. You may be surprised!
This Writing Exercise relates to my Blog ~ Pondering Questions
First Day At School
Our first day at school is one of the turning points in our lives. This is when we step from full-time parental protection into the world of shared protection from other adults.
These people play a role in shaping the foundations of who we become, and the students who share our first-day experience have the potential to be life-long friends, again influencing our future.
The school our parents choose for us, usually reflects the family background – financial status, belief systems, and so on. The chosen school also makes an impact on where our first step on the long road to independence will take us.
Brainstorm at random, the things you remember about your first day at school.
Ask yourself questions to help you find more memories to add to your list. Questions like: What school did I attend? Where was it? What did I wear? What do I remember about getting ready? How did I feel? Was I upset or happy to be there? What happened in the first hour? What did I do at lunch-time and play-time? What was my first impression of the playground? How would I describe the room and where I sat? What sounds, odours, colours and textures do I remember? What was the teacher like? What do I remember about the other children? How did I get to and from school?
Write a piece of three hundred words or more, that gives the reader an insight into your first day at school, your experience, and the important things that have stayed with you from that day.
If you don’t remember your first day at school, substitute the first day of preschool, high school, university, first job… and change the questions to appropriate ones for the circumstances you are exploring.
A New Approach To Childhood Stories
This is a fun exercise that challenges you to re-think stories and ideas that have been dear to you since childhood. With the benefit of life experiences and shifting perspectives, you may be surprised at the tales you create!
Follow the steps below and see where they take you…
> Make a list of your favourite fairy tales and stories from childhood.
> Choose one of these narratives and re-write it with a different ending.
> If you have difficulty changing a beloved tale, try the exercise with a childhood story that left you unsatisfied. This is your chance to turn it into a favourite!
> Make any necessary adjustments to your new storyline and do a first edit.
Enjoy the journey!
Regular reviews of your writing goals will increase your opportunities for success.
This Writing Tip relates to my Blog ~ Are You On Track?
Re-connecting with your past can be the impetus for future writing.
This Writing Tip is related to Writing Exercise #18 ~ Drawing On Past Connections and Blog ~ Reconnecting.
Drawing On Past Connections
As we traverse the landscape of life, we live out (and outlive) many roles – both personally and professionally. We are children, siblings, sons and daughters, parents, grandparents and sometimes great-grandparents. We are students, teachers, friends, partners, workers, bosses, and so on…
Over the years we pass through many phases – different careers, house moves, living interstate or abroad, a range of much-loved activities – and experience unique highs and lows.
Put simply, even when a person is plodding through what appears to be the most mundane existence, there are abundant writing opportunities. That is not to say that everything we write that is stimulated by events in our lives must be autobiographical. Of course, they could be… but think laterally.
Let’s take as an example a single aspect of one of my career evolutions. In the eighties and nineties, I was in private practice… counselling, groupwork and natural therapies. Part of my work was in the prison system and I could write about my experiences, or I could choose from many other options – a novel, from the point-of-view of a prisoner (or their partner, a child or parent); a movie, with the central theme of a break-out; non-fiction books/articles… the history of prisons (generally, in this country), the effectiveness of the system, the demographics of crime, an examination of prisoners’ rights; the value of therapeutic work in prisons, transition programs, or the experiences of prisoners’ families while they are inside. And this barely scratches the surface of possibilities.
> Consider the various stages of your life and brainstorm them onto paper.
> Choose one stage and ask yourself… What friendships, relationships and other connections would inform my writing if I revisited this period?
> Write a focussing paragraph beginning with ‘When I lived at…’, ‘When I worked at…’, ‘When I used to fly aeroplanes…’, or similar.
> Take a step back in time by looking at old photographs, reading letters you received/wrote during that stage of your life, reconnecting with people you knew back then – via phone, email, Facebook or some other means.
It is likely your creative juices will be rampant by the end of this journey into the past. List any writing possibilities that are pushing for attention, select one and let your fingers dance on the computer keyboard!
This Writing Exercise is related to Writing Tip #18, Writing Exercise #16 ~ Journey Into A Photograph, Writing Exercise #17 ~ Take Five Words, Blog ~ Reconnecting and Blog ~ Hidden Stories Lurk In Photograph Albums.