Your Diary Challenge

Let’s say it’s New Year (because it is) and you’re an aspiring writer looking for a daily writing challenge. You want to get into the habit of writing every day and hopefully get some inspiration along the way. Have I got the challenge for you! Really, do I? I don’t know. But I do have a challenge that I have done so I present it here for YOU to do now.

You will need:

  • One page-a-day diary (mine was A5 but you can use any size you like)
  • Something to write with.

And that’s all you need to do the diary challenge! The challenge is simple. You need to fill every page of that diary with stories, ideas, scenes, characters, anything at all, by the end of the year to ‘win’. You should aim to do a page-a-day, on the day, as part of the exercise is to develop good writing habits. That doesn’t mean you ‘lose’ if you miss a day though. You can, and should, catch up. I used prompts when I did this in 2011, and I’m made them available on a Google doc for anyone: The Diary Challenge.

For some background on what the different types of challenges are you might want to check out the original post from when I set myself the challenge.

I’m a regular NaNoWriMo participant so I designed my prompts to work with NaNo and the Camp sessions. This means there is a bit of planning on the run up to the events and some ‘free’ months for novel writing so it’s perfect for loyal Wrimos. But the challenge is not to do my prompts. The challenge is just to fill the diary, your way, with whatever writing you want to do. I had a lot of fun doing it and I hope someone else will to.

A few tips:

  • Don’t worry too much about what you’re writing. The first page of my diary has the most beautiful handwriting, and I agonised for ages about what I was going to write for the first prompt. By the end I could start writing with just the germ of an idea and go for it. Some of those stories are my favourite ones. That first story sucked!
  • 5-10 minutes is enough to write something. Maybe not a whole page, but don’t waste your minutes on Facebook because you’ve convinced yourself it’s not worth starting writing. It’s always worth it. This challenge is perfect for busy people as the one page limit makes it ideal for lunch breaks and commutes.
  • Always carry your diary with you! This is one reason why it should be a real diary and not just on the computer. If your diary is your constant companion you will find more time to write in it.

So that’s it really! If you don’t have a page-a-day diary go out and buy one tomorrow (or now?). Seriously, they’ll be 25% off or something, just go get one. If you’re seeing this half way through January, go get one anyway and catch up. You’ve got a whole year ;). And if you do decide to give it a go please let me know how you get on.

One final note: I ‘failed’ the challenge. I started in 2011. I only just finished my diary 2 weeks ago. That’s 3 years late! But I still have a whole book full of ideas and I’m feeling pretty good about myself, so even if you don’t think you can succeed it’s still worth trying. You never know what you’ll come up with.

Good luck, and happy 2015!

Diary Challenge Update

Big news, loyal followers: the diary is finished! I repeat, the diary is finished. 366 pages (January 1st appeared twice) of hand-written, totally random stuff. And it only took four years. Yippee! If you have no idea what I’m talking about it all started way back here.


The Diary – no, I didn’t take a new photo

It would be difficult for me to give a break down of exactly what is in the damn thing. At least 1 complete script, 50,000 words of a novel, and many many many short stories, flash fiction, ideas, characters, bits of novels, plots and poems. There are zombies, pirates, aliens, apocalypses, angels and demons, bond villains, parallel universes and a lot of weird Christmas stories. Sounds like the best book ever, right? Well it wasn’t all fun. There’s at least one page describing my fishtank, some shockingly bad poetry, and some filler days that are just my RPG characters having arguments with each other, just to mention a few of the pages I’m less proud of. But it’s done.

Now I have completed the diary challenge (a tiny bit later than intended), I want others to be able to do it too! The whole point was to write something every day and have enough prompts to get me through the year. My next job is to compile these into one handy document so anyone can do the diary challenge. In time for New Year, you say? Yes indeed! And I will put in proper prompts that anyone can do in place of the few weeks where everything was themed around my psychology revision topics. So get your page-a-day diary ready and you too could have a weird, wonderful, and occasionally cringeworthy, book like mine in just 12 months :).

But what’s next for me? Well I’ve got a lot of raw material to work through now. Who knows how many books and stories I can dig out of those pages. But I’ve also gotten pretty good and writing shorts and I don’t want to get out of the habit, so introducing…


my new book! This time there is no special challenge or set rules. It’s just a blank notebook. Well, it’s not blank anymore because I already wrote a story in it, and I will write many more. If the diary challenge has taught me anything it’s how to get over that fear of the blank page. There was a time I wouldn’t start writing down story until it was fully formed in my head. And by then I was so committed to it I was terrified of writing it wrong, so often it still got left unwritten. In my head a blank page had the potential to be perfect, and I couldn’t sully it without being sure that it would be. Now I’m free of that crazy notion. If I have an idea I just write it and see how it turns out. If it turns out wrong it’s no big deal, I can write it again, and again, until I get something I like. There’s always another blank page. The point is to not be afraid of starting anymore. It was a lesson worth learning the very very long way.

Maybe I’ll do another diary challenge one year. Maybe even next year, it depends what Santa brings me ;). But for now I’ve got a notebook to fill, two novels to edit and an MSc to do. Whatever happens in 2015, I’m not going to be bored! And I am going to be writing.

Diary Challenge: Pirate week

It’s post-NaNoWriMo and I’m trying to keep up the spirit of the Early Birds’ club by logging into the chat room every morning 6am to 7am and spending an hour writing. OK, so far my hour has been cut down to 20/30 minutes mostly as Ben has got wise to the fact I’m up. But I have been writing, and there are usually snippets of time to be stolen in the car or before work so I’ve done quite well.

This week I have completed Pirate week of the diary challenge*. Monday-Wednesday involved creating a pirate character and writing a couple of scenes for them. I created cyborg space pirate Captain Gemma Steel, deposed princess who now leads a ruthless crew and steals from the corporation that took over her home world. Sounds a bit outlandish, I know, but the setting might be interesting and I’m hoping Markie can be persuaded to develop the universe with me and co-write some space adventures :).

Free-writing saw a band of scientists on voyage across the Arctic Sea to investigate the rising of the threat that destroyed Atlantis.

‘The Hostage’ turned out not to be as helpless as his captor thought, and our genre bender mixed pirates with Lovecraftian horror and unleashed unspeakable tentacle death on the scurrilous toe-rags. Arrrh.

Not bad for four days’ work. This morning I had run out of Pirate week so I let Timmy, the NaNoWriMo chatbot, set me a flash fiction challenge. I didn’t think I could manage his first suggestion in the space of a page:

* Timmy challenges Starkitten: Find a way to kill your MC and bring them back.

And I didn’t think his second suggestion was very exciting:

* Timmy challenges Starkitten: Have someone exclaim, “Small children should not dart out from behind corners!”

His third suggestion was ok:

* Timmy challenges Starkitten: Have an inanimate object provide the wise counsel for the MC, similar to Brian’s level head in Family Guy.

So I used all three. Now I have a very strange flash fic about a recently departed woman discussing her right to appeal against her unfair death (after swerving to avoid darting corner child, of course) with a potted geranium who specialises in afterlife law for some reason.

Maybe I shouldn’t listen to Timmy any more…

But #amwriting so I shouldn’t complain. I wonder what I’ll write tomorrow.

*No one noticed that Pirate week was supposed to be done in September**, right?

** *cough*September 2011*cough*

Diary Challenge: 26th September – 16th October 2011

There’s no point in denying it. I missed a week posting again. Probably because I’m so far behind in these challenges myself even working out where I’m supposed to be is becoming more of a challenge. It doesn’t help that I’m only 2 weeks from my exam and when I am motivated to do something it pretty much has to be revision right now so I only see myself falling further behind for the immediate future.

But it doesn’t have to be that way! Not for me. So the challenge for last week and the next two weeks is entirely selfish, but as no one seems to be doing it with me I think it’s ok to spend some time doing something that won’t have value for anyone else. It’s revision time. But how can I combine revision with writing? Surely not writing revision notes into my beloved diary in a desperate attempt to fill up some of those blank pages? No, nothing so mundane. Instead I shall devote 7 stories, 3 pages each, inspired by one of my revision chapters. These stories must somehow incorporate as much of the main issues of the chapter as possible to serve as mnemonic devices for the exam and to help make me think about and consolidate what I’ve been reading. I’ll share the chapter headings, and if there is a quiet little person out there doing it with me, or someone stumbles across this years from now and is trying to follow in my footsteps, you can use them as free writing prompts.

1) 26th-28th – Temperament/Personality

2) 29th – 1st – Evolution & Genetics

3) 2nd – 4th – Gender identity

4) 5th-7th – Executive Function

5) 8th-10th – Theory of mind

6) 11th – 13th – Language

7) 14th – 16th – First Relationships

And that’s all you’re getting, as shockingly enough I have to get back to revision now, so I can at least revise enough of temperament to write a story on it in the morning!

Diary Challenge: 14th-20th March 2011

I’m rather pleased with how last week went. I ended up planning an interesting sci-fi series about teenager Lila Ray and her summer job at a huge American theme park where various strange alien related things are going on every episode. Will that be my Script Frenzy project? I’m not sure, let’s see where this week takes us! This week is comic book week, so on with the challenges.

Monday 14th March: Description Challenge

This worked really well for me last week so let’s do the same again. Generate a character name using the Seventh Sanctum quick name generator, then we’re going to look up the meaning of the chosen name and use it for inspiration for some of the character. This time it’s a comic book character so how they look is going to be much more important that last week. Describe them!

Tuesday 15th March: Dialogue Challenge

This week the conversation must be between your character and a friend or side-kick, dependent on what fits for them.

Wednesday 16th March: Scene Challenge

In this scene your character must overcome some kind of challenge. It can be something major, like saving the world, or something minor, like finding their house keys. Pesky things that they are.

Thursday 17th March: Dream Challenge

Dreams again :) . In comic script form? You can try!

Friday 18th March: Stream of Consciousness

Still on a poetry break so it’s free writing again today. The focus word is ‘Riddle’.

Saturday 19th March: Flash Fiction Challenge

Write a mini comic script involving your character. It can be about anything that works for them.

Sunday 20th March: Pot Luck – series plan

Plan the first few issues of your comic book series!

And that’s comic book week. Next week will be motion – tv series, cartoon, play, web series, anything like that. That’s all for now!

Diary Challenge: 28th Feb – 6th Mar 2011

I’m still behind, but keeping on top of it. I’ve nearly finished Valentine’s week. I’m sure I had something in mind for my Flash Fiction piece at the time but now I can’t think of anything! That’s going to be my job for today. But, enough about me being slow, on to the new challenges.

I want to try something different this week. We’re breaking the format and going for some Speculative Fiction. You need to come up with a ‘What if…” scenario and produce 7 different pieces of writing exploring it. They can all be scenes, but you might want to do a script or a news report or something for one of them and that would be great too :). So, what if people could fly? What if animals could talk? You’ll need to pick something with enough scope for at least 7 different stories. I’ve already got mine in mind. I’m looking forward to this week :). Even though I’m not going to get to it until next week…

Diary Challenge: 21st-27th Feb 2011

Yes, it’s late, so just a quicky:

Monday 21st Feb: Description Challenge

Let’s have a villain doing something villainous. I was watching Warlock and forgot how nasty he was!

Tuesday 22nd Feb: Dialogue Challenge

Portray a first meeting through Dialogue.

Wednesday 23rd Feb: Scene Challenge

Write a scene in the 2nd person about anything. I wrote a whole short story in the 2nd person once. Message me if you want to read it!

Thursday 24th Feb: Dream Challenge

Dreams again 🙂

Friday 25th Feb: Poetry Challenge

Let’s have a haiku. It’s short and sweet and I’ve really been struggling with the poems. I think from next week I’ll be ditching them for a little while.

Saturday 26th Feb: Flash Fiction Challenge

Write a piece of Flash Fiction in which the main character is not human. They can be anything else.

Sunday 27th Feb: Pot Luck – Stream of Consciousness

Free writing. The first word is ‘Random’. Go!

Next week I’m breaking the format and trying something different. I’ve got an idea I want to run with. Check back to see what it is!

Diary Challenge: 14th-20th Feb 2011

It’s Valentine’s Day <3. Aw. So since I have failed to plan (again) let’s have a nice easy romance/love themed week.

Monday 14th Feb – Description Challenge

Describe love.

Seriously! OK, to put it in context, you have a character who is in love and they are trying to describe how they are feeling. See, it’s not so bad.

Tuesday 15th Feb – Dialogue Challenge

Valentine’s day isn’t all chocolates and roses for some people, so if Monday left you with a bitter taste in your mouth hopefully you’ll feel better about today’s challenge. I would like the conversation to be between a couple who are breaking up.

Wednesday 16th Feb – Scene Challenge

From relationships ending to new beginnings! In this scene a character will profess a long held secret flame for another character, but will their affection be returned? Is the object of their affection even present in the scene?

Thursday 17th Feb – Dream Challenge

Write something inspired by a dream you had this week. I had loads of mad dreams last night! Unfortunately I’ll have forgotten them all by the time I’m on this challenge…

Friday 18th Feb – Poetry Challenge

Love poem? Nah, too obvious. How about an anti-love poem then. You can decide what that means to you. I have a few ideas for mine :).

Saturday 19th Feb – Flash Fiction

I love a bit of romance in my Flash Fiction, so I don’t want to be too prescriptive about what this week’s FF challenge is going to be. I’d just like something with a little bit of romance. If you need a title you can use ‘First Date’, but you don’t have to. I’m not going to!

Sunday 20th Feb – Potluck Challenge

Free writing! You must start with ‘The kiss…” and go anywhere you want from there.

That’s all for now!

Week 1: New character week

It’s time I started posting some of what this diary challenge is helping me produce! I’m not going to spend this whole year apologising for my writing being rough and crap so I will just warn you the once: this stuff was all written with very little planning and has been barely edited. Don’t expect to see polished stuff from this diary challenge. Also, everything is limited to an A5 page so some things will seem rushed at the end. This is all for practice and anything good enough for polishing will get made shiny later. There, you’ve been warned.

I was going to do a big ‘January roundup’ post, but I thought that might get too long very quickly, so over the next few days I’ll just do a week at at time.

If we can remember that far back, the challenge for the first week was to come up with a new character and write some stuff for them. The character I created for the purpose is Indigo Avalon. Don’t ask me where the name came from, my characters tend to name themselves and I don’t always agree with their choices at first but it usually works out for them.

I started out with the idea of the Enchantress type character from Beauty and the Beast – the old witch who tests people’s character and transforms into a beautiful woman before cursing them – and decided I was going to have a witch who could change forms. Here’s the description I wrote for her on the Monday:

They say she has two faces. One is thin, deeply etched with the lines of ages, obsured by ragged silver-white hair that’s thick and tangled as string. From deep set sockets two mismatched eyes peer out, the right one sharp and yellow, the left white and unseeing but yet seems to always focus on you. She walks hunched forward with the aid of an ancient twisted walking stick with a crow’s head carved on the top. She wears a black robe and matching shoes with curls on their toes, but as the fabric shifts with her movement hints of colour below are revealed. She likes to wear purple and tangerine, and tights with bright stripes. On her long, boney fingers she has rings housing colourful stones that are nothing more than cheap glass, but she wears them with pride. If you ask about them she will give you a toothless grin, but say nothing.

They say she has two faces. The other is lovely and youthful. Ivory skin framed with sleek raven hair. Her straight fringe falls in front of her golden cat-like eyes when she forgets to pin it back. She paints her full lips purple and kisses the boys on their cheeks just to leave violet smears. She wears short skirts with knee length socks and too big workman’s boots polished to a shine. She never wears coats with sleeves. She likes to show off the tattoos on her arms, mostly celtic symbols, except for her wrists which she’ll hide with leather bands. Her right bares a cat and her left a crow. Why does she hide those two? Rumour says sometimes they’re not there and she fears their absence will be noticed. She owns a pointed hat that she likes to wear to parties sometimes. She jokes that she’s a witch. If you don’t believe her she’ll pull a twisted stick from her colourful bag and cast a spell. She’ll laugh if you flinch, and maybe give you a kiss. She’ll claim it’s just a novelty pencil.

They say she has two faces. No one knows which one is real.

After I wrote this I decided that witches in Indigo’s universe actually have three forms they can take: maiden, mother and crone. They can also have a familiar for each form. Indigo has lost her Mother form, and the novel idea I had for her largely revolves around her trying to get it back and defeat the warlock who took it from her. She has two familiars, a cat referred to only as Miss Kitty (if you think that’s a direct reference to Willow and Tara’s Miss Kitty Fantastico you’d be right), who is aligned to her crone form and has been her companion since very early in her life, and Corvain the crow, a much newer acquistion who has been bonded to her maiden form under questionable circumstances that make Miss Kitty doubt his trustworthiness. In fact, this was the topic of the conversation I wrote between Indigo and Miss Kitty on the Tuesday :).

On Wednesday the scene I did was of parents’ night at Indigo’s school. It doesn’t totally suck, so I’ll just post it:

“Mrs Avalon?” Indigo’s teacher looked unsure of the old lady sitting in front of him. Most of the students had accompanied their parents. That wasn’t an option for Indy.

“Yes,” Indigo replied with a toothless grin. She could have easily got dentures for her elderly persona, but she enjoyed the reactions she got.

“You’re Indigo’s…”

“Grandmother,” she helpfully filled in. The teacher looked relived. “Her parents are no longer with us.” Technically true.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” he said. “Perhaps that’s why she’s been struggling since she moved here.”

“Oh yes, it’s been very hard on my little Indy,” she commented, trying to contain a smirk as she spoke about herself.

“She seems smart enough. She’s great at history. She’s just not motivated, she never does homework and she’s having difficulty socialising with her peers.”

Indigo tried to look like she was taking his concerns seriously. Of course she had trouble socialising. Teenagers were entertaining enough with their dramas but they weren’t on her level.

“She seems to…intimidate them.”

He wanted to say ‘frighten’. It was okay. Indy didn’t think of herself as scary. Well, not her teenage self anyway, but she could see why her teacher would think that. Not many sixteen year olds had tattoos.

“I think she would benefit from counseling,” he went on. Indigo tensed. That could be a problem. She didn’t want the school meddling in her life that much.

“Sorry, I didn’t catch that,” she said, raising her twisted walking stick to channel the spell. A blank expression crossed the teacher’s face, then he shook his head.

“Nothing, Mrs Avalon,” he said. “Everything is fine with Indigo. Thank you for coming.”

And that’s pretty much what I did for the first week of the challenge! The flash fic mostly sucked, but it was about a young man who wakes up to find that Indigo has turned him into a toy racecar driver as punishment for nearly running her over on a pedestrian crossing, and the less said about the poem the better. Seriously.

Diary Challenge: 7th-13th Feb 2011

We won’t talk about how far behind I am. Seriously, it’s bad, but the sewing project of doom is finished so I know I can catch up. I’m also going to do a post with a summary of what I produced last month and a couple of extracts, just as soon as I finish last month’s challenges. Ahem. Anyway, I’ve just got back from the SFX Weekender in sunny Cambersands. We all had a really great time and since I haven’t had a chance to plan the challenges for this week I’m going to be inspired by one of the author panels I attended. The title was ‘Dual Britannia: Creating Alternate Englands’. So this week is going to be about creating an alternate history setting and writing in it. 2 guesses as to what the Monday challenge is…

Monday 7th Jan – Description Challenge

Pick a location you want to work with and come up with an alternate version of it. Describe some of the key features. London was very popular amongst writers at the weekend, but don’t feel constrained. I think it would be nice to see an alternate Manchester, or maybe a Kendal. Or maybe you want to stick with the place you live.

Tuesday 8th Jan – Dialogue Challenge

Now you have an alternate society I want a conversation involving one of its leaders. Anything from President of the United States to head of the parish council goes. It can be about anything and with anyone you like, but it will probably be more interesting if they’re talking about some kind of challenge the society you’ve created is facing.

Wednesday 9th Jan – Scene Challenge

You are to write a scene of a book set in your alternate reality. Not just any scene – the first scene. The challenge is to decide what info about your setting you’re going to give the reader right away and to think about how you’re going to introduce them and still have an interesting scene with some action. No, you’re not allowed to write one of those prologues that’s just an info dump about your setting. That’s cheating :P. You have to have a character in the scene.

Thursday 10th Jan – Dream Challenge

Dream a little dream of me. Yeah, you know the drill. Next!

Friday 11th Jan – Poetry Challenge

Let’s make this one a bit different. Pick any poem you like and rewrite as if it were written in your alternate history. I have no idea if this will work at all, but I’d suggest approaching it by searching for poems that contain an element that you have changed in your reality. If it doesn’t work at all, stuff it, just write a dirty limerick instead :).

Saturday 12th Jan – Flash Fiction

Write a piece of Flash Fiction using your setting. If you didn’t get an idea for something you fancy doing during the week you may write something involving a crime. Maybe something interesting is against the law in your setting :).

Sunday 13th Jan – Potluck Challenge

It would be easy to say ‘hey, let’s plan a novel in our new setting!’ but I haven’t even done my vamp plan yet, and plans take a lot of thought, so let’s just unwind and take a breather with some more free writing this week. Use the word ‘Alternate’ as the prompt, but it doesn’t have to be about alternate realities.

And we’re done! I just made that up on the fly. Phew. Better start planning the rest of the month now.