Hello and welcome to Day 10 of the 100 Day Writing Challenge.

So for our final foray into lists today I wanted to do something slightly more involved. I asked if you could have your list of locations available. If you don’t have it to hand, no worries, just pause me while you go and dig it out. And actually if for whatever reason you couldn’t come up with a single place for that exercise, don’t worry, you’re not doomed, you can just take a moment or two to invent one.

But what I’m going to ask you to do, what I am in fact asking you to do, right now, as I speak, is to pick one of the places from your list, one location, any one, and then you’re going to make a new list about it. Except that this list has dun dun duuuun – two columns! So split the page down the middle, or if you’re writing in Word or whatever either fart about with tables or columns or zoom out so you can see two pages simultaneously.

So write the name of your place at the very top: Deer Village, The Green Flamingo, Substation 7X. Then above the left column you’re going to write the word ‘FACTS’. And above the right column you’re going to write ‘OPINIONS’. So two titles. FACTS and OPINIONS.

And over the next ten minutes you’re going to list as many as you can of either.

So say you were writing about Deer Village you might put under ‘FACTS’ it has a population of about 300. You might write it’s in the middle of a forest. You might say the largest family living there are the Palmers. Under ‘OPINIONS’ you might write it’s a bad place to wind up if you’re not rich. You might write Mrs Palmer is paranoid. You might write that someone ought to wring that damn rooster’s neck.

Like we did in the exercise where you wrote down what made an imaginary character happy – no need to overthink this too much. Don’t worry about making mistakes. I’m not sure if you can make mistakes with this, in fact. As Bob Ross used to say, we don’t make mistakes, we just have happy accidents.

Rather than seeing this as an intimidating process of establishing canon you might like to treat it as a quirky game of discovery. There’s no some sacrosanct reality that you’re destroying here by writing the quote unquote wrong answer down. Just plonk down facts and opinions – for some it may be unclear which column they belong to – and we can worry about the aggregate picture later.

Right. Does that make sense? You’ve got ten minutes. Main thing, keep moving, don’t look back, have fun. Break stuff. Ready? Your time starts… now.

<ten minutes>

*gong sound*

And that is it.

Now it’s worth looking over your entries and seeing which ones strike you the most. Which ones feel less like bits of information and more like story seeds. Sometimes it’s the opinions ‘this is the perfect spot to pitch a circus’, sometimes it’s the facts ‘there is a body buried beneath the third washing machine’.

And if you only felt like you were just scratching the surface, if you’re actually quite keen to go to that exercise again with another place, or you’d like to write a bit more about this location you chose, fantastic. If not, it’s worth checking in with yourself, seeing what bits you found challenging, and what you were telling yourself during the process.

Uh that’s it for Floor 1 of the 100 Day Writing Battle Pagoda. You’ve done it. 10% complete. Viewed one way, there’s still a daunting journey left to go. Viewed another, oh my gosh, what adventures you’ve got ahead of you. If you enjoyed anything in the last ten days, if you’ve learned anything or surprised yourself at all as a writer, think of what still lies ahead, the potential for change and growth you’ve still got in front of you. I think that’s worth feeling a tiny bit excited about.

So next week we’re going to be moving on from lists, looking at some other ways you can generate ideas, discover characters, stories and voices, and undermine, short circuit and otherwise bamboozle your internal censor to get words down on the page. It’s all about surprising yourself. I’ll see you then, for Day 11.