DJ’s Writing Masterclass – By @DJayDancer1

By Daniel Johnson


DJ’s Writing Masterclass


Today I had a workshop at the word factory led by Cynan Jones.


He shared with us 4 techniques for making our writing better.


  1. A to B
  2. Misdirection
  3. Word 
  4. Cut it out


Exercise 1: A to B 


This exercise is about making sure your writing has a point and is coherent before adding details. 


The first step to this exercise is to write out what happens. It can be fiction or something that actually happened. 


Either way, describe the journey your protagonist took from A to B in a very physical, matter of fact way. 


This could be your journey to school, a test or even just getting out of bed.


I wrote about my journey to the workshop:


I started at home washing the dishes. I dried them and threw them into the cupboards. Rushed upstairs and put my shoes and socks on. Grabbed my phone, wallet and keys and tied my jumper around my waist. 


Briskly jogged downstairs and out mine then the main door as I walked briskly in the direction of the bus stops I used Google maps to figure out where I was going. 


Left? Right? Ahh Catford station, right it is. 


Manoeuvring my way across the street right on time to catch the bus.


The next step should take 5 minutes, but you can make it a 20 or 30-minute exercise if you choose to do it for the whole A to B you’ve written. 


Choose one sentence from what you’ve written and pick out details.


Then write every possible alternative you can think of to that word. 


While doing this, try to make what you’ve written more active, because the use of active descriptions helps the reader not only put themselves in the situation but triggers more associations in the reader’s mind.


So for example, I wrote:


I started at home washing the dishes. I dried them and threw them into the cupboards.


Highlighted the descriptive elements: 


I started at home washing the dishes. I dried them and threw them into the cupboards.






-half washed





-they flew from


And through this reworking my sentence became: 


The half dried dishes flew into the cupboard abandoning my soapy fingertips.


Which could be shorter still:


The half dried dishes flew into the cupboard.


It’s at this point in the workshop that Cynan remarks that details can tell us more than the actual meaning of the word itself because the reader will make assumptions and judgments. More on that in…


Exercise 2: Misdirection


He hit her.


He hit her over and over and over.


She spoke no words yet her eyes screamed terror.


He hit her again.


And again. 


And again.


And finally, as he hit her even harder, the walnut dislodged from her throat.


It is the ability of the readers to assume and make judgments that allows writers to be able to manipulate the reader.


We can either work with or against the readers assumptions.


Our reader makes judgments and assumptions based on what we write. So take this simple exercise as a fun challenge:


Can you write something that plays with the reader’s assumptions, draws on it, reinforces it, then shows them they were wrong?


He was heavy, had a skinhead and wore an England shirt.


The rainbow badge stood out on the England shirt.


Exercise 3: Word


Before we get to the exercise itself, let’s do a little experiment. 


First, describe the man in the following sentence:


A man walked into the coffee shop and ordered coffee. 


Then again for:


A man walked into the coffee shop and ordered an Espresso. 


And lastly:


A man walked in the coffee shop and ordered a skinny chai green latte. 


You likely picture very different people.


We’re going to use the power of assumptions to look at how a single word can affect what the reader thinks of the overall scene or character. 


Simply choose a sentence and change a single word. Experiment and see how many ways you can affect the meaning by changing one detail.


 Exercise 4: Cut It out


This one is an extremely useful and simple exercise that you can do anywhere, at any time. 


Simply number each word like so:


(1) This (2) is (3) my (4) example (5) sentence.


And decide to cut 10, 20 or even 30% of the text.

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