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CRAFT OF WRITING TIPS FROM A STATE-RANKER

Craft of Writing is tricky, for many reasons. Firstly, in this module students are required to synthesise effectively across various forms of writing such as creative, discursive and persuasive, in addition to reflection writing. Secondly, the nature of this module is very unpredictable as students can be asked to write in any one of these forms, thus making mere memorisation of one imaginative story redundant (as previous students used to do). Thirdly, the stimuli presented to students can be quite intellectually demanding thus making your ability to produce an effective piece of work that meaningfully draws a connection to your prescribed text as well as the given quote or image under time limit rather daunting and challenging.



Despite the odds stacked against us, however, this module can be prepared for in an efficient manner. As a state-ranker, and now English specialist, I know very well what exactly is expected of students in this module in order to attain the top score, in both their individual pieces and reflection statements. Drawing from personal experience as well, I know what works and what doesn't, and in my experience of teaching I've been exposed to probably more stories and reflection analysis that one could possibly keep track of. So if you're searching for guidance on how exactly to navigate the rather complex terrains of this final module, keep reading and hopefully you'll be able to find the answer here.


1. KNOW THE RUBRIC: My first tip is to unpack the requirements and expectations set out in the rubric for Module C. Although this seems like a rather bland piece of advice from someone who topped NSW, I can't stress enough the importance of knowing what is actually wanted of you (and this applies to all the other modules in the English course). To help you out, I've written a slightly more succinct but clear version of what NESA mandates, drawing attention and focus to those parts of the rubric that require extra consideration for success.


The Craft of Writing is centred around drawing inspiration both technical and conceptual from quality texts that have been prescribed to us. The module emphasises the importance of writing, artistic expression, creative synthesis not only as a process itself (i.e. the actual processes and underlying methodologies involved in the act of constructing a piece of work) but also as an issue of concern that can be manifested and crystallised in a work as well (i.e. the self-reflexive nature of texts and how they can serve as a commentary on literature within various contexts, its role and purpose).


The big focus of the module is to expose you to what successful writing looks like such that you can produce your own works to the same calibre, control and utilise language to convey ideas, and to encourage you to be conscious and aware of the process of writing such that you can then reflexively assess and evaluate the decisions you made when constructing your work).


2. KNOW THE FORMS: Know the purpose, and devices used, for each of the forms. Given the fact that you may be asked to write any one of the following: creative, discursive or persuasive, it is of utmost importance that you can proficiently demonstrate to the marker, your knowledge of what each of these forms of writing looks like or manifests. This requires knowledge about what exactly the form is, what it constitutes, what its objective is, and what conventional methods are used in them alongside the central devices and techniques observed. For example, discursive pieces are defined as semi-creative, non-fictional works that explore an issue or concern in a non-persuasive fashion. These works provide multiple insights or perspectives about a particular issue or idea and essentially drift through, and bounce between, a suite of standpoints that are all then connected to the main idea at the core of the work.


The objective of this meandering tone is to provoke contemplation and reflection within the audience, rather than didactically instructing them to adhere to any specific ideology or perspective, providing the reader with enough intellectual substance such that they can then formulate their own conclusion or belief about the issue. Of course, we also need to know the techniques commonly deployed. This includes: anecdotes, cultural, historical and philosophical allusions, intertextuality, motifs, symbolism, metaphors, imagery, rhetorical question, colloquialism, collective language etc.


3. KNOW THE CONCEPTS: Although it might seem like the Craft of Writing section of the exam is somewhat impossible to effectively prepare for, this is not the case. The road to success in this part of the exam is mainly hinged on your ability to manifest your idea through whatever form may be asked of you. Although you might be thinking that the 'idea' itself is difficult to come up with, this is where you turn to either your prescribed text OR simply reflect on the ideas that we see pop up frequently in our study of English. You'll probably notice as well that the issues raised in your prescribed text are really no different to the somewhat philosophical and existential nature of a lot of the concerns we are forced to analyse in our study of English more broadly, meaning that there really exists a limited pool of probably ideas that will likely emerge in the stimulus NESA or your school gives you. Below, I have written a list of the different ideas that I had prepared for my exam, some of which I took from my prescribed text.


- The human's relationship with the past and memory, funnelled through experiences of trauma.

- The power of language in its ability to release the individual from mental, physical and emotional confinement.

- The fraught nature of human relations under the weight of trauma.

- The breakdown of communication and language as a catalyst for disconnection between individuals.

- The desire for connection and understanding between people.

- The use of art, language, writing and storytelling as a means of psychological liberation (the medicinal, healing powers of self-expression).


Below are some practice questions for you to have a look at as well. I would suggest brainstorming the ideas you see and saving them for later in case you might need to use them!


A) "Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn"


Compose a piece of imaginative, discursive or persuasive writing which draws inspiration from the stimulus. (20 marks)



B) ‘If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.’


Compose a piece of imaginative, discursive or persuasive writing which draws inspiration from the stimulus. (20 marks)




4. PRACTICE WRITING: Perhaps the most widely-stated yet least-practiced advice given is my last. To really prepare yourself for the exam and whatever it may throw at you, you need to be exercising those writing muscles. Not only will this allow you to start building confidence in your skills, it will also be a way for you to see how you write in different scenarios. Pieces that you end up really liking can then be used as inspiration for other possible works whereas pieces which you are not happy with can be useful for assessing those areas of your writing you can improve upon. Making sure that you familiarise yourself with all forms by writing in all the different modes is also an integral ingredient for success that will prepare you for the exam.


Equally important is analysing your own work and deconstructing your own creative process and synthesis. This requires you to look at the devices and techniques you incorporated in your work and then explaining the intended effect or purpose of it. You can consider how your work was influenced by the prescribed, or perhaps how the use of a particular syntactical device was your attempt at incarnating a specific technique used by your prescribed author in a different context, or how you integrated the key themes and ideas of the stimulus in your work via an extended metaphor, motif or allusion.






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