An Ultimate Guide to Crafting Texts

Published on
May 15, 2024
Author
Subscribe to our newsletter
By subscribing you agree to with our Privacy Policy.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Share

Newly introduced to the study design this year (2024), Crafting Texts is polarising—loved by a select few, dreaded by the rest. While the task at hand is open-ended, the key to securing the top marks lies in specificity and precision. I’ll explain what I mean by this.

Note: This guide is skills-focused. I am working on framework-specific guides and discussion of key mentor texts, which will be published within this month. Stay tuned!

What you are actually expected to do

Put simply, you are required to immerse yourselves in the topic (framework) selected by your school and craft a text to show that you’ve done so thoughtfully. It involves understanding how to create effective, cohesive texts by engaging with various writing dimensions—and execution.

However, markers and VCAA assessors are not mind-readers. While you have the reflective commentary (use this well!) to support your piece in Unit 3, Area of Study 2, your crafted piece in the final exam will go solo. That means, the piece should come across as well-thought-out on its own. You cannot afford short cuts with this section–it will show!

“What am I meant to do with the mentor texts?”

Unpopular opinion–this is probably the least tricky and unimportant part of the journey. The texts are quite short, easy to get through. But it does not mean you need to know them inside out. In fact, VCAA hasn’t been emphasising the need for “connections” between the mentor texts and your piece in its published materials; it isn’t a big part of the rubric either. They act as models or examples illustrating how elements of writing help craft a compelling text. 

As the VCAA guide suggests, "Through guided reading of mentor texts, students develop an understanding of the diverse ways that vocabulary, text structures, language features, and ideas can interweave to craft compelling texts".

This doesn’t mean you should disregard them altogether, by the way. It simply means the approach should match the requirements of the task at hand. Instead of analysing the text line-by-line, memorising quotes and forcing them into your crafted pieces, focus on organising your knowledge. Having a high-level understanding of the mentor text’s use of genre and literary conventions should be your priority. Then, create tables and mind maps to use as reference cards as you write your own. 

The other time mentor texts will be helpful is in your Reflective Commentary. Discussing the connections between your piece and the mentor text helps you get those brownie points, especially when you can zoom in and explain how the mentor text has acted as a “model for effective writing”. My go-to sentence is, “Just as [mentor text] deploys elements of [genre] to achieve [goal], my piece uses [literary conventions] to appeal to [my audience’s values] and reflect [goal].” 

Purpose, context and audience

Unlike “mentor texts”, these keywords are mentioned a lot! A “thoughtful piece” will show how “purpose, context (including mode) and audience influence and shape writing" (VCAA). So what does this mean in practice?

Let’s firstly consider the purpose of the text. This needs to be extremely clear, with or without the reflective commentary. So ensure you know the four purposes by heart:

  • Express—explore recounts, storytelling and/or narratives of imagination to engage with actions, events, experiences and/or ideas. 
  • Explain—explore cause and effect, and possible consequences of actions, events, experiences and/or ideas.
  • Reflect—explore experiences of personal discovery that shape their understanding of actions, events, experiences and/or ideas. 
  • Argue—explore a point of view, would take a stand and propose solutions to convince others of actions, events, experiences and/or ideas.

The easiest way to make the purpose clear to assessors and markers is to interlink the purpose with the textual form. The form needs to support the purpose. This is why some schools refer to the pieces, not by the literary genre, but by its purpose. (e.g., expressive piece, an explanatory piece, a reflective piece, an argumentative piece).

Most of this is subjective. But, from working with students from different schools and teachers so far, the general consensus is that: (1) VCAA said you can write a “hybrid” piece with more than one purpose, and (2) Textual form matters and it should support the purpose; we shouldn’t just focus on the purpose and forget about textual form either. So in practice, a “diary entry” with “reflect” as a purpose is better than an “opinion piece” used to “express”.

Next, consider the audience and context. Practising writing vignettes and settings that bring to the fore socio-cultural connections and power relations will help. Be specific. You can make these connections more explicit by referencing real-life places, figures, people. For instance, if you are telling a story about a boy who grew up in Melbourne, brainstorm street names, household brands, local “fads”, to add authenticity to the story. 

Here’s a great example from Murakami’s Norwegian Wood:

I was 37 then, strapped in my seat as the huge 747 plunged through dense cloud cover on approach to Hamburg airport. Cold November rains drenched the earth, lending everything the gloomy air of a Flemish landscape: the ground crew in waterproofs, a flag atop a squat airport building, a BMW billboard. So - Germany again. 

Once the plane was on the ground, soft music began to flow from the ceiling speakers: a sweet orchestral cover version of the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood". The melody never failed to send a shudder through me, but this time it hit me harder than ever. I bent forward, my face in my hands to keep my skull from splitting open. Before long one of the German stewardesses approached and asked in English if I were sick. 

"No," I said, "just dizzy."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, I'm sure. Thanks." She smiled and left, and the music changed to a Billy Joel tune. I straightened up and looked out of the window at the dark clouds hanging over the North Sea, thinking of all I had lost in the course of my life: times gone forever, friends who had died or disappeared, feelings I would never know again.

I have bolded words that elevate the specificity of the text and connect to the audience without the need for cliched imagery or figurative language.

Experimenting with your writing

This is more relevant for your SAC than it is for the exam—as your teacher will see more of your writing. Though one could make the case that the exam piece—through good writing–can show that you have thought it through and experimented with different styles of writing. Maybe you landed on a “hybrid” piece that is both reflective and explanatory. That may be read as “experimental” too.

Experimenting involves developing a varied vocabulary that can range from abstract to technical language, trying out text structures and language features, and using both standard and non-standard language conventions. This is highlighted in the guide: "Students employ and experiment with the qualities of effective writing in their own work" (VCAA, Crafting Texts).

Knowing why you wrote what you wrote

The difference between this and Year 7 creative writing is that you cannot “whip something up” on the day without research (like that story you probably wrote then that ended with “it was all a dream” counted as masterful plot twist, if you know what I mean). Here, you are expected to produce your texts, drawing inspiration from mentor texts and other readings. Reflecting on your writing process and commenting on the choices you made is a crucial part, and, trust me on this, a blessing for a task so subjective. 

"They demonstrate their understanding of ideas and application of effective writing strategies in their crafted texts, and can articulate their writing processes in their commentaries" (VCAA, Crafting Texts).

How is this assessed?

The SAC structure in this unit is designed to comprehensively evaluate your understanding and skills in crafting texts. Here are the essential components:

  • Student-created texts: You are required to create two original texts. These could be in the form of short stories, speeches, essays, podcasts, poetry, feature articles, or memoirs. The key is that these texts should be tailored for a specific context and audience to achieve a defined purpose. This variety allows you to showcase your creativity and adaptability in different writing forms.
  • Reflective commentary on the writing process: Alongside the texts you produce, you will provide a detailed reflective commentary on your writing process. This involves explaining the decisions you made regarding vocabulary, text structures, language features, and conventions during your writing. This reflective process is essential for demonstrating your understanding of the craft and the deliberate choices you made.

Note that different schools may organise this differently. They can either be done in class, spread across multiple periods, or in exam-condition. Some schools will have the first crafted piece done over-time in class or take-home, and the second piece in timed condition with surprise/unseen SAC stimuli. Make sure that you know how the SAC is conducted and prepare accordingly. 

Tips: A piece crafted over-time, spanning multiple weeks should prioritise “uniqueness”, precision and thoughtfulness (which can be explained in a reflective commentary), and a piece crafted under exam conditions responding to unseen stimuli should be prepared and planned so that it is versatile, easily adapted and clear to the marker. Remember to play to your strengths! 

How to differentiate yourselves from others

You can write like Shakespeare but still not get a raw 50, so read the assessment criteria. Here are some of my tips, drawing from what VCAA has said so far!

Your ideas matter—and one isn’t enough

It is a framework of ideas, plural. The title of each framework, namely, Country, Protest, Play and Personal Journeys shouldn’t be your sole focus; if you find yourselves writing a piece broadly about “Play”, you won’t be able to break the A+ ceiling. You are marked on your ability to “develop a series of ideas that are meaningfully connected” (VCAA, Performance Descriptors).

Writing about Country

  • Physical land and country—the cultural and ecological significance of the Great Barrier Reef, including threats from climate change and conservation efforts.
  • Loss of Country and dispossession—personal narratives of displaced populations and historical context.
  • Migration—personal stories of resilience and the challenges of integration.
  • Changes—its impact on native communities and global climate patterns.
  • Imagined countries—society after environmental catastrophe, themes of survival and adaptation.

Writing about Protest

  • Historical protests—authoritarianism, censorship, politics and international relations.
  • Modern movements—the transformation of political landscapes.
  • Marginalised voices—individual vs the state, minority vs dominant groups, power relations.
  • Outcomes of protest—to what extent are protests effective tools for transformation and reconciliation?
  • Personal stories—motivations, experiences, and reflections.

Writing about Personal Journeys

  • Gender and race—challenges in a conservative society or an insular and hostile community.
  • Changes, lessons, events—community, and identity changes
  • Migration stories—assimilation amid economic and political turmoil, international gap, identity conflicts, erasure.
  • Appropriation of stories—issues of authenticity and representation in literature.

Writing about Play

  • Imaginative and exploratory play—identity development, childhood experiences, freedom of expression, hedonistic purposes, bonding and connection, escapism.
  • Simulation (role-playing)—tools for socialisation, the extent to which play-acting represents the real world, the connections between play and gender.
  • Rules-based play—the battleground, compliance and obedience, learning to find loopholes.

Have a clearly defined voice and consistent style throughout each piece

Use a specific voice, tone, register, and metalanguage to deeply connect with your audience. This shows a clear understanding of the purpose and context of your writing. The ability to write consistently shows confidence and good planning; to get a 9-10 you need to show the ability to connect  “audience, purpose, and context through the specific use of voice, tone, register, and metalanguage” (VCAA, Performance Descriptors). 

Balance should be struck between this consistency and the creative engagement with “text structure, language features, and vocabulary that promote the exploration of ideas" (VCAA, Performance Descriptors). In essence, your creative writing strategy should be carefully crafted and encompass:

  • Your purpose, audience and context, as explained above
  • A textual format that works! This can be creative and unconventional—if you think you can pull it off and be consistent. 
  • A distinct voice. VCAA said it themselves. Very high students will be able to create “an apt, sustained and individual voice”.

Have a good variety here though. I recommend preparing 3 possible “strategies” for 3 distinct sets of ideas/purposes. They should set you up for the exam!

The reflective commentary

As mentioned, the reflective commentary (also known as Statement of Intention) is an opportunity to boost your marks. This is a crucial part of the area of study, in which you are to clearly and concisely justify the writing and creative decisions you have made in about 200-300 words. There are a number of key elements to include in the SOI, and I like to use an acronym to remember these.

FLAP-C: This stands for Form, Language, Audience, Purpose, and Contention.

Form

The form of the piece refers to the genre and style you are writing in – whether it is a poem, newsletter, or diary entry. You must discuss what perspective your piece takes, as well as why you have chosen to use that particular perspective. If there’s a title, explain why you have named the piece that way too. The tense is also included under this heading.

Language

Language choices and decisions can be both on a macro and micro level. Regarding the macro, or broad, level, you can justify your use of overall language style, e.g. “I have chosen to use language befitting 17th Century England as that is when my story was set”. As for the micro, or specific, level, you can explain your inclusion of particular words or phrases, e.g. “In having the protagonist of my piece say [quote from the Creative], I aimed to explore their internal thoughts in…”

Audience

As mentioned previously, your intended target audience must be a very specific demographic (as with the original author). For example, “those already acquainted with the world of the text who desire a deeper understanding of [secondary character], being that they were underdeveloped in the original text.”

Purpose

This refers to one of the four purposes outlined by VCAA (explain, express, reflect, argue) and should be made very clear at the beginning of your reflective commentary. You can have multiple purposes too!


Context

The context refers to where the piece is set within the world of the text – what chapters or sections are directly preceding and following your piece? Where are the characters when we first begin reading the Creative? Answering these questions allows us to provide readers with a crystal-clear picture of what they should be expecting going into the piece. Context may also refer to the socio-historical context, which relates to that of the source material.

Below is an example of an SOI plan which outlines the main points of justification you may like to include. Notice how the student has mentioned both holistic and close analysis, as well as linked their piece to relevant ideas found in the mentor texts.

Paragraph 1:

  • Discuss your form (e.g., narrative prose, Gothic short story, dystopian reimagination, diary entry, hybrid essay) and how it connects with your purpose(s)
  • Identify the title and stimulus (if available) and how your message/contention and themes within the framework relate to them
  • Describe the context and your audience in one sentence, then explain how your style helps you connect with them

Paragraph 2:

  • Analyse your use of language and literary devices and how it is inspired by your mentor text(s)
  • Discuss your writing style and syntax, as well as any supplementary texts or intertextual references relied on
  • Any drafting decisions made

‍‍

It is firstly an excellent idea to begin by introducing the overall form, style, and genre of the piece (as well as a title if you have one). This immediately allows your reader to get an idea of what your piece is about, as well as the broad creative direction you have taken. The following extract is a scaffold for the beginning of a potential SOI:

My creative piece [title] adopts the literary form of a two-part short story/narrative prose, transitioning from a [setting 1] to the [setting 2]. The use of a chronological/non-chronolgical structure and stream-of-consciousness narrative style are characteristics resembling a series of journal entries, and a [narrative voice] from the perspective of [character] enables [thematic ideas] to be more deeply explored. The genre of drama is developed through the adoption of [genre] tropes and the insertion of vignettes and vivid imagery.

We have started off by explicitly labelling the literary form as either a “two-part short story” or  “narrative prose”-- both descriptions are highly specific and precise. Whether the piece follows a chronological or non-linear structure is also something to keep in mind, and is important to preface to your audience before they read your Creative. Note as well that we have elaborated on our use of the “drama” genre, backing up this claim with evidence that we have “adopt[ed]...tropes” unique to that particular genre and style.

Conclusion

Don’t underestimate the power of a well-informed approach. Crafting texts is subjective, open-ended and unpredictable—which is why it is more important to understand how assessors and teachers work than it is to dedicate your whole year crafting a Margaret Atwood-level masterpiece that may not meet the criteria or is relevant. 

As Stephen King says, don’t take lightly to the blank page.