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- 7 Techniques from Creative Writing You Can Use to Improve Your Essays
You wouldn’t have thought that essays have much in common with creative writing.
You should also read…
- How to Improve Your English Writing Skills
- How to Write Dazzlingly Brilliant Essays
Creative writing , by definition, involves being ‘creative’: making things up, letting your imagination run wild. Essays are about being factual and objective, communicating ideas and arguments in the clearest way possible and attempting to enhance the reader’s knowledge, rather than their imagination. But while the literary devices and colourful tales we associate with creative writing are indeed out of place in an essay, these two very different kinds of writing actually have a few similarities. Above all, they’re both meant to be read by other people, and that means that they need to sustain the reader’s interest. So, are there any writing techniques you can borrow from creative writing to help make your essays more interesting and original? Yes there are, and in this article, we’re going to show you how.
1. Think about your reader
With creative writing, as with any kind of writing, your reader is your most important consideration. You need to know and understand whom you’re writing for if you’re to do a good job of keeping them interested. Let’s think for a moment about the kind of person you’re writing for when you’re writing an essay and what you need to do to write specifically for them:
- Teachers or university lecturers – they’re going to be marking your essay, so it needs to answer the question effectively.
- They’ve set the question and they probably have a pretty good idea of how you’re going to answer it – so be original and unpredictable; catch them by surprise with an unusual approach or structure.
- They’re going to be reading many other responses to the same question – so they may well be bored by the time they get to yours. Keep them interested!
- They’re probably going to be pressed for time – so they won’t have time to reread badly written passages to try to understand what you’re getting at. Keep your writing easy to read, succinct and to the point.
What all these points boil down to is the importance of keeping your reader interested in what you have to say. Since creative writing is all about holding the reader’s interest, there must be some lessons to be learned from it and techniques that can be applied within the more limited style constraints of the academic essay. We’ll now turn to what these are.
2. Three-act structure
The three-act structure is a writing device used extensively in modern writing, including for film and television dramas. These ‘acts’ aren’t as distinct as acts in a play, as one follows seamlessly on from another and the audience wouldn’t consciously realise that one act had ended and another began. The structure refers to a plotline that looks something like this:
- Set-up – establishes the characters, how they relate to each other, and the world they inhabit. Within this first ‘act’, a dramatic occurrence called an ‘inciting incident’ takes place (typically around 19 minutes into a film) involving the principal character. They try to deal with it, but this results in another dramatic occurrence called a ‘turning point’. This sets the scene for the rest of the story.
- Confrontation – the turning point in the previous ‘act’ becomes the central problem, which the main character attempts to resolve – usually with plenty of adversity thrown their way that hampers their efforts. In a murder mystery, for example, this act would involve the detective trying to solve the murder. The central character – with the help of supporting characters – undergoes a journey and develops their knowledge, skills or character to a sufficient degree to be able to overcome the problem.
- Resolution – the climax of the story, in which the drama reaches a peak, the problem is overcome, and loose ends are tied up.
This structure sounds all very well for made-up stories, but what has it got to do with essay-writing? The key similarities here are:
- The central argument of your essay is the equivalent of the main character.
- The essay equivalent of the set-up and resolution are the introduction and conclusion.
- The inciting incident in an essay encourages you to get to the point early on in the essay.
- The equivalent of character development in the second act is developing your argument.
- The equivalent of the supporting characters is the evidence you refer to in your essay.
So, applying the three-act structure to an essay gives you something like this:
- Set-up – the introduction. This establishes what you’re talking about, setting the scene. The ‘inciting incident’ could be the introduction of evidence that contradicts a common theory, or the highlighting of a central disagreement in how something is interpreted.
- Confrontation – you discuss the different problems surrounding the topic you’re writing about. You develop the argument using various bits of evidence, moving towards an overall conclusion.
- Resolution – the conclusion. You summarise and resolve the argument with your own opinion, by coming down on one side or the other, having weighed up the evidence you’ve discussed. You could perhaps tie up loose ends by offering an alternative explanation for evidence that doesn’t sit with your conclusion.
Using this structure keeps you focused on the central point, and stops you from waffling, because everything you write is working towards resolving your argument. The use of the inciting incident in the first ‘act’ encourages you to get to the point early on in your essay, thereby keeping the reader interested. The principles of good plot-writing are centred around the connection between different events that show cause and effect, and this central tenet of the three-act structure has obvious parallels with the way in which essays work through presenting evidence in support of arguments.
3. An attention-grabbing opening
An oft-spouted piece of advice in creative writing is to use an attention-grabbing opening. One way of doing this is to start with a ‘flashback’, which could disrupt the chronology of events by transporting the reader directly back to the midst of the action, so that the story begins with maximum excitement. In a murder mystery, for instance, the writer might skip a slow build-up and instead use the murder itself to form the opening of the novel, with the rest of the story charting the efforts of the detective to uncover the perpetrator and perhaps telling the events prior to the murder in a series of flashbacks. The same principle can be applied to essays, though it’s easier to use in some subjects than others. To take an example, let’s say you were writing about how the First World War started. Rather than building up slowly with the various factors, an attention-grabbing opening could (briefly) describe the drama of the Battle of the Somme, perhaps citing some statistics about the number of men involved and killed, and quoting some war poetry about the horrors faced by the soldiers on the Front Line. Then, to introduce the purpose of the essay and launch into your argument about what started the war, a phrase such as, “It seems hard to imagine that all this began with…”. Alternatively, a rhetorical question: “But how did these tens of thousands of soldiers end up in the mud and horror of trench warfare? The story begins several years earlier, with…” It may not be the standard way of writing an essay, but you’ll certainly score points for originality and perhaps ruffle a few feathers.
4. Extended metaphors
Creative writing often makes use of extended metaphors. For example, when Shakespeare wrote the passage in Romeo and Juliet referring to “It is the East, and Juliet is the sun!” he was using an extended metaphor. With this in mind, it’s time to revisit a point we made in a previous article about writing more original essays , in which we argued that, rather than battling on with trying to explain a complex concept in a straightforward way, it might be easier to use an analogy to convey the meaning by drawing comparisons, which people find easier to understand. A metaphor is a kind of analogy, so the similarities with creative writing are strong here. In our previous article we used the example of radioactive decay. An analogy for this is the pressure with which water escapes from a hole in a bucket. It does so exponentially, just as radioactive substances decay exponentially. In both instances, the rate of a consumptive process depends on how much there is left of whatever is being depleted, which results in an exponential rate of decay. This concept is so much easier to explain using the analogy of water flowing from a hole in a bucket, as you give your reader something familiar to visualise in order to explain a concept with which they are unfamiliar.
5. Interesting details about setting and location
Another way of keeping your reader interested is to bring your essay to life with details about setting and location, just as creative writers do. Essays can become quite dry if you focus solely on the academic problems, but you can make them more interesting by peppering them with details. This may not work quite so well for a scientific essay, but it’s certainly relevant for some humanities subjects, in particular English literature, history and archaeology. For example, an essay about the Roman emperor Augustus could mention that he lived a famously modest lifestyle, quoting details from Roman writers and archaeological evidence that support this: Suetonius mentions his “low bed” (interesting because of what it says about accepted standards of Roman beds!) and coarse bread and cheese diet, and the relatively small and non-lavish remains of his house on the Palatine Hill in Rome back up the idea of his having lived a modest life. Incidental details like these can actually prove to be more significant than you initially realise, and you can use them to build your argument; in the case of Augustus, for example, his modest lifestyle is particularly important when seen in the context of Rome’s troubled history with kings. As he gradually acquired more power and became Rome’s first emperor, he had to avoid coming across as being too ‘regal’, and the little details we know about his way of life are significant in light of this. So, not only have you brought your essay to life, but you’ve raised an interesting point, too.
Few writers get it right first time . Once you’ve written a first draft, read through it and think about whether the order of your points is optimal and whether what you’ve written actually makes sense. It’s easy in the age of computers to chop and change – you can simply copy and paste part of your essay into another part where it might fit better, and then make minor changes to your wording so that it flows. After you’ve finished editing, have a final read through and check that you’re happy with the wording. Don’t forget to proofread to ensure that your spelling and grammar is impeccable!
7. And finally… record your ideas
Creative writers swear by having a notebook with them at all times, ready to jot down any ideas that suddenly spring to mind. You can adopt the same principle for your essay-writing, because you never know when the inspiration might strike. Have a think about your essay topic when you’re out and about; you’d be surprised what occurs to you when you’re away from your normal place of study. As you can see, there are more similarities between two apparently unrelated kinds of writing than you might have realised. It is, of course, possible to go too far with the creative writing idea when you’re essay-writing: literary devices aren’t always appropriate, and your essay still needs to retain objectivity and conform to the more formal conventions of academic writing. But there are certainly techniques to be borrowed from creative writing that will help your essays stand out from the crowd and give your teacher or lecturer a welcome break from the monotony of essay-marking.
See also our fabulous guide explaining more about ” What is Creative Writing ”.
Image credits: banner ; papers ; Hamlet ; Wizard of Oz ; murder mystery ; Romeo and Juliet ; Augustus ; notebook .
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How to Improve Creative Writing
Last Updated: February 24, 2023 References
This article was co-authored by Melessa Sargent and by wikiHow staff writer, Hannah Madden . Melessa Sargent is the President of Scriptwriters Network, a non-profit organization that brings in entertainment professionals to teach the art and business of script writing for TV, features and new media. The Network serves its members by providing educational programming, developing access and opportunity through alliances with industry professionals, and furthering the cause and quality of writing in the entertainment industry. Under Melessa's leadership, SWN has won numbers awards including the Los Angeles Award from 2014 through 2021, and the Innovation & Excellence award in 2020. There are 8 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 28,311 times.
Creative writing is an outlet to express your imagination by putting it onto paper. Many people enjoy creative writing, but some struggle with it because of how unstructured it can feel. If you have been writing creatively and you’d like to improve your skills, try learning grammar rules and receiving feedback on your work to strengthen your creative writing and boost your confidence.
Creating Polished Work
- Using correct grammar and punctuation will also make your writing seem more polished.
- For example, instead of saying, “He quickly and quietly ate his food,” try saying, “He gulped down his meal.” This sentence is more interesting, and gives the same effect to the reader.
Tip: Take a break from writing and come back to your piece after a few hours or even days. Mistakes will be easier to spot after you’ve taken a break.
- Revising is similar to proofreading, except you are looking for ways to improve your piece, not just correcting mistakes.
- Don’t be offended if someone doesn’t like your piece, or has a lot of feedback to give. You can choose whether or not to implement a change that someone else suggests.
Finding Time and Ideas
Tip: If you think you might forget to write, set an alarm on your phone to remind yourself.
- Get a library card so that you can check out books for free instead of buying them every time.
- For example, you might start with a prompt like, “Imagine what it would be like to be a plant,” or "Write about a day in the life of Barack Obama.”
- You can also use people-watching to practice writing down descriptions of behavior and clothing.
- For instance, try writing a fairytale from another character’s perspective, or setting it in today’s era.
- Deadlines that you set for yourself can seem easy to brush off, but you will be disappointed in yourself if you don’t meet them.
- Make sure your deadlines are realistic. Don’t plan on finishing an entire book by next week if you’re only halfway through.
You Might Also Like
- ↑ https://www.luc.edu/literacy/grammar.shtml
- ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/editing-and-proofreading/
- ↑ https://depts.washington.edu/owrc/Handouts/Revising%20Your%20Paper.pdf
- ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/group-writing/
- ↑ Melessa Sargent. Professional Writer. Expert Interview. 14 August 2019.
- ↑ https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentID=4552&ContentTypeID=1
- ↑ https://www.uopeople.edu/blog/why-its-important-to-read/
- ↑ https://cetl.uconn.edu/about/mission/
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How to Develop Your Creative Writing Process
by Melissa Donovan | Feb 7, 2023 | Creative Writing | 45 comments
What steps do you take in your creative writing process?
Writing experts often want us to believe that there is only one worthwhile creative writing process. It usually goes something like this:
- Rough draft
- Revise (repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat)
- Edit, proof, and polish
This is a good system — it absolutely works. But does it work for everyone?
Examining the Creative Writing Process
I’ve been thinking a lot about the creative writing process. Lately I’ve found myself working on all types of projects: web pages, blog posts, a science-fiction series, and of course, books on the craft of writing .
I’ve thought about the steps I take to get a project completed and realized that the writing process I use varies from project to project and depends on the level of difficulty, the length and scope of the project, and even my state of mind. If I’m feeling inspired, a blog post will come flying out of my head. If I’m tired, hungry, or unmotivated, or if the project is complicated, then it’s a struggle, and I have to work a little harder. Brainstorming and outlining can help. A lot.
It occurred to me that I don’t have one creative writing process. I have several. And I always use the one that’s best suited for a particular project.
A Process for Every Project
I once wrote a novel with no plan whatsoever. I started with nothing more than a couple of characters. Thirty days and fifty thousand words later, I had completed the draft of a novel (thanks, NaNoWriMo!).
But usually, I need more structure than that. Whether I’m working on a blog post, a page of web copy, a nonfiction book, or a novel, I find that starting with a plan saves a lot of time and reduces the number of revisions that I have to work through later. It’s also more likely to result in a project getting completed and published.
But every plan is different. Sometimes I’ll jot down a quick list of points I want to make in a blog post. This can take just a minute or two, and it makes the writing flow fast and easy. Other times, I’ll spend weeks — even months — working out the intricate details of a story with everything from character sketches to outlines and heaps of research. On the other hand, when I wrote a book of creative writing prompts , I had a rough target for how many prompts I wanted to generate, and I did a little research, but I didn’t create an outline.
I’ve tried lots of different processes, and I continue to develop my processes over time. I also remain cognizant that whatever’s working for me right now might not work in five or ten years. I will keep revising and tweaking my process, depending on my goals.
Finding the Best Process
I’ve written a novel with no process, and I’ve written a novel by going through every step imaginable: brainstorming, character sketches, research, summarizing, outlines, and then multiple drafts, revisions, and edits.
These experiences were vastly different. I can’t say that one was more enjoyable than the other. But it’s probably worth noting that the book I wrote with no process is still sitting on my hard drive somewhere whereas the one I wrote with a methodical yet creative writing process got completed, polished, and published.
In fact, I have found that using a process generates better results if my goal is to complete and publish a project.
But not every piece of writing is destined for public consumption. Sometimes I write just for fun. No plan, no process, no pressure. I just let the words flow. Every once in a while, these projects find their way to completion and get sent out into the world.
It is only by experimenting with a variety of processes that you will find the creative writing process that works best for you. And you’ll also have to decide what “best” means. Is it the process that’s most enjoyable? Or is it the process that leads you to publication? Only you know the answer to that.
I encourage you to try different writing processes. Write a blog post on the fly. Make an outline for a novel. Do some in-depth research for an epic poem. Try the process at the top of this page, and then do some research to find other processes that you can experiment with. Keep trying new things, and when you find whatever helps you achieve your goals, stick with it, but remain open to new methods that you can bring into your process.
What’s Your Creative Writing Process?
Creative writing processes are good. The reason our predecessors developed these processes and shared them, along with a host of other writing tips, was to help us be more productive and produce better writing. Techniques and strategies can be helpful, but it’s our responsibility to know what works for us as individuals and as creative writers and to know what will cause us to infinitely spin our wheels.
What’s your creative writing process? Do you have one? Do you ever get stuck in the writing process? How do you get unstuck?
Hi Melissa: I do a lot of research on the topic I’ve chosen to write about. As I do the research I take notes on a word perfect document. When I have a whole lot of information written down–in a jumble–I usually leave it and go do something else. Then I sit down and start to work with the information I’ve gathered and just start writing. The first draft I come up with is usually pretty bad, and then I revise and revise until I have something beautiful that I feel is fit to share with the rest of the world. That’s when I hit the “publish” button 🙂 I’m trying to implement Parkinson’s Law to focus my thinking a little more as I write so that I can get the articles out a bit faster.
My favorite pre-writing process would have to be getting a nice big whiteboard and charting characters and plots down. I find that it really helps me anchor on to specific traits of a character, especially if the persona happens to be a dynamic one. Such charting helps me out dramatically in creating an evolving storyline by not allowing me to forget key twists and other storyline-intensive elements =)
That being said, my favorite pre-charting process is going out the on nights leading to it for a few rounds of beer with good friends!
Hi Melissa – I’m like you – I do different things depending on what I’m writing. With the novel I’m working on now – alot of stuff I write won’t even go into it.
Some of the stuff the gurus recommend are the kind of things I’d do if I was writing an essay – but nothing else.
I don’t know if I have a set process. I start with morning pages and journaling. then whatever comes streaming from that gets written. As I go about my day I have a notebook that stays with me whereever I go and I am constantly writing in it, notes, ideas, themes, Sentances that begin with “I wonder…” and then then next monring the notebook is with me during quiet time and these thoughts are often carried right in to the process all over again. So…if that is a process, I guess…I never really thought about it. As I have said before, a lot of my writing also takes place in my jacuzzi..so…
I guess my process is that when its falling out of my head I try and catch it.
This will be the first year that I attempt NaNO so I will need to be more organized. This is good for thinking ahead. One of the reasons I started blogging in the first place was to get in the discipline of writing every day. That was the first step. Just creating the habit. This will be a good next step.
These days, I feel so scattered, I feel like I’m not getting anything done at all! (grin)
Melissa, I am really organized but my writing process has never followed the guidelines. I’ve tried them on for size and find that they don’t fit. Even in school, I never did outlines and drafts so I suppose I trained myself against the system! I always do research first and gather all of my notes, clips in one location. As for the writing process itself I let it rip, then go back and fine tune. It has worked for me thus far but I’m always open to trying new techniques on for size, hey if they fit I’m all on board!
@Marelisa, that doesn’t surprise me. Your posts are comprehensive, detailed, and extremely informative. I can tell you care a lot about your topic and about your writing. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy your blog; your passion is palpable.
@Joey, I love the planning stage too. In fact, sometimes I get stuck there and never make it out. Ooh, and white boards. Yes. Those are good. Usually I just use drawing paper though. When I do NaNo, I’m going to try to do less planning. In fact, I’m going to plan in October and just write in November. I’m hoping this new strategy will result in winning my word count goal!
@Cath, I sort of pick and choose which tips from the gurus I use.
@Wendi, you write in the jacuzzi? That’s cool. Or hot. I guess it’s hot. Your process sounds really natural. I started blogging for the exact same reason — to write every day. I’m excited to hear you’re doing NaNo too. That will be fun, and we can offer each other moral support!
@Deb (Punctuality), it sounds like you have a lot going on! I get into that mode sometimes, where I’m so overwhelmed, I can’t get anything done. It’s really frustrating. Sometimes I have to shut down for a day to get my bearings and that’s the only way I can get back on track.
@Karen, that’s probably why your writing flows so well, because you just let it do its thing. I remember learning to do outlines back in 6th grade but it didn’t stick. Later, in college, we’d have to do them as assignments, so I didn’t have a choice. I realized that they sped up the writing process. Now I do them for some (but not all) projects. But I will say this: I actually enjoy outlining (weird?).
Melissa, I’m not a real writer but I do love reading how you, who are, go about the business of putting words to paper. As always, a great post. Thanks.
It is funny that you wrote about this today. I picked up an extra assignment with a today deadline. Let’s not talk about how long it’s been since I’ve written copy on that tight a deadline.
My mantra: “If it doesn’t make it I don’t get paid for it.” Rinse and repeat.
Also, I grew to enjoy outlining when I went back to university. Sometimes I’m happy just to outline; also known as a stall tactic.
Ah, my writing process?
1) Spit out mindgarbage! 2) Sort through mindgarbage. 3) Take out the handy scissors and glue (or rather, ctrl+c, ctrl+v…) 4) Revise Revise Revise 5) Edit, proof, polish… 6) Rewrite, revise rewrite, revise…
My prewriting is just writing. Writing trash. Then cleaning it up. 3 pages = 1 paragraph trash. Yeaaaaah.
@Milena, what do you mean you’re not a real writer? Of course you are. You write; therefore you are a writer!
@Deb, sometimes those crunch deadlines really light the fire. I’ve been amazed at what I can write in a day when there’s a client waiting for it with a nice big PayPal deposit!
@Sam, that’s a good way to get it done! Do you free-write your early drafts? I’ve been teased for editing too much, but it’s definitely worth it. You can get the good stuff early by just spattering it all over the page, and then refine it until it’s polished and sparkling!
I never really liked the 5 step process when I wrote back in school, but I suppose that learning that did make me a better writer. I don’t have a set process, sometimes it’s just sitting at the computer and opening up my blog, or a blank page in Word. Sometimes things come from something that struck me during the day. I think I have to work on the discipline of actually sitting down to write more often! Practice makes perfect, or at least close enough, right?!?!
I’ve tried to figure out what my process is, but it’s different depending on what I’m writing.
Blogging – 90% of the time, there is no process at all and it shows. I’m usually writing as fast as I can think, and sometimes I can’t keep up and I may just jump to the next thought at random. I may go back and read and finish thoughts that were left incomplete. I try to write my blogs as if the reader is having a conversation with me, which makes it feel natural for me to write.
Poetry – Most times I don’t like editting unless I’m really unhappy with the first draft. Usually I’m only changing or adding punctuations. But overall, I’ll get my inspiration and after reciting a few lines in my head and an idea of where I want to go, that’s when I’ll pull out some paper (or cardboard or napkins or laptop) and write a potential masterpiece.
Story/scripts – I plan the entire story in my head. One might call it a brainstorm, but I’ll go farther and say it’s a hurricane. I won’t stop with just a story, I’ll create characters, scenes, even background music. A lot of times I’ll get the idea but I won’t be able to write anything down, like if I’m driving, rock climbing, sky diving or underwater. A lot of ideas come to me when I’m in the bathroom. Without sharing much details about that, I’ll just say I have time to think and let my imagination go to work. When I’m able to get to some paper or my laptop, I’ll write out the story and flesh it out a little until I’m done, or I’ll keep working on the story in my head and bounce it off some people to see how they would react of this happened or that happened.
I don’t like outlines, but when it comes to screenplays, they help out a lot and it’s the only time I MIGHT use one. I’ve been known to go without them though.
@Jenny, practice does make perfect! I believe that. I rarely use the five-step process on paper, but I think I often do some steps in my head, often without even realizing I’m doing them!
@t. sterling, I consistently get some of my best ideas in the shower. There must be something very inspiring about bathrooms or water. Like you, I have a bunch of different processes that I use depending on what I’m writing. And after reading all the comments, it seems like that’s how it works for a lot of writers.
I like the show me yours, show you mine tradezees.
It’s kind of long, but there’s a lot to it: http://blogs.msdn.com/jmeier/archive/2007/12/24/building-books-in-patterns-amp-practices.aspx
That depends on the complexity. If it’s something simple like some of my blog posts, I just start writing without outlines. For tutorials, usually there are steps so I will write down all the steps first and re-arrange them to the order I want.
For stories, sometimes I write down the events that should happen, but sometimes I don’t. Even if I don’t explicitly write out an outline, I would still have some kind of structure in my head. And even if it’s written out, eventually I will get that into my head because it’s easier for me to sort through things that way. I think it might be a habit I developed from working as a computer programmer. I tend to rely a lot on short-term memory. I get all these details into my head, and then I try to sort things out in my mind.
Actually, you know what? I’ve just brainstormed for a story right before reading this. I already have most detailed sorted out in my head, so I will most likely write and post it tomorrow. I think I’ll post my writing process after that as well. For now I’ll sleep on it. (I think maybe that’s part of the process as well.)
Oh yes, sleeping on it is definitely part of the process. I like to insert that right between rough draft and revision. Then I do it again between revision and polish or proofread. Sounds like you do things similarly to the way I do — a little of everything with the steps varying depending on the project.
Great post! Thanks for sharing your insights on the writing process. As for me, I feel like I work in spurts of inspiration… Lots of writing, then editing, then writing again.
That is how I’ve always written poetry — with spurts of inspiration and freewrites. Then I will go through the pages and pull out lines and phrases to build a poem. I do use brainstorming, notes, outlines, research, etc. for other forms, but it really depends on the project.
Actually, I’m not that organize when it comes to creative writing. Most of the time I keep in tune with my thoughts. When something pop-ups (words, phrase, ideas, vocabulary) is immediately write it down on my black notebook.
I go with my own style of writing because I believe my work will speak out only if it’s unique on its own. Being imperfect, I don’t put too much effort on the grammatical construction. I believe that what’s between the words are more important the the words itself. A distinctive writer possesses this quality. 🙂
Writing down your ideas, words, phrases, etc. in your notebook is an excellent habit! However, I have to disagree with you on the importance of grammar. I think it’s essential for writers to master grammar and then (and only then) can you start breaking the rules. Of course, this may depend on what you want to write (i.e. blog versus fiction). Grammar gives writers a common or shared framework in which to construct the language, and believe it or not, there are some astute writers and editors out there who will judge your work rather harshly if the grammar is not up to par. That doesn’t mean it has to be perfect, but if you’re missing the basics, it’s likely they won’t bother reading past the first paragraph. By the way, a fast and easy way to learn grammar is by listening to the Grammar Girl podcast. Just a few minutes of listening a couple times a week will teach you more than you can imagine!
I separate first draft from editing, but I’m not particular about whether I finish the whole draft before I start editing. Sometimes going back and editing the first 3 chapters gets me moving on a better line.
When I edit, I do whole read-thrus until I’m happy with the story flow. Then I use the Autocrit Editing Wizard to really polish the manuscript. After that, I’m done!
I’ve never heard of the Autocrit Editing Wizard. Sounds interesting. I usually edit short pieces like web page copy or blog posts on the fly, i.e. I will stop every couple of paragraphs and go back to re-read and edit. However, with longer works, I feel like if I start editing midway, I might lose the project and get caught up in polishing before the rough draft is nailed down. All that matters, however, is that each writer finds his or her own best method. Sounds like you’ve got it down!
LOL! I think I’ve worked through every possible type of creative process possible. From outlining the whole darned thing to working with notecards, story boards and of course just winging it, which resulted in a story with a really flat ending – unforgivable:-) And while I firmly adhere to Anne Lamott’s *&^^%# first draft, I have finally settled into a process that works for me. I now use a plot worksheet and a character worksheet. It takes me a bit longer to actually start writing but what I write works and requires less editing.
I’ve tried all the methods too, and I’m glad I did. I’ve learned that each one works for me, but in a different capacity. With creative writing, such as fiction and poetry, I just jump right in and start writing. Right now I’m working on a nonfiction, educational project using detailed outlines and note cards. I think what you’ve done is brilliant — figuring out what advice works for you and what doesn’t work and then letting your own, personalized process unfold.
I have used all the methods, too, and I agree that the method used depends mostly on the subject matter. For novels, it also seems to depend on the genre. I can rip out a romance novel without an outline (in fact that’s the most fun way to do it). I finished a Romance for NaNoWriMo last year in three weeks. For novels with a more complicated plot at least a general outline is helpful (keeping in mind I have to be flexible enough to let the characters take over and go off in some completely different direction).
For me the single most important thing is letting a certain amount of time go by between drafting and editing. It could be days, it could be weeks. For novels it’s even better for me to let months go by. It gives me the the opportunity to look at the material with “fresh eyes”.
Probably for that reason, I tend to work on multiple projects at once: drafting one (early mornings on the weekends when I’m at my best); editing one and polishing another (weekday evenings). That way everything keeps moving forward, I never get bored and I always have new material in the pipeline.
I’m with you, Meredith! I can see how it would be fun to write a romance novel on the fly, and I’ve heard that mystery writers often use outlines because they need to incorporate plot twists and must keep track of various story threads. Another method is to outline as you write, so you have notes that you can refer back to when necessary. Allowing time to pass between writing, editing, proofreading, and polishing is absolutely essential! We know the brain will read incorrect text correctly, plugging in words and proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation. That time away really does give us fresh eyes! I love your strategy for working on multiple projects simultaneously.
There are good things to be said for the traditional formula, but as you say it isn’t the only method that works. I have written eight novels and dozens upon dozens of short stories and never once sat down to do a brainstorming session to come up with ideas. I do a lot of research, but most of it as I go along during the writing process. The last three steps I think are golden though.
I do have one new organization tip to share though. If your tech savvy enough to do a local install of wordpress on your computer it can become a great writing tool. Not only does it have a simple to use word processor in the form of the posting tool, it allows you to categorize your research and there are plenty of tagging plugins that will allow you to easily cross reference notes and text.
I LOVE the idea of using a local installation of WordPress for research and novel writing. I can imagine all the benefits with links and images, even video. Hmm. I don’t know how to do a local installation, but I’m thinking another option would be to load WP onto a live domain and simply put it in permanent maintenance mode (plugin) or set up some kind of password protection to block it from the public. I definitely need to think about this as a tool. Thanks for the tip, Brad!
I use Scrivener ( https://www.literatureandlatte.com/ ) for all my writing. It’s great for research and saving web pages, building characters, plotting and planning, all in one place. And best of all you can break down a story into scenes (separate documents) within Scrivener itself – something you can’t do in Word or similar. Wordpress is all very well, but you can’t see all posts/pages at once in a sidebar – something you *can* do in Scrivener. You can download a free trial of Scrivener to see whether it’s for you. Don’t be put off by the complicated look of it – you can use as much or as little of it as you like and there are some very handy videos and tips on using it. I’ve found it’s the best thing for writing blog posts, short stories, novels, scripts, you name it. It can’t hurt to give it a go.
I agree, Chris. Scrivener is amazing. I use it for fiction and poetry, and it’s made the writing process so much smoother. I highly recommend it to all writers. Plus, it’s reasonably priced.
I’m loving reading all these, but I don’t really have a process … I sit at the keyboard and hope something comes out of my fingertips … and if it doesn’t I let myself get distracted by shiny things like Twitter.
(Okay, I never said it was a PRODUCTIVE method.)
Really? I would have guessed that you use outlines at least some of the time. I definitely have to use outlines for longer works of nonfiction, and I always outline website copy when I’m writing for clients. It’s such a good (and productive) way to organize your thoughts, but for fiction and poetry (and many blog posts) I often let it flow freely, and it turns out that method is productive too 😉
Hello Melissa, My name is Kylee and I’m 15. Being naturally gifted in journalism, its a dream or fantasy of mine to become an author. For me to get into my ‘zone’ I have to be in a completely serene enviroment for hours. I’ve written short stories and essays but would like to complete the ultimate thrill of Mine: a novel. Its frustrating really, the difficulties of finding my creative writing process. I have difficulties in making a plot complex enough, and character development. I know they are major issues but I’m having trouble perfecting my writing. If you could help me in any way, I’d gladly appreciate it. Thank you.
You’re getting an early start. The best advice I have for you is to read a lot. If you want to be a novelist, then read as many novels as you can. Try keeping a reading journal where you can write down your thoughts and observations about how other authors handle plot and character development. You’ll find that you start to read differently. Instead of reading for enjoyment or entertainment, it also becomes a fun study in your craft. You can visit my Writing Resources section or Books page to check out my recommendations for books on the craft of writing. Good luck to you!
Mine’s pretty simple:
1. Do background research. Mostly stuff for the setting like common plants and animals, names of places, photographs. I’ll also read books to familiarize myself with whatever topic of the book in involved.
2. Start writing.
3. Do spot research as I’m writing. Search for the name of something, looking at pictures of something to help me describe it; etc.
4. Move around the scenes as I write, which is sort of like shaking out the wrinkles in a sheet. I add new things that occur to me, correct typos, etc.
That’s excellent, Linda. It sounds like you’ve nailed your process!
I have no writing process, actually. I’m the type of person who thinks while I’m writing, or I think of an image and the story comes out suddenly. I also think before I write, and imagine how the scenes will turn out. I’m a very visual person when it comes to writing. In addition, I found out that when I do plan, my stories never get drafted at all, or they do but I don’t like it. Planning never really works for me. I need to let all my ideas be out of my mind, and not from pre-writing.
All that matters is that you’ve found the process that works for you, and it sounds like you have!
Here’s a trick (procedure, technique, system, gimmick) I use when I’m writing a novel. I don’t write linearly. Some parts of the story are more appealing to me than others so depending on my mood (perhaps that should be muse) I jump around. Admittedly, connecting the scenes may take a bit of of revision since I never know where the story will eventually take me, and on occasion I’ve had to trash a significant amount. That’s okay, since my goal is to enjoy myself every time I sit down to write – and I do.
This method works well for a lot of writers. I mostly try to write my own drafts linearly, but I skip around if I’m struck with inspiration.
Every writer experiences different levels of enjoyment during the process. In my experience, most writers encounter a lot of frustration at certain points in the process. So I have come to view writing as rewarding rather than enjoyable. A lot of the work is fun, but a lot of it is difficult, tedious, even maddening. But at the end, it’s all worth it if you can push through the hard parts.
Book suggestion: The Writer’s Process, Getting Your Brain in Gear by Anne H. Janzer.
This book explains the actual psychology behind the creative process and then suggests how to apply it to your work. Some good insights.
Thanks for the recommendation, Rod. I’m always looking for books on the craft of writing to add to my collection.
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26+ Creative Writing Tips for Young Writers
So you want to be a writer? And not just any writer, you want to be a creative writer. The road to being a legendary storyteller won’t be easy, but with our creative writing tips for kids, you’ll be on the right track! Creative writing isn’t just about writing stories. You could write poems, graphic novels, song lyrics and even movie scripts. But there is one thing you’ll need and that is good creative writing skills.
Here are over 26 tips to improve your creative writing skills :
Read a wide range of books
When it comes to creative writing, reading is essential. Reading allows you to explore the styles of other writers and gain inspiration to improve your own writing. But don’t just limit yourself to reading only popular books or your favourites. Read all sorts of books, everything from fairytales to scary stories. Take a look at comics, short stories, novels and poetry. Just fill your heads with the knowledge and wisdom of other writers and soon you’ll be just like them!
Write about real-life events
The hardest thing about creative writing is connecting emotionally with your audience. By focusing your writing on real-life events, you know that in some way or another your readers will be able to relate. And with creative writing you don’t need to use real names or details – There are certain things you can keep private while writing about the rare details. Using real-life events is also a good way to find inspiration for your stories.
Be as crazy and wild as you like with your imagination. Create your world, your own monsters , or even your own language! The more imaginative your story, the more exciting it will be to read. Remember that there are no rules on what makes a good idea in creative writing. So don’t be afraid to make stuff up!
Find your writing style
Thes best writers have a particular style about them. When you think of Roald Dahl , you know his books are going to have a sense of humour. While with Dr Seuss , you’re prepared to read some funny new words . Alternatively, when you look at R.L.Stine, you know that he is all about the horror. Think about your own writing style. Do you want to be a horror writer? Maybe someone who always writes in the first person? Will always focus your books on your culture or a particular character?
Stick to a routine
Routine is extremely important to writers. If you just write some stuff here and there, it’s likely that you’ll soon give up on writing altogether! A strict routine means that every day at a certain time you will make time to write about something, anything. Even if you’re bored or can’t think of anything, you’ll still pick up that pencil and write. Soon enough you’ll get into the habit of writing good stuff daily and this is definitely important for anyone who wants to be a professional creative writer!
Know your audience
Writing isn’t just about thinking about your own interests, it’s also about thinking about the interests of your audience. If you want to excite fellow classmates, know what they like. Do they like football , monsters or a particular video game? With that knowledge, you can create the most popular book for your target audience. A book that they can’t stop reading and will recommend to others!
To keep your creative writing skills up to scratch it is important to keep practising every day. Even if you have no inspiration. At times when your mind is blank, you should try to use tools like writing prompts , video prompts or other ways of coming up with ideas . You could even take a look at these daily writing exercises as an example. We even created a whole list of over 100 creative writing exercises to try out when you need some inspiration or ideas.
Work together with others
Everyone needs a little help now and then. We recommend joining a writing club or finding other classmates who are also interested in writing to improve your own creative writing skills. Together you can share ideas, tips and even write a story together! A good storytelling game to play in a group is the “ finish the story” game .
Without feedback, you’ll never be able to improve your writing. Feedback, whether good or bad is important to all writers. Good feedback gives you the motivation to carry on. While bad feedback just gives you areas to improve and adapt your writing, so you can be the best! After every piece of writing always try to get feedback from it, whether it is from friends, family, teachers or an online writing community .
Enter writing competitions
The best way to improve your creative writing is by entering all sorts of writing competitions . Whether it’s a poetry competition or short story competition, competitions let you compete against other writers and even help you get useful feedback on your writing. Most competitions even have rules to structure your writing, these rules can help you prepare for the real world of writing and getting your work published. And not only that you might even win some cool prizes!
Keep a notebook
Every writer’s best friend is their notebook. Wherever you go make sure you have a notebook handy to jot down any ideas you get on the go. Inspiration can come from anywhere , so the next time you get an idea instead of forgetting about it, write it down. You never know, this idea could become a best-selling novel in the future.
Research your ideas
So, you got a couple of ideas for short stories. The next step is to research these ideas deeper.
Researching your ideas could involve reading books similar to your ideas or going online to learn more about a particular topic. For example, if you wanted to write a book on dragons, you would want to know everything about them in history to come up with a good, relatable storyline for your book.
Create Writing Goals
How do you know if your writing is improving over time? Simple – Just create writing goals for yourself. Examples of writing goals might include, to write 100 words every day or to write 600 words by the end of next week. Whatever your goals make sure you can measure them easily. That way you’ll know if you met them or not. You might want to take a look at these bullet journal layouts for writers to help you track the progress of your writing.
Follow your passions
Writing can be tedious and many people even give up after writing a few words. The only way you can keep that fire burning is by writing about your true passions. Whatever it is you enjoy doing or love, you could just write about those things. These are the types of things you’ll enjoy researching and already know so much about, making writing a whole lot more fun!
Don’t Settle for the first draft
You finally wrote your first story. But the writing process isn’t complete yet! Now it’s time to read your story and make the all-important edits. Editing your story is more than just fixing spelling or grammar mistakes. It’s also about criticising your own work and looking for areas of improvement. For example, is the conflict strong enough? Is your opening line exciting? How can you improve your ending?
Plan before writing
Never just jump into writing your story. Always plan first! Whether this means listing down the key scenes in your story or using a storyboard template to map out these scenes. You should have an outline of your story somewhere, which you can refer to when actually writing your story. This way you won’t make basic mistakes like not having a climax in your story which builds up to your main conflict or missing crucial characters out.
It’s strange the difference it makes to read your writing out aloud compared to reading it in your head. When reading aloud you tend to notice more mistakes in your sentences or discover paragraphs which make no sense at all. You might even want to read your story aloud to your family or a group of friends to get feedback on how your story sounds.
Pace your story
Pacing is important. You don’t want to just start and then quickly jump into the main conflict because this will take all the excitement away from your conflict. And at the same time, you don’t want to give the solution away too early and this will make your conflict too easy for your characters to solve. The key is to gradually build up to your conflict by describing your characters and the many events that lead up to the main conflict. Then you might want to make the conflict more difficult for your characters by including more than one issue in your story to solve.
Think about themes
Every story has a theme or moral. Some stories are about friendship, others are about the dangers of trusting strangers. And a story can even have more than one theme. The point of a theme is to give something valuable to your readers once they have finished reading your book. In other words, to give them a life lesson, they’ll never forget!
Use dialogue carefully
Dialogue is a tricky thing to get right. Your whole story should not be made up of dialogue unless you’re writing a script. Alternatively, it can be strange to include no dialogue at all in your story. The purpose of dialogue should be to move your story forward. It should also help your readers learn more about a particular character’s personality and their relationship with other characters in your book.
One thing to avoid with dialogue is… small talk! There’s no point in writing dialogue, such as “How’s the weather?”, if your story has nothing to do with the weather. This is because it doesn’t move your story along. For more information check out this guide on how to write dialogue in a story .
Write now, edit later
Writing is a magical process. Don’t lose that magic by focusing on editing your sentences while you’re still writing your story up. Not only could this make your story sound fragmented, but you might also forget some key ideas to include in your story or take away the imagination from your writing. When it comes to creative writing, just write and come back to editing your story later.
Ask yourself questions
Always question your writing. Once done, think about any holes in your story. Is there something the reader won’t understand or needs further describing? What if your character finds another solution to solving the conflict? How about adding a new character or removing a character from your story? There are so many questions to ask and keep asking them until you feel confident about your final piece.
Create a dedicated writing space
Some kids like writing on their beds, others at the kitchen table. While this is good for beginners, going pro with your writing might require having a dedicated writing space. Some of the basics you’ll need is a desk and comfy chair, along with writing materials like pens, pencils and notebooks. But to really create an inspiring place, you could also stick some beautiful pictures, some inspiring quotes from writers and anything else that will keep you motivated and prepared.
Beware of flowery words
Vocabulary is good. It’s always exciting when you learn a new word that you have never heard before. But don’t go around plotting in complicated words into your story, unless it’s necessary to show a character’s personality. Most long words are not natural sounding, meaning your audience will have a hard time relating to your story if it’s full of complicated words from the dictionary like Xenophobia or Xylograph .
Create believable characters
Nobody’s perfect. And why should your story characters be any different? To create believable characters, you’ll need to give them some common flaws as well as some really cool strengths. Your character’s flaws can be used as a setback to why they can’t achieve their goals, while their strengths are the things that will help win over adversity. Just think about your own strengths and weaknesses and use them as inspirations for your storybook characters. You can use the Imagine Forest character creator to plan out your story characters.
Show, don’t tell
You can say that someone is nice or you can show them how that person is nice. Take the following as an example, “Katie was a nice girl.” Now compare that sentence to this, “Katie spent her weekends at the retirement home, singing to the seniors and making them laugh.”. The difference between the two sentences is huge. The first one sounds boring and you don’t really know why Katie is nice. While in the second sentence, you get the sense that Katie is nice from her actions without even using the word nice in the sentence!
Make the conflict impossible
Imagine the following scenario, you are a championship boxer who has won many medals over the year and the conflict is…Well, you got a boxing match coming up. Now that doesn’t sound so exciting! In fact, most readers won’t even care about the boxer winning the match or not!
Now imagine this scenario: You’re a poor kid from New Jersey, you barely have enough money to pay the bills. You never did any professional boxing, but you want to enter a boxing competition, so you can win and use the money to pay your bills.
The second scenario has a bigger mountain to climb. In other words, a much harder challenge to face compared to the character in the first scenario. Giving your characters an almost impossible task or conflict is essential in good story-telling.
Write powerful scenes
Scenes help build a picture in your reader’s mind without even including any actual pictures in your story. Creating powerful scenes involves more than describing the appearance of a setting, it’s also about thinking about the smell, the sounds and what your characters are feeling while they are in a particular setting. By being descriptive with your scenes, your audience can imagine themselves being right there with characters through the hard times and good times!
There’s nothing worse than an ending which leaves the reader feeling underwhelmed. You read all the way through and then it just ends in the most typical, obvious way ever! Strong endings don’t always end on a happy ending. They can end with a sad ending or a cliff-hanger. In fact, most stories actually leave the reader with more questions in their head, as they wonder what happens next. This then gives you the opportunity to create even more books to continue the story and keep your readers hooked for life (or at least for a very long time)!
Over 25 creative writing tips later and you should now be ready to master the art of creative writing! The most important tip for all you creative writers out there is to be imaginative! Without a good imagination, you’ll struggle to wow your audience with your writing skills. Do you have any more creative writing tips to share? Let us know in the comments!
Marty the wizard is the master of Imagine Forest. When he's not reading a ton of books or writing some of his own tales, he loves to be surrounded by the magical creatures that live in Imagine Forest. While living in his tree house he has devoted his time to helping children around the world with their writing skills and creativity.
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What to Know About Creative Writing Degrees
Many creative writing degree recipients pursue careers as authors while others work as copywriters or ghostwriters.
Tips on Creative Writing Degrees
Prospective writing students should think about their goals and figure out if a creative writing degree will help them achieve those goals. (Getty Images)
Many people see something magical in a beautiful work of art, and artists of all kinds often take pride in their craftsmanship. Creative writers say they find fulfillment in the writing process.
"I believe that making art is a human need, and so to get to do that is amazing," says Andrea Lawlor, an author who this year received a Whiting Award – a national $50,000 prize that recognizes 10 excellent emerging authors each year – and who is also the Clara Willis Phillips Assistant Professor of English at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts.
"We all are seeing more and more of the way that writing can help us understand perspectives we don't share," says Lawlor, whose recent novel "Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl" addresses the issue of gender identity.
"Writing can help us cope with hard situations," Lawlor says. "We can find people who we have something in common with even if there's nobody around us who shares our experience through writing. It's a really powerful tool for connection and social change and understanding."
Creative writing faculty, many of whom are acclaimed published authors, say that people are well-suited toward degrees in creative writing if they are highly verbal and enjoy expressing themselves.
"Creative imaginative types who have stories burning inside them and who gravitate toward stories and language might want to pursue a degree in creative writing," Jessica Bane Robert, who teaches Introduction to Creative Writing at Clark University in Massachusetts, wrote in an email. "Through formal study you will hone your voice, gain confidence, find a support system for what can otherwise be a lonely endeavor."
Read the guide below to gain more insight into what it means to pursue a creative writing education, how writing impacts society and whether it is prudent to invest in a creative writing degree. Learn about the difference between degree-based and non-degree creative writing programs, how to craft a solid application to a top-notch creative writing program and how to figure out which program is the best fit.
Why Creative Writing Matters and Reasons to Study It
Creative writers say a common misconception about their job is that their work is frivolous and impractical, but they emphasize that creative writing is an extremely effective way to convey messages that are hard to share in any other way.
Kelly Caldwell, dean of faculty at Gotham Writers Workshop in New York City, says prospective writing students are often discouraged from taking writing courses because of concerns about whether a writing life is somehow unattainable or "unrealistic."
Although creative writers are sometimes unable to financially support themselves entirely on the basis of their creative projects, Caldwell says, they often juggle that work with other types of jobs and lead successful careers.
She says that many students in her introductory creative writing class were previously forbidden by parents to study creative writing. "You have to give yourself permission for the simple reason that you want to do it," she suggests.
Creative writing faculty acknowledge that a formal academic credential in creative writing is not needed in order to get writing published. However, they suggest, creative writing programs help aspiring authors develop their writing skills and allow space and time to complete long-term writing projects.
Working writers often juggle multiple projects at once and sometimes have more than one gig, which can make it difficult to finish an especially ambitious undertaking such as a novel, a play for the screen or stage, or a well-assembled collection of poems, short stories or essays. Grants and fellowships for authors are often designed to ensure that those authors can afford to concentrate on their writing.
Samuel Ace, a published poet and a visiting lecturer in poetry at Mount Holyoke, says his goal is to show students how to write in an authentic way that conveys real feeling. "It helps students to become more direct, not to bury their thoughts under a cascade of academic language, to be more forthright," he says.
Tips on Choosing Between a Non-Degree or Degree-Based Creative Writing Program
Experts note that someone needs to be ready to get immersed in the writing process and devote significant time to writing projects before pursuing a creative writing degree. Prospective writing students should not sign up for a degree program until they have reached that sense of preparedness, warns Kim Todd, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts and director of its creative writing program.
She says prospective writing students need to think about their personal goals and figure out if a creative writing degree will help them achieve those goals.
Aspiring writers who are not ready to invest in a creative writing degree program may want to sign up for a one-off writing class or begin participating in an informal writing workshop so they can test their level of interest in the field, Todd suggests.
How to Choose and Apply to a Creative Writing Program
In many cases, the most important component of an application to a writing program is the writing portfolio, writing program experts say. Prospective writing students need to think about which pieces of writing they include in their portfolio and need to be especially mindful about which item they put at the beginning of their portfolio. They should have a trusted mentor critique the portfolio before they submit it, experts suggest.
Because creative writing often involves self-expression, it is important for aspiring writing students to find a program where they feel comfortable expressing their true identity.
This is particularly pertinent to aspiring authors who are members of minority groups, including people of color or LGBTQ individuals, says Lawlor, who identifies as queer, transgender and nonbinary.
How to Use a Creative Writing Degree
Creative writing program professors and alumni say creative writing programs cultivate a variety of in-demand skills, including the ability to communicate effectively.
"While yes, many creative writers are idealists and dreamers, these are also typically highly flexible and competent people with a range of personal strengths. And a good creative writing program helps them understand their particular strengths and marketability and translate these for potential employers, alongside the more traditional craft development work," Melissa Ridley Elmes, an assistant professor of English at Lindenwood University in Missouri, wrote in an email.
Elmes – an author who writes poetry, fiction and nonfiction – says creative writing programs force students to develop personal discipline because they have to consistently produce a significant amount of writing. In addition, participating in writing workshops requires writing students "to give and receive constructive feedback," Elmes says.
Cindy Childress, who has a Ph.D. in English from the University of Louisiana—Lafayatte and did a creative writing dissertation where she submitted poetry, says creative writing grads are well-equipped for good-paying positions as advertising and marketing copywriters, speechwriters, grant writers and ghostwriters.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual compensation for writers and authors was $63,200 as of May 2019.
"I think the Internet, and writing communities online and in social media, have been very helpful for debunking the idea that if you publish a New York Times Bestseller you will have 'made it' and can quit your day job and write full time," Elmes explains. "Unless you are independently wealthy, the odds are very much against you in this regard."
Childress emphasizes that creative writing degree recipients have "skills that are absolutely transferable to the real world." For example, the same storytelling techniques that copywriters use to shape public perceptions about a commercial brand are often taught in introductory creative writing courses, she says. The ability to tell a good story does not necessarily come easily to people who haven't been trained on how to do it, she explains.
Childress says she was able to translate her creative writing education into a lucrative career and start her own ghostwriting and book editing company, where she earns a six-figure salary. She says her background in poetry taught her how to be pithy.
"Anything that we want to write nowadays, particularly for social media, is going to have to be immediately understood, so there is a sense of immediacy," she says."The language has to be crisp and direct and exact, and really those are exactly the same kind of ways you would describe a successful poem."
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Creative Writing: 8 Fun Ways to Get Started
Creative writing is a written art form that uses the imagination to tell stories and compose essays, poetry, screenplays, novels, lyrics, and more. It can be defined in opposition to the dry and factual types of writing found in academic, technical, or journalistic texts.
Characterized by its ability to evoke emotion and engage readers, creative writing can tackle themes and ideas that one might struggle to discuss in cold, factual terms.
If you’re interested in the world of creative writing, we have eight fantastic exercises and activities to get you started.
1. Use writing prompts every week
Coming up with ideas for short stories can be challenging, which is why we created a directory of 1700+ creative writing prompts covering a wide range of genres and topics. Writing prompts are flexible in nature, they are meant to inspire you without being too constrictive. Overall, they are a great way to keep your creative muscles limber.
If you’re struggling for motivation, how does a hard deadline and a little prize money sound? Prompts-based writing contests are a fantastic way to dive into creative writing: the combination of due dates, friendly rivalries, prize money, and the potential to have your work published is often just what’s needed to propel you over the finish line.
We run a weekly writing contest over on Reedsy Prompts, where hundreds of writers from all around the world challenge themselves weekly to write a short story between 1,000 and 3,000 words for a chance to win the $250 prize. Furthermore, the community is very active in providing constructive feedback, support, and accountability to each other 一 something that will make your efforts even more worthwhile.
Take a peek at our directory of writing contests which features some of the most prestigious open writing competitions in the world.
2. Start journaling your days
Another easy way to get started with creative writing is to keep a journal. We’re not talking about an hour-by-hour account of your day, but journaling as a way to express yourself without filters and find your ‘voice in writing’. If you’re unsure what to journal about, think of any daily experiences that have had an impact on you, such as…
Special moments . Did you lock yourself out of your house? Or did you catch a beautiful sunset on your way back from groceries? Capture those moments, and how you felt about them.
People . Did you have an unusual exchange with a stranger at the bar? Or did you reconnect with someone you haven’t seen in years? Share your thoughts about it.
World events . Is there something happening in the world right now that is triggering you? That’s understandable. You can reflect on it (and let some steam off) while journaling.
Memories . Did you go down memory lane after a glass of wine? Great, honor those memories by trying to recollect them in detail on paper so that they will always stay vivid in your mind.
Life decisions . Are you having an existential crisis about what to do with your life? Write down your thought process, and the pros and cons of the possible decisions in front of you. You’ll be surprised to discover that, not only is it a great creative writing exercise, but it can also actually help you sort your life out!
If you struggle to write consistently, sign up for our free course on building a rock-solid writing routine.
How to Build a Solid Writing Routine
In 10 days, learn to change your habits to support your writing.
3. Create an anonymous social media account
Like anonymous blogging, an incognito Twitter account sidesteps the pressure that comes with attaching your name to your work. Anonymously putting tiny stories out into the ether gives you the freedom to create without worrying about the consequences — which is great, so long as you don’t use it as an opportunity to troll people or spread conspiracy theories.
You could use the anonymous account in different ways. For example, you could…
- Tweet from unique points of view (e.g. a dog observing human behavior );
- Create a parody account of real or fictional people (e.g. an English poet from the Middle Ages );
- Challenge yourself to write tiny flash fiction stories that fit into Twitter threads.
Just remember, you’re not doing this to fool anyone into thinking that your account is real: be a good citizen and mark yourself a fiction account in your bio.
But if you’re not really a social media kinda person, you may enjoy our next tip, which is a bit more on the analog side.
4. Find an old photo and tell its story
Find a random old photo — maybe on the web, maybe from a photo album in a yard sale — and see what catches your attention. Look closely at it and try to imagine the story behind it. What was happening? Who are the people in it and how are they really feeling? Do they share a relationship, and of what kind? What are their goals and dreams?
In other words, bring the photo to life with your imagination. Don't be afraid to take artistic license with your story, as the goal is to be creative and have fun while writing.
How do you know it’s creative writing?
5. Create a character from a random name
Just as our universe started from a few simple elements, you can create a character from a few basic information, like their name, culture, and gender. Reedsy’s handy character name generator can help you with that, offering random names based on archetypes, Medieval roots, fantasy traits and more. A few examples? A Celtic heroine named Fíona O'Keefe, a hero’s sidekick named Aderine, or a Korean track star named Park Kang-Dae.
Once you've chosen their name, begin to develop their personality. Set a timer for 5–10 minutes and write anything that comes to mind about them. It could be a page from their FBI dossier, a childhood diary entry, or simply a scene about them boiling an egg.
Just ‘go with the flow’ and don’t stop writing until your time is up. Repeat the process a few times to further hone the personality. If you like what you end up with, you can always go deeper later with our character profile template .
If a stream-of-consciousness exercise is not your thing, you can try to imagine your character in a specific situation and write down how’d they respond to it. For example, what if they were betrayed by a friend? Or if they were elected in power? To help you imagine situations to put your character in, we made a free template that you can download below.
Reedsy’s Character Questionnaire
40 questions to help you develop memorable characters.
6. Construct a character by people-watching
People watching is “the action of spending time idly observing people in a public place.” In a non-creepy way, ideally. Sit on a bench on a public square or on a road-side table at your favorite café, and start observing the people around you. Pay attention to any interesting quirks or behaviors, and write it down. Then put on your detective’s hat and try to figure out what that tells you about them.
For example, the man at the table next to you at the restaurant is reading the newspaper. His jacket and hat are neatly arranged next to him. The pages make a whipping sound as he briskly turns them, and he grimaces every time he reads a new article. Try to imagine what he’s reading, and why he’s reacting the way he is. Then, try to build a character with the information you have. It’s a fun creative exercise that will also, hopefully, help you better empathize with strangers.
7. “Map” something you feel strongly about into a new context
Placing your feelings into new contexts can be a powerful creative writing exercise. The idea is to start from something you feel strongly about, and frame it into a completely different context.
For example, suppose your heart is torn apart after you divorce your life-long partner: instead of journaling or writing a novel about it, you could tell a story about a legendary trapeze duo whose partnership has come to an end. If you’re struggling with politicking and petty power dynamics at the office: what if you “mapped” your feelings onto an ant who resents being part of a colony? Directing your frustration at a queen ant can be a fun and cathartic writing experience (that won’t get you in trouble if your co-workers end up reading your story).
8. Capture the moment with a haiku
Haikus are poems from the Japanese tradition that aim to capture, in a few words, daily moments of insight (usually inspired by nature). In a nutshell, it’s about becoming mindful of your surroundings, and notice if you can see something in a new or deeper way 一 then use contrasting imagery to express whatever you noticed.
Here’s an example:
Bright orange bicycle
Speeding through the autumn leaves
A burst of color waves
It may sound a bit complicated, but it shouldn’t be 一 at least not for the purpose of this exercise. Learn the basics of haiku-writing , then challenge yourself to write one per day for a week or month. At the end, you’ll be able to look back at your collection of poems and 一 in the worst case scenario 一 revisit small but significant moments that you would have otherwise forgot about.
Creative writing can be any writing you put your heart and soul into. It could be made for the purpose of expressing your feelings, exploring an idea, or simply entertaining your readers. As you can see there’s many paths to get involved with it, and hundreds of exercises you can use as a starting point. In the next post, we’ll look more in detail at some creative writing examples from some fellow authors.
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How to Teach Creative Writing | 7 Steps to Get Students Wordsmithing
“I don’t have any ideas!”
“I can’t think of anything!”
While we see creative writing as a world of limitless imagination, our students often see an overwhelming desert of “no idea.”
But when you teach creative writing effectively, you’ll notice that every student is brimming over with ideas that just have to get out.
So what does teaching creative writing effectively look like?
We’ve outlined a seven-step method that will scaffold your students through each phase of the creative process from idea generation through to final edits.
7. Create inspiring and original prompts
Use the following formats to generate prompts that get students inspired:
- personal memories (“Write about a person who taught you an important lesson”)
- imaginative scenarios
- prompts based on a familiar mentor text (e.g. “Write an alternative ending to your favorite book”). These are especially useful for giving struggling students an easy starting point.
- lead-in sentences (“I looked in the mirror and I couldn’t believe my eyes. Somehow overnight I…”).
- fascinating or thought-provoking images with a directive (“Who do you think lives in this mountain cabin? Tell their story”).
Don’t have the time or stuck for ideas? Check out our list of 100 student writing prompts
6. unpack the prompts together.
Explicitly teach your students how to dig deeper into the prompt for engaging and original ideas.
Probing questions are an effective strategy for digging into a prompt. Take this one for example:
“I looked in the mirror and I couldn’t believe my eyes. Somehow overnight I…”
Ask “What questions need answering here?” The first thing students will want to know is:
What happened overnight?
No doubt they’ll be able to come up with plenty of zany answers to that question, but there’s another one they could ask to make things much more interesting:
Who might “I” be?
In this way, you subtly push students to go beyond the obvious and into more original and thoughtful territory. It’s even more useful with a deep prompt:
“Write a story where the main character starts to question something they’ve always believed.”
Here students could ask:
- What sorts of beliefs do people take for granted?
- What might make us question those beliefs?
- What happens when we question something we’ve always thought is true?
- How do we feel when we discover that something isn’t true?
Try splitting students into groups, having each group come up with probing questions for a prompt, and then discussing potential “answers” to these questions as a class.
The most important lesson at this point should be that good ideas take time to generate. So don’t rush this step!
5. Warm-up for writing
A quick warm-up activity will:
- allow students to see what their discussed ideas look like on paper
- help fix the “I don’t know how to start” problem
- warm up writing muscles quite literally (especially important for young learners who are still developing handwriting and fine motor skills).
Freewriting is a particularly effective warm-up. Give students 5–10 minutes to “dump” all their ideas for a prompt onto the page for without worrying about structure, spelling, or grammar.
After about five minutes you’ll notice them starting to get into the groove, and when you call time, they’ll have a better idea of what captures their interest.
Did you know? The Story Factory in Reading Eggs allows your students to write and publish their own storybooks using an easy step-by-step guide.
4. Start planning
Now it’s time for students to piece all these raw ideas together and generate a plan. This will synthesize disjointed ideas and give them a roadmap for the writing process.
Note: at this stage your strong writers might be more than ready to get started on a creative piece. If so, let them go for it – use planning for students who are still puzzling things out.
Here are four ideas for planning:
A graphic organiser will allow your students to plan out the overall structure of their writing. They’re also particularly useful in “chunking” the writing process, so students don’t see it as one big wall of text.
Storyboards and illustrations
These will engage your artistically-minded students and give greater depth to settings and characters. Just make sure that drawing doesn’t overshadow the writing process.
If you have students who are hesitant to commit words to paper, tell them to think out loud and record it on their device. Often they’ll be surprised at how well their spoken words translate to the page.
Write a blurb
This takes a bit more explicit teaching, but it gets students to concisely summarize all their main ideas (without giving away spoilers). Look at some blurbs on the back of published books before getting them to write their own. Afterward they could test it out on a friend – based on the blurb, would they borrow it from the library?
3. Produce rough drafts
Warmed up and with a plan at the ready, your students are now ready to start wordsmithing. But before they start on a draft, remind them of what a draft is supposed to be:
- a work in progress.
Remind them that if they wait for the perfect words to come, they’ll end up with blank pages .
Instead, it’s time to take some writing risks and get messy. Encourage this by:
- demonstrating the writing process to students yourself
- taking the focus off spelling and grammar (during the drafting stage)
- providing meaningful and in-depth feedback (using words, not ticks!).
Reading Eggs also gives you access to an ever-expanding collection of over 3,500 online books!
2. share drafts for peer feedback.
Don’t saddle yourself with 30 drafts for marking. Peer assessment is a better (and less exhausting) way to ensure everyone receives the feedback they need.
Why? Because for something as personal as creative writing, feedback often translates better when it’s in the familiar and friendly language that only a peer can produce. Looking at each other’s work will also give students more ideas about how they can improve their own.
Scaffold peer feedback to ensure it’s constructive. The following methods work well:
A simple rubric allows students to deliver more in-depth feedback than “It was pretty good.” The criteria will depend on what you are ultimately looking for, but students could assess each other’s:
- use of language.
Whatever you opt for, just make sure the language you use in the rubric is student-friendly.
Two positives and a focus area
Have students identify two things their peer did well, and one area that they could focus on further, then turn this into written feedback. Model the process for creating specific comments so you get something more constructive than “It was pretty good.” It helps to use stems such as:
I really liked this character because…
I found this idea interesting because it made me think…
I was a bit confused by…
I wonder why you… Maybe you could… instead.
1. The editing stage
Now that students have a draft and feedback, here’s where we teachers often tell them to “go over it” or “give it some final touches.”
But our students don’t always know how to edit.
Scaffold the process with questions that encourage students to think critically about their writing, such as:
- Are there any parts that would be confusing if I wasn’t there to explain them?
- Are there any parts that seem irrelevant to the rest?
- Which parts am I most uncertain about?
- Does the whole thing flow together, or are there parts that seem out of place?
- Are there places where I could have used a better word?
- Are there any grammatical or spelling errors I notice?
Key to this process is getting students to read their creative writing from start to finish .
Important note: if your students are using a word processor, show them where the spell-check is and how to use it. Sounds obvious, but in the age of autocorrect, many students simply don’t know.
A final word on teaching creative writing
Remember that the best writers write regularly.
Incorporate them into your lessons as often as possible, and soon enough, you’ll have just as much fun marking your students’ creative writing as they do producing it.
Need more help supporting your students’ writing?
Read up on how to get reluctant writers writing , strategies for supporting struggling secondary writers , or check out our huge list of writing prompts for kids .
Watch your students get excited about writing and publishing their own storybooks in the Story Factory
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Creative Writing 101
You love to write and have been told you have a way with words. So you’ve decided to give writing a try—creative writing.
Problem is, you’re finding it tougher than it looks.
You may even have a great story idea , but you’re not sure how to turn it into something people will read.
Don’t be discouraged—writing a compelling story can be grueling, even for veterans. Conflicting advice online may confuse you and make you want to quit before you start.
But you know more than you think. Stories saturate our lives.
We tell and hear stories every day in music, on television, in video games, in books, in movies, even in relationships.
Most stories, regardless the genre, feature a main character who wants something.
There’s a need, a goal, some sort of effort to get that something.
The character begins an adventure, a journey, or a quest, faces obstacles, and is ultimately transformed.
The work of developing such a story will come. But first, let’s look at the basics.
- What is Creative Writing?
It’s prose (fiction or nonfiction) that tells a story.
Journalistic, academic, technical writing relays facts.
Creative writing can also educate, but it’s best when it also entertains and emotionally moves the reader.
It triggers the imagination and appeals to the heart.
- Elements of Creative Writing
Writing a story is much like building a house.
You may have all the right tools and design ideas, but if your foundation isn’t solid, even the most beautiful structure won’t stand.
Most storytelling experts agree, these 7 key elements must exist in a story.
Plot (more on that below) is what happens in a story. Theme is why it happens.
Before you begin writing, determine why you want to tell your story.
- What message do you wish to convey?
- What will it teach the reader?
Resist the urge to explicitly state your theme. Just tell the story, and let it make its own point.
Give your readers credit. Subtly weave your theme into the story and trust them to get it.
They may remember a great plot, but you want them thinking about your theme long after they’ve finished reading.
Every story needs believable characters who feel knowable.
In fiction, your main character is the protagonist, also known as the lead or hero/heroine.
The protagonist must have:
- redeemable flaws
- potentially heroic qualities that emerge in the climax
- a character arc (he must be different, better, stronger by the end)
Resist the temptation to create a perfect lead. Perfect is boring. (Even Indiana Jones suffered a snake phobia.)
You also need an antagonist, the villain , who should be every bit as formidable and compelling as your hero.
Don’t make your bad guy bad just because he’s the bad guy. Make him a worthy foe by giving him motives for his actions.
Villains don’t see themselves as bad. They think they’re right! A fully rounded bad guy is much more realistic and memorable.
Depending on the length of your story , you may also need important orbital cast members.
For each character, ask:
- What do they want?
- What or who is keeping them from getting it?
- What will they do about it?
The more challenges your characters face, the more relatable they are.
Much as in real life, the toughest challenges result in the most transformation.
Setting may include a location, time, or era, but it should also include how things look, smell, taste, feel, and sound.
Thoroughly research details about your setting so it informs your writing, but use those details as seasoning, not the main course. The main course is the story.
Agents and acquisitions editors tell me one of the biggest mistakes beginning writers make is feeling they must begin by describing the setting.
That’s important, don’t get me wrong. But a sure way to put readers to sleep is to promise a thrilling story on the cover—only to start with some variation of:
The house sat in a deep wood surrounded by…
Rather than describing your setting, subtly layer it into the story.
Show readers your setting. Don’t tell them. Description as a separate element slows your story to crawl.
By layering in what things look and feel and sound like you subtly register the setting in the theater of readers’ minds.
While they concentrating on the action, the dialogue , the tension , the drama, and conflict that keep them turning the pages, they’re also getting a look and feel for your setting.
4. Point of View
POV is more than which voice you choose to tell your story: First Person ( I, me ), Second Person ( you, your ), or Third Person ( he, she, or it ).
Determine your perspective (POV) character for each scene—the one who serves as your camera and recorder—by deciding who has the most at stake. Who’s story is this?
The cardinal rule is that you’re limited to one perspective character per scene, but I prefer only one per chapter, and ideally one per novel.
Readers experience everything in your story from this character’s perspective.
For a more in-depth explanation of Voice and POV, read A Writer’s Guide to Point of View .
This is the sequence of events that make up a story —in short, what happens. It either compels your reader to keep turning pages or set the book aside.
A successful story answers:
- What happens? (Plot)
- What does it mean? (Theme: see above)
Writing coaches call various story structures by different names, but they’re all largely similar. All such structures include some variation of:
- An Inciting Incident that changes everything
- A series of Crises that build tension
- A Resolution (or Conclusion)
How effectively you create drama, intrigue, conflict, and tension, determines whether you can grab readers from the start and keep them to the end.
This is the engine of fiction and crucial to effective nonfiction as well.
Readers crave conflict and what results from it.
If everything in your plot is going well and everyone is agreeing, you’ll quickly bore your reader—the cardinal sin of writing.
If two characters are chatting amiably and the scene feels flat (which it will), inject conflict. Have one say something that makes the other storm out, revealing a deep-seated rift.
Readers will stay with you to find out what it’s all about.
Whether you’re an Outliner or a Pantser like me (one who writes by the seat of your pants), you must have an idea where your story is going.
How you expect the story to end should inform every scene and chapter. It may change, evolve, and grow as you and your characters do, but never leave it to chance.
Keep your lead character center stage to the very end. Everything he learns through all the complications you plunged him into should, in the end, allow him to rise to the occasion and succeed.
If you get near the end and something’s missing, don’t rush it. Give your ending a few days, even a few weeks if necessary.
Read through everything you’ve written. Take a long walk. Think about it. Sleep on it. Jot notes. Let your subconscious work. Play what-if games. Reach for the heart, and deliver a satisfying ending that resonates .
Give your readers a payoff for their investment by making it unforgettable.
- Creative Writing Examples
- Short Story
- Narrative nonfiction
- Song lyrics
- Creative Writing Tips
In How to Write a Novel , I cover each step of the writing process:
- Come up with a great story idea .
- Determine whether you’re an Outliner or a Pantser.
- Create an unforgettable main character.
- Expand your idea into a plot.
- Do your research.
- Choose your Voice and Point of View.
- Start in medias res (in the midst of things).
- Intensify your main character’s problems.
- Make the predicament appear hopeless.
- Bring it all to a climax.
- Leave readers wholly satisfied.
- More to Think About
1. Carry a writing pad, electronic or otherwise. I like the famous Moleskine™ notebook .
Ideas can come at any moment. Record ideas for:
- Anything that might expand your story
2. Start small.
Take time to build your craft and hone your skills on smaller projects before you try to write a book .
Journal. Write a newsletter. Start a blog. Write short stories . Submit articles to magazines, newspapers, or e-zines.
Take a night school or online course in journalism or creative writing. Attend a writers conference.
3. Throw perfection to the wind.
Separate your writing from your editing .
Anytime you’re writing a first draft, take off your perfectionist cap. You can return to editor mode to your heart’s content while revising, but for now, just write the story.
Separate these tasks and watch your daily production soar.
- Time to Get to Work
Few pleasures in life compare to getting lost in a great story.
Learn how to write creatively, and the characters you birth have the potential to live in hearts for years.
- 1. Carry a writing pad, electronic or otherwise. I like the famous Moleskine™ notebook.
Are You Making This #1 Amateur Writing Mistake?
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Writing workshops are a wonderful way to grow and expand your writing skills—provided you know how to workshop creative writing. There are different writing workshop models, both online and in person, each with their own particular ways of benefiting your writing journey. What are those models, and how do you engage in proper critique writing?
This article is all about making the most of your writing workshops. Whether you’re taking a course with Writers.com, entering your first workshop in undergrad, or putting together your own private writing group, the tips and models in this article will help you learn how to workshop creative writing.
There are a couple of different definitions of writing workshops. For the purposes of this article, we will examine writing workshop models under the university definition, which is the process of sharing your work in a setting where you receive writing feedback and suggestions for improvement.
If you’re looking for the best multi-week creative writing workshops, here are some tips for finding the best on the internet:
The Best Online Writing Workshops: How to Succeed in Creative Writing Workshops
Different Creative Writing Workshop Models
There is no singular way to workshop a piece of writing. Different schools, universities, and institutions have developed different models over time. Even at Writers.com, some of our classes use different writing workshop models.
Here are a few common models you might see employed around the web. Note: this list only applies to adult writing workshops. Youth-focused writing spaces tend to use some form of the model developed by Lucy Calkins .
1. The Iowa Writers’ Workshop Model
The Iowa Writers’ Workshop is one of the most prestigious writing programs in the United States, having produced dozens of Pulitzer winners, National Book Award finalists, and poet laureates. It also developed the standard writing workshop model for universities, specifically under the directorship of poet Paul Engle.
The writing workshop rules are pretty simple: the writer’s work is distributed to every workshop attendee in advance. Each writer then comes to the workshop with their thoughts on the work. The attendees have a conversation about the piece—how they interpret it, aspects they like, what can be improved, etc.
Most importantly, the author cannot speak at any time. This is the “gag rule” of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and it’s the aspect that’s both the most recognizable, and the most criticized, of this workshopping model.
Pros: The argument for keeping the author silent is that the author should not have to explain anything in the work. If the author is allowed to speak, they will most likely interrupt the conversation to defend the writing, rather than pay attention to what does and doesn’t work, and what readers failed to grasp.
Cons: This writing workshop model has been routinely criticized for the ways it silences the author . While authors certainly shouldn’t commandeer the conversation to defend their work, they also deserve space to explain what doesn’t seem to be clicking for the readers. Writing workshops have historically catered to privileged groups; if you’re the only Asian author in a room of non-Asian writers, and the conversation gets stuck on dim sum , shouldn’t you be allowed to correct course?
Workshops should privilege the author and provide useful feedback to all attendees. The “gag rule” has some merit, but as workshops become more diverse—both in identity and in genre—there have to be better ways to run productive creative writing workshops.
These next models all, in some way or another, correct the deficits of the Iowa Writers’ model.
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2. Liz Lerman’s Writing Workshop Model
Choreographer Liz Lerman developed a feedback model that has been adapted to a variety of settings, including creative writing workshops. It’s a 4 step process that runs as follows:
- Statement of meaning: Each group member tells the writer what aspects of the piece resonated for them. This allows the session to lead with what’s working, which is important because an author often doesn’t know what’s good about their writing, and an author usually revises based on the best parts of their work.
- Questions by the writer to the group: The writer asks questions they have in mind about craft elements in the piece. Did this work? Do you understand this? Typically, these are yes/no questions, and the group members shouldn’t elucidate unless asked to.
- Questions to the group by the writer: Group members then ask questions about the work, including aspects of it they didn’t understand. This is a much more empathetic way to approach creative writing critique, because it uses questions to point to improvements in the writing, rather than stating “X needs to improve because Y.”
- Opinions: If there’s time, group members then share their overall opinions of the work, highlighting more of what they liked and wish to see improved.
3. The Playwriting Writing Workshop Model
Although this model is specifically used in playwriting workshops, it can be adapted to poetry, nonfiction, and fiction writing workshops, too.
In this model, participants do not read the work ahead of time. Copies are distributed to everyone, and roles are assigned to the participants. (If there aren’t many characters, participants might be assigned pages; for poetry, only one person might be assigned to read the poem.)
After the reading, the workshop leader will host a general discussion of the work.
This model can prove super beneficial, as it allows the author to hear their work spoken aloud. Where did the reader stumble? What did or didn’t sound natural? Engaging with the work from a distance helps the writer see it more clearly, and they might come away from this reading already with new ideas and opportunities for revision.
And, rather than have students prepare thoughts in advance, a general discussion in the moment reveals how readers will engage with the work in the moment. When you have a book, story, or poem published, the reader probably won’t write out all their thoughts afterwards; eschewing this model gives the writer direct, unadulterated insight into how people engage with their writing.
4. Wild Writing / Writing Circles
The Wild Writing model was developed by Laurie Wagner, and it encourages writers, particularly poets, to produce as much material as they can from their own unconscious minds.
Our instructor Susan Vespoli bases her writing circles off of the Wild Writing workshop model. In these Zoom-based poetry writing workshops, participants do the following:
- Each participant verbally shares an image with the group. It is an image that has sat on their minds for a few days. They should share it without qualifying it—as in, keeping to visual language, not using words like “beautiful” or “interesting.”
- The group leader reads a poem twice. They then highlight some striking lines in the poem, which can be used as starting points for the writing session.
- For 12-15 minutes, each writer free writes, without editing themselves or eschewing certain thoughts. Writers should not cross out words, and they should keep the pen moving. (When they run out of things to say, they can try putting in transition phrases, like “What I mean to say is…)
- At the end of this, each writer goes around reading from their journals. Writers do not comment on one another’s journal entry . The point is to write and share what’s on the mind in a supportive, encouraging environment.
- Typically, a Zoom call will repeat this process twice, for 3 sessions in total.
Unlike other workshops where participants give each other writing feedback, this model produces work in a supportive community space. The opportunity to read work aloud allows writers to have deeper insights into their own writing and thinking. In this model, writers grow as writers not by giving feedback, but by being vulnerable in a safe writing space and encountering new ideas from both their brains and the minds of other writers.
When paired with lectures and written feedback outside of the Zoom call, writers come away with rich material for their own work, as well as a new, generative writing practice.
5. Other Modifications on Writing Workshop Models
Writers love to tinker with form, and this includes the form of writing workshops. This article by Jim Nelson offers one such way to modify the workshopping space so that each writer is treated with respect, dignity, curiosity, and encouragement.
How to Workshop Creative Writing: 15 Tips for Success
If you’re participating in online writing workshops, you will be presented with opportunities to give and receive writing feedback. Regardless of genre and the writing workshop model, here are some tips to get the most out of every workshop you attend online.
How to Workshop Creative Writing: Giving Writing Critique
- Share your own experience. How the work is impacting you as a reader. Readers are very different, so how the piece is landing for you is more helpful than general statements. “I read this as X,” not simply “this is X.”
- Praise what’s working in the piece. Writers need to know what resonates and where to build from. Every piece of writing has something working well.
- Keep all writing feedback constructive. Use encouraging language to frame your suggestions, such as “simpler dialogue tags might help this passage flow more smoothly.”
- Be specific in your feedback. For example, “I love this” is less helpful than “I love how your description of the character’s clothing gives a sense of his personality.”
- Consider the author’s intent with the piece. Don’t try to shape the work into something you would write; try to advise the writer based on their vision for the piece. If it’s unclear, ask!
- Consider asking questions when you have them. Instead of “X’s decision doesn’t make sense,” try “Why does X make Y decision?” Talking through ideas in this way can help writers consider new possibilities for the work, without making them feel like they’re doing something wrong.
How to Workshop Creative Writing: Receiving Writing Feedback
- Ask questions. The best writing workshops give you the space to work through what you don’t know how to do. Come prepared with questions about your work, and don’t be afraid to follow up with the suggestions people give you.
- Consider your ideal reader. Is the person giving you feedback the person you intend to read this piece? Ideal readers will probably give you the most useful creative writing feedback. That said, readers who have different backgrounds than your ideal reader will also have ideas you might not have considered, which can be useful for both your current project and future ones.
- Leave your ego at the door. All writers are protective of their work. It’s understandable! But if you enter the workshop space with walls up, you will prevent yourself from seeing the work through other points of view. Don’t let your pride, your vision, or your sense of artistic value prevent you from seeing ways to improve your writing. And remember, we’re all insecure in some way about our work. Workshops give us the chance to improve together, in both our craft and confidence.
- Know what you want to achieve. At the same time, it’s good to have a vision for what you want your piece to be. Coming into a writing workshop with this vision will help you ask questions and lead a more productive workshop session. It will also help you filter through the writing feedback you receive.
- Advocate for yourself. It is rare for a workshop to go south, but it happens. When the conversation doesn’t seem to be helping you (for example: non-Asian writers getting stuck on dim sum), you should be able to correct course and make the workshop work for you.
- File it away. After workshop, file the feedback away for a little while, and don’t try to fix your piece all at once. Rushing into revision is a recipe for regret, as it takes time to absorb and incorporate feedback into your writing. Be slow, methodical, and careful. Above all, don’t let workshop change your vision for the piece—creative writing workshops are stepping stones, not boulders, to your ideal work.
How to Workshop Creative Writing: Improving as a Writer
- Pay attention to other workshops. The workshop space isn’t yours alone. Often, engaging with other writers’ work and listening to other writers’ critiques will help you grow as a writer yourself. You will encounter dozens of ideas in one workshopping session. File these ideas for later, and pay close attention to everyone’s craft so you can later steal like an artist .
- Experiment. Writers who experiment with ideas often achieve the most. While it’s good to have an ideal sense of where your piece is headed, it doesn’t hurt to copy your work into a new document and try using ideas you disagree with. What happens when you try writer B’s suggestion over writer A’s? How about vice versa? The more time you spend tinkering with your work and experimenting with ideas, the more insights you have into the craft and into your own vision as an artist.
- Be patient. Writing is a craft that takes a lifetime to master—and even the masters want to write better. Most writers hate the work they wrote a year ago, and that’s good—it means they’ve grown, sharpened their skills, refined their tastes, and gotten closer to the kind of work they want to achieve. Above all, be diligent and consistent in your writing. It might not be this month, or even this year, but you will one day write stories and poems you feel genuinely proud of.
Find Useful Creative Writing Feedback at Writers.com!
The courses at Writers.com are designed to give you useful creative writing critique. Whether you write poetry, fiction, or nonfiction, you’ll receive expert creative writing feedback from all of our instructors, and learn how to workshop creative writing in the process. Take a look at our upcoming course calendar !
This is such a valuable article! The advice here has made me much less nervous about signing up for workshops in the future. Thank you so much!
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Posted by Sponsored Post Posted on 7 June 2023
How to use duo lingo to improve your creative writing skills.
Duo Lingo is an online language learning platform that can help you become a better creative writer. With its interactive lessons, comprehensive grammar explanations and personalized daily reminders, Duo Lingo makes it easy to learn a new language while improving your creative writing skills. It has a wide range of courses for different levels, from beginner to advanced, so you can find the right one for you. You can also practice speaking and writing in the language with real-time feedback from native speakers. By using Duo Lingo, you can become more confident in your writing and gain valuable insights into the cultural nuances of different languages.
What is Duo Lingo and Why It’s Ideal for Learning Creative Writing
Duo Lingo is an innovative language learning app that provides an ideal platform for creative writing. It is a comprehensive language learning software that allows users to learn languages from over 30 different languages. With its interactive and intuitive interface, Duo Lingo makes it easier for learners to pick up the nuances of the language quickly and accurately. Moreover, the app also offers various tools to help users become proficient in creative writing. These include grammar and pronunciation exercises, vocabulary building activities, and more. With Duo Lingo, users can easily learn how to write creatively in their chosen language without having to go through tedious textbooks or lessons.
How to Use Duo Lingo to Boost Your Creative Writing Skills
Do you want to improve your writing skills? Duo Lingo is a great tool to help you boost your creative writing skills. It’s an interactive language-learning platform that can help you learn new words and phrases, perfect grammar, and build confidence in your writing. With Duo Lingo, you can write better stories, essays, and articles. You’ll be able to express yourself more clearly and accurately in any language of your choice. Whether it’s English or Spanish, Duo Lingo can help you become a better writer. Sometimes you may need some kind of DuoLingo writing help , so you may find it on the Internet. There are a lot of such services.
The Benefits of Using Duo Lingo for Creative Writing Practice
Duo Lingo is a language learning app that has been popular among language learners for several years. However, it can also be an excellent tool for those who want to improve their creative writing skills. Here are some benefits of using Duo Lingo for creative writing practice:
- Vocabulary building: Duo Lingo offers a wide range of vocabulary exercises that can help improve your creative writing skills. By learning new words and phrases, you can expand your writing style and create more diverse content.
- Grammar practice: Grammar is essential for any type of writing, including creative writing. Duo Lingo offers a range of grammar exercises that can help you improve your writing skills. By practicing grammar regularly, you can become more confident in your writing ability.
- Writing prompts: Duo Lingo offers writing prompts that can help inspire creativity. These prompts can be used to spark ideas for short stories, poems, or other types of creative writing.
- Feedback and corrections: Duo Lingo provides feedback and corrections for writing exercises. This feedback can help you identify areas where you need improvement and assign an activity to improve those skills.
- Quiz and Quiz Markers: Duo Lingo tracks the progress that you make in your writing exercises with this tracking tool.
Duo Lingo Tips and Tricks For Mastering Creative Writing
Creative writing is an art that requires both practice and dedication. Duo Lingo is a great tool to help you master the craft of creative writing. It offers a wide range of language learning techniques that can help you hone your writing skills and become a better writer. With Duo Lingo, you can learn new words, build your vocabulary, and explore different ways to express yourself through words. Here are some tips and tricks that can help you master creative writing on Duo Lingo:
- Practice regularly: Consistency is key when it comes to improving your writing skills. Make it a habit to practice writing on Duo Lingo every day, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
- Use writing prompts: Writing prompts can be a great way to get your creative juices flowing. Duo Lingo provides a range of writing prompts that can help you come up with new ideas for your writing.
- Pay attention to grammar: Good grammar is essential for any type of writing, including creative writing. Make sure you pay attention to grammar rules and practice them regularly on Duo Lingo.
- Learn new vocabulary: Expanding your vocabulary can help you write more creatively and express your ideas more effectively. Duo Lingo provides a range of vocabulary exercises that you can use to learn new words and phrases.
- Read widely: Reading widely can help you develop your writing skills. It can also help you avoid writer’s block by exposing you to a wide variety of topics.
- Take breaks: Taking regular breaks will help you start fresh and get your creative juices flowing again.
Start Improving Your Creative Writing With Duo Lingo Today!
Are you looking for a way to start improving your creative writing skills? Duo Lingo is the perfect choice for you! With its comprehensive range of language courses, Duo Lingo allows you to learn creative writing in a fun and engaging way. With its interactive lessons, quizzes and activities, Duo Lingo makes it easy to practice and master the fundamentals of creative writing. So why wait? Start learning creative writing with Duo Lingo today and take your creativity to the next level!
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8 Tips for Getting Started With Creative Writing Written by MasterClass Last updated: Sep 19, 2022 • 11 min read Outside the world of business writing and hard journalism lies an entire realm of creative writing.
Write with Grammarly What is creative writing? Creative writing is writing meant to evoke emotion in a reader by communicating a theme. In storytelling (including literature, movies, graphic novels, creative nonfiction, and many video games), the theme is the central meaning the work communicates.
Written by MasterClass Last updated: Aug 25, 2021 • 7 min read A creative writer strives to tell unique stories in a distinctive voice. Yet with all the fiction writing already out there in the world, it can be hard to feel that your work is legitimately creative compared to the competition.
1. Think about your reader Chances are your teacher or examiner will have a lot to read - so keep them interested. With creative writing, as with any kind of writing, your reader is your most important consideration. You need to know and understand whom you're writing for if you're to do a good job of keeping them interested.
1 Learn the basic grammar and punctuation rules of your language. Your writing will flow much better if it follows punctuation and grammar rules, and errors can be distracting. Spend some time studying up on the basics of how sentences are structured and the best way to use punctuation by reading constantly.
Creative writing is a form of writing where creativity is at the forefront of its purpose through using imagination, creativity, and innovation in order to tell a story through strong written visuals with an emotional impact, like in poetry writing, short story writing, novel writing, and more.
What steps do you take in your creative writing process? Writing experts often want us to believe that there is only one worthwhile creative writing process. It usually goes something like this: Brainstorm Research Outline Rough draft Revise (repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat) Edit, proof, and polish This is a good system — it absolutely works.
Be imaginative Be as crazy and wild as you like with your imagination. Create your world, your own monsters, or even your own language! The more imaginative your story, the more exciting it will be to read. Remember that there are no rules on what makes a good idea in creative writing. So don't be afraid to make stuff up! Find your writing style
How To Become a Creative Writer in 9 Steps Indeed Editorial Team Updated June 24, 2022 Creative writers are responsible for captivating and entertaining audiences by crafting material that tells a story, shares information or inspires reflection.
5. Breaking the Mould: Incorporate Graphic Novel Elements. Blend the beauty of visuals with the power of words by incorporating elements of graphic novels into your creative writing. You don't have to be a professional artist. Just sketch rudimentary characters or storyboard a few scenes.
Whether you're taking a break from a work in progress or are in between writing projects and need some inspiration, regular creative writing exercises help you strengthen your writing process. Incorporate these eight exercises into your writing routine. 1. Let your stream of consciousness run. Start with a blank page. Then just start writing.
| Nov. 2, 2020, at 10:48 a.m. Tips on Creative Writing Degrees More Prospective writing students should think about their goals and figure out if a creative writing degree will help them...
So you've decided to start writing a story, but you don't know what to do and what to avoid. In this video, I will give you tips and best practices for creat...
1. Use writing prompts every week Coming up with ideas for short stories can be challenging, which is why we created a directory of 1700+ creative writing prompts covering a wide range of genres and topics. Writing prompts are flexible in nature, they are meant to inspire you without being too constrictive.
English Writing skills Imaginative or creative writing absorbs readers in an entertaining way. To succeed with this kind of writing you will need to write in a way that is individual,...
We've outlined a seven-step method that will scaffold your students through each phase of the creative process from idea generation through to final edits. 7. Create inspiring and original prompts. Use the following formats to generate prompts that get students inspired: personal memories ("Write about a person who taught you an important ...
Before we let you go…. If you're looking for creative writing prompts or story ideas, there's an excellent chance you're looking for other ways to hone your skills and improve your craft. Here are 6 bonus writing tips to help you on your journey: 1. Make Time to Write.
3. Throw perfection to the wind. Separate your writing from your editing. Anytime you're writing a first draft, take off your perfectionist cap. You can return to editor mode to your heart's content while revising, but for now, just write the story. Separate these tasks and watch your daily production soar.
The writing workshop rules are pretty simple: the writer's work is distributed to every workshop attendee in advance. Each writer then comes to the workshop with their thoughts on the work. The attendees have a conversation about the piece—how they interpret it, aspects they like, what can be improved, etc.
Want to try Creative Writing? Whether your ambition is to become a novelist, or just to get started and get some short stories out there, get inspiration and...
A creative writing session should always include actual writing and, if possible, the sharing of students' work (more on which later). Fitting everything in, including stating your aims for the session, doing some warm-up writing exercises, having a 10-to-15-minute writing burst and still have time at the end for people to read aloud, needs ...
30 Keep reading, learning, and practicing. Read about writing to get more writing tips. (You're here, so you're off to a good start!) Read widely, and you'll learn writing tips by osmosis. And practice often. The best way to improve your writing is by doing it. And if you need a distraction-free writing space to practice, Grammarly has ...
Here are 21 jobs you can pursue as a creative writer: 1. English teacher. National average salary: $29,895 per year. Primary duties: An English teacher leads a class of students in middle or high school, instructing them on critical analysis of literature, reading comprehension, research and writing.
10. Joint Projects. Some writing groups write manuscripts together. If you do, write a contract first so that there is absolutely no dispute about copyrights after the fact. Be sure the entire team of writers is fully aware of the scope of the project and the scope of their ownership to that project.
Practice regularly: Consistency is key when it comes to improving your writing skills. Make it a habit to practice writing on Duo Lingo every day, even if it's just for a few minutes. Use writing prompts: Writing prompts can be a great way to get your creative juices flowing. Duo Lingo provides a range of writing prompts that can help you ...
Here are several small business ideas to inspire you. Freelance Writing: You can write content for a variety of businesses and publications. This might include website content, blog posts ...
Step 1: Log into Instagram. Step 2: Click on your profile photo in the bottom right corner (this brings you to your profile) Step 3: Press Edit Profile. Step 4: In the space next to Website enter your URL. Step 5: Hit Done. 5. Use a link in bio tool to showcase more than one link for ultimate traffic conversion.