To learn how to write creatively is not something that happens just like that. You cannot attend a writing class and just be told how to write effectively. Or, indeed, you can – but this will not translate into effective storytelling, into a compelling style, or into realistic and persuasive characters.
Creative writing courses are great, but mere attendance does not endow you with the skills that you will need to start finding your own voice.
No. There is only one way to do that. And that is by writing. By writing again and again, and then by writing some more. If you want to be the greatest writer you can possibly be, in fact, writing needs to take over your life.
Now, we appreciate that this is an easy thing to say. We appreciate that when you are holding down a fulltime job, when you have different commitments in your life, it is not the easiest thing in the world to realise. Writing often falls by the wayside, in amongst drinks with friends, that little bit of work that needs to be done, or – let’s be honest – sitting down in front of Netflix.
This, by the way, is the beauty of the creative writing course: it gives you the focus and the time to commit to your writing. This way you make writing your fulltime job.
However, for those who are not enrolled in such a course – or for those of you who need to remember what writing is all about – here are some top tips to improve your creative writing.
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How to Learn How to Write.
We said above that no-one can teach you in any strict way how to write. This is because there is no one way how to write – and thank God.
A creative writing program will not fill you with imperatives and prescriptions on how your writing should be. Rather, you should see it – and your professional writing teacher – as someone there alongside you in your writing process. As someone who can make suggestions – and guide you to develop your own style of effective writing.
But all the real work necessarily comes from you. They are your skills that need to be honed. It is you that needs to sweat over the first draft – and sweat some more over the revising and the editing. It’s you that needs to develop your own writing techniques, your plotting and descriptive writing, or your poetic voice or dramatic style.
No one can do that for you.
And so, the greatest tip for you and your writing is to sit down and write. And when you are sat there with writer’s block, when you are straining through uninspired prose, just remember that there is only one way to get through this. That’s just to keep on writing.
What are the main elements of creative writing?
Top Tips to Keep Moving with Your Creative Writing.
Here we want to share with you some writing tips that will be helpful for anyone starting to write – and any writers who have lost their groove a little in their writing career. Progress with writing always returns with your own return to the basics.
However, here we are not going to be telling you how to use metaphors and similes. We’re not going to tell you how you should go about creating characters. We’re not going to tell you, ‘oh, maybe start considering x technique or y type of structure’.
These technical questions remain something that you need to decide for yourself.
What we can advise on is the ways that you can prepare yourself best for the process of writing. How you can find inspiration even when you are seeing none. And what you should do with that draft once you have brought it to an end.
These are just important as anything else in the process of writing. Let’s take a look.
By the way, do you know what creative writing is?
Writing Starts with Reading.
Reading and writing are two sides of the same coin. If you have a read widely and deeply – and if you have enjoyed the writing styles and idiosyncrasies of a range of writers – the chances are that you know what good writing is.
And, if you know what good writing is, you are much more likely to be able to produce good writing of your own.
This also seems fairly obvious – but it needs stressing again and again and again. The best way to understand the mechanics of a novel or a poem is to read them.
Take an Interest in the World around You.
This might seem like a strange one. It will do if you have only read poets like W.S. Graham, who only writes about writing, or like Gerard Manley Hopkins, whose primary subject is his own anguish.
Yet, even these most introspective of poets developed the skills they had by turning their eyes to the world. By observing the work, life, movements, and speech of others.
Learning to look around, learning to listen to the way people talk or interact – all of these are writing skills.
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Nail the Basics.
Think of the painter, Picasso. Famed for his perspective-shattering paintings, he seemed to have thrown the rules of figure painting aside. However, look at his early works and look at his notepads, and you see a master of conventional representative drawing too.
The lesson here is a simple one: you can’t break the rules until you understand the rules, nor until you have mastered the principles upon which those rules are based.
That counts for you and writing. Don’t start writing like William Faulkner in The Sound and the Fury until you know how to string proper sentences together. That means grammar and punctuation, kids; that means exploring the most simple sentence structure.
Good writing begins with basic writing.
Only with the basics down can you start experimenting. And when we say experimenting, we mean endlessly experimenting: seeing what works, seeing what doesn’t, considering what happens if you do something like this or like this instead.
Use everything you can get your hands on: writing exercises, writing prompts, or writing in the style of another novelist.
This will stretch your writing skills – and give you endlessly new ground on which to work in the future.
Find a Voice.
Now, say by this point that you are sitting down to write a novel. You’ve done all those different experiments and exercises. Yet, the beauty of an effective book is its coherent style, a voice that shines through that is unique, recognisable, and compelling.
How are you going to find this? Well, you will have nourished your own style in your numerous experiments above. But don’t force your writing into a style that doesn’t work for you. At the end of the day, you need to write naturally.
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Don’t Be Scared to Edit.
If something isn’t quite working, change it. Return to the drawing board. Work around it, find a different way to write it, keep experimenting.
Editing is not a separate process to writing when you are dealing with your own work. Editing is writing as much as putting those first words down on paper is writing.
Be honest with yourself when you are reading through your work. Are you actually happy with that paragraph? Are you really convinced that the ending works? You will know if you are being dishonest with yourself.
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Don’t be Scared to Show Other People Your Writing.
Have you written your novel yet then? or a piece of short fiction or a poem? Are they down on paper? Good.
All writers have someone who they trust to read their work and give them sensible and understanding feedback. From the biggest contemporary novelists – think Arundhati Roy – to the youngest poets from history.
Showing people your work is scary. However, this is something you need to do. How can you call yourself a writer if you don’t want anyone to read your work?
Be Prepared to Cut.
Have they said your work is rubbish? Have they told you that there’s a whole chapter that is ineffective or didn’t add anything?
Maybe that was your favourite chapter. However, one of the most important skills in writing is to know what to leave out as much as what to include. Not everything belongs in the same novel, the same poem or story.
If in doubt, cut it out.
Keep on Writing.
Have you finished that novel then? What’s next? Are you giving up as a writer, having exhausted your one idea? Or do you need to keep going towards the next book?
Return to the top of this list and keep on writing.
Finally, check out our introduction to creative writing!