Creative Writing 101

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

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.

2. Characters

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.

But, beware.

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.

6. Conflict

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.

7. Resolution

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
  • Autobiography
  • Song lyrics
  • Screenwriting
  • Playwriting
  • 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. 

Amateur writing mistake

Are You Making This #1 Amateur Writing Mistake?

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What You and I Can Learn From Patricia Raybon

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How to Write Creatively

Last Updated: May 4, 2023 Approved

This article was co-authored by Lucy V. Hay . Lucy V. Hay is a Professional Writer based in London, England. With over 20 years of industry experience, Lucy is an author, script editor, and award-winning blogger who helps other writers through writing workshops, courses, and her blog Bang2Write. Lucy is the producer of two British thrillers, and Bang2Write has appeared in the Top 100 round-ups for Writer’s Digest & The Write Life and is a UK Blog Awards Finalist and Feedspot’s #1 Screenwriting blog in the UK. She received a B.A. in Scriptwriting for Film & Television from Bournemouth University. There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, several readers have written to tell us that this article was helpful to them, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 160,823 times.

Creative writing can be challenging but rewarding. You can use it as an escape or just to write something to call your own. Whatever the reason, creative writing is something that you can be proud of. Whether you want to write a short story, a novel, or jot down some poetry, creative writing is much more about sitting down and writing, learning as you go, than waiting for the perfect idea to strike.

Brainstorming Creative Writing Ideas

Step 1 Keep a small notebook to constantly record ideas, lines, and characters.

  • You can also use your phone to keep track of your ideas! You could type them in your notes, email them to yourself, or use an app, such as Google Docs.

Step 2 Try mixing and matching two ideas you've never seen before.

  • House was a brilliant, but simple combination of medical dramas with one-off "murder mystery" type shows, swapping medical diagnosis for detective work.
  • Star Wars is a typical hero's quest, with the plot ripped straight from the oldest known Greek stories. George Lucas's genius? Simply setting it in space.
  • The collected works of William Shakespeare are full of "artistic theft," as almost every one of his plays was a brilliant amalgamation of other plays, books, and historical records.
  • Try to read every day, even if it's just a few pages.
  • Reading books in the genre you write is an excellent idea, but it's also helpful to read books in other genres. This can help you broaden your understanding of the writing craft and gain new ideas for your own work.

Step 4 Get inspiration from non-fiction sources.

  • Try writing from the perspective of the people you see on the news. You understand the facts of a war or struggle, but try to actually imagine living it.
  • Creative writing doesn't have to be fiction. Use stories from your life that speak out to you as potentially exciting or compelling stories.

Step 5 Consider brainstorming with a close friend or group.

  • Almost all writers enjoy having at least one person to bounce ideas off. Frequently, just vocalizing your plots or ideas can make them much clearer and easier to write.

Step 6 Sit down at the computer and type something, anything, to get started.

  • Look online at collections of "free writing prompts." There are thousands of ideas out there to spark your creative juices and get the writing flowing, even if only for a few minutes.
  • Rewrite passages from your favorite books -- many famous authors, from Billy Collins to Cormac McCarthy, literally re-wrote favorite chapters to learn from the best. [1] X Research source

Writing Effectively and Creatively

Step 1 Write the story out linearly to give yourself a template.

  • There is no "right" way to start writing. Some people plan, storyboard, and plot, and others plow right into it and deal with the rest in revision. Experiment for what works for you. [2] X Research source

Step 2 Know that great characters drive great stories, not the other way around.

  • Well-rounded. Good characters are multi-dimensional, with both strengths and weaknesses. They are not just the "strong hero," "damsel in distress," or a million other simplified character types. They are people and have nuance and complexity
  • Desiring something, and fearing something else: Plots are driven by character's wants -- what do they need or desire to be happy or safe? Some characters are driven by fear, or the desire not to be something. But all characters are pushed by some desire, a desire that drives their plot. [3] X Research source This is your character's motivation.
  • Aware self-agents Good characters make decisions, for better or for worse, that they think will help them. Always ask yourself -- if I were in the same situation as the character, would I see that as a good decision? Sometimes, only one decision catapults the whole story, as the character deals with the fallout. Other times characters make decisions every minute. Just make sure they fit the character. [4] X Research source

Step 3 Set goals and timers to keep yourself writing.

  • Setting writing timers -- 1 hour of straight writing, 10-15 minutes of relaxing, then repeat.
  • Deciding on a daily writing time and place, building the habit.
  • Getting a writing buddy -- someone you trade 10 pages with each week at the same time.

Step 4 Think in terms...

  • Consider each scene, chapter, or segment a short story. How can you make it compelling if it was published all on its own?
  • Make sure you establish the setting, appealing to the reader's 5 senses. Additionally, set the mood of your scene. The reader should be able to clearly visualize your setting when they read your writing.
  • Scenes should have tension and rising action -- starting with a problem, making things more difficult or introducing new challenges, and resolving everything in some way at the end. It seems overly simplistic, but these three stages are the basis of 95% of all good plots. [5] X Research source

Step 5 Fight writer's block by just continuing to write.

  • This isn't to say some relaxing time isn't worth it when you're stuck, just get back to writing after you're done walking, reading, meditating, or enjoying a cup of writer's block coffee.
  • Never tell yourself that, "I can't write right now." All you have to do is sit down -- the words will flow if you give them the time and energy to do so.

Editing Your Work for Publication

Step 1 Understand that your first draft is just that -- a draft.

  • Looking for inspiration that you're not alone? Check out Raymond Chandler's writing process: “Throw up into your typewriter every morning. Clean up every noon.” [6] X Research source

Step 2 Read your entire work and ask what the most important threads are.

  • Know that you'll likely need to keep writing, filling in holes you didn't notice on your first draft. Prioritize those areas that grip you the most already, or the characters that seem the most alluring to write.
  • It is not uncommon for the tone or main idea of a story to pivot at this point -- don't be afraid to forge a bold new direction if it is clearly more enjoyable than the original plot or perspective. [7] X Research source

Step 3 Cut as much away from the first draft as you can, ruthlessly erasing.

  • Make sure your dialogue actually adds something and doesn't simply regurgitate information for the audience. Reading dialogue out loud, with a friend, is the best way to make sure it is natural sounding and worth keeping. [8] X Research source
  • Save new copies of your work every day you open it up, allowing you to still keep copies of everything you erase in case you later change your mind.
  • Hemingway said it best in a letter to his friend F. Scott Fitzgerald: “I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of s--t. I try to put the s--t in the wastebasket.” [9] X Research source

Step 4 Show your work to others and ask for feedback.

  • Pick your people wisely-- friends who love to read, and you know will be honest with you, are often the best picks.
  • Let your friends know that you're looking for constructive criticism. While being nice is great, it won't help you write any better. [10] X Research source

Step 5 Edit thoroughly multiple times checking that grammar and spelling are perfect.

Writing Help

how to write creative writing

Expert Q&A

Lucy V. Hay

  • Set aside a specific time each day to write and treat it like a commitment. Thanks Helpful 15 Not Helpful 9
  • If you become frustrated, try to take advantage of that emotion; let the frustration seep into the writing. Thanks Helpful 13 Not Helpful 9
  • Confidence comes with a great idea. Ideas are easy to come by, there is a slush of them in your head this moment. When you sort through that slush, you will find an idea the brings you to life. You know that its the right idea when you think of it, and then can't wait to start writing. And when you start writing, you can't stop. Thanks Helpful 6 Not Helpful 3

how to write creative writing

  • Always think that you are not writing it for others but for yourself to make you even more confident. Thanks Helpful 14 Not Helpful 2
  • Ignore "yes" people, those who will tell you that your writing is amazing even if it's not. Sure, the ego boost feels good, but it will not make your writing better. Instead, seek out that blunt friend everyone hates. It might hurt at first, but if it helps improve your writing, it is well worth it. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0
  • Stay focused! After you write for a while, you may start to think about other things and write less and less. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

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  • ↑ http://thewritepractice.com/why-you-should-copy-other-writers/
  • ↑ http://www.writersbureau.com/writing/planning-a-novel.htm
  • ↑ https://www.writingclasses.com/toolbox/tips-masters/kurt-vonnegut-8-basics-of-creative-writing
  • ↑ http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2014/01/13/25-things-a-great-character-needs/
  • ↑ http://grammar.yourdictionary.com/grammar-rules-and-tips/writing-advice-and-tips-on-how-to-engage-the-reader.html
  • ↑ http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/revision
  • ↑ https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2013/feb/01/teaching-creative-writing-ideas-activities-primary-literacy
  • ↑ http://jerz.setonhill.edu/writing/creative1/shortstory/
  • ↑ http://www.copyblogger.com/ernest-hemingway-top-5-tips-for-writing-well/

About This Article

Lucy V. Hay

If you want to write creatively but you aren’t sure how to start, try “free writing” anything that comes to mind for 5 minutes to get your creative juices flowing. Also, since inspiration comes in many places, keep a small notebook with you to record ideas and lines you overhear that make you laugh. To generate unique ideas, try mixing and matching two unrelated concepts to come up with something new. For example, George Lucas took the typical hero’s quest but set it in space to create Star Wars. For more advice from our Writer reviewer, including how to edit for publishing, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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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 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

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! 

Daily Exercises

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 . 

Get feedback

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!

Creative writing tips

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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Writers' Treasure

Effective writing advice for aspiring writers

Creative Writing 101

Creative writing is any form of writing which is written with the creativity of mind: fiction writing, poetry writing, creative nonfiction writing and more. The purpose is to express something, whether it be feelings, thoughts, or emotions.

Rather than only giving information or inciting the reader to make an action beneficial to the writer, creative writing is written to entertain or educate someone, to spread awareness about something or someone, or to express one’s thoughts.

There are two kinds of creative writing: good and bad, effective and ineffective. Bad, ineffective creative writing cannot make any impression on the reader. It won’t achieve its purpose.

So whether you’re a novelist, a poet, a short-story writer, an essayist, a biographer or an aspiring beginner, you want to improve your craft. The question is: how?

When you write great fiction, poetry, or nonfiction, amazing things can happen. Readers can’t put it down. The work you wrote becomes a bestseller. It becomes famous. But you have to reach to that level… first .

The best way to increase your proficiency in creative writing is to write, write compulsively, but it doesn’t mean write whatever you want. There are certain things you should know first… it helps to start with the right foot.

To do exactly that, here we have a beginners’ guide from Writers’ Treasure on the subject:

  • An Introduction to Creative Writing
  • How to Get Started in Creative Writing in Just Three Steps
  • Creative Writing vs. Technical Writing
  • Fiction Writing 101: The Elements of Stories
  • Poetry Writing: Forms and Terms Galore
  • Creative Non-Fiction: What is it?
  • Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Creative Writing
  • Common Mistakes Made by Creative Writers

For novelists: do you want to write compelling opening chapters?

Are you an aspiring novelist? Will your novel see the light of day? For that, you will need to make the first chapter of your story as compelling as possible. Otherwise, readers won’t even pick up your novel. That chapter can be the make-or-break point that decides whether your novel is published or not. It’s because good editors know how you write from the first three pages… or sometimes even from the opening lines.

To solve this problem, I created a five-part tutorial on Writing Compelling Opening Chapters . It outlines why you need to write a compelling opening chapter, my personal favourite way of beginning it, what should be told and shown in it, general dos and don’ts, and what you need to do after having written it. Check it out for more.

Need more writing tips?

Sometimes you reach that stage when you outgrow the beginner stage of writing but feel that you’re not yet an expert. If I just described you, no worries– Writers’ Treasure’s writing tips are here. Whether you want to make your writing more readable, more irresistible, more professional, we’ve got you covered. So check out our writing tips , and be on your way to fast track your success.

I offer writing, editing and proofreading , as well as website creation services. I’ve been in this field for seven years, and I know the tools of the trade. I’ve seen the directions where the writing industry is going, the changes, the new platforms. Get your work done through me, and get fast and efficient service. Get a quote .

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8 Creative Writing Tips and Techniques

Hannah Yang headshot

Hannah Yang

creative writing tips

Table of Contents

What is creative writing, forms of creative writing, top 8 creative writing tips, how to get better at creative writing.

Creative writing transcends the realms of technical, business, and academic writing and focuses on elements such as plot, creative development, and narrative structure.

There’s no set formula for creative writing , but there are ways you can improve your writing technique.

If you want to learn more about creative writing , keep reading as we discuss what creative writing is, its various forms, and tips on how to get started.

creative writing definition

Creative writing is a style of writing that is focused on expressing the writer’s imagination and creativity.

Creative writing often involves the creation of fictional or nonfictional works that go beyond the formal, professional, and traditional styles of writing. This type of writing allows writers to express themselves in a more personal and original way.

What Do You Do in Creative Writing? 

Creative writing gives writers the opportunity to be original and express themselves. It involves the use of literary techniques and devices to tell a story or to paint a picture in the reader’s mind.

There are many different forms of creative writing, such as novels, poems, screenplays, and even songs.

The main goal of creative writing is to entertain, inspire, or convey an idea or message to the reader. It is a form of self-expression that allows the writer to explore their thoughts, feelings, and ideas.

It can also be a way for writers to explore new ideas, to entertain and inspire readers, and to share their perspectives and experiences with others. 

Ultimately, the purpose of creative writing is to connect with the reader on a deep level and to leave a lasting impression.

how to write creative writing

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Creative writing is an expressive form of writing that takes many forms and styles. Let’s look at a few examples of creative writing forms.

Fiction Writing

Fiction involves the creation of imaginary characters, settings, and plots. You can write fiction in many different genres, such as mystery, romance, fantasy, and more.

You can also write fiction in any length you want. For example, flash fiction is shorter than 1,000 words, while the average novel is around 90,000 words.

Poetry is a type of creative writing that uses expressive language. Poets use techniques such as rhyme, meter, and figurative language to create meaning and convey emotions and ideas.

Poems come in many different forms. You can try writing a haiku, a sonnet, a free-verse poem, or any other poetic structure that appeals to you.

Screenplays

A screenplay tells a story through the medium of film or television. It includes descriptions of characters, settings, and actions, as well as dialogue and stage directions.

A play is meant to be performed on stage. It includes dialogue, stage directions, and descriptions of characters and settings. Plays can be a powerful way to engage the audience’s emotions and imagination to convey complex themes.

Songs are a musical expression of creative writing . Songs can be written in a variety of genres, such as pop, rock, folk, hip-hop, and more. They can be written to express a wide range of emotions and ideas, from love and heartbreak to social and political issues.

Graphic novels

A graphic novel is a type of creative writing that combines text and illustrations to tell a story. It can be a work of fiction or nonfiction and can be written in a variety of genres.

Nonfiction Writing

Creative writing is typically associated with fiction, but there are nonfiction works that fall under the creative categories, too. These nonfiction works deal with real events, people, and ideas. Creative nonfiction can take the form of personal essays, memoirs, biographies, or even news articles.

creative writing tips list

There’s no scientific formula for creative writing . It all comes down to your own self-expression and the limitlessness of your imagination. However, there are a few creative writing techniques you can use in your next writing.

Here are eight ways you can improve your creative writing skills.

1. Find Inspiration

The first step for any creative writing project is to find your inspiration. This can come from a variety of sources, such as your own life experiences, your interests and passions, or even something as simple as a newspaper article or a conversation with a friend.

Take some time to think about what inspires you, and use that as the foundation for your writing.

2. Read Widely

To be a good creative writer, you need to be a good reader. Reading widely exposes you to different styles, genres, and techniques, and it can help you develop your own voice as a writer.

You’ll get to learn from a variety of authors, and you may discover new ways of structuring a story, creating compelling characters, or using language in a way that resonates with readers.

So read widely, and don’t be afraid to try out new genres or authors.

3. Try Freewriting

Freewriting is a writing exercise in which the writer allows their thoughts and inspiration to flow onto the page without any prescribed structure or editorial oversight.

It involves letting the mind wander and following the impulses of your subconscious, allowing you to tap into your creativity and explore new ideas.

While the first time you try freewriting you may end up with mostly unusable material, with practice, it can help you refine your writing style and unleash your creativity.

4. Write Often

The more you write, the better you’ll be. By writing every day, you’ll develop a habit that will make it easier to sit down and write even when you don’t want to.

Even if you only have a few minutes to spare, use that time to jot down some ideas or work on a scene. 

5. Use Literary Devices

Literary devices are techniques writers use to add depth, interest, and emotion to their writing. By using these devices, you can create vivid imagery, convey complex ideas, and engage the reader’s emotions in a way that goes beyond simple storytelling.

For example, you can use descriptive language to paint a picture of a character’s appearance, which allows readers to feel like they are truly immersed in the story. Other literary devices include symbols, allegory, emotional language, metaphors, and similes.

Whether you’re just starting out or you’re a seasoned pro, incorporating these techniques into your writing can help you craft more compelling and engaging stories.

6. Get Feedback

Getting feedback from other people helps you improve your creative writing skills.

Sometimes it feels intimidating to share your work, especially when you’re new to creative writing, but it’s a crucial step to help you progress.

Ask a trusted friend or family member to read your work and tell you what they think. Alternatively, you can attend a workshop for writers, where you can get more targeted feedback.

You can also join writing communities to meet like-minded creative writers. Spaces such as ProWritingAid’s Community allow writers to come together and support each other in their writing journey. You’ll get access to feedback and constructive criticism on different aspects of your writing, such as plot, character development, setting, and language use.

7. Edit Your Work

The editing process is an essential part of creative writing . Once you’ve finished your first draft, it’s important to continue making changes to your work, whether it’s cutting unnecessary words, reworking a scene, or adding details.

Many successful creative writers suggest editing after you’ve finished writing so it doesn’t interrupt your creative flow.

Editing can be time-consuming, but it’s worth it to produce the best work possible. You can use an editing software like ProWritingAid to show you where you can improve your writing.

ProWritingAid goes beyond just correcting grammar, spelling, and punctuation issues by also showing you style improvement suggestions. Plus, if you’re looking to improve your creative writing skills, you can use ProWritingAid to compare your work to your favorite authors.

8. Have Fun

Creative writing is all about originality and self-expression, so above all, have fun with your writing. It’s easy to get bogged down in the details and to take things too seriously, but it’s important to remember that writing is supposed to be enjoyable. 

So relax, let your creativity flow, and have fun with it.

Creative writing is a form of self-expression that allows you to use your imagination and creativity to share your ideas and thoughts in a unique way.

Venturing into creative writing can be intimidating at first, but remember that you’ll get better with practice.

Take time to read widely, try writing exercises, and gather feedback on your work. Don’t be afraid to join creative writing communities so you can access support in your writing journey. 

And above all, remember: there’s no limit to your creativity. 

Hannah is a speculative fiction writer who loves all things strange and surreal. She holds a BA from Yale University and lives in Colorado. When she’s not busy writing, you can find her painting watercolors, playing her ukulele, or hiking in the Rockies. Follow her work on hannahyang.com or on Twitter at @hannahxyang.

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Creative Primer

What is Creative Writing? A Key Piece of the Writer’s Toolbox

Brooks Manley

As we delve into the world of writing, it becomes apparent that not all writing is the same. One form that stands out due to its unique approach and focus on imagination is creative writing. This section will explore the question, “ what is creative writing ” and highlight its key characteristics.

Definition of Creative Writing

Creative writing is a form of writing that extends beyond the bounds of regular professional, journalistic, academic, or technical forms of literature. It is characterized by its emphasis on narrative craft, character development, and the use of literary tropes or poetic techniques to express ideas in an original and imaginative way.

Creative writing can take on various forms such as poetry, novels, short stories, plays, screenplays, and more. It’s a way for writers to express their thoughts, feelings, and ideas in a creative, often symbolic, way. It’s about using the power of words to transport readers into a world created by the writer.

Key Characteristics of Creative Writing

Creative writing is marked by several defining characteristics, each working to create a distinct form of expression:

1. Imagination and Creativity: Creative writing is all about harnessing one’s creativity and imagination to create an engaging and compelling piece of work. It allows writers to explore different scenarios, characters, and worlds that may not exist in reality.

2. Emotional Engagement: Creative writing often evokes strong emotions in the reader. It aims to make the reader feel something — whether it’s happiness, sorrow, excitement, or fear.

3. Originality: Creative writing values originality. It’s about presenting familiar things in new ways or exploring ideas that are less conventional.

4. Use of Literary Devices: Creative writing frequently employs literary devices such as metaphors, similes, personification, and others to enrich the text and convey meanings in a more subtle, layered manner.

5. Focus on Aesthetics: The beauty of language and the way words flow together is important in creative writing. The aim is to create a piece that’s not just interesting to read, but also beautiful to hear when read aloud.

Remember, creative writing is not just about producing a work of art. It’s also a means of self-expression and a way to share one’s perspective with the world. Whether you’re considering it as a hobby or contemplating a career in it, understanding the nature and characteristics of creative writing can help you hone your skills and create more engaging pieces. For more insights into creative writing, check out our articles on creative writing jobs and what you can do with a creative writing degree and is a degree in creative writing worth it .

Styles of Creative Writing

To fully understand creative writing , one must be aware of the various styles involved. Creative writing explores a multitude of genres, each with its own unique characteristics and techniques. The styles we’ll explore in this section are poetry , short stories , novels , screenplays , and plays .

Poetry is a form of creative writing that uses expressive language to evoke emotions and ideas. Poets often employ rhythm, rhyme, and other poetic devices to create pieces that are deeply personal and impactful. Poems can vary greatly in length, style, and subject matter, making this a versatile and dynamic form of creative writing.

Short Stories

Short stories are another common style of creative writing. These are brief narratives that typically revolve around a single event or idea. Despite their length, short stories can provide a powerful punch, using precise language and tight narrative structures to convey a complete story in a limited space.

Novels represent a longer form of narrative creative writing. They usually involve complex plots, multiple characters, and various themes. Writing a novel requires a significant investment of time and effort; however, the result can be a rich and immersive reading experience.

Screenplays

Screenplays are written works intended for the screen, be it television, film, or online platforms. They require a specific format, incorporating dialogue and visual descriptions to guide the production process. Screenwriters must also consider the practical aspects of filmmaking, making this an intricate and specialized form of creative writing. For those interested in this style, understanding creative writing jobs and what you can do with a creative writing degree can provide useful insights.

Writing for the theater is another specialized form of creative writing. Plays, like screenplays, combine dialogue and action, but they also require an understanding of the unique dynamics of the theatrical stage. Playwrights must think about the live audience and the physical space of the theater when crafting their works.

Each of these styles offers unique opportunities for creativity and expression. Whether you’re drawn to the concise power of poetry, the detailed storytelling of novels, or the visual language of screenplays and plays, there’s a form of creative writing that will suit your artistic voice. The key is to explore, experiment, and find the style that resonates with you. For those looking to spark their creativity, our article on creative writing prompts offers a wealth of ideas to get you started.

Importance of Creative Writing

Understanding what is creative writing involves recognizing its value and significance. Engaging in creative writing can provide numerous benefits, including developing creativity and imagination , enhancing communication skills , and exploring emotions and ideas .

Developing Creativity and Imagination

Creative writing serves as a fertile ground for nurturing creativity and imagination. It encourages individuals to think outside the box, explore different perspectives, and create unique and original content. This can lead to improved problem-solving skills and a broader worldview, both of which can be beneficial in various aspects of life.

Through creative writing, one can build entire worlds, create characters, and weave complex narratives, all of which are products of a creative mind and vivid imagination. This can be especially beneficial for those seeking creative writing jobs and what you can do with a creative writing degree .

Enhancing Communication Skills

Creative writing can also play a crucial role in honing communication skills. It demands clarity, precision, and a strong command of language. This helps to improve vocabulary, grammar, and syntax, making it easier to express thoughts and ideas effectively.

Moreover, creative writing encourages empathy as writers often need to portray a variety of characters from different backgrounds and perspectives. This can lead to a better understanding of people and improved interpersonal communication skills.

Exploring Emotions and Ideas

One of the most profound aspects of creative writing is its ability to provide a safe space for exploring emotions and ideas. It serves as an outlet for thoughts and feelings, allowing writers to express themselves in ways that might not be possible in everyday conversation.

Writing can be therapeutic, helping individuals process complex emotions, navigate difficult life events, and gain insight into their own experiences and perceptions. It can also be a means of self-discovery, helping writers to understand themselves and the world around them better.

In conclusion, the importance of creative writing extends beyond the realm of literature and academia. It fosters creativity, enhances communication skills, and provides a platform for self-expression and exploration. Whether you’re a seasoned writer or just starting out, the benefits of creative writing are vast and varied. For those interested in developing their creative writing skills, check out our articles on creative writing prompts and how to teach creative writing . If you’re considering a career in this field, you might find our article on is a degree in creative writing worth it helpful.

Steps to Start Creative Writing

Creative writing can seem daunting to beginners, but with the right approach, anyone can start their journey into this creative field. Here are some steps to help you start with creative writing .

Finding Inspiration

The first step in creative writing is finding inspiration . Inspiration can come from anywhere and anything. Observe the world around you, listen to conversations, explore different cultures, and delve into various topics of interest.

Reading widely can also be a significant source of inspiration. Read different types of books, articles, and blogs. Discover what resonates with you and sparks your imagination.

For structured creative prompts, visit our list of creative writing prompts to get your creative juices flowing.

Planning Your Piece

Once you have an idea, the next step is to plan your piece . Start by outlining the main points, characters, settings, and plot. This can serve as a roadmap to guide your writing process.

Remember, a plan doesn’t have to be rigid. It’s a flexible guideline that can be adjusted as you delve deeper into your writing. The primary purpose is to provide direction and prevent writer’s block.

Writing Your First Draft

After planning your piece, you can start writing your first draft . This is where you give life to your ideas and breathe life into your characters.

Don’t worry about making it perfect in the first go. The first draft is about getting your ideas down on paper. You can always refine and polish your work later.

And if you don’t have a great place to write that first draft, consider a journal for writing .

Editing and Revising Your Work

The final step in the creative writing process is editing and revising your work . This is where you fine-tune your piece, correct grammatical errors, and improve sentence structure and flow.

Editing is also an opportunity to enhance your storytelling. You can add more descriptive details, develop your characters further, and make sure your plot is engaging and coherent.

Remember, writing is a craft that improves with practice. Don’t be discouraged if your first few pieces don’t meet your expectations. Keep writing, keep learning, and most importantly, enjoy the creative process.

For more insights on creative writing, check out our articles on how to teach creative writing or creative writing activities for kids.

Tips to Improve Creative Writing Skills

Understanding what is creative writing is the first step. But how can one improve their creative writing skills? Here are some tips that can help.

Reading Widely

Reading is a vital part of becoming a better writer. By immersing oneself in a variety of genres, styles, and authors, one can gain a richer understanding of language and storytelling techniques. Different authors have unique voices and methods of telling stories, which can serve as inspiration for your own work. So, read widely and frequently!

Practicing Regularly

Like any skill, creative writing improves with practice. Consistently writing — whether it be daily, weekly, or monthly — helps develop your writing style and voice. Using creative writing prompts can be a fun way to stimulate your imagination and get the words flowing.

Attending Writing Workshops and Courses

Formal education such as workshops and courses can offer structured learning and expert guidance. These can provide invaluable insights into the world of creative writing, from understanding plot development to character creation. If you’re wondering is a degree in creative writing worth it, these classes can also give you a taste of what studying creative writing at a higher level might look like.

Joining Writing Groups and Communities

Being part of a writing community can provide motivation, constructive feedback, and a sense of camaraderie. These groups often hold regular meetings where members share their work and give each other feedback. Plus, it’s a great way to connect with others who share your passion for writing.

Seeking Feedback on Your Work

Feedback is a crucial part of improving as a writer. It offers a fresh perspective on your work, highlighting areas of strength and opportunities for improvement. Whether it’s from a writing group, a mentor, or even friends and family, constructive criticism can help refine your writing.

Remember, becoming a proficient writer takes time and patience. So, don’t be discouraged by initial challenges. Keep writing, keep learning, and most importantly, keep enjoying the process. Who knows, your passion for creative writing might even lead to creative writing jobs and what you can do with a creative writing degree . Happy writing!

Brooks Manley

Brooks Manley

how to write creative writing

Creative Primer  is a resource on all things journaling, creativity, and productivity. We’ll help you produce better ideas, get more done, and live a more effective life.

My name is Brooks. I do a ton of journaling, like to think I’m a creative (jury’s out), and spend a lot of time thinking about productivity. I hope these resources and product recommendations serve you well. Reach out if you ever want to chat or let me know about a journal I need to check out!

Here’s my favorite journal for 2024: 

the five minute journal

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Inspiring Ink: Expert Tips on How to Teach Creative Writing

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10 Types of Creative Writing (with Examples You’ll Love)

A lot falls under the term ‘creative writing’: poetry, short fiction, plays, novels, personal essays, and songs, to name just a few. By virtue of the creativity that characterizes it, creative writing is an extremely versatile art. So instead of defining what creative writing is , it may be easier to understand what it does by looking at examples that demonstrate the sheer range of styles and genres under its vast umbrella.

To that end, we’ve collected a non-exhaustive list of works across multiple formats that have inspired the writers here at Reedsy. With 20 different works to explore, we hope they will inspire you, too. 

People have been writing creatively for almost as long as we have been able to hold pens. Just think of long-form epic poems like The Odyssey or, later, the Cantar de Mio Cid — some of the earliest recorded writings of their kind. 

Poetry is also a great place to start if you want to dip your own pen into the inkwell of creative writing. It can be as short or long as you want (you don’t have to write an epic of Homeric proportions), encourages you to build your observation skills, and often speaks from a single point of view . 

Here are a few examples:

“Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away.

The ruins of pillars and walls with the broken statue of a man in the center set against a bright blue sky.

This classic poem by Romantic poet Percy Shelley (also known as Mary Shelley’s husband) is all about legacy. What do we leave behind? How will we be remembered? The great king Ozymandias built himself a massive statue, proclaiming his might, but the irony is that his statue doesn’t survive the ravages of time. By framing this poem as told to him by a “traveller from an antique land,” Shelley effectively turns this into a story. Along with the careful use of juxtaposition to create irony, this poem accomplishes a lot in just a few lines. 

“Trying to Raise the Dead” by Dorianne Laux

 A direction. An object. My love, it needs a place to rest. Say anything. I’m listening. I’m ready to believe. Even lies, I don’t care.

Poetry is cherished for its ability to evoke strong emotions from the reader using very few words which is exactly what Dorianne Laux does in “ Trying to Raise the Dead .” With vivid imagery that underscores the painful yearning of the narrator, she transports us to a private nighttime scene as the narrator sneaks away from a party to pray to someone they’ve lost. We ache for their loss and how badly they want their lost loved one to acknowledge them in some way. It’s truly a masterclass on how writing can be used to portray emotions. 

If you find yourself inspired to try out some poetry — and maybe even get it published — check out these poetry layouts that can elevate your verse!

Song Lyrics

Poetry’s closely related cousin, song lyrics are another great way to flex your creative writing muscles. You not only have to find the perfect rhyme scheme but also match it to the rhythm of the music. This can be a great challenge for an experienced poet or the musically inclined. 

To see how music can add something extra to your poetry, check out these two examples:

“Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen

 You say I took the name in vain I don't even know the name But if I did, well, really, what's it to ya? There's a blaze of light in every word It doesn't matter which you heard The holy or the broken Hallelujah 

Metaphors are commonplace in almost every kind of creative writing, but will often take center stage in shorter works like poetry and songs. At the slightest mention, they invite the listener to bring their emotional or cultural experience to the piece, allowing the writer to express more with fewer words while also giving it a deeper meaning. If a whole song is couched in metaphor, you might even be able to find multiple meanings to it, like in Leonard Cohen’s “ Hallelujah .” While Cohen’s Biblical references create a song that, on the surface, seems like it’s about a struggle with religion, the ambiguity of the lyrics has allowed it to be seen as a song about a complicated romantic relationship. 

“I Will Follow You into the Dark” by Death Cab for Cutie

 ​​If Heaven and Hell decide that they both are satisfied Illuminate the no's on their vacancy signs If there's no one beside you when your soul embarks Then I'll follow you into the dark

A red neon

You can think of song lyrics as poetry set to music. They manage to do many of the same things their literary counterparts do — including tugging on your heartstrings. Death Cab for Cutie’s incredibly popular indie rock ballad is about the singer’s deep devotion to his lover. While some might find the song a bit too dark and macabre, its melancholy tune and poignant lyrics remind us that love can endure beyond death.

Plays and Screenplays

From the short form of poetry, we move into the world of drama — also known as the play. This form is as old as the poem, stretching back to the works of ancient Greek playwrights like Sophocles, who adapted the myths of their day into dramatic form. The stage play (and the more modern screenplay) gives the words on the page a literal human voice, bringing life to a story and its characters entirely through dialogue. 

Interested to see what that looks like? Take a look at these examples:

All My Sons by Arthur Miller

“I know you're no worse than most men but I thought you were better. I never saw you as a man. I saw you as my father.” 

Creative Writing Examples | Photo of the Old Vic production of All My Sons by Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller acts as a bridge between the classic and the new, creating 20th century tragedies that take place in living rooms and backyard instead of royal courts, so we had to include his breakout hit on this list. Set in the backyard of an all-American family in the summer of 1946, this tragedy manages to communicate family tensions in an unimaginable scale, building up to an intense climax reminiscent of classical drama. 

💡 Read more about Arthur Miller and classical influences in our breakdown of Freytag’s pyramid . 

“Everything is Fine” by Michael Schur ( The Good Place )

“Well, then this system sucks. What...one in a million gets to live in paradise and everyone else is tortured for eternity? Come on! I mean, I wasn't freaking Gandhi, but I was okay. I was a medium person. I should get to spend eternity in a medium place! Like Cincinnati. Everyone who wasn't perfect but wasn't terrible should get to spend eternity in Cincinnati.” 

A screenplay, especially a TV pilot, is like a mini-play, but with the extra job of convincing an audience that they want to watch a hundred more episodes of the show. Blending moral philosophy with comedy, The Good Place is a fun hang-out show set in the afterlife that asks some big questions about what it means to be good. 

It follows Eleanor Shellstrop, an incredibly imperfect woman from Arizona who wakes up in ‘The Good Place’ and realizes that there’s been a cosmic mixup. Determined not to lose her place in paradise, she recruits her “soulmate,” a former ethics professor, to teach her philosophy with the hope that she can learn to be a good person and keep up her charade of being an upstanding citizen. The pilot does a superb job of setting up the stakes, the story, and the characters, while smuggling in deep philosophical ideas.

Personal essays

Our first foray into nonfiction on this list is the personal essay. As its name suggests, these stories are in some way autobiographical — concerned with the author’s life and experiences. But don’t be fooled by the realistic component. These essays can take any shape or form, from comics to diary entries to recipes and anything else you can imagine. Typically zeroing in on a single issue, they allow you to explore your life and prove that the personal can be universal.

Here are a couple of fantastic examples:

“On Selling Your First Novel After 11 Years” by Min Jin Lee (Literary Hub)

There was so much to learn and practice, but I began to see the prose in verse and the verse in prose. Patterns surfaced in poems, stories, and plays. There was music in sentences and paragraphs. I could hear the silences in a sentence. All this schooling was like getting x-ray vision and animal-like hearing. 

Stacks of multicolored hardcover books.

This deeply honest personal essay by Pachinko author Min Jin Lee is an account of her eleven-year struggle to publish her first novel . Like all good writing, it is intensely focused on personal emotional details. While grounded in the specifics of the author's personal journey, it embodies an experience that is absolutely universal: that of difficulty and adversity met by eventual success. 

“A Cyclist on the English Landscape” by Roff Smith (New York Times)

These images, though, aren’t meant to be about me. They’re meant to represent a cyclist on the landscape, anybody — you, perhaps. 

Roff Smith’s gorgeous photo essay for the NYT is a testament to the power of creatively combining visuals with text. Here, photographs of Smith atop a bike are far from simply ornamental. They’re integral to the ruminative mood of the essay, as essential as the writing. Though Smith places his work at the crosscurrents of various aesthetic influences (such as the painter Edward Hopper), what stands out the most in this taciturn, thoughtful piece of writing is his use of the second person to address the reader directly. Suddenly, the writer steps out of the body of the essay and makes eye contact with the reader. The reader is now part of the story as a second character, finally entering the picture.

Short Fiction

The short story is the happy medium of fiction writing. These bite-sized narratives can be devoured in a single sitting and still leave you reeling. Sometimes viewed as a stepping stone to novel writing, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Short story writing is an art all its own. The limited length means every word counts and there’s no better way to see that than with these two examples:

“An MFA Story” by Paul Dalla Rosa (Electric Literature)

At Starbucks, I remembered a reading Zhen had given, a reading organized by the program’s faculty. I had not wanted to go but did. In the bar, he read, "I wrote this in a Starbucks in Shanghai. On the bank of the Huangpu." It wasn’t an aside or introduction. It was two lines of the poem. I was in a Starbucks and I wasn’t writing any poems. I wasn’t writing anything. 

Creative Writing Examples | Photograph of New York City street.

This short story is a delightfully metafictional tale about the struggles of being a writer in New York. From paying the bills to facing criticism in a writing workshop and envying more productive writers, Paul Dalla Rosa’s story is a clever satire of the tribulations involved in the writing profession, and all the contradictions embodied by systemic creativity (as famously laid out in Mark McGurl’s The Program Era ). What’s more, this story is an excellent example of something that often happens in creative writing: a writer casting light on the private thoughts or moments of doubt we don’t admit to or openly talk about. 

“Flowering Walrus” by Scott Skinner (Reedsy)

I tell him they’d been there a month at least, and he looks concerned. He has my tongue on a tissue paper and is gripping its sides with his pointer and thumb. My tongue has never spent much time outside of my mouth, and I imagine it as a walrus basking in the rays of the dental light. My walrus is not well. 

A winner of Reedsy’s weekly Prompts writing contest, ‘ Flowering Walrus ’ is a story that balances the trivial and the serious well. In the pauses between its excellent, natural dialogue , the story manages to scatter the fear and sadness of bad medical news, as the protagonist hides his worries from his wife and daughter. Rich in subtext, these silences grow and resonate with the readers.

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Perhaps the thing that first comes to mind when talking about creative writing, novels are a form of fiction that many people know and love but writers sometimes find intimidating. The good news is that novels are nothing but one word put after another, like any other piece of writing, but expanded and put into a flowing narrative. Piece of cake, right?

To get an idea of the format’s breadth of scope, take a look at these two (very different) satirical novels: 

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

I wished I was back in the convenience store where I was valued as a working member of staff and things weren’t as complicated as this. Once we donned our uniforms, we were all equals regardless of gender, age, or nationality — all simply store workers. 

Creative Writing Examples | Book cover of Convenience Store Woman

Keiko, a thirty-six-year-old convenience store employee, finds comfort and happiness in the strict, uneventful routine of the shop’s daily operations. A funny, satirical, but simultaneously unnerving examination of the social structures we take for granted, Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman is deeply original and lingers with the reader long after they’ve put it down.

Erasure by Percival Everett

The hard, gritty truth of the matter is that I hardly ever think about race. Those times when I did think about it a lot I did so because of my guilt for not thinking about it.  

Erasure is a truly accomplished satire of the publishing industry’s tendency to essentialize African American authors and their writing. Everett’s protagonist is a writer whose work doesn’t fit with what publishers expect from him — work that describes the “African American experience” — so he writes a parody novel about life in the ghetto. The publishers go crazy for it and, to the protagonist’s horror, it becomes the next big thing. This sophisticated novel is both ironic and tender, leaving its readers with much food for thought.

Creative Nonfiction

Creative nonfiction is pretty broad: it applies to anything that does not claim to be fictional (although the rise of autofiction has definitely blurred the boundaries between fiction and nonfiction). It encompasses everything from personal essays and memoirs to humor writing, and they range in length from blog posts to full-length books. The defining characteristic of this massive genre is that it takes the world or the author’s experience and turns it into a narrative that a reader can follow along with.

Here, we want to focus on novel-length works that dig deep into their respective topics. While very different, these two examples truly show the breadth and depth of possibility of creative nonfiction:

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward

Men’s bodies litter my family history. The pain of the women they left behind pulls them from the beyond, makes them appear as ghosts. In death, they transcend the circumstances of this place that I love and hate all at once and become supernatural. 

Writer Jesmyn Ward recounts the deaths of five men from her rural Mississippi community in as many years. In her award-winning memoir , she delves into the lives of the friends and family she lost and tries to find some sense among the tragedy. Working backwards across five years, she questions why this had to happen over and over again, and slowly unveils the long history of racism and poverty that rules rural Black communities. Moving and emotionally raw, Men We Reaped is an indictment of a cruel system and the story of a woman's grief and rage as she tries to navigate it.

Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker

He believed that wine could reshape someone’s life. That’s why he preferred buying bottles to splurging on sweaters. Sweaters were things. Bottles of wine, said Morgan, “are ways that my humanity will be changed.” 

In this work of immersive journalism , Bianca Bosker leaves behind her life as a tech journalist to explore the world of wine. Becoming a “cork dork” takes her everywhere from New York’s most refined restaurants to science labs while she learns what it takes to be a sommelier and a true wine obsessive. This funny and entertaining trip through the past and present of wine-making and tasting is sure to leave you better informed and wishing you, too, could leave your life behind for one devoted to wine. 

Illustrated Narratives (Comics, graphic novels)

Once relegated to the “funny pages”, the past forty years of comics history have proven it to be a serious medium. Comics have transformed from the early days of Jack Kirby’s superheroes into a medium where almost every genre is represented. Humorous one-shots in the Sunday papers stand alongside illustrated memoirs, horror, fantasy, and just about anything else you can imagine. This type of visual storytelling lets the writer and artist get creative with perspective, tone, and so much more. For two very different, though equally entertaining, examples, check these out:

Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson

"Life is like topography, Hobbes. There are summits of happiness and success, flat stretches of boring routine and valleys of frustration and failure." 

A Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. A little blond boy Calvin makes multiple silly faces in school photos. In the last panel, his father says, "That's our son. *Sigh*" His mother then says, "The pictures will remind of more than we want to remember."

This beloved comic strip follows Calvin, a rambunctious six-year-old boy, and his stuffed tiger/imaginary friend, Hobbes. They get into all kinds of hijinks at school and at home, and muse on the world in the way only a six-year-old and an anthropomorphic tiger can. As laugh-out-loud funny as it is, Calvin & Hobbes ’ popularity persists as much for its whimsy as its use of humor to comment on life, childhood, adulthood, and everything in between. 

From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell 

"I shall tell you where we are. We're in the most extreme and utter region of the human mind. A dim, subconscious underworld. A radiant abyss where men meet themselves. Hell, Netley. We're in Hell." 

Comics aren't just the realm of superheroes and one-joke strips, as Alan Moore proves in this serialized graphic novel released between 1989 and 1998. A meticulously researched alternative history of Victorian London’s Ripper killings, this macabre story pulls no punches. Fact and fiction blend into a world where the Royal Family is involved in a dark conspiracy and Freemasons lurk on the sidelines. It’s a surreal mad-cap adventure that’s unsettling in the best way possible. 

Video Games and RPGs

Probably the least expected entry on this list, we thought that video games and RPGs also deserved a mention — and some well-earned recognition for the intricate storytelling that goes into creating them. 

Essentially gamified adventure stories, without attention to plot, characters, and a narrative arc, these games would lose a lot of their charm, so let’s look at two examples where the creative writing really shines through: 

80 Days by inkle studios

"It was a triumph of invention over nature, and will almost certainly disappear into the dust once more in the next fifty years." 

A video game screenshot of 80 days. In the center is a city with mechanical legs. It's titled "The Moving City." In the lower right hand corner is a profile of man with a speech balloon that says, "A starched collar, very good indeed."

Named Time Magazine ’s game of the year in 2014, this narrative adventure is based on Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne. The player is cast as the novel’s narrator, Passpartout, and tasked with circumnavigating the globe in service of their employer, Phileas Fogg. Set in an alternate steampunk Victorian era, the game uses its globe-trotting to comment on the colonialist fantasies inherent in the original novel and its time period. On a storytelling level, the choose-your-own-adventure style means no two players’ journeys will be the same. This innovative approach to a classic novel shows the potential of video games as a storytelling medium, truly making the player part of the story. 

What Remains of Edith Finch by Giant Sparrow

"If we lived forever, maybe we'd have time to understand things. But as it is, I think the best we can do is try to open our eyes, and appreciate how strange and brief all of this is." 

This video game casts the player as 17-year-old Edith Finch. Returning to her family’s home on an island in the Pacific northwest, Edith explores the vast house and tries to figure out why she’s the only one of her family left alive. The story of each family member is revealed as you make your way through the house, slowly unpacking the tragic fate of the Finches. Eerie and immersive, this first-person exploration game uses the medium to tell a series of truly unique tales. 

Fun and breezy on the surface, humor is often recognized as one of the trickiest forms of creative writing. After all, while you can see the artistic value in a piece of prose that you don’t necessarily enjoy, if a joke isn’t funny, you could say that it’s objectively failed.

With that said, it’s far from an impossible task, and many have succeeded in bringing smiles to their readers’ faces through their writing. Here are two examples:

‘How You Hope Your Extended Family Will React When You Explain Your Job to Them’ by Mike Lacher (McSweeney’s Internet Tendency)

“Is it true you don’t have desks?” your grandmother will ask. You will nod again and crack open a can of Country Time Lemonade. “My stars,” she will say, “it must be so wonderful to not have a traditional office and instead share a bistro-esque coworking space.” 

An open plan office seen from a bird's eye view. There are multiple strands of Edison lights hanging from the ceiling. At long light wooden tables multiple people sit working at computers, many of them wearing headphones.

Satire and parody make up a whole subgenre of creative writing, and websites like McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and The Onion consistently hit the mark with their parodies of magazine publishing and news media. This particular example finds humor in the divide between traditional family expectations and contemporary, ‘trendy’ work cultures. Playing on the inherent silliness of today’s tech-forward middle-class jobs, this witty piece imagines a scenario where the writer’s family fully understands what they do — and are enthralled to hear more. “‘Now is it true,’ your uncle will whisper, ‘that you’ve got a potential investment from one of the founders of I Can Haz Cheezburger?’”

‘Not a Foodie’ by Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell (Electric Literature)

I’m not a foodie, I never have been, and I know, in my heart, I never will be. 

Highlighting what she sees as an unbearable social obsession with food , in this comic Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell takes a hilarious stand against the importance of food. From the writer’s courageous thesis (“I think there are more exciting things to talk about, and focus on in life, than what’s for dinner”) to the amusing appearance of family members and the narrator’s partner, ‘Not a Foodie’ demonstrates that even a seemingly mundane pet peeve can be approached creatively — and even reveal something profound about life.

We hope this list inspires you with your own writing. If there’s one thing you take away from this post, let it be that there is no limit to what you can write about or how you can write about it. 

In the next part of this guide, we'll drill down into the fascinating world of creative nonfiction.

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Writing Forward

How to Develop Your Creative Writing Process

by Melissa Donovan | Feb 7, 2023 | Creative Writing | 45 comments

how to write creative writing

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?

Ready Set Write a Guide to Creative Writing

45 Comments

Marelisa

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.

joey

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!

Cath Lawson

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.

Wendi Kelly

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.

--Deb

These days, I feel so scattered, I feel like I’m not getting anything done at all! (grin)

Karen Swim

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!

Melissa Donovan

@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?).

Milena

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.

Deb

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.

Sam

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!

Jenny

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?!?!

t.sterling

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.

J.D. Meier

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

Thanks, J.D.

Kelvin Kao

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.

Positively Present

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.

Walter

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!

Jay Tee

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!

Annette

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.

Meredith

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.

Brad

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!

Chris Smith

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 😉

Kylee

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!

Linda Maye Adams, Soldier, Storyteller

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!

Meghan Adona

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!

Rod Raglin

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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What is creative nonfiction? Despite its slightly enigmatic name, no literary genre has grown quite as quickly as creative nonfiction in recent decades. Literary nonfiction is now well-established as a powerful means of storytelling, and bookstores now reserve large amounts of space for nonfiction, when it often used to occupy a single bookshelf.

Like any literary genre, creative nonfiction has a long history; also like other genres, defining contemporary CNF for the modern writer can be nuanced. If you’re interested in writing true-to-life stories but you’re not sure where to begin, let’s start by dissecting the creative nonfiction genre and what it means to write a modern literary essay.

What Creative Nonfiction Is

Creative nonfiction employs the creative writing techniques of literature, such as poetry and fiction, to retell a true story.

How do we define creative nonfiction? What makes it “creative,” as opposed to just “factual writing”? These are great questions to ask when entering the genre, and they require answers which could become literary essays themselves.

In short, creative nonfiction (CNF) is a form of storytelling that employs the creative writing techniques of literature, such as poetry and fiction, to retell a true story. Creative nonfiction writers don’t just share pithy anecdotes, they use craft and technique to situate the reader into their own personal lives. Fictional elements, such as character development and narrative arcs, are employed to create a cohesive story, but so are poetic elements like conceit and juxtaposition.

The CNF genre is wildly experimental, and contemporary nonfiction writers are pushing the bounds of literature by finding new ways to tell their stories. While a CNF writer might retell a personal narrative, they might also focus their gaze on history, politics, or they might use creative writing elements to write an expository essay. There are very few limits to what creative nonfiction can be, which is what makes defining the genre so difficult—but writing it so exciting.

Different Forms of Creative Nonfiction

From the autobiographies of Mark Twain and Benvenuto Cellini, to the more experimental styles of modern writers like Karl Ove Knausgård, creative nonfiction has a long history and takes a wide variety of forms. Common iterations of the creative nonfiction genre include the following:

Also known as biography or autobiography, the memoir form is probably the most recognizable form of creative nonfiction. Memoirs are collections of memories, either surrounding a single narrative thread or multiple interrelated ideas. The memoir is usually published as a book or extended piece of fiction, and many memoirs take years to write and perfect. Memoirs often take on a similar writing style as the personal essay does, though it must be personable and interesting enough to encourage the reader through the entire book.

Personal Essay

Personal essays are stories about personal experiences told using literary techniques.

When someone hears the word “essay,” they instinctively think about those five paragraph book essays everyone wrote in high school. In creative nonfiction, the personal essay is much more vibrant and dynamic. Personal essays are stories about personal experiences, and while some personal essays can be standalone stories about a single event, many essays braid true stories with extended metaphors and other narratives.

Personal essays are often intimate, emotionally charged spaces. Consider the opening two paragraphs from Beth Ann Fennelly’s personal essay “ I Survived the Blizzard of ’79. ”

We didn’t question. Or complain. It wouldn’t have occurred to us, and it wouldn’t have helped. I was eight. Julie was ten.

We didn’t know yet that this blizzard would earn itself a moniker that would be silk-screened on T-shirts. We would own such a shirt, which extended its tenure in our house as a rag for polishing silver.

The word “essay” comes from the French “essayer,” which means “to try” or “attempt.” The personal essay is more than just an autobiographical narrative—it’s an attempt to tell your own history with literary techniques.

Lyric Essay

The lyric essay contains similar subject matter as the personal essay, but is much more experimental in form.

The lyric essay contains similar subject matter as the personal essay, with one key distinction: lyric essays are much more experimental in form. Poetry and creative nonfiction merge in the lyric essay, challenging the conventional prose format of paragraphs and linear sentences.

The lyric essay stands out for its unique writing style and sentence structure. Consider these lines from “ Life Code ” by J. A. Knight:

The dream goes like this: blue room of water. God light from above. Child’s fist, foot, curve, face, the arc of an eye, the symmetry of circles… and then an opening of this body—which surprised her—a movement so clean and assured and then the push towards the light like a frog or a fish.

What we get is language driven by emotion, choosing an internal logic rather than a universally accepted one.

Lyric essays are amazing spaces to break barriers in language. For example, the lyricist might write a few paragraphs about their story, then examine a key emotion in the form of a villanelle or a ghazal. They might decide to write their entire essay in a string of couplets or a series of sonnets, then interrupt those stanzas with moments of insight or analysis. In the lyric essay, language dictates form. The successful lyricist lets the words arrange themselves in whatever format best tells the story, allowing for experimental new forms of storytelling.

Literary Journalism

Much more ambiguously defined is the idea of literary journalism. The idea is simple: report on real life events using literary conventions and styles. But how do you do this effectively, in a way that the audience pays attention and takes the story seriously?

You can best find examples of literary journalism in more “prestigious” news journals, such as The New Yorker , The Atlantic , Salon , and occasionally The New York Times . Think pieces about real world events, as well as expository journalism, might use braiding and extended metaphors to make readers feel more connected to the story. Other forms of nonfiction, such as the academic essay or more technical writing, might also fall under literary journalism, provided those pieces still use the elements of creative nonfiction.

Consider this recently published article from The Atlantic : The Uncanny Tale of Shimmel Zohar by Lawrence Weschler. It employs a style that’s breezy yet personable—including its opening line.

So I first heard about Shimmel Zohar from Gravity Goldberg—yeah, I know, but she insists it’s her real name (explaining that her father was a physicist)—who is the director of public programs and visitor experience at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, in San Francisco.

How to Write Creative Nonfiction: Common Elements and Techniques

What separates a general news update from a well-written piece of literary journalism? What’s the difference between essay writing in high school and the personal essay? When nonfiction writers put out creative work, they are most successful when they utilize the following elements.

Just like fiction, nonfiction relies on effective narration. Telling the story with an effective plot, writing from a certain point of view, and using the narrative to flesh out the story’s big idea are all key craft elements. How you structure your story can have a huge impact on how the reader perceives the work, as well as the insights you draw from the story itself.

Consider the first lines of the story “ To the Miami University Payroll Lady ” by Frenci Nguyen:

You might not remember me, but I’m the dark-haired, Texas-born, Asian-American graduate student who visited the Payroll Office the other day to complete direct deposit and tax forms.

Because the story is written in second person, with the reader experiencing the story as the payroll lady, the story’s narration feels much more personal and important, forcing the reader to evaluate their own personal biases and beliefs.

Observation

Telling the story involves more than just simple plot elements, it also involves situating the reader in the key details. Setting the scene requires attention to all five senses, and interpersonal dialogue is much more effective when the narrator observes changes in vocal pitch, certain facial expressions, and movements in body language. Essentially, let the reader experience the tiny details – we access each other best through minutiae.

The story “ In Transit ” by Erica Plouffe Lazure is a perfect example of storytelling through observation. Every detail of this flash piece is carefully noted to tell a story without direct action, using observations about group behavior to find hope in a crisis. We get observation when the narrator notes the following:

Here at the St. Thomas airport in mid-March, we feel the urgency of the transition, the awareness of how we position our bodies, where we place our luggage, how we consider for the first time the numbers of people whose belongings are placed on the same steel table, the same conveyor belt, the same glowing radioactive scan, whose IDs are touched by the same gloved hand[.]

What’s especially powerful about this story is that it is written in a single sentence, allowing the reader to be just as overwhelmed by observation and context as the narrator is.

We’ve used this word a lot, but what is braiding? Braiding is a technique most often used in creative nonfiction where the writer intertwines multiple narratives, or “threads.” Not all essays use braiding, but the longer a story is, the more it benefits the writer to intertwine their story with an extended metaphor or another idea to draw insight from.

“ The Crush ” by Zsofia McMullin demonstrates braiding wonderfully. Some paragraphs are written in first person, while others are written in second person.

The following example from “The Crush” demonstrates braiding:

Your hair is still wet when you slip into the booth across from me and throw your wallet and glasses and phone on the table, and I marvel at how everything about you is streamlined, compact, organized. I am always overflowing — flesh and wants and a purse stuffed with snacks and toy soldiers and tissues.

The author threads these narratives together by having both people interact in a diner, yet the reader still perceives a distance between the two threads because of the separation of “I” and “you” pronouns. When these threads meet, briefly, we know they will never meet again.

Speaking of insight, creative nonfiction writers must draw novel conclusions from the stories they write. When the narrator pauses in the story to delve into their emotions, explain complex ideas, or draw strength and meaning from tough situations, they’re finding insight in the essay.

Often, creative writers experience insight as they write it, drawing conclusions they hadn’t yet considered as they tell their story, which makes creative nonfiction much more genuine and raw.

The story “ Me Llamo Theresa ” by Theresa Okokun does a fantastic job of finding insight. The story is about the history of our own names and the generations that stand before them, and as the writer explores her disconnect with her own name, she recognizes a similar disconnect in her mother, as well as the need to connect with her name because of her father.

The narrator offers insight when she remarks:

I began to experience a particular type of identity crisis that so many immigrants and children of immigrants go through — where we are called one name at school or at work, but another name at home, and in our hearts.

How to Write Creative Nonfiction: the 5 R’s

CNF pioneer Lee Gutkind developed a very system called the “5 R’s” of creative nonfiction writing. Together, the 5 R’s form a general framework for any creative writing project. They are:

  • Write about r eal life: Creative nonfiction tackles real people, events, and places—things that actually happened or are happening.
  • Conduct extensive r esearch: Learn as much as you can about your subject matter, to deepen and enrich your ability to relay the subject matter. (Are you writing about your tenth birthday? What were the newspaper headlines that day?)
  • (W) r ite a narrative: Use storytelling elements originally from fiction, such as Freytag’s Pyramid , to structure your CNF piece’s narrative as a story with literary impact rather than just a recounting.
  • Include personal r eflection: Share your unique voice and perspective on the narrative you are retelling.
  • Learn by r eading: The best way to learn to write creative nonfiction well is to read it being written well. Read as much CNF as you can, and observe closely how the author’s choices impact you as a reader.

You can read more about the 5 R’s in this helpful summary article .

How to Write Creative Nonfiction: Give it a Try!

Whatever form you choose, whatever story you tell, and whatever techniques you write with, the more important aspect of creative nonfiction is this: be honest. That may seem redundant, but often, writers mistakenly create narratives that aren’t true, or they use details and symbols that didn’t exist in the story. Trust us – real life is best read when it’s honest, and readers can tell when details in the story feel fabricated or inflated. Write with honesty, and the right words will follow!

Ready to start writing your creative nonfiction piece? If you need extra guidance or want to write alongside our community, take a look at the upcoming nonfiction classes at Writers.com. Now, go and write the next bestselling memoir!

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Sean Glatch

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Thank you so much for including these samples from Hippocampus Magazine essays/contributors; it was so wonderful to see these pieces reflected on from the craft perspective! – Donna from Hippocampus

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Absolutely, Donna! I’m a longtime fan of Hippocampus and am always astounded by the writing you publish. We’re always happy to showcase stunning work 🙂

[…] Source: https://www.masterclass.com/articles/a-complete-guide-to-writing-creative-nonfiction#5-creative-nonfiction-writing-promptshttps://writers.com/what-is-creative-nonfiction […]

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So impressive

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Thank you. I’ve been researching a number of figures from the 1800’s and have come across a large number of ‘biographies’ of figures. These include quoted conversations which I knew to be figments of the author and yet some works are lauded as ‘histories’.

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excellent guidelines inspiring me to write CNF thank you

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094 || Write Stories that are Met with the Silence of Awe Write Great Fiction | How to Write a Book, Character Development, Beat Writer’s Block, Creative Writing, World Building

Today I wanted to share a fun little story that will inspire you to write stories that are met with the silence of awe. I love that phrase: the silence of awe. I wish I had thought of it. But I have to give credit where credit is due…which would be to AI. Actually, the story I’m sharing today was written by AI. I could have made it much better by adding some dialogue and action, but it’s interesting enough to share. You can also read the story on the blog. Enjoy! Your friend, DK Next Steps: Register for your FREE ticket to the Thriving Scribes Summit here. HURRY! The Summit runs from January 22-24. You’ll be able to soak up innovative publishing models, writing methods, & strategies from incredible speakers like… 🎟️ Michael Evans, CEO of Ream, the subscription platform by fiction authors for fiction authors 🎟️ Emilia Rose, serialization and subscription queen 🎟️ Elle Beauregard, experienced co-author 🎟️ Ines Johnson, episodic publishing specialist 🎟️ Kyle Ann Robertson, creative writing coach 🎟️ Brit Poe, aligned publishing connoisseur … and so, so many more, including yours truly! This is an affiliate link, so if you choose to invest in the Scribe Pass that gives you extended access to the recordings from all the fabulous presentations, ways to connect with speakers & other attendees, and oodles of bonus gifts from speakers, I’ll get a small commission. You don’t have to buy anything, though. It’s completely free to attend, and you are going to learn soooo much about the world of publishing! **Register for the FREE Revolutionize Your Writing Masterclass.** The On-Demand Virtual Experience shows you how to master the art of organizing your story ideas in Notion to set yourself up for fiction writing success. Escape into the Land of Zandador: Get your free D.K. Drake Starter Library Purchase one or all of the Dragon Stalker Bloodline Saga books on Amazon. Rate, Review, & Follow on Apple Podcasts: “I love The Author D.K. Drake Show!” If that sounds like something you’d say, please rate and review this show. Your rating and review helps the show get found by other authors with big writing dreams. It’ll take a quick 30 seconds to scroll to the bottom, tap to rate with five stars, and select “Write a Review.” Then share what you enjoyed most about this episode. And if you haven’t already done so, follow the podcast. That way you’ll never miss an episode and will be better prepared to write and publish your novel. Follow now!

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Krystal

How to Travel and Write an Essay

T raveling to new places and having new experiences can provide wonderful inspiration for writing essays. Immersing yourself in different cultures, interacting with new people, and exploring unfamiliar terrain engages your creative mind. Using your travel adventures as essay topics allows you to share your insightful reflections. Reading reviews of essay writing services can give you ideas on engaging writing styles and techniques to make your travel essay compelling. Here are some tips for traveling and gathering material to write a compelling essay.

Pick a Focused Travel Goal 

Rather than trying to do everything, pick a particular aspect of travel on which to focus your essay. This could involve food, architecture, nature, art, history, or interacting with locals. Choosing a specific emphasis will help shape your travels and give your essay direction. For example, if you want to write about regional cuisine, plan your itinerary around visiting iconic restaurants and food markets. Or if exploring national parks is your priority, design your trip to hike various trails and take in diverse landscapes. Picking a travel concentration spotlights what matters most for your essay topic.

Keep Detailed Notes and Media

Be sure to keep notes about your travel experiences, as memory alone is unreliable. Use your phone or a notebook to write descriptions of key places and events. Capture telling details, snippets of overheard conversations, interesting quotes from people you meet, and your personal reactions. In addition, take ample photos and videos to add visual elements and jog your memory later when writing your essay. Gathering detailed sensory information, verbatim conversations, and media will enable you to vividly convey your travels.

Get Off the Beaten Path 

While tourist hotspots yield common experiences many travelers share, explore lesser-known areas for fresh essay material. Wandering side streets and alleys or chatting with shop owners away from crowds provides unique perspectives. Hiking secluded trails showcases wilderness most never experience. Seeking out locals’ haunts and hidden gems exposes you to rare sights, sounds, and people unlikely to appear in standard travelogues. Venturing off the predictable beaten path unveils captivating topics to distinguish your essay.

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone 

Challenge yourself on your travels by trying things outside your comfort zone, which will give you intriguing insights to inform your writing. Sample exotic cuisine with ingredients you can’t identify. Learn basic phrases in the native language. Navigate public transportation on your own. Talk to strangers from very different backgrounds. Accept an invitation to an unusual cultural event. Pushing past familiar habits and fears boosts opportunities for uncommon experiences, stimulating reflections to share in your essay. Facing uncertainty and discomfort allows you to access a fuller, richer range of travel moments.

Reflect on Your Interior Journey 

While cataloguing external places and events, also focus inward on your inner terrain. Note how travel affects you emotionally and psychologically along with the physical destinations and activities. Record when you feel wonder, irritation, joy, sadness, connection, isolation. Analyze what triggers these responses. Ponder how unfamiliar surroundings surface unanticipated reactions, or how you apply filters and assumptions unconsciously. Consider if this self-discovery challenges or reinforces your worldviews. Examining your interior shifts alongside exterior impressions provides deeper insight. Reading an Academized review reinforced the importance of weaving together outer and inner dimensions to craft a multi-layered essay.

Find Themes and Connections

As you travel and gather essay material, look for overarching themes that emerge. Do certain ideas or patterns recur as you journey? Do you keep learning similar lessons? Find common threads to tie together diverse experiences for a unified essay focusing on key themes. Or spotlight thought-provoking contrasts revealed through your travels. Additionally, consider connections between your voyage and broader context. How do your observations reflect historical, social or cultural phenomena? Can you compare and link your individual trip to larger collective issues? Identifying meaningful themes and links helps shape a compelling, impactful essay.

Craft a Strong Essay Structure 

Once you return from travels filled with observations, memories, artifacts and inspiration, it’s time to organize everything into a structured essay. First, revisit all your travel documentation and media, inventorying the best highlights to develop your central idea. Craft an introduction hooking readers’ interest while overviewing essay themes. Use each subheading to structure key travel experiences into engaging sections reinforced with vivid details, quotes, and examples. Analyze how these experiences interrelate and what insights they reveal associated with your themes. End with a powerful conclusion synthesizing main points and their significance. Edit carefully to refine language, verify facts, streamline structure while intensifying descriptions. Follow this process to translate your travel discoveries into an engaging, insightful essay.

Adding organization through focused subheadings provides natural breaks allowing readers’ eyes to rest while you emphasize key sections. Incorporating variable sentence types creates welcome rhythm and pacing variation. Contrasting longer complex sentences with shorter punchy ones, and trading sentences brimming with adjectives for straightforward construction alternates language patterns to maintain reader interest. Using low perplexity sentences when suitable enhances comprehension. Integrating these creative writing techniques keeps your travel essay lively, clear and compelling from start to finish.

So captivate readers with an essay unveiling your travel adventures and realizations. Immerse in cultural curiosities, venture off script, expand beyond your comfort zone and analyze what you uncover. Then organize intriguing experiences into an engaging essay emphasizing unforgettable impressions that reveal broader insights. With planning and attention, your travels can form the basis for a memorable, meaningful essay.

The post How to Travel and Write an Essay appeared first on Sunny Sweet Days .

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David Nield

17 Tips to Take Your ChatGPT Prompts to the Next Level

5 blue balls riding on 5 randomly arranged curved black tubes against a bright green backdrop

ChatGPT, Google Gemini, and other tools like them are making artificial intelligence available to the masses. We can now get all sorts of responses back on almost any topic imaginable. These chatbots can compose sonnets, write code, get philosophical, and automate tasks.

However, while you can just type anything you like into ChatGPT and get it to understand you. There are ways of getting more interesting and useful results out of the bot. This "prompt engineering" is becoming a specialized skill of its own.

Sometimes all it takes is the addition of a few more words or an extra line of instruction and you can get ChatGPT responses that are a level above what everyone else is seeing—and we've included several examples below.

While there's lots you can do with the free version of ChatGPT, a few of these prompts require a paid ChatGPT Plus subscription —where that's the case, we've noted it in the tip.

ChatGPT can give you responses in the form of a table if you ask. This is particularly helpful for getting information or creative ideas. For example, you could tabulate meal ideas and ingredients, or game ideas and equipment, or the days of the week and how they're said in a few different languages.

Using follow-up prompts and natural language, you can have ChatGPT make changes to the tables it has drawn and even produce the tables in a standard format that can be understood by another program (such as Microsoft Excel).

If you provide ChatGPT with a typed list of information, it can respond in a variety of ways. Maybe you want it to create anagrams from a list of names, or sort a list of products into alphabetical order, or turn all the items in a list into upper case. If needed, you can then click the copy icon (the small clipboard) at the end of an answer to have the processed text sent to the system clipboard.

Screenshot of ChatGPT

Get ChatGPT to respond as your favorite author.

With some careful prompting, you can get ChatGPT out of its rather dull, matter-of-fact, default tone and into something much more interesting—such as the style of your favorite author, perhaps.

You could go for the searing simplicity of an Ernest Hemingway or Raymond Carver story, the lyrical rhythm of a Shakespearean play, or the density of a Dickens novel. The resulting prose won't come close to the genius of the actual authors themselves, but it's another way of getting more creative with the output you generate.

ChatGPT can really impress when it's given restrictions to work within, so don't be shy when it comes to telling the bot to limit its responses to a certain number of words or a certain number of paragraphs.

It could be everything from condensing the information in four paragraphs down into one, or even asking for answers with words of seven characters or fewer (just to keep it simple). If ChatGPT doesn't follow your responses properly, you can correct it, and it'll try again.

Another way of tweaking the way ChatGPT responds is to tell it who the intended audience is for its output. You might have seen WIRED's videos in which complex subjects are explained to people with different levels of understanding. This works in a similar way.

For example, you can tell ChatGPT that you are speaking to a bunch of 10-year-olds or to an audience of business entrepreneurs and it will respond accordingly. It works well for generating multiple outputs along the same theme.

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Tell ChatGPT the audience it's writing for.

ChatGPT is a very capable prompt engineer itself. If you ask it to come up with creative and effective inputs for artificial intelligence engines such as Dall-E and Midjourney , you'll get text you can then input into other AI tools you're playing around with. You're even able to ask for tips with prompts for ChatGPT itself.

When it comes to generating prompts, the more detailed and specific you are about what you're looking for the better: You can get the chatbot to extend and add more detail to your sentences, you can get it to role-play as a prompt generator for a specific AI tool, and you can tell it to refine its answers as you add more and more information.

While ChatGPT is based around text, you can get it to produce pictures of a sort by asking for ASCII art. That's the art made up of characters and symbols rather than colors. The results won't win you any prizes, but it's pretty fun to play around with.

The usual ChatGPT rules apply, in that the more specific you are in your prompt the better, and you can get the bot to add new elements and take elements away as you go. Remember the limitations of the ASCII art format though—this isn't a full-blown image editor.

Screenshot of ChatGPT

A ChatGPT Plus subscription comes with image generation.

If you use ChatGPT Plus , it's got the DALL-E image generator right inside it, so you can ask for any kind of photo, drawing, or illustration you like. As with text, try to be as explicit as possible about what it is you want to see, and how it's shown; do you want something that looks like a watercolor painting, or like it was taken by a DSLR camera? You can have some real fun with this: Put Columbo in a cyberpunk setting, or see how Jurassic Park would look in the Victorian era. The possibilities are almost endless.

You don't have to do all the typing yourself when it comes to ChatGPT. Copy and paste is your friend, and there's no problem with pasting in text from other sources. While the input limit tops out at around 4,000 words, you can easily split the text you're sending the bot into several sections and get it to remember what you've previously sent.

Perhaps one of the best ways of using this approach is to get ChatGPT to simplify text that you don't understand—the explanation of a difficult scientific concept, for instance. You can also get it to translate text into different languages, write it in a more engaging or fluid style, and so on.

If you want to go exploring, ask ChatGPT to create a text-based choose-your-own adventure game. You can specify the theme and the setting of the adventure, as well as any other ground rules to put in place. When we tried this out, we found ourselves wandering through a spooky castle, with something sinister apparently hiding in the shadows.

Screenshot of ChatGPT

ChatGPT is able to create text-based games for you to play.

Another way to improve the responses you get from ChatGPT is to give it some data to work with before you ask your question. For instance, you could give it a list of book summaries together with their genre, then ask it to apply the correct genre label to a new summary. Another option would be to tell ChatGPT about activities you enjoy and then get a new suggestion.

There's no magic combination of words you have to use here. Just use natural language as always, and ChatGPT will understand what you're getting at. Specify that you're providing examples at the start of your prompt, then tell the bot that you want a response with those examples in mind.

You can ask ChatGPT for feedback on any of your own writing, from the emails you're sending to friends, to the short story you're submitting to a competition, to the prompts you're typing into the AI bot. Ask for pointers on spelling, grammar, tone, readability, or anything else you want to scrutinize.

ChatGPT cleared the above paragraph as being clear and effective, but said it could use a call to action at the end. Try this prompt today!

Screenshot of ChatGPT

Get ChatGPT to give you feedback on your own writing.

In the same way that ChatGPT can mimic the style of certain authors that it knows about, it can also play a role: a frustrated salesman, an excitable teenager (you'll most likely get a lot of emoji and abbreviations back), or the iconic western film star John Wayne.

There are countless roles you can play around with. These prompts might not score highly in terms of practical applications, but they're definitely a useful insight into the potential of these AI chatbots.

You can type queries into ChatGPT that you might otherwise type into Google, looking for answers: Think "how much should I budget for a day of sightseeing in London?" or "what are the best ways to prepare for a job interview?" for example. Almost anything will get a response of some sort—though as always, don't take AI responses as being 100 percent accurate 100 percent of the time.

If you're using the paid ChatGPT Plus tool, it will actually search the web (with Bing) and provide link references for the answers it gives. If you're using the free version of ChatGPT, it'll mine the data its been trained on for answers, so they might be a little out of date or less reliable.

Your answers can be seriously improved if you give ChatGPT some ingredients to work with before asking for a response. They could be literal ingredients—suggest a dish from what's left in the fridge—or they could be anything else.

So don't just ask for a murder mystery scenario. Also list out the characters who are going to appear. Don't just ask for ideas of where to go in a city; specify the city you're going to, the types of places you want to see, and the people you'll have with you.

Your prompts don't always have to get ChatGPT to generate something from scratch: You can start it off with something, and then let the AI finish it off. The model will take clues from what you've already written and build on it.

This can come in handy for everything from coding a website to composing a poem—and you can then get ChatGPT to go back and refine its answer as well.

You've no doubt noticed how online arguments have tended toward the binary in recent years, so get ChatGPT to help add some gray between the black and the white. It's able to argue both sides of an argument if you ask it to, including both pros and cons.

From politics and philosophy to sports and the arts, ChatGPT is able to sit on the fence quite impressively—not in a vague way, but in a way that can help you understand tricky issues from multiple perspectives.

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