Creative writing has no written formula and no immutable laws, you just need a good imagination and good writing skills.
And you’re good to go!
Creative writing presents us with fewer tethers than other forms of writing. This means that we have more liberty when we want to express our imagination artistically.
With all this freedom, defining and serving creative writing techniques is a bit hard, and some tips are frowned upon as they seem to infringe upon the liberties of some creative writers.
Still, some writers need guidance.
So, I have taken it upon myself to be this guide and dish out much-needed tips and discuss some creative writing techniques.
If you’ve been looking for guidance and insight, here’s a no-frills article full of practical tips on creative writing for you.
What Is Creative Writing?
Creative writing is writing that uses imagination, creativity, and mastery of the art of writing to evoke emotion in a reader.
It could be a fictional story, a nonfiction piece, or movie script, a play, a poem, et cetera. Creative writing oftentimes springs up from experimentation and good, imaginative use of knowledge and ideas.
One of the things that make creative writing different from other forms of writing is the underlying message or theme. Unlike other forms of writing, creative writing sometimes hides a message under the entertaining, saddening, or horrifying part of the written content.
Other archetypal elements of creative writing include creating an emotional connection with the reader (and sometimes evoking a response), having a deliberate point of view, using a narrative structure, and use of imaginative and descriptive language.
What Isn’t Creative Writing?
Whatever lacks the elements I just listed isn’t creative writing. Written pieces such as company reports, statements, and other professional communications aren’t regarded as creative writing.
Similarly, personal documents and communications such as emails, social media content, and personal communications all fit in the non-creative writing category.
In addition to that, research papers and pieces that are in the “Academic Writing” category do not qualify as creative writing.
Most often the type of content that I have listed is devoid of deliberate themes. Often, these types of pieces have goals similar to those prevalent in creative writing, but they’re presented differently.
But—as a reminder to myself or you, the reader—I would like to say that they’re blurred boundaries in some forms of content. For example, we can’t outrightly classify content such as blog posts as creative writing non-creative. Blog content belongs to a broader category that is as flexible as creative writing itself.
Therefore, you would have to analyze the elements of each blog post to see if they fit a particular category.
Forms of Creative Writing
Given the freedom that creative writing gets, it is just right that it takes many forms.
Here are some of the forms of creative writing:
This is one of the most popular forms of creative writing. Novels are also the first thing people think about when it comes to books (apart from academicians who are religiously into textbooks).
Novels are extended fictional works in prose that usually (or always?) come in the form of a story.
Most of them are in the range of 50,000 to 150,000 words, but some are told in less than 50,000 and others extend beyond 150,000.
Pieces that are too short to qualify as novels and too long to qualify as short stories automatically qualify as novellas and novelettes.
Novellas often fall in the range of 10,000-40,000 words, while novelettes generally have a word count of 7,500-19,000 words.
Word count boundaries are usually varied—and they are oftentimes at the discretion of the publisher or competition organizers.
Short stories as the name suggests are on the other end (the shorter word count end) of the fiction word count spectrum.
Short stories generally fall between 2,500 and 7,500 words but sometimes extend to 10,000 words.
Unlike novels, short stories tell stories with fewer characters, details, and backstories, among other deficiencies.
Then there are other forms of short fiction told in 1,000 words, and they’re called flash fiction and micro-fiction.
The unrestricted and spontaneous nature of poetry embodies the artistic multifariousness of creative writing.
Poetry is as emotional as it is rebellious—and word counts and rhyming rarely matter for poems, i.e., those in the free verse category.
There are different types of poems such as sonnets, haikus, sestinas, limericks, and free verses.
The spontaneous nature of poetry does connote lawlessness. The thing is, the different types of poetry originated from different cultures around the world and many come with rules.
However, for most of these types of poetry, the rules are adaptable. A few types such as haikus have specific rules on the number of lines or structure.
Plus, just because there aren’t many rules governing the structure, content, and length of poetry it doesn’t mean that you can brush aside the use of perfect grammar, the importance of POV, the need for a theme, and the need to evoke the reader’s emotions.
TV scripts, stage play scripts, and screenplays
This category comprises stage plays and scripts for films, television programs, and other types of video content.
A majority of content in this category has a lot in common with novels and short stories. Although different scripts have different formatting requirements, they carry a message or central theme and try to appeal to their audience’s emotions.
In a way, these scripts depart from the highly descriptive nature of novels and short stories. There’s much more dialogue in scripts with a bit of stage or scene directions in stage plays screenplays.
Creative writing doesn’t always have to be works of fiction, some nonfiction also qualifies as creative writing.
Here are some of the works that can be called creative nonfiction:
- Lyric essays
- Humor Writing
- Literary Journalism
Tips and Techniques for Creative Writing
1. Read Widely and Learn From Other Writers
You can improve by focusing on looking at your writing only. If you want to be a good creative writer, you have to read.
When you read other people’s work, you discover other writing styles and get inspired in the process.
There are lots of reading resources on creative writing out there. You can find books, essays, blog articles, and video content covering different aspects of creative writing.
Some works will comprise fiction and nonfiction pieces (novels, short stories, poetry, lyrical essays. Et cetera) while others seek to cover interviews and personal essays that talk about the authors’ creative processes.
2. Benefit from Your Imagination
A wild imagination represents superiority for creative writers, especially fiction writers.
This is the only time you’re allowed to play god!
By using a crazy imagination you can conceive an exciting story, build a unique world, and come up with convincing, never-imagined-before characters.
Heck! You can even create your own language!
Be as imaginative as you can be, even going into a trance, and create a creative piece using your own rules!
3. Focus on Understanding and Improving Yourself as a Writer
You cannot improve something you don’t fully understand; therefore, you have to understand your strengths and weaknesses as a writer to become a better writer.
I wrote an article on this, explaining some general strengths and weaknesses that writers have. As a creative writer, you have to identify problem areas such as bad sense of rhythm, dodgy flow, lack of creativity, et cetera.
As a creative writer, there are things you must have in your armory, such as a rich and relevant vocabulary, organized writing, and a unique writing style (which also happens to be the next tip on the list).
4. Develop or Discover a Unique Writing Style
Creative writers are better off seeking inspiration from other creative writers while trying to follow their path.
In short: study other writers, but develop your writing style. Take a look at all the best, and you’ll discover that most of them developed a unique style.
So, have your writing style. And, it should fit the niche you want to specialize in—if it’s horror, a befitting style. You could also focus on developing vibrant writing full of eccentric characters.
Likewise, you could become a writer who always writes in a specific POV.
5. Create Space for Creative Writing and Stick to a routine
Writing routinely and total focus are tremendously important for creative writers. If you’re a spontaneous writer who scarcely writes and only writes whenever they feel like it, you’re bound to fail as a writer!
You need to have a schedule and some working space. The ideas might come spontaneously and anywhere, but it’s hard to write without proper planning and a distraction-free setting.
It’s unproductive trying to squeeze writing into your day.
When you start writing routinely, in a ‘comfortable’ place, creative writing becomes natural. Even when you’re out of ideas experiencing writer’s block, you have to practice the habit of writing stuff daily—just write some fluff if you’re bored.
6. Know your audience
“Why do you write?”
The most popular answer to the question is, “because I love it!”
But if the question was rephrased and we asked “why do you publish your works?” the previous answer would be ‘half true.’
You write because it’s the love of your life and you publish for your audience. So, creative writing isn’t always about you, but your fans too.
You have to know what your readers are like. Even when you haven’t published a single piece, it’s easy to research readers’ interests using web-based analytics resources.
Armed with this knowledge, you can craft a piece that strikes a chord with your target audience, with a high potential of becoming a bestseller.
7. Always Start and End Strong
Our English teacher constantly reminded us that when she was going through our essays, she started with the introduction and summary before moving to the body.
“They’re the most important parts of your essay.” She’d always say.
Later, I found out that this applied to almost every form of writing.
Your readers want your piece to either start with a bang or catch their attention. Once the reader feels underwhelmed, they won’t read all the way through.
Strong endings are just as important, but it doesn’t mean that you always have to end on a happy note. You can close on a sad note or give them a cliffhanger.
As long as you effectively use your imagination and the end doesn’t turn out to be a clichéd one.
The Best Books on Creative Writing
- 1. Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot that Grips Readers from Start to Finish by James Scott Bell
- 2. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
- 3. The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
- 4. On Writing Well: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser
Writing—whatever form it takes—isn’t a simple chore, but as hard as it is, it is also fun!
The goal is always to become a better writer and learn different techniques that will make our content impactful.
Every writer should fear stagnation and continue learning. Utilize today’s easy access to resources, read, ask for help, and let your wild imagination run loose.
While there’s no fixed formula in creative writing, tips from experienced writers will help you improve in some areas.
So, always be inquisitive and reach out to other writers.
Crafting an original work of fiction, poetry, or creative non-fiction takes time, practice, and persistence.