Creative writing isn’t a gift, it’s a skill, and one you can master with a little hard work and dedication
The most important goal of any piece of creative writing is to captivate the reader. If someone can read your book, poem or short story, and completely lose themselves in the plot, setting and characters, you’ve done a good job. But that’s not an easy thing to accomplish. Some writers are so good that it’s tempting to think that they were simply born with a God-given talent. This is not true. Every successful writer has undergone years of hard work to get to where they are today; honing their craft, reading widely, and learning a few tricks to make their writing leap off the page. Read below to learn a few of these tricks yourself, and begin your journey to becoming the writer you’ve always wanted to be.
Note down your ideas
Inspiration can strike at any time – when you’re washing the dishes, shopping, or at work – so keep a notebook and pen close by at all times. What wanders into your head might be a half-formed scene, a good line of dialogue, or even a fully-realised character, but if you don’t record the thought immediately, you may lose it forever.
Do your homework
Any writer worth their salt is also an accomplished researcher. Small details build up over the course of a novel to create a unique, believable world. If you’re writing a historical novel, you will need to know the historical details, such as language, eating and drinking habits, architecture and contemporary beliefs. If you’re writing a crime story, you should know about police procedure. A small mistake or inaccuracy can remove a reader from the story.
You should also read widely in your genre of choice, to find out what works, what doesn’t, and why.
Create conflict and tension
Without conflict or tension, there is no plot, and your story will be nothing more than a series of observations and random events. Conflict can be internal or external; either will keep the reader engaged in the plot, and anxious to see how two opposed forces, emotions or beliefs can be reconciled.
Consider the three act structure
The three ‘acts’, which should flow seamlessly into each other, are the set up, confrontation and resolution. The set up establishes characters, relationships, and the world. Confrontation comes after an incident, and involves the main character/s attempting to resolve a central problem while overcoming many obstacles, and the resolution consists of the climax, and the aftermath of the problem being solved.
Transport yourself, and your reader
When setting up a world, whether it be based on real life, historical, or fantastical, it’s easy to focus purely on visual facts (‘the central square was full of colourful market stalls‘, for example), but in order to transport the reader to your setting, you need to fully immerse yourself in it. What does it smell like? What sounds can be heard? What is your character’s opinion of where they are and what they see, and how does this feeling manifest itself? These kinds of details will make your world feel more 3-dimensional.
Enrol in summer school
There’s nothing like learning your craft alongside other aspiring writers, getting an idea of different styles and interests, and receiving and bestowing detailed feedback. To get this you can join a local evening class or club, but for the most intensive training, nothing can compare to summer school.
Programmes like Immerse Education summer school in Cambridge offer creative writing courses taught by world class tutors from Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge universities, who will provide personal feedback to help you hone your skills.