Love writing, but sometimes not sure where to start? Check out these top tips for creative writing from Chicago tutor Galen B. to kickstart your imagination!
Creative writing is a valuable means of self-expression, but it can be a challenging process. There are difficulties every step of the way—from confronting a blank page to battling writer’s block to finding the right way to end a piece. Whatever you’re writing, the most important thing is to not lose confidence. These 10 tips for creative writing will help you overcome the hurdles and make your work the best it can be.
1. Start with a brainstorm or free write. Free writing is helpful no matter what you’re working on. Composing a poem? Write 10 metaphors about your subject. Starting a story? List five details about each character. Forming nonfiction? Write down everything you can remember about where you were. Don’t worry about grammar or word choice yet—just put as much as you can on paper. Getting the juices going is the first step to an awesome piece.
2. Add details. Ask yourself questions like: how tall is this character? What kind of music do they listen to? What does their room smell like? What color is their shirt, or hair, or the chair they’re sitting on? Details are what make a story come alive, and none is too small to consider.
3. Play games. Creative writing can be frustrating, so find tricks to keep it fun. Take the last line from your poem and use it as the first line of new one. Pick a phrase at random from a book, and write a scene based on it. Write the scene from someone else’s point of view—another character involved, someone walking by, a dog, a tree, whatever! Don’t wait to get full-on writer’s block; make a change the moment you feel stuck.
4. Change your method. Sometimes getting unstuck is as simple as considering the mechanics of how you work. Try writing by hand instead of on the computer (or the other way around). Read what you have out loud to yourself, and make changes as you go. Move to a different location where there’s more or less going on. How (and where) you write influences what you write, so don’t be scared to change it up.
5. Use your resources. You don’t have to agonize over the right word by yourself; let your thesaurus help. Find one you like online or in the toolbox of your favorite writing application. Don’t limit yourself to reference books, either. Any text can provide inspiration, be it a novel or a newspaper. Reading somebody else’s words—or looking at a picture—gives your brain a breather and might shake out a new idea.
6. When you do get stuck, forgive yourself. Writer’s block can happen at any moment, and it may just mean you need a break. Don’t give up.
7. Walk away. Before you try to revise, step away from your work and do something different. Walk outside, call a friend, make a snack, and then return with fresh eyes.
8. Get feedback. Getting feedback can be the scariest part of writing, but it’s one of the most important tips for creative writing. Give the person reading your work a few specific things to comment on. These guiding questions will help them know what to read for and will make sure you get the most out of their response. Working with a writing tutor can also be a huge help in this step!
9. Make cuts. Cutting words you’ve labored over can be a struggle, but it pays to have a story that’s half as long if it’s twice as good.
10. Celebrate your accomplishments at every point. Made it to the one page mark? High five! Cut a paragraph that wasn’t working? Awesome! Came up with a particularly fresh and exciting metaphor? Round of applause! Once you’ve celebrated, use that enthusiasm to push you forward.
Finding your creative voice can be difficult, but as with anything, practice makes perfect. Whether you’re writing a story, poem, or personal essay, these tips for creative writing will help you make it the best it can be.
Galen B. tutors in a variety of subjects in Chicago, IL, as well as online. She has 4 years of experience teaching elementary Spanish, 2 years of experience teaching ESL, and one year of experience teaching reading and writing to K-12 students. Learn more about Galen here!
Photo by Angie Garrett