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Creative Writing 101: Everything you need to know

What is Creative Writing?

If we go by definition then creative writing is any form of writing which goes out of bounds of academic, journalistic, professional or technical forms of writing. But creative writing is much more than that. More often than not, people use creative writing as a medium to express one’s thoughts and emotions.

Contrary to what people may think, creative writing is not something that comes easily to everyone, it requires basic writing skills and understanding different types of writing styles.

 

Types of Creative Writing

Some people like to keep things short while others prefer long form writing. Some like to keep things as they are while some others prefer to follow certain rhymes and syllable counts. At the end of the day, no matter what style you prefer, creative writing has a genre for everyone. 


Let us take a closer look at the different types of creative writing. 

Poetry

Poetry is a piece of literature in which words are carefully chosen and arranged often in short lines that rhyme. A really good example would be Robert Frost’s, “The Road Not Taken.”

The 7 most common types of poetry are as follows – 

  • Haiku – haiku poems are three-line stanzas, originally having a 5-7-5 structure that focuses on the simplicity of life
  • Free Verse – as the name suggests, it is a form of poetry that is free from any limitations like rhythm.
  • ‘Cinquains – they are five-line poems inspired by the Japanese haiku. 
  • Epic Poems – epic poems are long and narrative that is generally used as a form of storytelling. 
  • Ballad Poems – just like epic poems, ballad poems are also used to narrate a story. However, these are more often based around legends. 
  • Acrostic Poems – an acrostic poem is a poem where either the first, the letters in each line spell out a word or phrase. Typically, the first letters of each line help to spell the message, but they can appear anywhere.
  • Sonnets – a sonnet has 14 lines and follows an iambic pentameter with each line having 10 syllables. It consists of specific rhyming schemes and volta, or specific turns.

 

Fiction Writing

Generally written in the form of a story meant to entertain the readers or convey an author’s point of view, fiction writing is using imagination over actual facts. An example would be “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline 

There are mainly three types of fiction:

  1. Short Stories – a fully developed story but one that is significantly short is known as a short story. Short stories can usually be read in a sitting of about half-hour to about two hours. They generally contain anywhere from 1,000 – 20,000 words in a span of 25 to 30 pages. 
  2. Novella – novellas are longer and a bit more complex versions of short stories. They tend to run about 20,000 – 50,000 words and are usually between 60 and 120 pages.
  3. Novel – Any book that contains more than 50,000 words and is longer than 120 pages falls under the category of a novel. Due to the length, their storylines are the most complex consisting of many plots, characters, and action scenes that contribute to the fictional concept

 

Creative Non-Fiction

Creative non-fiction is a type of literature used to tell facts on a particular topic or narrate a real-life story in an entertaining manner. An example would be “The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion

Since creative non-fiction work is around facts, there are more types of it than fiction writing. The most popular types of creative non-fiction are:

  • Personal Essay – An essay written on an important person or a personal experience or a time period in the writer’s life that resulted in significant meaning or a life lesson. Personal essays are always written in first-person
  • Memoir – A historically true story based upon personal experience. Just like personal essays, memoirs are also written using the first-person narrative
  • Literary Journalism Essay – These are found often in magazines or newspapers in the form of an article. These revolve around facts and cover any topic as long as they are factual.
  • Autobiography – Autobiographies are the written records of an author’s life and the experiences he/she has faced. The first-person narrative tells the author’s life story; from birth to present.
  • Travel Writing – Also known as travel literature, travel writing crafts articles or essays about travel and experiences related to it.
  • Food Writing –  When you write stories about food and exquisite cuisines.
  • Profiles – Biographies or essays based on real people where the goal is to be informative 

 

Who can be a Creative Writer?

Most people can identify good writing at first glance but just because they can do it, doesn’t mean they are a good writer as well.

“There is a common belief that because most of us are literate and fluent, there is no need to serve an apprenticeship if we want to become a successful wordsmith. … That’s what I thought until I tried to write my first novel. I soon learnt that a novel, like a piece of furniture, has its own set of requirements, laws of construction that have to be learnt. Just because I had read plenty of novels didn’t mean I could write one, any more than I could make a chair because I had sat on enough of them.”

(Nigel Watts, Teach Yourself Writing a Novel)

Writing of any kind can be hard but the satisfaction of finishing it is extraordinary. So in this challenging yet rewarding world, how do you know whether becoming a creative writer is the right path for you?

Perhaps looking at the foundational traits and characteristics of a good creative writer can help you find your answer.
  • Desire to Write – The most important and the most basic quality in any writer is the desire to write. Writing is an amazing way to give your feelings and thoughts a physical form but it also takes time and dedication. So if you love to write, you’ll be a good creative writer
  • Crazy Imagination – The title “Creative Writer” says it all. In order to become good at any form of creative writing, you’ll need to have a vivid imagination and the will to explore your creativity.
  • Good Vocabulary – Creative writing is about entertaining your readers through the medium of words and it goes without saying, you will need to learn a lot of them and use them wisely in order to be a good one
  • Love for Reading – If you had the opportunity to spend some time with any writer, you will know that they love talking about books. When you read what others have done, it improves your writing skills and makes you better at creative writing.
  • Discipline and Thick Skin – As you know by now, writing takes time. Writing a novel takes an average of a year. So you’ll need to have enough discipline to write every day. You’ll also need to be thick skin and learn how to face rejection because no writing is acceptable in the first draft.

If you have the above traits then taking a jab at creative writing might be a good idea for you.

 

Tips for Beginners

  1. Read a lot: If you want to be a writer, then it is crucial that you are constantly reading something or the other. You don’t have to stick to a specific genre, instead read anything and everything that you can get your hands on. It can literally be anything from Classic Fiction to eBooks to Magazines. As a writer you need to learn to read with a critical eye and understand how an author is conveying the emotions in their piece of writing. Additionally, reading books from different genres will help you gain fresh perspective on everything.
  2. Write for yourself: If you try to write for others, you will be stuck in a loop because your focus would be the audience and not your writing piece. Always write for yourself first, as it will allow you to solely focus on your emotions and what you wish to convey through your piece.
  3. Understand your readers: “Write for yourself first and edit for your readers later” is the best advice you can ever get. You need to understand who are your readers and what they like to read. When you do this, it will help you in editing your initial drafts in such a manner that your readers like it. Once you are able to understand your readers you will be able to create an emotional connect with them through your writing.
  4. Be consistent: Writing a new piece everyday, is something that most writers face struggle with. Make it a practice to write something everyday, even if it is just 100 words, it will help you sharpen your skills. If you are running out of ideas on what to write, take help from creative prompts available online and write your piece.

Creative Writing Tips for Beginners

 

Do’s and Don’ts of Creative Writing

Irrespective of which writing genre you choose, there are certain do’s and don’ts that you should follow. Let us take a look at these.

Do’s

  • Get Inspired : Take inspiration from everything around you. All the everyday objects and instances around you can be made into creative piece. The more you are able reflect on things around you, the easier it will be to take inspiration from things around you.
  • Build up on your Personal Thought: Yes it is easier to let someone else’s work inspire you and create something along the same lines. But it is always better to use your own emotions and thoughts for your creative writing piece. This will ensure that you are being true to your craft and will help you grow as a writer.

Don’ts

  • Don’t Pressurise Yourself : You don’t have to create the perfect piece in a single draft. You don’t need to have the pressure of creating the final piece in a single go. There is a reason why re-edits are a part of the entire writing process. Let your first draft be as messy as you want.
  • Don’t keep your work hidden : Show your work to your close friends or family members to get their honest feedback on it. This will help you understand how a reader perceives your work and what are the areas to improve upon.

 

Want to explore different genres of creative writing with young achievers in this field, then sign up for the MyCaptain Creative Writing Workshop.

 

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