5 Useful Creative Writing Tips

Written by Amber Jackson |

Now in my final term of third year, I’m currently working on a Creative Writing Dissertation. As part of an English degree, this is a choice that several of us made, instead of opting for the usual one with abstracts and footnotes. Whilst this is great in some respects, as it allows you to be creative it can be challenging to get yourself into a different writing mind-set that isn’t academic. 

Listed below, are some tips to consider when beginning the creative writing process. Hopefully these tips can also be useful to consider when writing essays, or anything else you’ve got going on, because all writing is kind of like a story in its own way, right?

1.How are you structuring your work?

The first thing to consider is the body of your work. This will be the skeleton of your story, which will help you to decide on a beginning, middle and end (not necessarily in this order!)

What form are you going to decide upon? Will it be a short story? A novel? A poem? A monologue? A play? Will it be a mix of some of these? The answers to this question is that your story is whatever you make it and can look however you like. 

Ultimately, what you’ll want to do is make sure that you have an outline. Your plot is what is going to drive your ideas forward, so make sure you have an appropriate way of laying everything out. Structure is your best friend at the beginning stages of any written work.

2. What’s your character motivation?

Within a fiction story at least, character motivation is a big MUST. 

What does your character want? What’s preventing them from getting what they want? What are they going to do about it? 

It’s important to have answers to these questions, mainly so that you’re protagonist – or any other character that you’re writing – is interesting and multi-dimensional. If they are flat characters that have no desires then your readers may bore easily. To meet this step, you will need a strong sense of who your characters are. Flesh them out. 

Another tip within this is something that at least one lecturer has recommended to classes that I’ve been in; sometimes it can be fun to watch people in public. Now I don’t mean this in a weird way, but when you naturally observe people, sometimes you identify specific mannerisms they may have, or the way that they say certain things. This could be a helpful thing to consider when imagining new characters. 

3. Who (or what) is your Antagonist?

Every protagonist should have an antagonist. 

Whether this be a literal person, or an obstacle of some sort that prevents them from advancing in the story. As a writer, your job is to identify what this is. What tests your character? What is this obstacle? Will these obstacles be symbolic? Are they beyond any sort of control? 

For your story to have substance, your characters should have some sort of literal or moral test that they encounter, which invites conflict into the story. Without conflict, a story can’t really progress. 

4. How good is your dialogue?

Character interaction is key, which means that your dialogue must be brilliant. Clever, but not too over-explanatory, witty but not so much that it becomes inaccessible for your reader. When you’re constantly in your head about a story, it’s often very hard to translate that through speech, so dialogue is often a very fine balance to get right.

The best thing to remember is to not stress about description. Including too much of this can lead to over-explaining and the last thing you want is for your reader to feel like they’re being treated like they’re stupid. You want your dialogue to ENHANCE your plot, not be a substitute for it.

Overheard dialogue is the best way to ensure that you’re not falling into the over-explanatory trap. It can be fun to pretend that your reader is a nosy old lady listening in at the door, or wherever your characters are speaking. This will ensure that your dialogue is realistic AND intriguing. The perfect mix! 

5. Edit! Edit! Edit!

This is possibly the most important part.

This step may sound simple, but it’s actually the most gruelling and seemingly life-destroying part of the writing process that you want to encounter. 

Editing is a very challenging and a sometimes-long-winded process, but ultimately very rewarding in the long run. If there is a sentence or a paragraph that you love within your work, but you do not need – cut it out. Delete it. Get it gone. It might be holding you back from something greater. Less is sometimes more!*

*(unless you’ve written 1100 words of a 6000-word Dissertation that’s due in seven weeks…)

Although difficult, at the end of the day, you’re (most-likely) undertaking this creative piece because it’s something that you’re passionate about. This is wonderful! So make the most of it.  

**Another ‘Writing Tips’ piece by The Falmouth Anchor: https://www.falmouth-anchor.co.uk/2018/11/16/7-essay-writing-pro-tips/

**If you want to submit any creative writing to us: https://www.falmouth-anchor.co.uk/2018/11/07/our-creative-community/

**Have you read our special print edition? There are some fantastic creative writing pieces featured in ‘Lit Corner’- https://issuu.com/falmouthanchor/docs/march-19_special_print_edition?fbclid=IwAR0nYOJjynay0Bd1EQwxlFF9Jwx6Lw2wpK6985EXcsozT7trNCPD5cx_5OU