We love creative writing. The skills learned from writing creatively are, in our opinion, some of the most valuable skills students can acquire. Despite this, we know from speaking with our customers that teaching creative writing can be one of the more difficult English lessons to teach. So I thought I would put together some tips to consider when writing creatively.
Unfortunately, I am not nearly qualified enough to do so. The rest of this blog is written by Alyson Morris, who is an expert in teaching English, as I can attest to myself, being a former student of hers. Alyson is the course director of English and Creative writing at Coventry University. She also writes poetry, flash fiction, and short stories. Here are her 10 points to consider when writing creatively:
1. Think about your readers. Who are they and what sort of things will interest them.
2. Think about your opening paragraph. Is it gripping; will it make readers want to continue reading? Raise questions that require answers.
3. Think about your ending. Leave readers remembering your work. Don’t leave unanswered questions. Be careful with cliff-hangers, the majority of readers want an ending. It’s all very well leaving readers to think for themselves, but try and do that during the piece, not at the end.
4. After finishing your first draft, look for anything that might represent something else (symbolism/metaphor). Think: how can I make good use of these? Visual imagery is important for readers, but don’t overdo similes.
5. Use short or very short sentences here and there. It gives readers a breathing space to think about the story. Use a range of sentence structures. Writing is a craft, make it rhythmic. Read your work aloud.
6. Show don’t tell, but a bit of telling is fine – it’s up to the writer to determine what to tell and what to show, but remember this quote from Chekhov, ‘Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass’.
7. Re-write any familiar phrases. Avoid clichés at all costs!
8. Ensure you don’t underdo or overdo punctuation. Learn the rules.
9. Write with a good thesaurus next to you, but avoid pretentious diction.
10. Never edit your work more than three times or you’ll lose sight of your meaning, rawness, and originality.
Leave time between edits, e.g. a week or more. And always check your work carefully – never be your only proof-reader. When proofing your work and you have to re-read a sentence, either re-write it or delete it. On the final check, read for entertainment, then read for errors.
Alyson Morris, Course Director, English and Creative Writing, Coventry University