Creative Expression | October 21, 2020 |

How to Get Started in Creative Writing

6 minute read
How to Get Started in Creative Writing

You have a lot to say. Between your imagination and lived experiences, your mind is a treasure chest of stories just waiting to burst open and enrich the lives of readers everywhere. But where do you even start? You know that you want to write all of these stories down, but you also have so many questions. Is there a style that you should be writing in? Should you be blogging or writing a book? Are you confident enough in your writing ability to share your stories publicly? 

Before answering any of these questions, you should know that even the most seasoned writers have these thoughts. There’s a lot to consider when thinking of how to learn creative writing. The hesitation around writing is a real fear, so don’t feel bad about it. Instead, get excited because we’re about to help get those stories out of your mind and onto the page. Because the reality is that you have too much to offer to be stuck in creative writing purgatory.  

What is creative writing? 

Creative writing is writing based more on your imagination rather than any facts or research. Academic and journalistic writing are examples of fact or research-based writing. Creative writing is far more imaginative, and while there can be elements of creative writing that involve research and the need to be factual, creative writing as a whole requires far fewer restrictions than anything you would produce in academic or journalistic writing. 

Types of creative writing

Creative writing is commonly separated into several major types. A few of the most popular genres within the practice include:

1. Fiction 

This is probably the ultimate expression of creative writing. Fiction writing allows you to dream up whatever kind of story you want. You can create worlds that include magic, imagine teenage love stories, or tell mysteries and thrillers with killers on the loose being chased by your main character. Nothing in fiction has to be tied to reality, even if you use reality as your inspiration. Whatever your mind can conceive, writing in fiction makes it possible. 

2. Creative nonfiction or memoir 

This is an interesting avenue of creative writing because it is tied to reality. You’re telling stories based on your experiences, lived or observed. Where the creativity comes into play is how you choose to express these stories. Particularly with memoirs, which are essentially creative writing stories about your life, you’ll need to figure out which aspects of your life should be told. What is the point of your story? What emotions are you trying to get the reader to feel? What’s important to remember here is that this is your truth as you remember it. Although creative nonfiction pieces are tied to reality, it’s tied to your reality and shouldn’t be too bogged down by trying to research precisely how everything happened. Keep that in mind as you’re writing your memoir. 

3. Poetry 

People say poetry is dead, but Rupi Kaur, a Canadian poet, was named Writer of the Decade. That should tell you all you need to know about the relevance of poetry. What’s beautiful about poetry is its abstract nature. You can be writing about real-world events, but framing those events within poetry adds an element of mysticism that isn’t possible in any other form of writing. Poetry is probably the most free form of creative writing. It’s your thoughts unhinged from any real format, although there certainly are poetic structures that can help you focus your writing. 

Creative writing techniques

Diving a bit deeper, creative writing techniques can be expressed in many different ways, some of which we cover in our creative writing workshop for seniors. Some of the most common techniques in creative writing are:

  • Dialogue
  • Anecdotes
  • Metaphors and similes
  • Character and plot development
  • Figures of speech
  • Point of view

Creative writing examples 

Now that you have an idea of the different types of creative writing and some of the most common techniques, it’s time to figure out how you want to start expressing yourself. In today’s world, it’s actually pretty simple: blogs and books. 

1. Blogging 

If you’re just getting started on your creative writing journey, blogging is a good way to get your feet wet. You can use your blog to express those smaller thoughts, as pieces of your story can be conveyed in under 2,000 words. Blogging is great because you don’t have the immediate pressure of creating a full-length book, which would require putting all of your stories together into about 60,000 words. You can take your time and test the waters, see what kind of content readers are most responsive to and understand what it takes to write consistently and at a pace, you can manage. There are different ways you can go about starting your blog, but we’ll discuss that a bit later. For some inspiration, check out Martha Mannin’s blog on Medium or work by Don Simkovich on Medium

2. Books 

Writing a book is a serious undertaking that demands your time, your focus, and a level of skill in putting together a piece that expands over 200 pages. It’s not a simple task, but it’s possible. As long as you’re willing to accept the learning curve that comes with trying to become an author and understand that this is a journey that will take months and sometimes years, then you’re more than capable of getting a book done. And while 200 pages do sound daunting, we’ll give you some creative writing tips on how to break that down into smaller, more manageable steps. 

3. Other examples of creative writing

While blogging and books are two popular options for creative writers, you shouldn’t limit yourself to practicing creative writing within only those two mediums. There are a variety of ways to express your creative writing, including:

  • Short stories
  • Poetry
  • Movie and TV scripts
  • Plays
  • Memoirs
  • Comic strips
  • Speeches

How do you start your creative writing journey? 

1. Just write 

The most straightforward response to this question is to just start writing. Figure out the time of day that is best for you to write and block that time off. Even if it’s only thirty minutes, write every single day during those thirty minutes and start building those muscles. 

2. Consistency

Consistency will be key as you work on how to improve your creative writing skills. Writing daily will help you get better as a writer and also increase your output. 

3. Don’t get caught up in the details

Don’t worry about grammar and what you should be writing about at this stage. Just write what comes to your mind. It’s more important that you write every day than thinking about other aspects of creative writing. 

4. Frequent journaling

Write a journal every night or every morning and keep it to yourself. Journaling regularly helps to build the habit of writing, which will be crucial as you move forward on your journey. 

5. Share your work and ask for feedback

To help ease your transition forward into public platforms, start with sharing your creative writing with one person. This person should be someone you trust. Someone who will be encouraging but honest about the work you’re sharing with them. Feedback is an important part of creative writing so getting accustomed to someone criticizing your work is essential to your growth. 

Developing your creative writing process

Approach the creative writing process step-by-step to get your story where it needs to be. A typical writing process includes:

  1. Prewriting — Before you start writing out your manuscript, create an outline of your story’s main points. Who is the main character, what is their mission, what are the obstacles, and how do they overcome those obstacles? 
  2. Drafting — Once you outline your story, you can now break it up into chapters or sections. You don’t need to write them out in full; give enough details for each section to understand how you want to develop them. 
  3. Complete Your Manuscript — If you do the first two parts well, you have everything you need to complete your manuscript. Remember that you’re not trying to get it right the first time. Get all your thoughts onto the page, then move on to the next step. 
  4. Self Editing — Self-editing means you’ll have to look at what you’ve written and decide what stays and what goes. Be hard on yourself here. If any part of your story is unnecessary, let it go. If you need to be more detailed in other sections, add the detail. 

Creative writing topics and prompts

Trying to figure out what to write about isn’t always easy. Even the best writers can get stuck. But there are resources out there that can spark your imagination with creative writing prompts. Here are a few: 

Tips for writing your first blog

OK, so you’ve started writing every day, you’ve found someone to critique your work, and now you’re ready to share publicly. Where do you begin? 

1. Find your audience 

If you want an audience, your best bet is to go where that audience is rather than trying to bring them to you. And a good place to find people is on social media. 

2. Start posting on your social media account 

You likely already have at least one social media account. Start posting some of your creative writing on your feeds. Don’t worry about the content being too long. It’s a myth to think that people don’t read long posts. They do, especially if it’s intriguing enough or relevant to them in some way. 

3. Focus your content — you can’t write about everything! 

You probably have a lot to say, but what might be helpful is if you narrow down your content to two or three pillars that act as creative writing prompts. For example, if your ultimate goal is to write a memoir about overcoming some kind of health scare, then your three pillars can be family, courage and whatever that health scare was. When you post on social media, the majority of those posts should fall under one of those pillars. 

4. Try Medium 

If you think you’re ready for a more formal blogging platform, then Medium is probably the best place to start. It has a built-in audience of readers who are searching for poetry, fiction, and a variety of creative writing pieces. You can write and publish any type of writing you want, and there will be a community of readers and writers there to support and help you through.

Learn more about how to start a blog at any age.

Tips for writing your first book

Writing your first book is going to be a journey, but that’s ok. We’ve shown you how to break it down into more manageable pieces so feel confident that you’re ready to go. Keep these tips in mind. 

1. Take your time  

You’re going to have good days and bad days. Some days the words will be flowing, and other days, not so much. Be patient with yourself and don’t get discouraged. It takes months to get a first draft completed. Don’t rush the creative writing process.  

2. Get to the end 

It’s going to be tempting to keep stopping and rewriting parts of your book before you get to the end. Try your best not to do that. No matter how good your first draft is, there will always be edits that need to be made. Get to the end of the draft before self-editing. It will make your writing experience less stressful. 

3. Try Scrivener or Plottr

For help with writing your book, try Scrivener or Plottr. They both help with organizing your ideas, chapters and overall plotting of your story. They’re great software for writers at any stage of their journey. Quick note, Scrivener does have a steeper learning curve, but many authors swear by it.  

Benefits of creative writing for seniors 

When it comes to creative writing for seniors, there are many potential health and wellness benefits to consider, such as: 

  1. Mental sharpness 
  2. Overall creativity 
  3. Gives you something to look forward to every day 
  4. Can help you sort through feelings 
  5. Creates a sense of accomplishment 

These are just a few of the many benefits of creative writing. There are some studies that have proven different health benefits of creative writing. Regardless, writing is a soothing exercise that requires your full attention, and when you’re comfortable enough to include other people in your process, you can actually start building community. 

Learn more about the benefits of handwriting

Try Boomerang’s Creative Journal Workshop 

We’ve talked about the different aspects of creative writing, what you can do to get started and how to overcome some roadblocks. Are you ready to give it a try? Start with Boomerang’s creative writing workshops. It’s a great way to get the thoughts out of your mind and onto the page, and many of them are free. 

This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.

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