How to Improve your Creative Writing Skills
One of the best ways to improve your creative writing especially novels, is to develop a structure as a framework your work. Creative writing is simply quality storytelling, regardless of the format or form of the final product. Stories consist of scenes intertwined together. The craft of creative writing depends on building the scenes, the threads that bind and link them together to build a spiders web that form the whole.
The notion that you can sit down and start with 'Once upon a time' and write to you get to the 'The End' is a largely a myth. None of the well known authors write that way. It is more about developing a summary, an outline, adding a structure like a skeleton that binds everything together and then adding the flesh as details to complete the work.
One of the best ways to do this is to use script writing techniques and build your novel with hundreds or more brief scenes or episodes in your story. The length of the scene groups become shorter as the tension and pace builds in the story. Each chapter or scene is a snap-shot, a small piece of a jigsaw puzzle placed in a large mosaic, threading all the small elements together to make and wonderful story with great beauty, intrigue and power. The advantage of this is that all the small scenes have their own identity and can be worked on independently and sorted or shuffled around to create the flow and sequence for the work.
You may be interested in screen writing itself and this article will help you get started in this form as well as general script writing. There are some fabulous software tools for using this approach - see How to Write a Novel - Getting Organised with Great Free Software
Recently, George Lucas the renowned director of the Star Wars movies is quoted as saying a good film is composed of "60 great 2-minute scenes." The same thing applies to a novel or other form of creative writing. Like notes in a song, or components of a recipe all the elements have their own identity and need to be lined up correctly. Great scenes mesh together to create beauty and grace of their own. The action and story within one scene creating and reinforcing the momentum and power propelling the reader scene by scene through the story. When done correctly, it is seamless and flows without interruption. When done badly it can disrupt and choke the storyline. The art of creative writing is to craft the scenes and to thread them together like a molecule of DNA so that the whole is more than the parts - A great Story.
Tips for writing scenes
Scriptwriting is the crafting of screenplays, radio plays, lyrics, comic books, teleplays, stage plays, commercials and similar scripts – are some of the most compelling story forms available. A novel and even a long poem can be seen as a script for scenes that are combined to tell a story.
These forms are created from a series of scenes specific length that are strung or threaded together like pearls on a string, or a line of dominoes individually beautiful with their own identity but threaded together to create a story, something like a necklace that is more lovely than the sum of its parts.
Scenes are the way we see and memorize our experiences in the world. Memories are almost exclusively a set of scenes or snapshots. They are miniature stories bite-sized chunks, easy to process and digest, easy to remember and easy to retell to our friends. Our recall is almost exclusively a set of scenes we have memorized. So scenes are the building blocks of all narrative writing and storytelling, including novels and so they essential elements for all creative writing.
Building scenes and deciding how they can be threaded together and intertwined into storylines is the way to proceed from the skeleton to the living body as the novel or other creative piece is assembled using a bottom-down approach for story development a bottom-up approach for assembling the scenes into a story.
- scenes make up threads,
- threads make up storyline sequences,
- sequences make up acts
- and acts make up stories.
Each scene should be regarded as a microcosm. It can be composed as an individual and independent part, but with the interrelationships and sequences in mind. This concept makes it much simpler to write as you can deal with one scene at a time and not be burdened with all the clutter and disarray of the entire thing.
Each scene has:
- a start, middle, and end;
- its own confrontation, goals, issues and obstacles;
- its own stresses and releases through pivot points;
- its own shocks, surprises and revelations;
- its own role – some scenes stand alone others point to a clearly defined part of the larger story, others are critical linkages revealed the relationships with other scenes and drawing the threads together;
- Like a verse that is written to have maximum impact with a minimum number of powerful and thought provoking words scenes have a unique role to create moments in time within a story. If well written the scenes themselves can create a powerful impression that the reader will remember.
Tips for Creating and Writing Great Scenes
To write great scenes as elements for the story we need to have some good ideas and tools to make great scenes. Consider the techniques and tips outlined below:
- Use scenes to develop characters and plots
- Let the action dictate the setting and tone to the reader. Much of storyline in a novel or screenplay actually obscure reference and inference that the reader deduces from the action. Don't over inform or lead the reader through a series of baby-steps. Avoid the build-up and introduction and don't over-tell the story details
- There must be an 'inciting incident', an identifiable opening scene before the problem, action or attack takes place. Make your beginnings or openings striking and dramatic. Aim for a contrast or create tension before hitting the readers with events and actions that are in stark contrast to the beginnings.
- Create a middle part of the scene that twists and pivots the reader around to create a novel and unexpected outcome. Conflict the reader, confound them, do something strange, intriguing, bold, surprising and unexpected. Clearly define the decision points of the story clear in the scenes. This provides depth and fullness to the scene.
- Finish the scene. This is a common mistake for many writers who do not end each scene properly. Don't let the action just stop, trail off, or have the character simply leave the room without making a decision or doing something essential for the story an d providing a lead for the next scene. The reader should be propelled to the next scene. If you have poor ending in your scene you will encourage your reader to stop reading. Why should they read more? Find a way to hook your readers so that they are curious and just have to know what comes next. Then, you do it all over again in the next scene.
- Avoid sloppy expression and learn to write tight text using powerful and expressive words and phrases. Every word, every phrase, or conversation must have a purpose. If not rewrite to eliminate the surplus fluff and weeds that clutter your writing.
- Always be sure that your know exactly what the objectives for the scene is. All scenes should have at a minimum of two objectives:
- Objective for the story: what the hero must do, feel or what action is required to develop the story.
- Objective for the reader. You are the telling the story. You must be clear exactly what you expect the reader to feel from the scene? Your skill, combined with their own personal experiences and personality determine what they get out of your scene.
- Define a clear pathway and thread so that the narrative moves smoothly from one scene to the next. Each scene must have a clearly defined link between the scene before and after it in the storyline.
- Try to ensure that each scene meets 2-3 objectives:
- Develop the storyline: progresses and escalates the story.
- Develops and expands the information about the characters and their personalities: reveals more details about them and their personalities.
- Promote the subtext and theme.
General Tips for Creative Writing
- Write scene by scene. Draft an outline and summary and develop the structure with scenes as headings or summaries. Once you have written this down, your mind will be few to focus on each scene one at a time. Writing is down is important. You may have all sorts of ideas and threads running around in your brain that can actually block and interfere with your writing. When you write it down this will crystallize many of the ideas into simple logical sequences which may be much shorter and less complicated that the stuff clogging your brain.
- Write more often and expect to improve as you go. Your creative work doesn’t have to be and won't be perfect. But but the more you write the easier it will become to write better and easier.
- Read a lot, not to pinch ideas, but to learn the craft and discover new styles. Reading lots of other writers works will help you to find the voice, style and approach that suits you.
- Improving your vocabulary using a Thesaurus and using ‘word-a-day’ systems.
- Take a writing class. There are many fabulous online and face-to face course available. You can also learn from seminars given by established writers.
- Read as many 'How to Write Books' and Guides as you can
- Learn how to motivating yourself to write. Some people work best with a fixed routine and schedule.
- Set goals for writing both in terms of scenes, chapters and novels. Reward yourself.
- Find the right environment to write that suits you.
- Use the modern technology to help you, including note taking and creative writing software.
- Save editing for another week or another day, which will provide a fresh perspective.
- Be consistent with your point of view.
JUST DO IT
© 2012 Dr. John Anderson
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