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4 Ways To Improve Creative Writing

Updated on April 25, 2019
Matthew Scherer profile image

Matthew Scherer is a screenwriter from south Texas. He has written six short films, a novel, and numerous short stories.

1. Know Your Ending

Writing starts in the imagination, so when drafting an idea in your head, be sure to think of an ending to your story. If this proves difficult, ask yourself this question. How do I resolve the question brought on by my idea?

In other words, what would resolve the conflict in your story? If it's about love, do they get together in the end? If it's a mystery, what is the secret you'll be holding from the reader? If it's a thriller, what will be the action packed climax?

Once you've got the answer to this question you'll have the knowledge you need to create an engaging story. If it's a mystery, you can spend the entire book tricking the reader with red herrings to keep them guessing.

If it's romance and they ultimately wind up together, you can think of ways to drive them apart in the second act. Since you know what leads them back together in the end, it can be easier to write a believable conflict.

In short, knowing the end of your story is one of the best ways to avoid writer's block. The challenge then becomes filling in the middle, which is no cakewalk. However, in knowing the end you're able to stay consistent without veering too far off from the original vision.

2. Hammer It Out

To a writer, nothing can be more intimidating than a blank page. For this reason, the first draft tends to be the most difficult to finish. A good principle to follow in draft one is to just hammer it out.

In other words, just write! Get the vision in your head onto paper as best as you can. It's only a first draft, and once the words are on the page it'll be ten times easier to edit them. The first draft is only the act of vomiting the idea onto paper, so don't beat yourself up over the specifics just yet.

If a certain scene gives you trouble, don't skip it. Do your best to convey your thoughts and move on. It's important to include every part of the story in the first draft. Remember, you'll be able to edit it to death later, just keep hammering.

3. Keep Your Eyes Open

Writing never stops. Just because you aren't at the keyboard doesn't mean you can't add life to your story. In all situations, try to keep an awareness in the back of your head of the story that you're writing.

Then in your day to day life, be it at work, school, or what have you, keep your eyes open for ideas. Something funny someone says, an awkward situation, a conflict, absolutely anything and everything. Creative work is an expression of every day life, so don't fall asleep!

Sometimes ideas can come from the most unlikely of places. Say you're writing a screenplay about a detective investigating a murder, but you're having a hard time writing a scene where he talks to his superior about a mistake he made.

Then later that day you go get some coffee on a break. At the coffee shop, the barista has an awkward exchange with her boss about a complaining customer who demanded a refund. Her boss disciplines her and apologizes to the guest.

This may seem like nothing, but could actually be perfect for the story. Simply take the awkward, shy tone the barista had and apply it to your detective. Ditto for the boss and the detective's superior. If it pertains, don't be shy about directly quoting something you heard someone say. After all, there's no law against plagiarizing real life!

4. Don't Marry It

It can be crushing to hear that the story you spent 15 drafts revising doesn't resonate with the person you gave to read it to, but it can be necessary. As a writer, you're basically shooting in the dark for the things that stick, so it's important not to get too attached.

This can seem discouraging, but is a blessing in disguise. If you're open minded and confident enough to let one of your babies go, even better things can come in its place.

By being stubborn and not wanting to change, you limit yourself to only what your imagination can come up with. When you open yourself up to others ideas and criticism, you're able to pull ideas out of a bigger pool. The end result is usually (because not all criticism is valid) a fuller, richer expression of the original idea.


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