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Creative Writing Tips

Updated on January 31, 2011

Most Important Creative Writing Advice

There is a lot of creative writing advice out there, and while styles, work area preferences, and the creative process can work radically differently for different writers, much of the advice comes back to the same basic structure: plot, characters, pacing, plot arc, realistic dialogue, etc. These are all fantastic points to address when looking at creative writing, but I think above all else there are two pieces of advice I would give to creative writers who want to write and get published: read & write. If that seems too simple, try doing both every single day. Good writers read good writing, and write daily. Even if you can only write twenty minutes every morning by getting up at 5 a.m. then guess what, that's what you do. You get better at writing by doing it over and over and by reading great writers. Writing one day a week for an hour isn't enough. That's like going to the gym and lifting some 5 lb dumbbells a couple of times. It's not enough, and good writers have to read and write constantly.

Past this, the advice I've received from every professor and every published writer I've ever talked to is to be persistent and stubborn. Over and over I've heard that the best writers they've known often aren't the ones who get published because they stopped along the way. The writers who get published are stubborn and relentless. Read, write, and edit. Then repeat as many times as necessary no matter how hard the rough times get.

This week I sold a flash fiction short story. Yes, it's only 500 words, only $10, but it's a published bit of fiction now. This was also a story I was told by a workshop and others that was a pointless worthless waste of time. That's the thing about workshops: learn to find good and legitimate criticisms of your work, and listen to those, and don't let the rest tear you down. It's a fine line, but it helps.

And never let writer's block get in the way. Even if it's something you throw out later, you need to keep on writing every day to keep your mind sharp!

7 Tips to Emotionally Prepare to Be a Freelance Writer


This is a revised article that I originally wrote with the freelance writer in mind, but the freelance writer isn't necessarily the only writer that gets lonely or struggles with the emotional aspects of trying to write. It's very easy for writers to feel isolated regardless of whether they write for a living (freelance) or write creatively hoping to make a living out of it. I figured this is advice that could help a lot of beginning writers.

Being a writer isn't easy. Aside from the constant struggles that every writer faces, whether it is finding consistent work as a freelancer, or struggling as a creative writer to write at a level that sets you above some very tough competition, there are a lot of hassles that only fellow writers can really appreciate.

This isn't even taking into account that being a freelance writer or a struggling creative artist (or especially both, when doing one in hope of trying to eventually make it as the other) can be very stressful and emotionally trying.

Many writers don't think about this before going to grad school, journalism, or really getting into the freelance writing business, but there are certain emotional factors many people never consider. Loneliness, stress, burn out - every writer is going to experience these things and it's much easier to get through if you have support.

Here are seven tips that can help you learn to deal with the emotional aspects of a freelance writer's life, many of which also apply to creative writers.

#1 Grow a thick skin: Whether the problem is family members snickering at your early attempts to write, or problem employers you run into while freelance writing, or going for months without selling a story: these frustrations are going to happen. Rejection is a constant, and can be very hard at first. Learn to grow a thick skin, and don't take any of it personally.

#2 Realize you may have to bend over backwards: Some customers don't know how to do business civilly. Sometimes, especially early on, you'll have to do a crazy amount of work and re-working to get the project done as needed to get paid. The same can apply to the first sale of a book: some editors are great, some will demand massive changes to a novel you've probably grown very close to, but you need to heed the advice for that first publication and learn how the business is done.

#3 Loneliness: Even if you tend to keep to yourself, writing is a very lonely endeavor. Joining a writer's forum online can help this, but you'll want to just get out once in a while to be around other people. A writer's group is ideal, especially if you have some close friends who are writers.

#4 Civility and basic politeness matters: It's amazing, especially in the freelance world, how many beginning writers are arrogant, demanding, and straight out rude to their employer. Basic business politeness and manners go a long way, even with clients who you want to strangle with both hands.

#5 Never be afraid to ask for a raise: This is more for the freelance writers, but the principle behind it is good. If there is a great writer you know, get their feedback. If you're writing for someone who rehires you on a freelance basis, ask for more money. Be bold. The worst that happens is he/she/they say no, and you're where you were beforehand. Nothing lost.

#6 Never be afraid to drop a headache client: Again for the freelance writers. It's not worth the time, stress, or effort. You can use that extra time to find better clients who appreciate your work and pay you what your work. In the same way for creative writers, if you're in grad school, find good criticism, but some writers will just be plain mean. Ignore them.

#7 Unshakable self-confidence bordering on ego: This doesn't mean being egotistical, as all writers have to be open to criticism to get better, but no matter how rough things get, you need to be confident about your abilities as a writer. Always. By all means, learn new skills and practice writing to keep yourself sharp, but always have confidence that you can do it.

Following all these tips will help you be mentally and emotionally prepared for all the rigors of a writing career.

The Creative Writer

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Creative Writing "Master" Class, Part I

Creative Writing "Master" Class, Part II

Creative Writing "Master" Class, Part III

Creative Writing "Master" Class, Part IV

Creative Writing "Master" Class, Part V

Help, My Fiction is Dying!


I am a creative writer through and through who has made his living the past several years as a freelance writer, and now I freelance on the side while also writing full time for Touchstone Publishing. Between technical writing, internet marketing, freelancing, and creative, I don't believe there is one that is distinctly "better" than another. I personally love fiction and creative writing, but there are less great copywriters in the world than there are fiction writers, and freelance and technical writing has its own subtleties, as well, that not every writer will be good at.

This is a partially revised article that I wrote over the past year when I realized my frustrations that in spending so much time writing to work and pay off debt, it can be really hard to make sure I take the time to work on my creative writing that I need. "Help, My Fiction Is Dying!" was not only my way of bringing my own problems out where I would have to deal with them, and also to let other writers in my situation know that they're not alone.

The Original Article: Slightly Revised

Freelance writers need time for their own writing, too

This article may not be useful to everyone, but for writers who write business copy, press releases, and Internet articles day after day (or freelance write in any capacity) as a way to eat while working on their life long dreams of writing that special book, then the title probably hits a chord. Working and writing is hard enough, but spending ten hours writing at the computer and then sticking around for fiction can be really hard.

While I love making a living business and freelance writing (and I can't imagine any job that I would enjoy more), it can be frustrating for me after a long week of writing articles to find the time to sit down and write the short stories, creative non-fiction, and novels that are just absolutely bursting to get out of me. For me if I go a week without any serious writing, I feel like I'm dying inside, and for me depression can, and will, often follow.

Establishing yourself as a freelance writer means a lot of overbooked weeks early. Sixty and eighty hour weeks aren't out of the question, and when you're writing (even if it is a different kind of writing than creative writing) it can be mentally exhausting, and the thought of re-working that novel or short story isn't very appealing. Sometimes when trying to force it, that blank page just mocks you. Even the typed pages you just want to edit sometimes don't flow at all, and you're not sure if it's because that page is okay or your brain just isn't cooperating.

Finding a balance between the commercial writing and creative writing can be very difficult, but for many people it's necessary. Not all of us can land teaching jobs (which in know way guarantee free writing time anyway), and for many of us freelance writing can be really lucrative, though time consuming. Here are some tips that I've found have helped me when I was having a difficult time.

1) Don't write creatively and commercially in the same place. This is a HUGE one for me. If you have a laptop this can be as easy as moving from one part of the apartment to another. Have one consistent place where you work on your "work" writing, and another for creative. I work in my apartment and occasionally an office, and I write on a table at the apartment complex's pool. On the plus side: with only a 90 minutes battery, that really has conditioned me to get into the creative writing mode quickly and to really polish out the pages when I do sit down.

2) Write creatively in the morning. If the creative writing is what you really want to work on, then try making your creative writing the very first writing you do in the morning. This can make you happy by working on your own stuff, and get your mind in a relaxed writing mood for the rest of the commercial writing that has to be done

3) Daily unbreakable goals. I've never been a "list of goals" or "write down where you want to be" kind of person at all, but a little older and a lot busier and I find this is the most effective way to keep me writing. Even if it's small, like 500 words a day or 20 minutes a morning, give it a try.

4) When was your last vacation? If you haven't taken one day off from commercial writing in months and months, choose a day that's just for you. Go to a coffee shop, enjoy a hike. Take a small notepad and pen for ideas, but don't force it. Write a letter. Do something. Even one day off can make an incredible difference.

5) Don't despair. Rejection is part of the game. The best writers aren't the ones who get published. The most stubborn ones are. Keep at it and don't get discouraged.

I hope these tips help you to make time for your own writing, as well as the commercial freelance jobs. It's not easy learning how to be a freelance writer. Keep at it, and someday maybe our books will be on the shelf side by side!

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    • profile image

      Freelance Writer 8 years ago

      Hey, loved the article! I am going to find quite a few of these tips useful as I try to kick off my freelance writing career!

    • Ryan Hupfer profile image

      Ryan Hupfer 8 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      Hey Jerry, thanks for answering my Request and for giving us some great tips...keep up the great Hubbing, man!