Creative Writing: Where do I Start?

Whether you are hoping to write a fiction story, a non-fiction piece or poetry, all of them take time and practice. The following tips will help get you started, but remember, there is no exact science to creative writing.

Read widely

Most writers love reading. If you are writing in a particular genre, Familiarise yourself with similar. It may be poetry, literary fiction, historical novels; thrillers romance; fantasy or short stories. Good reading inspires good writing.

Write about what you know

Common advice for beginner writers is ‘write what you know’. It’s good advice. Use characters; settings and language you’re already familiar with and create new stories from the world that you already know. As you become more confident, you can use research to write about situations you are not familiar with.

Use your imagination

Even if writing about a familiar situation, you can still improve it by using your imagination. You have the power to create new situations, new characters, new relationships, even new worlds. Mix things up. Take a character based on someone from real life, but place them in a different time or situation. Choose to write about a different period in history, or a place that you’re not familiar with. Back these up with research.

Hook your readers

It’s crucial to ‘hook’ your readers immediately. Your opening sentence or paragraph should encourage them to continue and make them want to find out what happens next.

Get accustomed to including dialogue

Nothing brings a story alive as successfully as getting your characters talking. We find out about the people we meet through what they say to us, how they say it, their choice of words, their accents. Be aware: Would your character be likely to use that word / phrase? Is the language appropriate for the age of your character? Have you been consistent throughout the dialogue?

‘Show’, don’t ‘tell’

A reader can find it easier to step into the shoes of the character if the writer has been able to ‘show’ how that feels, rather than ‘tell’ them.  How did that hurt? How does the emotion affect their body? Is there tension between the characters? It’s more effective than telling the reader through piles of information. Some telling will inevitably be necessary, so don’t be too obsessive about avoiding it.

Try to avoid stereotypes

While under the mentorship of a bestselling author, one of her pieces of feedback on the first draft of my first novel was that I had created a ‘pantomime baddy’ character. As soon as I was told, I could see that was exactly what I had done. Attempt to create believable characters.

Don’t attempt to create a perfect first draft

It is far more important to plan your story and get it down first, then take time to improve it. Change words. Change the order in which things happen. Be critical about your characters. Ask yourself:  Is this person believable?

Make every word count

Try not to use words for the sake of filling a sentence. Is there one more ‘valuable’ word that will move the story on, in preference to the two adjectives and one adverb that describe the same issue? Every word should be ‘added value’.

 Keep polishing

All writers spend time ‘polishing’ through the editing process. Editing is not the same as proofreading; i Editing involves carefully going through your work to see what to leave out, what to change, finding out what you have to do to improve your writing, make it sharper, tidier, better.

 Make writing a habit

Establish your favoured writing time; your favoured writing space; whether you prefer writing on a laptop, tablet, pc or pen and paper. Get into the habit of jotting down little incidents you witness; interesting characters; how people speak to each other etc. Most writing courses call this your ‘journal’. It does not mean a daily ‘diary’ entry, but a treasure chest to stow away thoughts and open again at some time in the future to retrieve ‘treasure’.

Be Courageous

Unless you are going to keep all your writing to yourself, you must have the courage to ‘put it out there’! Some people will like your writing, some people won’t. Be prepared to give and receive constructive feedback. It is a valuable learning tool. It takes as much courage to give useful feedback as it does to ask for it.

Enjoy your writing!


  1. Phil

    Interesting and informative article.

  2. Jessica

    Very useful. I will try to follow the advice and guidance.

    • Lynne

      Jessica, I’m sure you have some very valuable experience to be able to use in your writing. L


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