Creative Writing Tips for Fiction Writers
Editing one's own work is a crucial skill for a writer, and these creative writing tips will help. Nobel Prize winner William Faulkner once wrote that we teach ourselves
through our own mistakes. People learn only by error, he wrote. However, it's not always easy to spot errors at first. We're too close to our own writing. We love
what we write, especially directly after we write it.
Using a Checklist of Creative Writing Tips
Initially, you may find creative writing tips in the form of a checklist helpful. Use the checklist and then read your work aloud to catch spots that don't "sound
right." Reading into a tape recorder and playing the
tape back or having someone else read the work aloud is useful because you're more likely to hear what is on the page, not what you meant to put there.
Forget About Perfection
Perfection isn't necessary in your first drafts. After all, what's the point of editing a paragraph that won't survive past the second draft?
Use this list of creative writing tips to remove the initial sloppiness of
free writing, to refine the plot and structure, and to improve dialogue, and then move on. With time and ppractice, your editing
checklist will shrink, and you'll catch errors as you write.
This list of creative writing tips is not comprehensive, but a short compilation of common and easily detectable errorsthe sort that will cause an editor to reject
your work. Polish your work before anyone else reads it, as writing littered with passive verbs, adverbs, adjective strings, bad dialogue, and
mixed up sentences is like a beautiful floor littered with garbage. No one will admire the rich hardwood below until someone removes the garbage.
Creative Writing Tips A-DAction/reaction
Write actions and their reactions in chronological order.
Not: She read the letter after she opened it.
Not: He spoke softly and gently.
Another way to resolve the "adverb problem" is to rewrite the sentence.
Not: He wrote magnificently, and his essays gained the respect of all.
Begin at left margin
Not: They began to speak
Crying, sobbing and tears
Crying, sobbing, and tears are considered clichéd and melodramatic. How else can you show the emotion?
Not: "Please don't do it," she cried, and fell sobbing to her knees.
Not: After lunch, she decided to go for a long walk.
Not: "Well hello there, Jackie. What a pleasure it is to see you again. I was just wondering, Jackie, if I would ever see you again on this trip or if I would have
to wait until we got back to London to give you a call."
Creative Writing Tips E-I
Going to be
Not: She is going to be angry.
Not: Lifting heavy tires all day, he wrenched his back.
Create a new paragraph when dialogue changes from one character to another. You may add the character's thoughts and actions after their dialogue without beginning a new
These are the words placed before adjectives and adverbs in an attempt to intensify an effect. Search for such words as very, so, quite, extremely, really, and
absolutely. We're very hungry. Thank you so much. The play was extremely good, etc. Removing them almost always improves the sentence.
Showing a character's thoughts through internalizations often helps resolve the problem of too much telling.
Not: Alice felt frustrated by their slowness because she needed to be home in ten minutes.
Use italics sparingly. They're seldom needed for internalizations. Quotation marks are not used around thoughts, so readers will understand that the internalization is
not spoken. Also, don't have characters speak thoughts to themselves, in the first person, as if another character were present.
Not: "I've got myself in a real jam this time. But there's a wall up ahead. Maybe I can climb it and get out, but I sure hope there are no dogs on the other side."
Creative Writing Tips J-N
Not: He knew she'd be right over.
Creative Writing Tips O-Q
Not: The papers were laid on the desk.
Not: What was most worrying to her...
Creative Writing Tips R-Z
Not: "Okay, I'll meet you at your place." She placed the receiver back in its cradle...
Not: He saw that she crossed the street.
Not: The fruit seemed ripe so he ate it.
Not: The car seemed to bounce along the road.
Not: "Take it," Betty said, pushing the book on him.
Not: "I like it that way," Joe coughed, laughing and winking.
Not: I've got him now, Tom thought.
For more important creative writing tips about how to recognize and avoid passive verbs, see the Passive Verbs page.
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