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I can read creative writing

Top 10 books about creative writing

T he poet Rita Dove was once asked what makes poetry successful. She went on to illuminate three key areas: First, the heart of the writer; the things they wish to say – their politics and overarching sensibilities. Second, their tools: how they work language to organise and position words. And the third, the love a person must have for books: “To read, read, read.”

When I started mapping out How to Write It, I wanted to focus on the aspects of writing development that took in both theoretical and interpersonal aspects. No writer lives in a vacuum, their job is an endless task of paying attention.

How do I get myself an agent? What’s the best way to approach a publisher? Should I self-publish? There is never one way to assuage the concerns of those looking to make a career out of writing. Many labour tirelessly for decades on manuscripts that never make it to print. The UK on average publishes around 185,000 new titles per year, ranking us the third largest publishing market in the world, yet the number of aspiring writers is substantially greater.

Writers writing about writing can become a supercilious endeavour; I’m more interested in the process of making work and the writer’s perspectives that substantiate the framework.

There’s no single authority, anything is possible. All that’s required are some words and an idea – which makes the art of writing enticing but also difficult and daunting. The books listed below, diverse in their central arguments and genres, guide us towards more interesting and lateral ways to think about what we want to say, and ultimately, how we choose to say it.

1. The Hatred of Poetry by Ben Lerner
An intellectual meditation on the cultural function of poetry. Less idealistic than other poetry criticism, Lerner puts forward a richly layered case for the reasons writers and readers alike turn to poetry, probing into why it’s often misconceived as elitist or tedious, and asks that we reconsider the value we place on the art form today.

2. Find Your Voice by Angie Thomas
One of the hardest things about creative writing is developing a voice and not compromising your vision for the sake of public appeal. Thomas offers sharp advice to those wrestling with novels or Young Adult fiction. She writes with appealing honesty, taking in everything from writer’s block to deciding what a final draft should look like. The book also comes interspersed with prompts and writing exercises alongside other tips and suggestions to help airlift writers out of the mud.

3. Linguistics: Why It Matters by Geoffrey K Pullum
If language is in a constant state of flux, and rules governing sentence construction, meaning and logic are always at a point of contention, what then can conventional modes of language and linguistics tell us about ourselves, our cultures and our relationship to the material world? Pullum addresses a number of philosophical questions through the scientific study of human languages – their grammars, clauses and limitations. An approachable, fascinating resource for those interested in the mechanics of words.

4. Madness, Rack, and Honey by Mary Ruefle
The collected lectures of poet and professor Mary Ruefle present us with an erudite inquiry into some of the major aspects of a writer’s mind and craft. Ruefle possesses an uncanny ability to excavate broad and complex subjects with such unforced and original lucidity that you come away feeling as if you’ve acquired an entirely new perspective from only a few pages. Themes range from sentimentality in poetry, to fear, beginnings and – a topic she returns to throughout the book – wonder. “A poem is a finished work of the mind, it is not the work of a finished mind.”

Astute … Zadie Smith. Photograph: Timothy Fadek/Corbis via Getty Images

5. Feel Free by Zadie Smith
These astute and topical essays dating from 2010 to 2017 demonstrate Smith’s forensic ability to navigate and unpack everything from Brexit to Justin Bieber. Dissecting high philosophical works then bringing the focus back on to her own practice as a fiction writer, her essay The I Who Is Not Me sees Smith extrapolate on how autobiography shapes novel writing, and elucidates her approach to thinking around British society’s tenuous and often binary perspectives on race, class and ethnicity.

6. Threads by Sandeep Parmar, Nisha Ramayya and Bhanu Kapil
Who occupies the “I” in poetry? When poets write, are they personally embodying their speakers or are they intended to be emblematic of something larger and more complex? Is the “I” assumed to be immutable or is it more porous? These are the questions posited in Threads, which illuminates the function of the lyric “I” in relation to whiteness, maleness and Britishness. Its short but acute essays interrogate whiteness’s hegemony in literature and language, revealing how writers from outside the dominant paradigm are often made to reckon with the positions and perspectives they write from.

7. Mouth Full of Blood by Toni Morrison
An urgent set of essays and lectures from the late Nobel prize winner that collates her most discerning musings around citizenship, race and art, as well as offering invaluable insight into the craft of writing. She reflects on revisions made to her most famous novel, Beloved, while also reflecting on the ways vernaculars can shape new stories. One of my favourite aphorisms written by Morrison sits on my desk and declares: “As writers, what we do is remember. And to remember this world is to create it.”

8. On Poetry by Jonathan Davidson
Poetry can be thought of as something arduous or an exercise in analysis, existing either within small artistic enclaves or secondary school classrooms. One of the many strengths of Davidson’s writing is how he makes poetry feel intimate and personal, neither dry or remote. His approach to thinking around ways that certain poems affect us is well measured without being exclusive. A timely and resourceful book for writers interested in how poems go on to live with us throughout our lives.

9. Essays by Lydia Davis
From flash fiction to stories, Davis is recognised as one of the preeminent writers of short-form fiction. In these essays, spanning several decades, she tracks much of her writing process and her relationship to experimentalism, form and the ways language can work when pushed to its outer limits. How we read into lines is something Davis returns to, as is the idea of risk and brevity within micro-fiction.

10. Essayism by Brian Dillon
Dillon summarises the essay as an “experiment in attention”. This dynamic and robust consideration of the form sheds light on how and why certain essays have changed the cultural and political landscape, from the end of the Middle Ages to the present time. A sharp and curious disquisition on one of the more popular yet challenging writing enterprises.

How to Write It by Anthony Anaxagorou is published by Merky Books. To order a copy, go to guardianbookshop.com.

Creative Writing: How to Get Started with Creative Writing [+ 9 Exercises]

Now, we’re not saying your creative writing is bad necessarily, but just that if you want to continue to push yourself in this industry, you’ll need some work since literature is more competitive now than it ever has been.

You might not like to face that truth, but it is indeed a truth everyone who wants to write and publish successfully has to face.

I’ll go into more detail about that in a little bit but every writer out there needs some writing tips to help them get better.

And one of the best ways to get better at creative writing is to first learn and understand the craft of it, and then challenge yourself by completing writing exercises.

Because when your time comes to publish, you want a high-quality final product in order to actually sell your book and acquire raving fans.

Save This Resource NOW for Quick Reference Later…

200+ Fiction Writing Prompts In the Most Profitable Genres

Come up with your NEXT great book idea with over 200 unique writing prompts spanning 8 different genres. Use for a story, scene, character inspo, and more!

Here’s what you’ll learn about creative writing:

What is Creative Writing?

Creative writing is a form of writing where creativity is at the forefront of its purpose through using imagination, creativity, and innovation in order to tell a story through strong written visuals with an emotional impact, like in poetry writing, short story writing, novel writing, and more.

It’s often seen as the opposite of journalistic or academic writing.

When it comes to writing, there are many different types. As you already know, all writing does not read in the same way.

Creative writing uses senses and emotions in order to create a strong visual in the reader’s mind whereas other forms of writing typically only leave the reader with facts and information instead of emotional intrigue.

It can be a book series or a single installation, the factors that make up creative writing have more to do with how it sits with the reader artistically.

What are the Elements of Creative Writing?

In order to get better at creative writing, you have to understand the elements of what makes writing a book great.

You can’t build a car engine without understanding how each part plays a role, right…?

That’s the same case with writing.

And just a note, this is all stuff we cover, and you get to talk about 1-on-1 with your coach when you join Self-Publishing School.

Here are the elements that make up creative writing and why each is just as important as the other.

Unique Plot

What differentiates creative writing and other forms of writing the most is the fact that the former always has a plot of some sort – and a unique one.

Yes, remakes are also considered creative writing, however, most creative writers create their own plot formed by their own unique ideas. Without having a plot, there’s no story.

And without a story, you’re really just writing facts on paper, much like a journalist. Learn how to plot your novel and you’ll open up the possibility of writing at a higher level without the need to find your story as much.

Character development

Characters are necessary for creative writing. While you can certainly write a book creatively using the second person point of view (which I’ll cover below), you still have to develop the character in order to tell the story.

Character development can be defined as the uncovering of who a character is and how they change throughout the duration of your story. From start to end, readers should be able to understand your main characters deeply.

Underlying Theme

Almost every story out there has an underlying theme or message – even if the author didn’t necessarily intend for it to. But creative writing needs that theme or message in order to be complete.

That’s part of the beauty of this form of art. By telling a story, you can also teach lessons.

Visual Descriptions

When you’re reading a newspaper, you don’t often read paragraphs of descriptions depicting the surrounding areas of where the events took place. Visual descriptions are largely saved for creative writing.

You need them in order to help the reader understand what the surroundings of the characters look like.

Show don’t tell writing pulls readers in and allows them to imagine themselves in the characters’ shoes – which is the reason people read.

Point of View

There are a few points of views you can write in. That being said, the two that are most common in creative writing are first person and third person.

  • First Person – In this point of view, the narrator is actually the main character. This means that you will read passages including, “I” and understand that it is the main character narrating the story.
  • Second Person – Most often, this point of view isn’t used in creative writing, but rather instructional writing – like this blog post. When you see the word “you” and the narrator is speaking directly to you, it’s second person point of view.
  • Third Person – Within this point of view are a few different variations. You have third person limited, third person multiple, and third person omniscient. The first is what you typically find.

  • Third person limited’s narrator uses “he/she/they” when speaking about the character you’re following. They know that character’s inner thoughts and feelings but nobody else’s. It’s much like first person, but instead of the character telling the story, a narrator takes their place.
  • Third person multiple is the same as limited except that the narrator now knows the inner thoughts and feelings of several characters.
  • The last, third person omniscient, is when the narrator still uses “he/she/they” but has all of the knowledge. They know everything about everyone.

While non-creative writing can have dialogue (like in interviews), that dialogue is not used in the same way as it is in creative writing. Creative writing (aside from silent films) requires dialogue to support the story.

Your characters should interact with one another in order to further the plot and develop each character other more.

Imaginative Language

Part of what makes creative writing creative is the way you choose to craft the vision in your mind.

And that means creative writing uses more anecdotes, metaphors, similes, figures of speech, and other figurative language in order to paint a vivid image in the reader’s mind.

Emotional Appeal

All writing can have emotional appeal. However, it’s the entire goal of creative writing. Your job as a writer is to make people feel how you want them to by telling them a story.

Creative Writing Examples

Since creative writing covers such a wide variety of writing, we wanted to break down the different types of creative writing out there to help you make sense of it. Y ou may know that novels are considered creative writing, but what about memoirs?

Here are examples of creative writing:

  • TV show scripts
  • Movie scripts
  • Songs

9 Creative Writing Exercises to Improve Your Writing

Writing is just like any other skill. You have to work at it in order to get better.

It’s also much like other skills because the more you do it, the stronger you become in it. That’s why exercising your creative writing skills is so important.

How do you start creative writing?

The best authors out there, including Stephen King, recommend writing something every single day. These writing exercises will help you accomplish that and improve your talent immensely.

#1 – Describe your day with creative writing

This is one of my favorite little exercises to keep my writing sharp and in shape.

Just like with missing gym sessions, the less you write, the more of that skill you lose. Hannah Lee Kidder, a very talented author and Youtuber, gave me this writing exercise and I have used it many times.

Creative Writing Exercise:

All you have to do is sit down and describe your day – starting with waking up – as if you were writing it about another person. Use your creative writing skills to bring life to even the dullest moments, like showering or brushing your teeth.

#2 – Description depiction

If you’re someone who struggles with writing descriptions or you just want to get better in general, this exercise will help you do just that – and quickly.

In order to improve your descriptions, you have to write them with a specific intention.

With this exercise, the goal is to write your description with the goal of showing the reader as much as you can about your character without ever mentioning them at all.

Save This Resource NOW for Quick Reference Later…

200+ Fiction Writing Prompts In the Most Profitable Genres

Come up with your NEXT great book idea with over 200 unique writing prompts spanning 8 different genres. Use for a story, scene, character inspo, and more!