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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

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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!

Creative Writing 101: Everything You Need to Know

Creative writing is writing that takes an imaginative, embellished, or outside-the-box approach to its subject matter. This is in contrast to academic, technical, or news writing, which is typically dry and factual. Most people associate creative writing with fiction and poetry, but creative nonfiction should not be forgotten or underestimated, as it’s an important and wide-ranging kind of writing.

We’ll be covering everything to do with creative writing in the rest of this series — but this post will focus on helping you understand and identify it. Many will say that they’ll know it when they see it, but there are some more forensic ways to decide whether something would be considered creative writing. Looking at its form, for example, is usually a strong indicator, but a focus on storytelling elements like narrative, perspective, and character can also suggest that something falls under the ‘creative’ umbrella.

What forms can creative writing take?

Given the fact that creative writing is often of an experimental and innovative nature, it’s no surprise that it takes a number of different forms. Let’s differentiate between the key manifestations of this kind of writing.


From haikus and sonnets to sestinas, elegies, and villanelles, poetry is one of the most multifaceted forms of creative writing. Writers of verse have the freedom to experiment with less rigid forms like prose poetry or free verse, but many poets also work within structured traditions that make specific demands in terms of rhyme, rhythm, and subject matter. Poetry, in case you were wondering, is the form that’s most likely to break punctuation rules or be formatted in unique ways, as in the case of blackout poetry.

A somewhat nonsensical blackout poem, on us.

The key thing to remember with poetry is that there are really no rules.

Short fiction

With literary magazines growing immensely popular in the 19th century, short stories entered the mainstream. While it’s widely accepted that short stories should run under 7,000 words, even shorter stories (classified as flash fiction and microfiction) emphasize the brevity of this narrative form even more, by telling stories in as few words as possible. All falling under the umbrella term of ‘short fiction,’ these types of stories are all about compressing and distilling narrative intensity.


Perhaps the primary thing people associate with “creative writing”, the novel is an ever-popular form that relies on following a narrative arc using prose — and it also happens to have the most commercial power. Novellas and the even cuter-sounding novelettes are short and even shorter novels, the word count and narrative scope of which differentiate them from short stories. If you need an example of each, Angie Cruz’s Dominicana is a full-length novel, Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome a novella, and John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men a novelette.

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Plays and screenplays

Consisting entirely of dialogue and stage directions, scriptwriting is a type of creative writing that relies heavily on subtext. In other words, everything that isn’t said by the characters, the gaps that emerge between the things they explicitly say. More than that, this type of writing isn’t intended for a readers but for other storytellers (directors, actors, designers, etc) to use and interpret in their own creative work. Famous examples include Angels in America by Tony Kushner and Fleabag by Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

Comics, graphic novels, and graphic narratives

Combining illustrations or visuals with text, these visual modes of storytelling also depend heavily on dialogue to build convincing characters, though unlike scripts, descriptive narration is not off-limits here. From superheroes like Batman to YA romance like Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper series, this category contains a huge variety of illustration styles and narratives.

Personal essays

Thoughtful, reflective pieces of writing that often follow a narrative arc, personal essays explore a person’s thoughts and feelings on a personal matter. Rather than simply chronicling the writer’s experiences, these essays typically use an artifact, book, or news development as a jumping off point from which to widen the scope of their story. These essays can also include travel and food writing, as well as think pieces that rely heavily on a personal perspective.

Humor writing

Aside from casually existing within other types of creative writing, humor can also be considered as its own type of creative writing type. Much alike to online meme-making or old-school political cartoons in spirit, humor writing satirizes and lampoons to make the reader think differently about political structures, current events, and human behavior, with its primary goal being laughter. These days, this kind of writing tends to congregate in humor websites or the humor sections of popular magazines like The New Yorker’s ‘Daily Humor’

There’s really no limit to the kind of writing you can approach creatively, so there’s always potential for new forms of creative writing. Almost anything that you write that isn’t a down-the-line report of facts is creative writing. That wedding speech? Creative writing. That song you wrote for your third-grade crush? Yes. That expletive-filled Twitter thread about the latest Marvel trailer? Congratulations, you’re a creative writer.

How do you know it’s creative writing?

Five fundamental elements are the clearest way to distinguish between well-written non-creative writing and creative writing. You can write about the same subject matter in a different way, but creative writers will use poetic license and storytelling tools to bring a story to life.

1. It’s told from a specific point of view

Point of view humanizes a narrative by offering personal insights and perspectives. Unlike news reporting, which aims to be impartial and objective, creative writing leans into the fact that each writer has a unique personality, and uses this to its advantage. From using first person and owning your ‘I’ to express your feelings or experiences, to dramatizing the gaps of communication between characters in a fictional piece, contrasting viewpoints make a work ever more immersive, vivid, and inherently interesting to read.

Need an example? Take Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and contrast it with news accounts of the same murder. Capote’s book gives the reader a closer perspective of the killers, making an effort to understand them, whereas news reports simply list the facts in chronological order.

2. Its narrative structure is designed to engage readers

Fiction and nonfiction share an important unifying core: that of narrative structure. Both use the principles of storytelling to express events, realizations, or complicated plots and subplots. Regardless of what happens in each narrative, the opening, ending, and rising action sections of a piece of writing need to be tightly structured for cohesion and coherence.

A personal essay that does this well is Lilly Dancyger’s essay “Don’t Use My Family For Your True Crime Stories”. Instead of a chronological retelling of her cousin’s murder and her own subsequent grief and aversion to true crime writing, Dancyger opens by introducing the fact of the murder, then briefly visits the present to explain her current feelings, before returning to the past to narrate how she and her family heard of Sabina’s murder. This structure allows the reader to empathize by mirroring the shock of death: being taken by surprise is followed by a need for facts and explanations.

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3. Tension is used to make readers feel invested

Whether the tension arises from an impending realization or comes in the form of suspense as the perpetrator of a crime is about to be revealed, the existence of tension means that a writer has managed to write something where the stakes are high, and the reader feels emotionally or intellectually invested. The Serial podcast, for example, does this particularly well, as it tells a true story in a serialized form with cliffhangers and a central mystery.

4. A central theme is used to organize the narrative

Life, it must be said, is not quite as neat as literary theme analysis will have you think. Writing, however, tends to operate as an opportunity for thoughts, feelings, and events to be organized into information the reader can process. Because of this process of organizing thought, certain central themes appear in each work. In a memoir, for example, that might be the lessons someone has learned, or the principle they believe best represents their experiences. To give you an example, Michelle Obama’s aptly named Becoming keeps returning to the same conclusion after reviewing each of her experiences: that you, too, can become whatever you want, despite adversity. In this case, the story’s recurring themes are hope, growth, and perseverance in the face of discouragement. Unlike the dry Wikipedia page giving Michelle Obama’s biography, Becoming is a compelling piece of creative writing that tells a cohesive story by focusing on this central theme.

5. Literary devices are used freely

Imagine reading the newspaper and encountering a report of an accident that begins with this sentence:

“The sun had just begun to awaken, emerging sleepily from the shadowy depths behind the skyscrapers and casting a pale yellow light onto the street when Yamada Kumiko had a terrible accident.”

That’s a tad too poetic for a newspaper article, isn’t it? Aside from being tragically insensitive given the accident context, the reason this sentence feels so wrong is that it uses figurative language in a way that is not common for factual journalism. That’s because literary devices (and some rhetorical devices, too) are generally reserved for work considered to be creative writing, instead. Otherwise, it might feel a little bit like the writer is showing off in the wrong context — if your washing machine troubleshooting guide is all ornate turns of prose, something’s gone wrong (and your machine is likely to stay broken).

We hope this guide has armed you with the questions you need to ask if you’re ever unsure about whether something is considered to be ‘creative writing’ — why not turn your attention to trying creative writing yourself next? May your writing flow not like a faucet, but a waterfall: abundant, uninhibited, and breathtaking to all who behold it.

In the next post in this series, we’ll be taking a look at 7 ways in which you can start creative writing yourself. Time to have some fun!

My writing life

Thank you for visiting my literary site. Make yourself comfortable and enjoy the ride. I blog about books.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Description of places in creative writing

As readers we love to be immersed in the places where the stories unfold. This does not necessarily mean that lengthy descriptions are needed. Sometimes two or three lines can be powerful enough to achieve our purpose.
As writers we can encourage readers to experience a place through all the senses:
-Perception of movement
In addition to being an exciting invitation that awakens the reader’s senses, a vivid setting can be deeply enmeshed in the characters and the tension.
Let’s examine some paragraphs from stories by well-known writers:

“It was a bright day, a hot day, the day old Mr Prescott died. Mama and I sat on the side of the seat of the rickety green bus from the subway station to Devonshire Terrace and jogged and jogged. The sweat was trickling down my back, I could feel it, and my black linen was stuck solid against the seat. Every time I moved it would come loose with a tearing sound, and I gave Mama an angry ‘so there’ look, just like it was her fault, which it wasn’t.”
This is the first paragraph of “The Day Mr Prescott Died” by Sylvia Plath. I almost had to wipe my back after reading it. Can you feel the heat on your skin? I can almost smell the fumes of the bus and hear the engine, and we are just starting to get inside the character’s mind.

“The mornings were beautiful. The snow flanked the paths in long, unbroken curves. We could put our heads into it and sift it about like sand and then shake every grain off our fingers. Up in the pine forests the trees were like sugar trees. After a while all this whiteness hurt the eyes and it became scarcely possible to see anything. Between the grizzled pines flashed the splinters of the low sun and above was the pure enamel blue of the sky.” This is a paragraph from the story “In a Winter Landscape” by Olivia Manning. This scene is very intense. It is a cool scene. The writer invites you to touch the snow, not just to look at it, and we imagine the sun rays sneaking between the trees. Let’s continue reading the next paragraph of this story:
“Near the hotel was a little lake with a tea-house built out into the water for summer visitors. The tea-house was a shabby red, but now, outlined and glittering with frost, it had a Japanese look. The snow had been swept from the ice and a loudspeaker broadcast dance music; a few skaters pressed forward and turned and lifted feet to the rhythm of the music. People stood and watched them.” The writer makes it very vivid by contrasting the red color of the tea-house with the snow. There is music; people are skating to its rhythm. Three senses are involved now ( sight, hearing and touch).

“Whenever we children came to stay at my grandmother’s house, we were put to sleep in the sewing room, a bleak, shabby, utilitarian rectangle, more office than bedroom, more attic than office, that played to the hierarchy of chambers the role of a poor relation. It was a room seldom entered by the other members of the family, seldom swept by the maid, a room without pride; the old sewing machine, some cast-off chairs, a shadeless lamp, rolls of wrapping paper, piles of cardboard boxes that might someday come in handy, papers of pins, and remnants of material united with the iron folding cots put out for our use and the bare floor boards to give an impression of ruthless temporality. Thin white spreads, of the kind used in hospitals and charity institutions, and naked blinds at the windows reminded us of our orphaned condition and of the ephemeral character of our visit; there was nothing here to encourage us to consider this our home.”
The writer threads the character into the place here. The analogy between the gloomy room and the character’s condition of being an orphan ignites intrigue and paints a vivid scenery. This story is “Yonder Peasant, Who Is He?” by Mary McCarthy.

Words have the power to create the proper atmosphere, inviting the readers’ minds to swim through our stories effortlessly.
Isn’t this fascinating?