Mature man sitting at desk writing on notebook

It has been said that everyone has a novel inside them, but few people ever tell their story. Why is it that so much creativity stays locked away? What is so daunting about creative writing that most people do not ever make an attempt? Here are a few tips that might make writing the Great American Novel or short story a bit easier for new, aspiring writers.


What Is Creative Writing?


Creative writing is typically fiction or poetry that displays invention or imagination. Creative writing is contrasted with journalistic or academic writing. In creative writing, the goal is to entertain rather than to inform.[1]


What Are Cognitive Writing Skills?

A lot of research has been conducted into the cognitive approaches to writing.[2] However, these processes lend themselves better to writing academic, journalistic, or nonfiction works. While writing may be a cognitive process, the creative writer draws upon their heart more than their head to tell their stories. There is no magic formula to write well. Good command of the English language and large vocabulary help, of course, but there is no X, Y, Z, and presto, you are finished.


A General Blueprint for Writing Stories

Choose a Setting

If writing a historical story, you may wish to do some research so that your story is historically accurate. Similarly, if you are writing about somewhere in the world that you have never been, you should research the place so that it at least has a framework on which to build your fictional setting. If you are writing a science fiction story, let your imagination run wild because, after all, this is a futuristic or faraway world that no one has been to. Become comfortable with your setting as it is the backdrop for your story.


Define Your Characters

Who is your hero or heroine? Who is their supporting cast? These are the voices that will tell your story, and each should have their own unique backstory and driving force.


Write Your Plot

Overall, you should have a sense of what the characters are trying to accomplish or relate to the reader before you sit down to really start writing. What is the action portion of your story? Is it an ongoing plot or a retelling of something that has already happened?


Develop Your Characters’ Points of View and Context

Consider your characters’ beliefs and any moral dilemmas they may be struggling with. Plan out how they come into conflict with one another. All of these ideas lend flavor and context to your story.


Write Meaningful Dialog

Write your story as if your characters are speaking to one another. Even if you only have one character, you can write as if they are speaking with the voice in their head. You are a writer; you of all people know everyone has a little voice in their head. It is our nonstop stream of consciousness that we consult on everything in life from what to have for dinner to what career is best.

A meaningful dialog is another method that the writer has to relate a message to the reader. Developing a relationship with your reader is essential if you want to sell more stories to them. They have to enjoy your work, or that first dollar might just be your last.


Create Tension and Conflict

What dilemma are the characters struggling with? Stories should emulate real life to enhance their believability. It is excellent to write positive, feel-good stories, but some conflict or tension is what adds the spice to the meat of your tale.


Build to a Climax

Your climax is the scene toward which your story has been building all along. It will answer many, if not all, of the moral questions or dilemmas posed throughout the narrative. This is where you get to interject your point of view or commentary, especially if the story has been a metaphor or allegorical.


Write Your Resolution

Your resolution doesn’t have to be a final solution. Cliffhangers are acceptable, especially if you are planning a series of short stories. However, there does need to be some “let down” after your climax to allow the reader to breathe and feel as if at least some of the loose ends have been tied up.


Novel Writing 101

Writing a novel is essentially the same as writing a short story, only longer. There is time to develop your characters more thoroughly, introduce multiple, interwoven plot lines, and move the novel across various settings and periods.

All of the elements mentioned above remain the same, though. The same basic building blocks of writing a good short story will be used when writing your novel. Unlike a short story, which is usually written “in order” from start to finish, you may find yourself inspired to write your novel piecemeal, jumping from chapter to chapter, but not necessarily in chronological order.

Writing chapters as they come to mind for your first draft is often helpful if you’re struggling with one section of the novel. Simply move to a different character or plot that is not being hampered by writer’s block. Once you have the first draft of all your chapters, you can tie them together in the correct order and edit or revise as necessary.

While the general steps of writing a novel are the same for everyone, the writing process is not. Do not get mired down in some “expert’s” opinion of how a novel or story should be written. This is a creative process, and all creative geniuses draw their inspiration in their unique way. Be bold. Be yourself. Tell your story as you want it to be told.


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