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Cheat Sheet

Creative Writing For Dummies

Do you want to be the next J.K. Rowling and dream up a character like Harry Potter? Do you want to write poems or plays? Follow this handy Cheat Sheet, which breaks down the process into manageable tasks, and helps you to develop your style.

Before You Begin Your Creative Writing

Always be prepared! Here’s a checklist of useful writing aids to have with you as you begin to write – just don’t forget the chocolate biscuits.

  • A good notebook

  • A decent pen

  • Plenty of paper

  • A computer or laptop

  • A desk or other writing space

  • A dictionary

  • A thesaurus

How to Generate Creative Writing Ideas

Writer’s block affects all writers from time to time. If you feel a bit stuck for inspiration, try these techniques to get your creative juices flowing.

  • Find a postcard, photograph or painting depicting two or more people and write a story about them.

  • Look at any object and write about it – where does it come from, who does it belong to, who might want it?

  • Read the newspaper for unusual and interesting stories and develop them as fiction.

  • Listen to conversations on the bus, in a café or at the supermarket. Jot them down and carry them on, seeing where they lead you.

  • Pick up a book you really like and open it at a random page. Pick a sentence you like and write it down, and then carry on writing your own story.

  • Pick an emotion and create a story around it. Pick another, and carry on writing. Make the characters move from the first emotion to the second.

Writing Your First Draft

Writing a first draft of your creative writing project – whether a novel, short story, poem or play – can be a bit daunting. Follow these handy hints to help you organise your thoughts and manage your time:

  • Don’t worry about a great opening line yet. Simply start writing wherever you like.

  • Keep the flow going in the early stages – keep writing without stopping, going back, re-reading or changing what you’ve written.

  • Remember to show not tell – think about how to dramatise what you’re writing about and create visual images.

  • Start somewhere else and get going again if you become stuck on a particular passage.

Rewriting and Editing Your Creative Writing Project

Rewriting and editing helps to tighten up your work. But it can be difficult – what to chop and when to stop may not be clear, and you may change your mind more than once during the process. Ask yourself whether you need to take out:

  • Unnecessary information and explanation.

  • Passages of dialogue that go on too long.

  • Clunky descriptions that give too much detail.

  • Clumsy images that don’t really work.

  • Too many adjectives and adverbs.

You may need to add or expand:

  • Something you know but have forgotten to tell the reader; perhaps the age of the main character.

  • More specific descriptive information that shows instead of tells; instead of describing a man as ‘old’, describe his white hair, slow gait and mottled hands.

  • Dialogue of what the characters actually say, rather than summaries.

  • Material to add interest or create suspense.

  • A better opening or closing line.

You may need to move:

  • Dramatic sections to make a stronger opening.

  • Early information to where the reader really needs to know it.

  • Essential information nearer the beginning of the book.

  • Descriptive passages to add tension and suspense to incidents.

  • Words, phrases and sentences to make a better rhythm.

In your final edit:

  • Check for grammar, punctuation and spelling mistakes.

  • Ensure you have no continuity errors.

  • Pay particular attention to the first and last lines of any section or scene.

  • Smooth out any awkward words and phrases.

  • Clarify anything that isn’t clear.

Ways to Develop and Improve Your Creative Writing

Here are some top tips for developing your creative writing. No writing is ever a finished product – there are always ways to improve and refine your style.

  • Go on a writing course.

  • Join a writers’ circle.

  • Find a good library and use it.

  • Read and re-read good writing.

  • Attend book festivals, readings and bookshop events.

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