Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Creative Writing 101

Creative writing is any form of writing which is written with a purpose of expressing thoughts, feelings, and emotions rather than simply conveying information. Author of White Noise, Don DeLillo says, "Writing is a form of personal freedom. It frees us from the mass identity we see all around us. In the end, writers will write not to be outlaw heroes of some under culture but mainly to save themselves, to survive as individuals."

As we start getting back to our routines after the holiday season, we usually like to think we are starting with a clean slate - a clarity of thoughts with new ideas, new goals, and perhaps, a new hobby? Give creative writing a go.

For starters, the worst thing you can do is sit down at your desk and force yourself to produce a work of art from start to finish. As a creative myself, I can attest to this. The creative process can be a brilliant, twisty, whirlwind of a thing that takes you down one path as quickly as it's pulling you in another direction (if you let it). So let it. Start small and don't think too much.

Types of Creative Writing
Poetry, Limericks, Haiku and Song. These are the most simple forms of creative writing. Poetry can rhyme, or not rhyme, or follow a sonnet form. Limericks are written like poems, but have strict guidelines (a five-line poem that has humorous, witty, or even obscene intent). Haikus are 3-line poems with seventeen syllables written in a 5/7/5 count. They often focus on images from nature. Even songs we hear on the radio started as pieces of creative writing, with verses, chorus, and refrains to keep us interested.

Example of a haiku: 
An old pond!
A frog jumps in--
the sound of water.

Flash Fiction, AKA micro-fiction and fan fiction. These are short, fictional stories that tell the story in as little words as possible, yet provide a complete picture of the story. (The short and sweet stuff.) Click here for some examples.

Free-Form and Journaling. Free-form is a common type of creative writing taught in creative writing classes. A set amount of time is given for a free flow of thought (maybe 15 minutes), uncensored and open to the writer's thoughts and feelings. Many writers use this practice to ease writer's block and to keep their thoughts fresh. Journaling has the same freedom as free-form does. There does not have to be a clear beginning, middle, and end. Journaling provides insight and clarity about personal experiences.

Novels and Short Stories. Novels are made up of thousands of words with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Short stories are kind of ambiguous - many writers consider a short story as under 20,000 words and some say between 1,000 and 7,500. In the end, it can be whatever you want it to be.

Scripts. This type of writing is found in theater, television, and radio. These are plays, movies, soap operas, dramas, or skits that include the writer's intent for the actors. How is writing a screenplay different than writing a novel? Find out here.

Tips and tricks for beginners
Stretch. If you're short of ideas, get up and shake it out. Literally, get out of your chair and wiggle around. Deep breathing and stretching your muscles relieves stress and rebalances that equilibrium.
Carry a notebook. So then you'll have it when you have that weird and random, yet perfect, idea. You might find that moment to be in line at a cafe, or stepping off the bus, or sitting in the bathroom stall (hey, you know you've had some lightbulb moments during that time of the day).
Plan. Figure out the time of day that you feel most creative. For a lot of writers, that time is first thing in the morning - before all the demands of daily life kick in. Other writers go late into the night, when they can unwind and let it all out. Try both!
Stop agonizing. It is very rare, and nearly impossible, to complete a perfect first draft. That's why it's called a draft - a preliminary version of a piece of writing, a plan, sketch, or rough drawing. If you hit a block, just step away from the initial draft for a few hours, or a few days, and come back to it. And stop beating yourself up about it - it would be strange if you weren't struggling a little.

Still stuck?
  • - Write a mini story (100 to 200 words) that begins with: "They had nothing to say to each other."
  • - Write from the point of view of the only tree left standing in the forest.
  • - 12 good reasons to sleep in, go!
  • - Put an athlete, artist, and a fitness instructor in a museum. Add a broken window and crooked painting. One of the three panics, what happens next?
  • - In 400 words, create your ideal place.
  • - List ten things you would buy with your last $20.
  • - Begin with, "I thought I saw…"
Find more writing prompts here!

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