Updated: Jun 27, 2020
I'm often being asked by students how to get better at writing creatively. The truth is there is no real "quick fix" that will get you writing like J.K Rowling in a day. However you can improve your skills that will enable you to become a better writer.
Here are a few tips that might help.
Write little and often: If you practice writing a small amount on a regular basis, you will get better at writing. However don't just stick to just writing a story all the time, as it will stifle your creativity. Write a poem, start a blog or write a letter to someone. You don't need to send the letter; but the regularity of putting pen to paper, or even typing on a PC, gets your creative juices working in ways that a text or WhatsApp message doesn't. Also don't feel that you have to finish everything you start straight away. I often start writing tasks that I don't finish for weeks. If you do this, it will take the pressure off of you to finish something and crucially; it just gets you writing.
2. Use everything that you know: At the beginning of your primary school years, you are taught the basics: a verb is a 'doing word', a noun is a 'place, person or thing' and how to use punctuation for effect when writing. Then when we go to secondary school, there is less emphasis on these things and so we forget how to use our SPAG (Spelling Grammar and Punctuation) effectively in our writing. When writing creatively, things will become dull if we forget to inject the stuff we know already. A good story has basic verbs and nouns etc, but an amazing story is littered with adverbs, abstract nouns, alliteration, adjectives, similes, metaphors and all the things you're likely to have known about since the year dot into your work!
3. When you start to write, try to use the methodology of 'show' rather than 'tell' in your writing. It will make the characters 'speak' to the reader and you will engage the reader more when you write. How does it work? Take a look at this piece of writing.
"Julie sat in the room and felt as if all eyes were on her. She tried desperately to fit in, but it was quite clear she wasn't used to being in a posh restaurant.
She began trying rapidly to work out what the word 'jus' meant before the waiter would need to know what she wanted to eat next.
Her boss had already ordered. It was a rare steak in a red jus. When it arrived the steak was smeared in a thin type of gravy. She thought to herself now she knows what a jus is; it's a very thin gravy!"
Now as it goes, this description isn't too bad. However a re-working of it would demonstrate the methodology of 'showing' Julie's thoughts as if we were there with her. This technique in writing is called the omniscient narrator. It is the all-seeing, all-knowing thought process of a character that allows us as a reader to 'see' what Julie is thinking and feeling.
"Julie shifted uncomfortably in her chair. She could have sworn the haughty looking woman on the opposite table was staring at the cheap dress she'd borrowed from her flatmate. It felt far too short for this posh restaurant. As she grabbed the hem to pull it down, her body felt taut with the uneasiness of a mouse trapped in a cage.
Her boss sat Godfather-like at the head of the table, glancing briefly at his staff. He had already received his food. It was a huge steak swimming in a glistening, glossy red wine jus.
"Madam what will you be ordering this evening?" The waiter looked as if he was sniffing something rather whiffy. His nose pointed in the air and he hardly looked at her at all. He's judging me too, she thought uneasily.
"I'll have the steak as well, with the juice". She said to the waiter, confident that this wouldn't draw attention to the fact that she didn't know what on earth some of the other things on the menu were. If I copy what my boss has had, It'll be so easy. I can't go wrong.
"I think madam means the 'jus'. 'JOOO'. He spoke loudly correcting what she had said. The words reverberated around the room and wafted heavily in the air. It was clear her pronunciation of the word was wrong, really wrong; seriously lost in translation!
Her body felt hot and prickly and small beads of sweat began to form on her face.
"I'm really sorry Mr Bikerstaff, I-I have to go home, I feel sick." She knocked over the wine she had been drinking in her haste to leave, embarrassed at her very obvious faux pas.
That evening, she spent the rest of her time in the local takeaway eating her version of a steak in jus; a big fat, greasy burger smothered in ketchup and mustard. Absolutely delicious!"
Now doesn't this version of the story make you feel Julie's plight a bit more? When you 'show' us, rather than 'tell' us what a character is feeling, it's often better for greater impact for the reader. As a writer, if you can get your reader to feel, think or sometimes even sympathise with your way of thinking with regards to a character, it will often get a reader (or even an examiner) marking your writing higher.
So now you have a few handy tips, why not give some creative writing a go?