The first thing that might come to your mind when you hear the words ‘creative writing’
is probably not what you’re supposed to be thinking about. The first image that might come to your
mind is that of a writer sitting alone at a desk, buried in a mass of pages. But that’s not what
creative writing is at all! Let me introduce you to a whole new way of looking at the creative
process that will change the way you think about fiction and non-fiction writing alike.
What Is Creative Writing?
According to Merriam-Webster, creative writing is “the act of writing or making something
with originality and imagination”. But that definition doesn’t really do justice to what creativity
means in the literary world. Let’s take a closer look.
The Process Of Going From Idea To Finished Product
An idea can take many forms. It might be a character, a setting, a plot, or even a title.
Sometimes you’ll have an image or a scene that’ll pop up in your head and won’t go away. That’s what
happened for me when I sat down to write the novel, The House of Broken Angels. As soon as I
started writing, I had this character named Kaleb. He was a loner and a genius, and he lived in
this town called Silent Hill. I never actually set foot in Silent Hill, but the name and the
location came to me easily enough and wouldn’t leave my head once I started writing!
The creative process usually starts with some sort of idea or inspiration. For me, the
essential ingredient is simply that there has to be some sort of hook that makes the reader want to
continue reading. My novels seldom fail in that regard. Even if the characters are not especially
likeable, or the narrative is somewhat confusing, or a little corny, the reader will almost
certainly keep turning the pages long enough for everything to make sense in the end. That’s the
greatest compliment I can receive as a writer: that my readers will finish a book and say, “This is an
exceptional piece of writing. I didn’t know what was happening, but by the end of the story, I
knew exactly what was going on, and I cared about the main characters.”
The Importance Of Character Development
The characters in my novels are all there for a reason. I needed someone to play the
part of Kaleb, so I created a character who was both like and unlike myself. I didn’t want to just
write about a genius who lived in a mansion by himself, so I gave him quirks, vulnerabilities, and
strong emotions. As a writer, that’s one of the things I love most about Harry Potter: not only
does Rowling develop the characters well, but she also weaves an intricate plot that keeps me
turning the pages long into the night.
In The House of Broken Angels, Kaleb is a genius who’s had to hide his abilities because of
the prejudices of others. The narrative is told in first person, so the reader becomes very
intimately acquainted with Kaleb and his world. I wanted the reader to feel connected to Kaleb and
his struggle to be accepted for who he is, so I worked hard to make the character as real as possible.
Kaleb’s life is not easy, and it’s not a life any of us would choose for ourselves, but that’s
what makes him so special. There’s a reason why J.K. Rowling says that her favourite character in
all of her books is Charlie, the House-Elf who serves as a kind of companion, friend, and
protector to Harry Potter throughout the series. I feel the exact same way about Kaleb, and I
bet you do too. He’s certainly not what you’d call an ideal roommate, but he’s the best friend any
of us could ask for.
The Power Of The Written Word
What makes a book extraordinary is not always the writing itself, but the power of the
written word. If I had to choose one element that represents the ‘magic’ of written words, it would
be that of the reader and the imagination. When you read a book, the story spills into your
head, and the way you imagine it is what makes it live in your memory. That’s a magical thing.
When you write, you draft out your story line by line. You might use a computer for
this, but the most traditional method is to use a typewriter. When you finish a page, you turn the
page over and begin typing the next. If you’re like me, you’ll eventually end up with a physical
collection of handwritten pages, which you’ll have to either type or scan and store. The power of
the written word is truly in the act of creation itself.
It All Starts With A Little Idea
Ideas are everywhere. Sometimes you’ll wake up in the morning, and an idea will be the
first thing that comes to your mind. Or perhaps you’ll read an article somewhere, and it’ll inspire
an idea for a story. Sometimes you might not even need an article at all – just a little seed of
an idea that, when planted, will grow into a full-blown idea that you can develop into a complete,
finished work of art.
The great thing about ideas is that they are everywhere. You don’t need to look far to find an
idea that you can develop into a story. Simply by being creative and open to new
ideas, you’ll find that your ideas will come in full flow and without effort. What’s more, you have
the power to bring ideas to life, to make them tangible and real. That’s what makes the creative
process so exciting.
Keep Your Eye On The Grand Scheme
This tip might sound like it’s a given, but it’s worth repeating. One of the most
frustrating things as a writer is to have a draft that you’ve worked hard on – perhaps for
months – and then to discover, much to your horror, that it’s all gone wrong. This often happens
when you get so absorbed in the world of your story that you forget to look up from your
typewriter or computer, and let alone plot points and character arcs. Rewriting is essential once you
make this mistake. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the little details of your story (and they are
vastly important, don’t get me wrong), but you must keep in mind the overall scheme. Plotting your
story out and seeing it all the way through, from start to finish, is the best way to ensure that
everything is consistent and that the story makes sense.
When I was first putting this article together, I had a massive headache. My eyes
started to swim, and I felt a pressing need to lay down. I had completely lost my train of thought
while editing, and I couldn’t remember what I was trying to say. After nearly a day of writing and
editing, I looked at what I had and was dumbfounded. I’d completely rewritten an entire fourth
of the book! I was so frustrated, and when I finally got back to editing, I discovered that my
brain had slipped into ‘over-writer’s mode’. After writing a certain amount of words each day, the
brain starts to produce words faster than you can write them! It’s the writer’s equivalent of
hallucinogens :). Not a pleasant experience, I can tell you!
The Role Of The Editor
An editor is someone who helps bring a manuscript to completion. They’re the individuals
who correct spelling, punctuation, and any grammatical errors. They also take the raw text and
shape it into a complete and coherent work. An editor is very similar to a coach, except that the
editor tends to be more involved in the creative process and serves a more active role.
In most cases, an editor won’t actually ‘proofread’ the work. Rather, they’ll listen to the
writer’s pitch and then provide comments on the story, offering suggestions, making changes,
and generally helping to shape the work. During this process, the writer must listen carefully to the
editor’s comments and make the appropriate changes. If you’re working on a long-form piece, such as
a book, you’ll likely have several rounds of edits before the piece is ready.