There’s an art form that can be described as ‘creative nonfiction’ and it’s quite possibly one of the most interesting and eye-opening forms of writing. It uses real events as the starting point for imaginative narratives and it often incorporates the author’s personal experiences.
The form is certainly associated with some of the greatest writers of all time, from H.G. Wells to Ian Fleming to Barbara Taylor Bradford. It has even been credited with breaking down gender barriers, allowing more women to enter the field of creative writing.
Though the form is incredibly popular, arguably because of its many famous practitioners, it can still feel a little bit intimidating to those who haven’t tried it out. That’s why we’ve compiled a short list of tips that will help you get started writing creatively non-fiction.
Understand What It Is
Before you start trying to put words on paper, it’s important to understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Ask yourself questions about what you know and don’t know, and try to get a clear picture of everything.
What is your expertise? What do you know that others don’t? What are your skills? What have you learned? What are your interests? What are your hobbies? Who are your favorite authors?
By defining yourself in the context of the project, you’ll be able to see it from a different perspective and it might even inspire you to try something new. Defining yourself in the context of the project will make you stop and think about what you’ve actually accomplished, rather than merely what you’ve read about in books.
Pick A Theme
One of the first things you’ll want to do before you start writing your creative nonfiction is to decide on a theme. The theme will dictate both the style and the content of your work and it will guide your choice of source material. You don’t necessarily have to pick a specific theme, but it’s a good idea to do so.
The form is often associated with ‘social issue’ writing, such as politics and religion, and it can also be used to examine human nature and psychology. One of the most famous themes in the form is ‘time travel’, which was first used by H.G. Wells in his 1902 novel, The Time Machine. In the book, the main character builds a time machine and travels through time, exploring the past, present, and future.
If you choose a time travel theme, be careful not to travel into the future, as you might accidentally cause an apocalypse. If you do want to write about time travel, the best time to do so would be right at the end of the 19th century, when it was difficult to ascertain the consequences of scientific discovery. Though Wells did experiment with time travel in his own life, he never actually found a way to visit the future. He did, however, prove that it was possible to travel into the past.
Start A Document
One of the things that make creative nonfiction stand out is that it is often not intended to be published as is. As an author, you’re not bound to any specific word limit and you have complete control over the formatting of your work. That means you can create whatever layout you like and use your own words, rather than relying on a template.
To get started, you’ll want to set yourself up with a word processor. There are a variety of free software programs that you can download for this purpose, such as Microsoft Word or Scrivener. If you don’t have a word processor, it’s time for an upgrade! You’ll also need a good document camera to take notes during class sessions, to help you remember key details.
Join A Writing Group
A lot of people, even those who think they’ll never be able to write creatively, have found that getting support from other writers has helped them get started.
Writing groups can be a great way to get motivated and to stay inspired. Even if you don’t consider yourself a confident writer, it can still be a terrifying experience trying to put your thoughts on paper without any outside help. If you live in Melbourne, you can get support from a literary group called the Melbourne Writers’ Centre, which provides feedback on your work and helps you find your voice.
Use Your Personal Experiences
One of the things that makes creative writing so interesting is that the themes and issues that the authors explore are often deeply personal. In fact, it’s not uncommon for writers to use their own lives as inspiration for their work. In the form known as ‘memoir’, the author recounts important events from his or her life and incorporates them into an engaging narrative. That narrative can be considered a representation of the author’s personal experiences and it’s a key element of creative nonfiction as a whole.
There are many advantages to writing about personal experiences rather than general concepts. You’re not just talking about yourself, but you’re also relating a story that is based on fact. If you decide to write about a very personal experience relating to love, attraction, or sexuality, you’re opening up a whole new world of narrative possibilities. Though much will depend on your own personal experiences, this is an excellent place to start if you want to explore some serious issues relating to gender roles and inequality. If you decide to write about your time spent in a foster home, you’ll have the opportunity to explore your relationships with others and how you define yourself in the context of others. If you want to write about your social anxiety, you’ll have the opportunity to explore how you deal with everyday situations and how you perceive yourself in relation to other people. You get the idea.
If you’re really lucky, you might start out with a short story and work your way up. Though there’s no rule stating that you have to tell a story in creative writing, it’s a good idea to start small, in order to prove to yourself that you can in fact pull off the whole thing. Short stories are a fantastic starting point and you’ll have the opportunity to work on your craft and develop your voice while also tackling a theme or topics that are more within your reach. The best thing about short stories is that they’re often quite entertaining and they can be used for a variety of purposes, from marketing material to student essays or even just as a fun distraction.
Writing is an art form that can be improved upon with practice. Just like anything else, there are certain techniques that make things easier and there are also things that make things harder. If you want to get better at writing, it’s important to simply practice writing regularly, even if it’s just for a few minutes each day.
There are a variety of approaches to getting better at writing. For some people, it’s a matter of putting in the necessary hours and learning to ‘love’ what they do. For others, it’s a case of breaking down their writing into small, achievable goals and working their way up. Still others prefer to get their hands on some excellent literature and immerse themselves in the worlds of the greats, learning from their mistakes and forging on.
Find A Place To Write
If you want to write creatively, it’s important to have a place where you can do so. This could be your home, or it could be a place that you find comfortable, such as a cafe or a coworking space. If possible, you might even want to get an office with a view, though that can get a bit pricey. Remember, you’re not obligated to work in an office or at home. You can write anywhere that has a desk or a lap!
Regardless of where you decide to write, make sure that it has everything you need. You don’t want to end up in the middle of the story, wondering how you’ll ever make it home. This is especially important if you decide to write at night, as you might find that places like cafes close at such inconvenient times.
Start A Blog
Blogs are a fantastic place to both express yourself and to find inspiration. If you decide to incorporate your personal experiences into your creative writing, a blog is an excellent way to do so and, in fact, it might even inspire you to write your creative nonfiction. The choice of blogging platform is entirely up to you. There are many popular platforms out there, such as WordPress or Blogger. You can also just use a good free blog platform, such as Gurney.