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What Are the Principles of Creative Writing?

Creative writing is all the rage these days. It seems everyone has a blog, a website, or even a book about writing creatively. Being a writer can even be considered a hobby these days. Many consider it a required course in college to be considered a real writer. But what exactly is creative writing and what are the principles behind it?

Before we begin, let’s establish some terminology. When I say creative writing, I mean fiction writing, non-fiction writing, or even some combination of the two. I also sometimes refer to it as “free-writing,” as in, “Let’s just get some free writing done today.” Creative writing is all about expressing yourself, so anything goes. Sometimes this means writing an essay on a controversial topic or using alliterative verse or even making up a new language (that you create). So, when I say creative writing, I mean everything from short stories to long novels to plays and screenplays. All of it is considered “creative writing” in one sense or another.

The Biggest Mistake New Writers Make

This is probably the most common question I get from people who are just starting out – what am I supposed to write about? How about you? You’re just starting out, aren’t you? What should your first book be about? You get the question a lot, so let me answer it by saying: it depends.

If you’re just starting out, the biggest mistake you could make is to think that your first book has to be about something serious. Now, some themes are more suitable for literature than others. For example, Edgar Allan Poe wrote some great stories about detectives, but would be better off writing a romance novel. Of course, he did write some really dark and intense stuff, but you get the point. Maybe you should start out with some “gateway” stories that will introduce you to the public and let them know what kind of story you can write, but then go on to write the kind of book that you really want to write. It’s not that simple because what we really need is for people to know what we can do, not just what we can write about, but the important thing is to find your voice and your niche.

The Seven Principles of Creative Writing

Now, this is where it gets a little bit tricky. Just because something is “creative” doesn’t mean it’s easy. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into it. So, here are the seven principles that make up the foundation of creative writing:

1. Set A Goal

Many of us are writers because we want to be, not because we have to be. If you have a dream of being a published author, you can certainly go the easy route and choose a topic that’s already been done, but you should pursue this goal because you want to, not because someone else told you to. If you do decide to write about something that’s already been done, the first thing you should do is sit down and set a goal. How much time are you going to spend on this project? How much research are you going to do? What’s your inspiration for the story? These are all important questions to ask yourself and they will form the basis for your writing. Setting a goal will help you to focus and keep on track. It may even inspire you to write something that’s been on your mind for a while.

2. Never Underestimate The Power Of Words

Have you ever read a book and been completely absorbed by it, only to discover that what you’re actually reading isn’t what you thought it was? More often than not, this happens with non-fictions. I find this happens especially with the written word, so if you’re reading this and you want to be a writer, do yourself a favor and learn to love words. The best way to do this is simply by reading a lot. Take a look at some of the greatest authors in history; all of them were avid readers. If you want to be a good writer, you have to understand what makes for a good sentence, a good paragraph, and a good chapter. Start by taking a look at how other writers do it and then figure out how you can improve on this. Of course, you don’t always have to follow the rules, but you should at least understand them.

3. Start Small

Many of us aren’t particularly fond of writing. We consider it a chore rather than a hobby and for the most part, this is probably because we don’t feel like we’ve found our “niche.” For years, I thought my “genre” was going to be romances, but now I believe it’s more suitable for horror. Back when I first decided to tackle the dreaded task of writing a novel, I looked for advice on the Internet and came across the term “scatterplot.” This is where you start out simple and get your feet wet. Most often, when people are asked to write a novel or tell a story, they will start out with a simple story about something that happened to them or a character they created. This is where you should do the same. Choose a topic that you’re passionate about and have the ability to write about. Something as simple as a love story can be a powerful vehicle for sharing your feelings and thoughts with the world. The more you write, the better you’ll get at it. Don’t be afraid to take your time and do it right.

4. Find Your Identity

An author’s identity is the representation of their voice. It’s something that differentiates them from other writers and gives them their own unique style. A lot of times, when we’re first starting out, we’ll see other writers’ work and think, “this is what I want to write.” But, you should be careful not to copy someone else’s identity. Instead, you should find your voice and your niche. It may take some time to figure out what works best for you and what makes you unique. Sometimes, this can be difficult. For example, if you’re a woman writing horror, it may be hard to find an identity that isn’t overly sexualized. You can often find advice on this issue online. Look for writing communities and blogs that can help you to find your own identity as a writer.

5. Read A Lot

If you want to be a good writer, you have to be a voracious reader. It’s not enough to simply write and not enough to simply read. You have to be able to do both and be able to switch back and forth easily. If you’re serious about becoming a writer, learning to be comfortable with ambiguity is probably one of the most important things you can do. A lot of times, when we’re reading, we’ll encounter words and phrases that aren’t in the context that we’re accustomed to. Our mind will jump to conclusions and we’ll come to our own incorrect conclusions. It’s all about learning to reread and learn from others’ mistakes. The more you read, the better you’ll get at understanding and identifying these kinds of errors. When you’re searching for a topic for your novel, look for those “word clouds” that display the most frequently used words in the text. This can help you figure out what words and phrases you might need to research.

6. Research

This is one of the most important principles of creative writing. Before you start writing, you should have a pretty good idea of what you’re going to write about. If you don’t have a clear picture in your head yet, then you should probably skip ahead to the next step.

7. Revision

This is the final and perhaps the most important step in the process of creative writing. Many of us are so focused on getting our first book published that we forget about the process of writing and never really get around to revising. Revising is important because it allows you to cut out all of the mistakes you’ve made along the way and get the story right. If you find that you’ve made spelling errors or that the narrative isn’t quite sitting right with you, then you should definitely go back and fix it. Sometimes, this is even an exercise in psychology. If you’re writing a thriller, for example, you might want to show the mental and physical trials your protagonist goes through. It can help prove that the story is indeed plausible, but it can also make for some really tense reading. Take your time with this step and do it right.

If you want to be a good writer, these are the seven principles you need to follow. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Even if you follow the rules, you might still end up with something that isn’t quite right. This is why it’s so important to go through the revision stage. But remember, like with any other skill, practice makes perfect.