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best practice for creative writing


best practice for creative writing


13 Creative Writing Exercises: Become a Better Writer

Posted on Mar 5, 2023

by Hannah Lee Kidder

No matter where you are in your writing journey or career, there is always room to grow!

But how do we grow intentionally and in the right ways?

Today we’re going to talk about the fundamental ways that writers improve, and we’re going to try out some fun writing exercises to build your skill level and refine your writing style!

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How to get better at writing

There are a few fundamental ways to get better at writing.

Creative writing exercises are great to loosen up the writing muscles, as a warm-up, to practice specific writing skills, or just as a fun activity when your writing project has you feeling stale.

Here are thirteen exercises you can try to sharpen your writer reflexes! 

13 Creative Writing Exercises

Becoming a better writer can’t be done by just reading and learning. You have to put these things to practice in order to see your own weaknesses as well as where you can improve.

The more you write, the better writer you’ll be.

Here is your list of 13 free creative writing exercises:

1 – write a scene or short story using no adverbs or adjectives.

This exercise trains you to focus on stronger verbs and nouns. I give this exercise to newer writers because they often default to unnecessary adverbs and adjectives as a crutch instead of refining their word choice in core parts of speech.

NOTE: There’s nothing wrong with using adverbs and adjectives effectively! But before you get a hold of your writer’s voice and personal style, they can weaken your writing.

2 – Choose a random object from the room you’re in and write an image-only poem about it

This exercise will let you practice using imagery and specific description without relying on telling

NOTE: Try using senses other than sight! What does the object feel like? Smell like? Maybe even taste like?

3 – Take a story you’ve already written and write it from the point of view of a different character

Writing the same story from a different point of view can give you an understanding of character motivation and perspective.

A story can completely change based on who’s telling it!

4 – Take one of your favorite short stories, either one you’ve written or one you’ve read, and write it in a different genre

For example, take a romance and write it as horror.

This is a super fun exercise, and it lets you practice using tone and perspective! The tone of a story can change the meaning.

5 – Speed-write a story using a writing prompt

Speed-writing helps to release judgment you might put on your stories, allowing for a more natural process. I like to speed-write when I’m stuck on a short story or a particular scene.

REMEMBER: You can always edit and delete anything you write! Don’t be afraid to write with your gut without judging it.

A few writing prompts:

6 – Write a stream of consciousness

A stream of consciousness is a direct transcript of every thought you have. It’s a bit like speed-writing in that you just dump thoughts onto paper without judging them.

Giving yourself the freedom to write without second-guessing it helps to unkink writing blocks.

7 – “Write your dialogue like it’s a script”

This one comes from Gloria Russell, critique professional .

This is more of a writing strategy, but a lot of successful writers, like Jenna Moreci , suggest outlining your dialogue-heavy scenes that way before you flesh it out fully.

Oftentimes, we’ll get so caught up writing descriptions, dialogue tags , and body language cues that it distracts from the important conversation we’re writing. If you can focus on the dialogue itself on the first go, it’s easier to get a natural back-and-forth exchange, then you can write the rest of the scene around it.

8 – Free-write for ten minutes before you begin your writing day

Before athletes train, they warm up. Writing is the same! Loosen and stretch your writer muscles with a ten minute free-write session.It can be a daily journal, a writing exercise, a stream of consciousness, or anything you’d enjoy!

9 – “I like to write a story starting from the resolution and working my way backward”

This exercise is from Micah Klassen , Those Three Words

Writing a story out of order is another way to get a fresh perspective. This exercise can also give you insight on things like story structure , progression, climaxes, conclusions, and countless other story elements.

It’s a way to dissect a story and see how they’re built.

10 – Edit someone else’s writing

Thinking critically about another writer’s work helps you think critically of your own. It is good practice for problem-solving, critical observation, and revision.

You might even glean some inspiration!

11 – Revise the oldest story of yours you can find!

Maybe it’s from college, maybe high school, maybe it’s a story you wrote when you were seven–rewrite it with your current skill and life outlook

This is a helpful, fun exercise. It’s good practice, it’s inspiring to see how far you’ve come as a writer, and you might end up salvaging something into a quality story!

12 – Practice a skill with a short story

Choose a specific writing skill you’re struggling with, or just want more practice in, and write a short story focusing on that skill.

Can’t nail your dialogue? Write a dialogue-heavy short story and edit it until you’re happy with it. Bad at showing instead of telling? Write a scenic short story and focus on writing with compelling imagery and specific details.

Nailing a skill with a short story is quicker and easier than struggling with the same problem throughout longer projects.

13 – Write your MC in a different world/setting

What would your contemporary character do if flung into a science fiction scenario? What would their profession be in a different era of time? What if their socioeconomic status was completely reversed?

This is a good exercise for understanding your character at a more complex level. If you’re struggling to connect with your MC, definitely try out this exercise.

Anytime you feel stuck on a story, it’s great to do a little free-write session changing something up, like in exercises 3, 4, and 11. Sometimes you just need a perspective switch to knock the story loose.

The best way to sharpen specific writing skills is to identify the weakness and write short stories, really digging into that skill. I find it’s helpful to share those stories with other writers so they can give you feedback and let you know if you’re getting better with it.

I hope you found these exercises helpful! Feel free to share anything you’ve written from them in a comment below.

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Hannah Lee Kidder

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10 Effective Ways to Improve Your Creative Writing

freelance journalism course at NZ Writers College

Writing a story is a craft that requires constant tweaks, edits and trial and error by the writer. Here are ten tips to improve your creative writing and save you hours of painful re-writing in the future.

(1) Don’t underestimate your reader

You have a fantastic plot, your characters are realistic, the setting is ideal and you want to make sure that the reader gets every little detail that you have in mind. Great!

The only problem is that you may be tempted to bombard your reader with many intimate details so that they see it exactly as you do. In-depth descriptions can be useful and effective, but don’t overdo it. Keep your writing neat and tight; don’t waste space on long, rambling descriptions about things that aren’t necessary to your story.

Wouldn’t it be ideal if editors received submissions and decided to look past the typos and incorrect formatting because they think it might be a little gem of a story? The fact is that if your manuscript is full of errors or doesn’t follow the required guidelines then it’s going in the trash.

Don’t rely on your computer’s spell checker. If you make a typo, the computer will not warn you if you’ve still spelt a valid word. Your gorgeous heroine meets the bog (boy) of her dreams? The wealthy doctor places his golf ball on his tea (tee)?

(3) Give Your Characters Life

Characters are vital to your story so treat them with care and give them that breath of life that you, the writer, have the power to give. Give them unique characteristics; make them believable by making them have a purpose, motivation and conflicts to resolve.

(4) Use Strong Words

You want your writing to sound decisive, so use words that get the point across. Did Bob’s really big headache cause him a lot of pain or did Bob’s migraine cause excruciating pain? But remember not to overdo it: don’t use words that the reader won’t understand, you want to use strong words, not confusing or extravagant ones.

(5) Show Don’t Tell.

Who hasn’t heard that one before? But it’s a valid point and a useful rule for all writers. Fiction is for entertainment, so entertain your reader! Give them an excuse to escape into the reality that you have created. Let them see, hear, feel, smell, laugh, cry, love and hate. Show your reader the world that you’ve created, don’t just tell them about it.

(6) Check your Commas

While commas can be effective many inexperienced writers tend to sprinkle their sentences with them. When placed incorrectly, commas can chop up your sentences and sometimes even alter the meaning. Brush up on your high-school grammar; your work will improve with that alone.

(7) Grab their Attention from the Start

Opening lines are often referred to as ‘the hook’ because that’s exactly what you want them to be. You get the reader’s attention and reel them in for the rest of the story. Try something powerful to kick-start your story. For example: ‘Mark’s back broke with an audible crack’ or ‘Eliza didn’t realize that she was going blind’ or ‘The bullet that pierced Henry’s back and left him paralyzed was meant for a homeless man’. Each of these lines makes the reader ask ‘why?’ and once they ask that question, the reader will keep on reading until they find the answer.

(8) Give Your Reader a Satisfactory Ending

You can leave the reader speculating or wondering why at the end of your story, but try to resolve as much as you can. If your reader finishes the last sentence and is still asking questions about what happened to who and why, then you still need to tie up the loose ends.

(9) Sober up

Think of writing as going out to a bar: you go out, the lighting is dim, it’s noisy, maybe you drink too much but you meet a person who’s attractive, witty, shares the same interests as you and you’re smitten by them. A few days later you meet for coffee: are they as good looking or charming as you remember?

This can happen with writing. You become intoxicated with the feeling of success and think that you have written an award-winning piece. The question is, once you’ve sobered up, is it as good as you thought it was? Put your manuscript away and try not to think about it for a couple days. Then take it out and read it with a clear, open mind. Read it through once from beginning to end, then break it up into sections, then read it sentence by sentence. Is it as good as you remembered? If so, then well done! But the odds are that if you were too excited about finally wrapping it up, then you’ll find some points to revise.

(10) Challenge Yourself

Are you trying too hard to write in a specific genre or style? Do you only write short stories or novels or poems or movie scripts? Give that creative muscle a workout and try something different. It will be a refreshing exercise for your mind and you might be surprised by the result. If you don’t succeed then you have still learnt a valuable lesson.

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50 Fantastic Creative Writing Exercises

best practice for creative writing

Good question.

Creative writing exercises are designed to teach a technique. They are highly specific, more specific than creative writing prompts, and much more specific than story generators.

Creative writing exercises for adults are not designed to lead the writer into crafting a full story, but are only designed to help them improve as a writer in a narrow, specific category of writing skills.

I’ve broken the exercises below into categories so you can choose what category of skill you’d like to practice. Can you guess which category in this list has the most prompts?

If you guessed characters, then you’re right. I think characters are the heart blood of every story, and that a majority of any writing prompts or writing exercises should focus on them.

But I also think any of these will help you create a narrative, and a plot, and help you generate all kinds of dialogue, whether for short stories or for novels. These writing exercises are pretty much guaranteed to improve your writing and eliminate writer’s block. 

Also, if you’re a fledgling writer who needs help writing their novel, check out my comprehensive guide to novel writing.

Enjoy the five categories of writing exercises below, and happy writing!

five senses

1. Think of the most deafening sound you can imagine. Describe it in great detail, and have your character hear it for the first time at the start of a story.

2. Have a man cooking for a woman on a third date, and have her describe the aromas in such loving and extended detail that she realizes that she’s in love with him.

3. Pick a line from one of your favorite songs, and identify the main emotion. Now write a character who is feeling that emotion and hears the song. Try to describe the type of music in such a beautiful way that you will make the reader yearn to hear the song as well.

4. Have a character dine at a blind restaurant, a restaurant in pitch blackness where all the servers are blind, and describe for a full paragraph how the tablecloth, their clothing, and the hand of their dining partner feels different in the darkness.

5. Select a dish representative of a national cuisine, and have a character describe it in such detail that the reader salivates and the personality of the character is revealed.

Dialogue exercises

7. Describe two characters having a wordless conversation, communicating only through gestures. Try to see how long you can keep the conversation going without any words spoken, but end it with one of them saying a single word, and the other one repeating the same word.

8. In a public place from the last vacation you took, have two characters arguing, but make it clear by the end of the argument that they’re not arguing about what they’re really upset about.

9. Write a scene composed mostly of dialogue with a child talking to a stranger. Your mission is to show the child as heartbreakingly cute. At the same time, avoid sentimentality. 

10. Have two character have a conversation with only a single word, creating emphasis and context so that the word communicates different things each time it is spoken. The prime example of this is in the television show “The Wire,” where Jimmy and Bunk investigate a crime scene repeating only a single expletive.

best practice for creative writing

11. Pick an object that is ugly, and create a character who finds it very beautiful. Have the character describe the object in a way that convinces the reader of its beauty. Now write a second version where you convince the reader (through describing the object alone) that the character is mentally unstable.

12. Write down five emotions on slips of paper and slip them into a hat. Now go outside and find a tree. Draw one emotion from the hat, and try to describe that tree from the perspective of a character feeling that emotion. (Don’t mention the emotion in your writing — try to describe the tree so the reader could guess the emotion).

13. Describe a character’s bedroom in such a way that it tells us about a person’s greatest fears and hopes.

14. Root through your desk drawer until you find a strange object, an object that would probably not be in other people’s drawers. Have a character who is devastated to find this object, and tell the story of why this object devastates them.

15. Go to an art-based Pinterest page and find your favorite piece of art. Now imagine a living room inspired by that flavor of artwork, and show the room after a husband and wife have had the worst fight of their marriage.

16. Pick a simple object like a vase, a broom, or a light bulb, and write a scene that makes the reader cry when they see the object.

best practice for creative writing

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17. Make a list of the top five fears in your life. Write a character who is forced to confront one of those fears.

18. Write an entire page describing the exact emotions when you learned of a happy or calamitous event in your life. Now try to condense that page into a single searing sentence.

19. Think about a time in your life when you felt shame. Now write a character in a similar situation, trying to make it even more shameful.

20. Write a paragraph with a character struggle with two conflicting emotions simultaneously. For example, a character who learns of his father’s death and feels both satisfaction and pain.

21. Write a paragraph where a character starts in one emotional register, and through a process of thought, completely evolves into a different emotion.


best practice for creative writing

22. Create a minor character based upon someone you dislike. Now have your main character encounter them and feel sympathy and empathy for them despite their faults.

23. Have a kooky character tell a story inside a pre-established form: an instruction manual, traffic update, email exchange, weather report, text message.

24. Write about a character who does something they swore they would never do.

25. Have a character who has memorized something (the names of positions in the Kama Sutra, the entire book of Revelations) recite it while doing something completely at odds with what they’re reciting. For instance, bench pressing while reciting the emperors in a Chinese dynasty.

26. Write a paragraph where a character does a simple action, like turning on a light switch, and make the reader marvel at how strange and odd it truly is.

27. Have a couple fight while playing a board game. Have the fight be about something related to the board game: fighting about money, have them play monopoly. Fighting about politics, let them play chess.

28. Write about two characters angry at each other, but have both of them pretend the problems don’t exist. Instead, have them fight passive-aggressively, through small, snide comments.

29. Describe a character walking across an expanse field or lot and describe how he walks. The reader should perfectly understand his personality simply by the way you describe his walk.

30. Write a first-person POV of a character under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and try to make the prose as woozy and tipsy as the character.

31. Describe the first time that a character realizes he is not as smart as he thought.

32. Describe an hour in the life of a character who has recently lost their ability to do what they love most (a pianist who has severe arthritis; a runner who became a quadriplegic).

33. Write an argument where a husband or wife complains of a physical ailment, but their spouse refuses to believe it’s real.

34. Write a scene where a stranger stops your main character, saying that they know them, and insisting your main character is someone they are not. Describe exactly how this case of mistaken identity makes your character feel.

35. Describe a small personality trait about a person you love, and make the reader love them, too.

36. Write a personality-revealing scene with a character inside a public restroom. Do they press a thumb against the mirror to leave a subtle mark? Do they write a plea for help on the inside of the stall door? Do they brag about the size of what they’ve just dumped off?

37. Give your character an extremely unusual response to a national tragedy like a terrorist attack or natural disaster. Maybe have them be aware their response is unusual, and try to cloak it from others, or have them be completely unaware and display it without any self-consciousness.

38. Have one of your main characters come up with an idea for a comic book, and tell a close friend about the idea. What about this idea would surprise the friend, upsetting what he thought he knew about your main character? Also, what would the main character learn about himself from the comic book idea?

39. Think of an illness someone you love has suffered from. How does your character respond when someone close to them has this illness?

40. Have your main character invent an extremely offensive idea for a book, and show their personality faults through discussing it with others.

41. Have your character write down a list considering how to respond to their stalker.

42. Write a scene where a man hits on a woman, and although the woman acts repulsed and begs her friends to get him away from her, it becomes apparent that she likes the attention.

43. Write about a 20-something confronting his parents over their disapproval of his lifestyle.

44. Have your character write a funny to-do list about the steps to get a boyfriend or girlfriend.

45. Have a risk-adverse character stuck in a hostage situation with a risk-happy character.

46. For the next week, watch strangers carefully and take notes in your phone about any peculiar gestures or body language. Combine the three most interesting ones to describe a character as she goes grocery shopping.

47. Buy a package of the pills that expand into foam animals, and put a random one in a glass of warm water. Whatever it turns out to be, have that animal surprise your main character in a scene.

48. Have your character faced with a decision witness a rare, awe-inspiring event, and describe how it helps them make their decision.

49. Imagine if your character met for the first time his or her long-lost identical twin. What personality traits would they share and which ones would have changed because of their unique experiences? 

50. If a character got burned by a hot pan, what type of strange reaction would they have that would reveal what they value most?

Once you’ve taken a stab at some of these exercises, I’d recommend you use them in your actual writing.

And for instruction on that, you need a guide to writing your novel . 

That link will change your life and your novel. Click it now.

Creative Writing Exercises

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John Fox, you have some excellent resources, and I thank you. I read your comments, then scrolled down to glance at the list of 50 exercises. The FIRST one, “loud noise’ is already in my head. My Hero is going to be side swiped in my Cozy. I was side swiped on a state highway here in Virginia a couple of weeks ago and, although the damage was minor, the sound of that big SUV “glancing” off my little car was SCARY!!! I once heard a fast-moving car REAR-END is stand-still car; that sound was something I’ll never forget. So, your exercise is very timely. THANK YOU!!!

This is a great list! Thanks!

You know what would be motivating? If we could turn these in to someone and get like a grade lol

I’ve been thinking a lot about “how to master writing,” and this is the first time that I found an article that makes it clear the difference between prompts and exercises. I fully agree with you. These are bound to make you a better writer if you focus on doing a variation of them daily.

An excellent list – thank you very much. I run a small writing group and we’ll be trying some.

Yes, thank you. I too run a small writing group and you got me out of a slump for tomorrow’s group!

yes,thank you . It’s good for improve your writing skills.

What a lovely list! I am working on the final draft of my very first novel, and am constantly working at improving the final product. Your exercises are just what I need to kickstart my writing day. Thank you so very much.

Thank you very much When I turned50 I received my diploma from Children’s Institute in West Redding Ct I got my inspiration from being near water however now that I am in Oregon I have had a writing block thanks to your list my creative juices are flowing

I suppose I better have good punctuation, seeing this is about Writing. Thank you for this great list. I am the Chair of our small Writing group in Otorohanga and we start again last week of Feb. I have sent out a homework email, to write a A4 page of something exciting that has happened over the holiday break and they must read it out to the group with passion and excitement in their voices. That will get them out of their comfort zone!

A formidable yet inspiring list. Thank you very much for this. This is really very helpful. I am from India, and very new to writing and have started my first project, which I want to make it into a Novel. This has been very helpful and is very challenging too. Prompts look sissy when compared to this, frankly speaking. Thank you very much again.

Where can I get the answers for these?

There aren’t “answers.” You create responses to these exercises.

Thank you so much for the detailed suggestions focusing on HOW to put the WHAT into practice; really helpful & inspiring.

Just started rough drafting a story I’ve always wanted to write. Do you have any advice for someone writing their first real story? I’m having trouble starting it; I just want it to be perfect.

I consider this very helpful. Just started my journey as a creative writer, and will be coming back to this page to aid my daily writing goal.

I have always loved writing exercises and these are perfect practice for my competition. I have tried lots of different things that other websites have told me to try, but this by far is the most descriptive and helpful site that i have seen so far.

This is really a creative blog. An expert writer is an amateur who didn’t stop. I trust myself that a decent writer doesn’t actually should be advised anything but to keep at it. Keep it up!

I’ve always enjoyed writing from a little girl. Since I’ve been taking it a bit more seriously as does everybody else it seems; I’ve lost the fun and sponteneity. Until now…..this is a marvelous blog to get back the basic joy and freedom in writing. Or should that be of?:) These exercises are perfect to get the creative juices flowing again…..thank you:)

These are interesting exercises for writing.

These are fantastic! I started reading a really awesome book on creative writing but it just didn’t get any good or easy to follow exercises. So I found your site and having been having a lot of fun with these. Exactly what I was looking for, thank you!

creative and inspiring, thank you

I always wanted to have an exercise where a friend and I each wrote a random sentence and sent it to each other to write a short story from that beginning sentence, then exchange the stories for reading and/or critique. Maybe both writers start with the same sentence and see how different the stories turn out.

Thanks for these exercises. Some are really challenging. To truly tackle them I’m having to spend as long beforehand thinking “how the HECK am I going to do this?” as I do with ink on paper. Would be a great resource if other authors submitted their replies and thoughts about how they went about each exercise.

Start the conversation: submit one of yours.

I think I can use these to inspire my students.

Hi there. Thank you for posting this list- it’s great! Can I ask you to consider removing number 42 or perhaps changing it somewhat? I teach sex ed and every year am shocked by how many young people don’t understand issues around consent. Stories about woman who ‘say no but really mean yes’ are deeply unhelpful. Really appreciate your post but felt I had to ask. Thanks.

What’s wrong with the number 42?

I just make this list a part of my teaching in Creative Writing Classes. Very good list of ideas!

best practice for creative writing

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Creative Writing for Beginners: 10 Top Tips

These creative writing for beginners tips can help with a short story, poem or novel .

Writing is a great pursuit, but many first-time writers find that it’s not as easy as they think. If you are dabbling in creative writing activities or fiction writing for the first time, you will likely discover that writing courses and writing exercises fall short in helping you truly develop characters and overcome writer’s block.

Thankfully, you can take some steps to embrace your inner author and write your first short story or novel. Whether you have an end product in mind or are simply looking to start your writing journey, these writing tips will help you get started.

1. Dig Deep to Choose Your Topic

2. spend time reading, 3. write daily, 4. tackle writing exercises, 5. consider a writing course, 6. keep it unique, 7. practice, practice, practice, 8. try a different medium, 9. embrace your critics, 10. write first, perfect later, the final word on creative writing for beginners.

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First, determine what you will write about. Your starting point will guide character development and your overall plot. If you’re having trouble finding a topic, consider using these starting points:

Starting with these ideas, you should be able to settle on a basic idea for your story.

Creative writers are usually readers. Reading helps you learn about the nuances of written language, storytelling and character development.

Read a wide range of genres too. While novels are always helpful, non-fiction writing and short stories will teach you as well.

Set aside time every day to write . Make it part of your daily routine, and protect that time as much as you can. By having it scheduled into your day, you can overcome the frustration and delays of writer’s block.

During your writing time, limit distractions. Let your housemates or family members know you aren’t available during that time. Write, even if you don’t think what you’re writing is high quality, just to keep the words flowing.

By having daily writing time, you will start to improve your writing skills . Soon you will see a quality piece of writing coming together as you work your way towards your next bestseller.

If you find that getting started with creative writing is hard for you, consider some basic writing exercises. Creative writing prompts to get your ideas flowing can be the start of compelling writing as you create your own writing style. Writing exercises can help you learn the importance of the first sentence of your story or the development of your characters.

Sometimes writing exercises do not lead to a final product that you would publish, and that’s fine. The goal isn’t always to create something to share. Sometimes the goal is simply to gain writing experience and hone your craft.

Writing courses can be a great jumping-off point for creative writers. Writing courses teach structure, character development and overall writing techniques.

In a writing course, you will have writing exercises to perform each week and accountability for those assignments. This combination can help many first time writers start writing. Over time the writing skills build up and the writing becomes more natural.

Creative writing for beginners

When it comes to creative writing, uniqueness is a key component. To capture readers, you need something that hasn’t been done before, or you need to approach a story from a new perspective.

To give you a source for creative ideas, take time to brainstorm . Keep a journal where you can jot down ideas as they come or explore storylines. Soon you will find a unique twist to take your characters on.

Writing is a creative process , but that does not mean that practice is futile. Practicing daily gets your creativity flowing. You will polish your writing skills and learn more about how brainstorming works for you.

Today’s writers rarely put pen to paper, but rather finger to keyboard. Sometimes, a different medium may make the creativity flow.

Ernest Hemingway knew this. He wrote all of his manuscripts on paper with pencil, only typing them for the final drafts. This gave him the chance to edit during the final typing, and he felt that writing longhand spurred his creativity.

If you’re struggling with writer’s block , channel your inner Ernest Hemingway and try writing with pencil and paper instead. It just might get you over that hump.

A good writer can make an interesting story out of nothing. A great writer can do the same thing, then learn from critics to make the writing even better. Whether in a writing class, on social media or in the proofreading stages, have people read and critique your writing.

Accept criticism and use it to grow. Sometimes, you will gain new insight into how you can make your writing better. Sometimes, you will ignore the critics and allow your writing to stand.

Either way, critics will help you polish your art and learn how to craft a story that you are proud to call your own.

When writing a book or short story, don’t focus on perfection at the start. Get your ideas down and polish your storylines and character development, not necessarily the writing and grammar. This comes later when you proofread your work.

Your first draft is the place to get the story going. After you complete that draft, go back and edit it. Make it more powerful, fix your shortcomings and try to perfect it, but only after the main ideas are complete.

Remember, striving for perfection with the first draft is sure to create writer’s block . Move past it by understanding you can perfect later.

Creative writing for beginners can feel daunting. You know you have good ideas, but getting those ideas on paper feels like an overwhelming task. By scheduling time to write every day, brainstorming your ideas and not striving for perfection at first, all while taking advantage of writing exercises and writing classes, you can succeed in becoming a creative writer.

Want more? Check out out list of writing tips .

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best practice for creative writing

Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.

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Christopher Fielden

best practice for creative writing

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7 creative writing tips that no one else will give you.

Creative writing tutor and professional critique provider Dr Lynda Nash presents 7 tips she wishes she'd been told before writing her first novel

Quick links on this page:

Introduction by Chris Fielden

I first 'met' Lynda in the virtual sense about 10 or 15 years ago, when I won a short story competition she was judging. As part of my prize, Lynda provided one of the most thoughtful and detailed writing critiques I'd ever received.

Since then, we have become good friends and, for the last few years, she has worked closely with me on the writing services I offer on my website, providing critiques, editing and formatting services to clients all over the world.

There are no rules in creative writing

The more you critique other people's writing, the more you realise that 99.99% of beginners make the same mistakes. I'm no exception. I made all (and more) of them when I started out.

This is where the 'rules' of writing come from: those repeated pearls of wisdom like 'show don't tell', 'avoid clichés', 'ensure your story contains conflict', 'don't start a story with backstory' etc. Looking back at the first professional critique I received on my work, most of these classics are in there. Since then, I've mentioned all of them repeatedly in critiques I've provided and in the writing courses I produce.

Lynda and I were discussing this recently and she offered to write a post for my website that covers some of the most common errors we see writers making. But rather than just listing 'rules' we all need to abide by, which has been done a gazillion times before, she suggested writing about the most important pieces of advice a beginner needs to know – the things she wished someone had explained to her in detail prior to starting her first book.

I thought that was a great idea. So, below you will find those 7 pieces of advice (or 'blunders', as Lynda calls them), all explained clearly with links to further reading around each subject matter. I hope you enjoy Lynda's post.

As always, comments are welcome. You can find the comments form at the bottom of this page.

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7 Creative Writing Advice Tips No One Else Will Give You, by Lynda Nash

Introduction – we don't always know what we need to know.

No one writes the perfect story the first time they pick up a pen. As with any craft, there are techniques and tricks to be learnt – and mistakes to be made as we put them into practise. There is a wealth of helpful information online and in print, but unless you know what you need to learn it can seem overwhelming: we don’t always know what we need to know.

Question Mark on an island

When I looked back over my years of writing, I realised there are several things I wish I’d known before putting fingers to keyboard. A lot of time and deleted wordage would have been saved if I’d known what I needed to know.

Each writer’s voice and style may be unique but the mistakes beginners make aren’t. It is almost a rite of passage that we should wade through a mire of inconsistent viewpoints, reams of backstory and inconsequential dialogue – but it doesn’t have to be that way.

In this article I will endeavour to address the stumbling blocks that litter the beginner writer’s journey, and hopefully leave the road a little clearer to navigate.

Seven things I wish someone had told me:

Common Beginner Blunder No.1: Point of View (POV)

It’s a biggie this one, because everything else in a story depends on it. Point of view: the root of all evil. Misunderstood by every beginner writer ever. To be fair, most beginners can get to grips with first person (even though the narrators usually sound like the author) but it’s third person that trips up most people. Especially third person omniscient. Omniscient narration seems to be the catch-all phrase for unclear point of view and head hopping. 'I’m using an omniscient narrator' translates as 'I don’t really have a clue about point of view so I’m using what I think is the easiest.'

1st Person or 3rd Person Point of View

My first foray into writing resulted in a gigantic tome that included every idea I’d had to date. I sent an extract to the Academi (now Literature Wales ) for assessment and waited eagerly for the report. When it came, I was disappointed. It wasn’t that I expected unbridled praise for my great literary work, I just hadn’t expected it to mention only one thing.

I wanted feedback on plot, character and setting, but what I got was information on point of view options and the instruction to try 'close-in third person', which was all well and good but I had no idea why . Why was it so important to change the POV ? Why did it matter? What had I done wrong?

Though I feel sorry for the unfortunate person who read my abominable first musings (written in what I now know was badly executed omniscient narration), what I wish they’d told me was this:

A point of view is an opinion, the way you think about a subject. A person’s perspective on events. Point of view comes from the Latin word punctum visus , which literally means 'point sight', suggesting it’s where you point your sight. The German word is gesichtpunkt , which translates as 'face point' or where your face is pointed. Each POV comes with its own conventions but omniscient is the most difficult to handle.

Because an omniscient narrator knows everything it can be tricky for the writer to know what to include in the story and what not to include. When starting to write, close-in third or first person are the easier options because they come with more restrictions. (Yes, that does sound like a contradiction in terms).

Every story has a teller. Narrators put their own spin on events whether they mean to or not. Not all narrators are reliable and perspectives differ, which is why novels with multiple POVs can work well. Without a 'face point' a narrative will lack focus and the reader will be unclear whose story is being told and who they should root for. Without a clear point of view a writer can end up trying to tell everyone’s story and will include details that are irrelevant. A narrower focus makes the story easier to write.

When you look through the eyes of one character you see only what they see, and what they see is subject to their mood, education, background, age and personality. For example: a pessimistic character could stand in a field of flowers yet only acknowledge the one with the snapped stem. An optimistic character could stand on a rubbish dump, ignore the waste but notice the sapling that’s sprouting from the trash.

There are three questions a writer should ask before beginning a story:

For example: It could be character X’s story (whose), told by character Y (who) in retrospect (how). When you make this choice first and foremost, the story should then flow on nicely from there – and if it doesn’t, then perhaps that particular POV didn’t quite fit so simply try again until you hit on one that does.

"That is the strangest thing about the world: how it looks so different from every point of view." (Lauren Oliver , author of Liesl & Po ).

The Different Points of View

Point of view – or psychic distance as it is often called – is a big subject but there are many straightforward guides in books and online and I strongly recommend reading some of these.

Here are some links to further information:

Common Beginner Blunder No.2: Backstory

Backstory is simply a history or background created for a fictional character that tells what events led up to the main story or plot. For instance:

Character X met character Y on a fishing trip in Antarctica. They fell in love while filleting cod and got married a month later. Character X’s mother wasn’t pleased at this short courtship. She thought character Y was irresponsible and unreliable. Character X was blindsided by charm and muscle and when character Y ran off to Iceland with a catalogue model, X gave up everything – including family – and trekked across the globe to fight for love.

I’m making this up as I go along and it could go on for pages and pages and pages… but when does the story start?


It’s great for an author to know their characters’ histories but not so great to subject the reader to them. It’s a writer’s job to hook the reader and reel them in but a sure way of losing that reader is to bog them down with backstory. "But it’s all so interesting," we writers cry. Writers are like doting parents.

Most of my gigantic tome was backstory. Like most beginners, I thought that without this information readers wouldn’t understand the story. They wouldn’t understand what motivated my characters. That readers weren’t clever enough and needed help.

Actually, readers don’t need to know as much as we think they do, so resist the urge to explain. Slip in hints of background information if and when needed and leave room for the reader to work things out for themselves. Readers are a clever bunch.

The forward story is more important than the backstory. As a rule of thumb, begin a story as near to the end as possible, but if you need to get the backstory off your chest then write it first and cut it later.

Here is a quote from Australian author (and motorbike enthusiast) Sandy Vaile: "Treat backstory like a pungent spice. I say this to encourage you to picture a jalapeno pepper that can set your mouth on fire, every time you even think about adding backstory... What you need is subtlety."

Sometimes backstory tries to masquerade as forward story but can be spotted a mile off because it lacks tension. This happens, then that happens, then something else happens. In fact, a whole lot of things happen to character X yet the reader is still waiting for the story to begin. The reason for this is that with backstory there is nothing at stake.

Characters in short stories don’t need a lot of history but if you do have to insert some backstory the information in this Writer's Digest post ' How to Weave Backstory Into Your Novel Seamlessly ' will be useful.

Common Beginner Blunder No.3: Stakes (AKA Conflict)

I wrote a story called 'The Green Bone'. It was on yellow paper and I was chuffed to bits and showed everyone. I was six. I had no clue about story structure. I thought my story was the most exciting thing I’d ever read. It went like this:

Mrs Brown’s dog was hungry so she went to the butcher and he gave her a green bone. She was on her way home and she stopped to talk to Mrs White. I’ve got a green bone for my dog, she said. How lovely, said Mrs White…

Or something like that. Yes, things happened in the story, but also nothing happened. This is the paradox. Perhaps it would be better to say things happened but nothing worth getting excited about. There was no risk of Mrs Brown falling down a manhole on her way home from the butchers and the dog dying from starvation or savaging the neighbour’s cat. There was nothing at stake. There was no conflict.

Stakes and Conflict

By conflict, we don’t mean fisticuffs or duelling at dawn or characters smashing plates over each other’s heads. Conflict is a clash between two opposing forces – either internal or external – that creates the narrative thread for a story. It’s the problem that sets the plot in motion.

Conflict creates stakes and stakes create tension. If a character has nothing to lose, why should the reader care?

Let’s say character X falls into a well, twists an ankle and has to climb up a ladder to get out… that may sound exciting, but actually it isn’t – it’s just fact: this happened, that happened and then that happened.

Like a character’s history this is a situation but not a story i.e., there is no conflict. But if character X is running home from a dance class with medication for his sick sister, falls into a well, breaks a leg and has to phone the emergency services because there is no ladder… now you have the reader’s attention. Attention creates tension. Will character X get out of the well in time to administer the medicine that will save his sister’s life? Will his leg have to be amputated? Will he waltz again (and win the girl he left on the dance floor)? Now the reader is worried. Now the reader will care.

Okay, stories don’t have to be overly dramatic to be exciting – sometimes just the hint of conflict is enough to make the reader keep reading.  

Here is a quote from Writing with Emotion, Tension, and Conflict: Techniques for Crafting an Expressive and Compelling Novel by Cheryl St. John: "Conflict must be personalized to the character."

Oh, we’re back to point of view again…

You can learn more about stakes and conflict by reading ' 25 Things to Know About Your Story's Stakes ' on the Terrible Minds website.

Common Beginner Blunder No.4: Show Don’t Tell

Show don’t tell is one of the most (over) used phrases in creative writing classes and the one that is the most misunderstood. It is also the cause of pages and pages of extraneous writing because beginners think telling is bad and endeavour to show everything as it would appear on a television screen.

Anton Chechov said: "Don’t tell me the moon is shining. Show me the glint of light on broken glass."

Show Don't Tell

This is like saying: "Don’t tell me character X is cold. Show them shivering in the snow." That’s all well and good and can result in some lovely poetic prose, but sometimes a character is just simply cold. No embellishment is needed.

Over-showing happens when a writer is trying hard to stick to the 'rules'. But in creative writing there are no rules – if it works it works and if it doesn’t it doesn’t.

Back to my gigantic tome. I’d read about showing and telling and in a bid to master the technique I showed every movement, every flutter of eyelashes, every grimace, every opening and closing of doors. It might take three pages for character X to grab his coat, say goodbye to his friends and leave the room.

Many beginners use dialogue to 'show' but that just results in strained and drawn-out conversations. Gigantic Tome had those too – which is why it was gigantic. Film director Tom Rickman said: "Dialogue works the least well when it's telling you what's going on."

Show don’t tell should be banished to room 101 and I wrote an article on the subject for the University of Chichester short story forum .

What to show and what to tell is closely linked with character voice… and voice depends on whose perspective you are writing from. I told you point of view was important.

Common Beginner Blunder No.5: Dialogue

Dialogue is fun to write and is the only time you can have voices in your head without fear of madness. But because we are so influenced by television and film, we see dialogue exchanges as we would on screen. "Hello." "Nice to meet you." "Would you like a cup of tea?" "With milk and sugar?" "I’ll put the kettle on."

Dialogue Balloons Bubbles

Yes, these niceties happen in real life, and on screen this kind of conversation takes a few seconds, but in print they can take up most of a page. Meanwhile, the reader is itching to get on with the story: for someone to say something that forwards the plot.

In my search for feedback on Gigantic Tome I joined a writing forum and posted an extract. A very nice (anonymous) gentleman read my work and sent me a reply. I’ve forgotten all of his comments except this one: "Dialogue comes out of narrative."

Those five words became my mantra. Instead of writing long streams of dialogue and trying to fill in narrative around them – like trying to put flesh on a skeleton – I began to think narrative first and was surprised to find that dialogue sprang naturally from the action. This changed the face of my writing completely. Thank you, anonymous gentleman.

I once had a student whose stories all looked like this:

Narrative narrative narrative narrative narrative narrative narrative narrative narrative narrative narrative narrative narrative narrative narrative narrative narrative narrative narrative narrative narrative narrative narrative narrative narrative narrative narrative narrative narrative narrative narrative narrative narrative narrative narrative narrative.

"Dialogue dialogue dialogue dialogue."

Characters acted. Then they spoke. Then they acted. Then they spoke again. There was no interplay. The dialogue didn’t come out of the narrative – it was external from it. Try as I might to get him to integrate narrative and dialogue, he just could not break the pattern.

Back in the day, in a bid to get students to write more fleshed out stories, tutors often instructed them to visualise a scene as if watching it on a screen. I too was guilty of doing this. It’s not that the method was wrong – it just didn’t take into account the hold that television has over us. What should have produced a detailed narrative actually produced writing that was neither script nor story but a hybrid. A 'scory', which I hope never becomes a genre in its own right.

For those writers who love dialogue and have trouble integrating, maybe it’s time to switch to scriptwriting. If you want to write fully rounded short stories then read, read, read, the good the bad and the ugly. Perhaps Gigantic Tome would have worked better as a script…?

You can learn more about this subject matter by reading ' How to Balance Action Narrative and Dialogue in Your Novel ' by Writer's Digest. The information here also applies to short stories.

Common Beginner Blunder No.6: Getting It Wrong

It was the ultra-positive inspirational writer Richard Carlson who said: "Don’t sweat the small stuff." A great adage for everyday life and in writing terms it can be interpreted as: "Don’t worry about the words."

When I read my first 'how to write' book, I came away less than inspired and more frozen with fear. I remember thinking it would be an impossible task to implement all the 'rules'. I didn’t write for weeks. Nowhere in the book, or any other book I’ve read since, does it mention getting it wrong.


It’s worth repeating what I said earlier: there are no rules in creative writing. Just techniques. And these techniques are not set in stone, but fluctuate depending on point of view (again), genre and structure.

Writing techniques are not something you can master in one go, and are best learnt by writing – which is ironic if the very mention of techniques stops you in your tracks. If the fear of getting it wrong stunts your creativity then get it wrong on purpose. During one particularly bad bout of writer’s paralysis, I wrote: 

There’s No Such Thing as Writers’ Block

I’m going to write crap today. Total and utter shit. I’m not going to worry about linking sentences with commas or bad spelling or poor sentence structure. I’m going, to punctuate. Where ever: I like.

Today I am going to write as bad as I can because no one is going to read it except me. And when I get famous and the public want to see my earlier work I will frame this and hang it in a prestigious gallery under the title 'The best of times; the worst of times.' People will pay homage to the writer for being so honest. Not everyone writes a best-seller the first time round.

Wrong or incorrect red cross

I felt better after giving myself permission to use less than standard grammar, unconventional punctuation and vocabulary that didn’t suit my voice. I allowed myself to get it wrong and that freedom helped me get it right. To coin a cliché: don’t try to run before you can walk. Writing should never be a chore and mistakes shouldn’t be a stick to beat ourselves with. Think of it this way… writing is not like building a house where one brick out of place might bring down a whole wall. Writing is quite like sculpting or painting – both of which take time.

If you find yourself unable to 'spoil' that pristine page or second-guessing every word you write, then cover your computer screen with a towel or better still use pen and paper and write quickly. Don’t let self-doubt or your internal editor get a chance to force their negativity upon you. I call this ' writing in the dark '.

It was Mark Twain that said: "Dance like nobody's watching." Perhaps he should have said: "Write like nobody’s reading."

Write for yourself. The first draft is always for the writer. In subsequent drafts, you can think about the reader. And it’s always beneficial to leave a break between drafts so when you revisit the story you can do so with fresh eyes.

Whenever you feel overwhelmed and unable to write I would advise you to do two things: read Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott, and watch this video.

In fact, save it and view it regularly. And have fun.

You can learn more about this topic by reading my post ' Overcoming Bumps Blocks and Barricades ' on the University of Chichester short story forum.

Common Beginner Blunder No.7: Rules Are Meant to Be Broken…

Number seven in this list is not a blunder but a reiteration. There are no rules in creative writing. Authors are their own bosses; the masters of their own fictional universes. And all the great masters use techniques and tricks.

We may be the rulers but characters are king. Force a character to do something 'out of character' just to necessitate the plot and the result is a story that sounds unnatural and contrived. The techniques are there for a reason.

Point of view, for instance, is a technique – a convention, not a rule, and if you want to break with convention and use a retrospective omniscient first-person objective narrator then feel free… but there is a caveat: make sure you are successful – do it badly and you’ll simply look like a hack. No one will give you points for trying (except maybe your writing tutor). Conversely, no one will slap your wrist for trying either and if you don’t try you won’t know if your efforts will be successful or not. If it works, it works. And when it works we can celebrate.

You can learn more about rule breaking by reading ' Writing Rules You Can and Should Break ' on Publishers Weekly.

There are no rules in creative writing

There are many unconventional stories that wouldn’t exist had the author been afraid to break the (invisible) rules. Here is a link to some of them on Bustle, in their resource entitled ' 11 Strange & Unconventional Short Stories You Can Read On Your Phone For Free '.

Of course, you don’t have to be 'experimental'. Sticking with conventional story writing is perfectly okay.

Back to those pesky rules techniques… Use them. All of them. Or some of them. Perhaps you’ll want to tweak one or two to suit your subject matter or your character’s voice.

Creative Writing Rules

When we start out on our writerly journey, techniques can seem confusing and unnecessary. It isn’t until we learn and progress and compare our latest work to something we penned weeks, months or years earlier that it hits us: by implementing those techniques our writing has improved.

Writers want readers – we need them – even those who say they write only for themselves have a secret desire to be read by others. We must treat our readers with respect. Their time is precious so we owe them our best. That is probably the only rule there is.

As a side note, dialogue is the one place where techniques (and grammar rules) don’t apply. Between those quotation marks can exist dodgy similes, run-on sentences, and as many adverbs and adjectives as you like. Perhaps this is why many writers put dialogue before narrative. But do stay true to your characters, or it’ll seem like an author error.

What happened to Gigantic Tome ?

It’s saved in a file within a file somewhere on an external hard drive and I revisit it when feeling nostalgic, which is less and less these days. Part of me – the doting parent part – thinks the story could still work…but that’s as far as it goes. I’ve no intention of redrafting it. It should really be thrown in room 101 with 'show don’t tell'. I’ve moved on because that’s what writers do. We practise, we improve, we experiment and we change, and that’s all good.

Like author Henry Miller said: "Writing is its own reward."

Lynda Nash's Biography

Lynda Nash

Lynda Nash was born and brought up in the Rhymney Valley, South Wales where she taught GCSE English Language and Creative Writing for twelve years and ran workshops for children. She has a BA, MPhil and PhD in Creative and Professional Writing and is pedantic about present participles and sentences that include 'As'. She prefers writing that 'doesn’t explain itself'.

Lynda's poetry and prose have been published in magazines and periodicals, and she is the author of Not as Pointless as You Think (humorous short fiction), Ashes of a Valleys Childhood (poetry about growing up in the valleys) and the picture book Danny Down the Drainpipe .

Lynda now works as a freelance critique provider, editor and ghost writer via Christopher Fielden's Writing Services . When she isn’t doing that, you’ll find her behind her sewing machine turning poems into textile art or writing the second draft of a novella.

Big Thanks To Lynda

I'd like to thank Lynda for this no-nonsense post, crammed to the proverbial hilt with sound advice. I'm going to use this opportunity to plug the writing services offered on my site, because Lynda is one of the critical reading team. Each team member has a wealth of experience and can really help writers develop their skills, giving them a better chance of publication.

Writing Services

If you enjoyed Lynda's post, you may also like a post written by Dr John Yeoman, titled: Do You Make These 7 Big Mistakes When Entering Story Contests?

Do you have some writing experiences you'd like to share with my readers? If so, please review my submissions guidelines and get in touch .

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Clare M This is now my favourite 'cut out and keep' guide! Thank you - so many pearls cast before me, I must try not to be too much of a swine :)

Chris Fielden Awesome, thanks Clare - glad to hear you liked the post :-)

Steph M Thanks Chris. Lynda's tips were very useful and thought provoking. I enjoyed reading them, especially as I'm on my last edit for the folklore collection now and deciding which stories make the cut and which don't.

Chris Fielden Fabulous, thanks Steph. Good luck with the collection, will look forward to getting a copy when it's finished :-)

Lynda N Hi  Clare, Steph thanks for your comments - I'm glad you found my 'tips' helpful. Happy writing.

Alex P I will have to disagree with 'Blunder 3' - you do not need to have stakes in a story. That is typical Hollywood style writing, very formulaic. For example in Anton Chekhov's stories (and you ironically mentioned him) there are absolutely zero stakes, yet they are considered some of the best stories ever written in literature. There was one well known story of his, where a poor cab driver tries to tell his customers about how his son died, but they didn't care. And that's pretty much it.

The dialogue-narrative is a very common structure with many writers, though I am curious of how you would put it differently. Could you provide an example of a successful implementation of dialogue? Because many of us who write stories struggle with that.

Chris Fielden Thanks for your comment Alex, much appreciated.

I understand your thoughts about Chekov. There are exceptions to every 'rule' in creative writing, hence Lynda's comment that there are no 'rules'. I would add that Lynda's advice is based on current best practice in the publishing industry today. Also, in the Chekov example you gave, are there really no stakes? Or does the cab driver risk losing something if no one listens to him? His mind or his dignity perhaps. I haven't read the story, so this is a question, not a statement.

Anyway, I will let Lynda respond to this as I'm sure she can shed some more light on the subject. I shall also let Lynda know about your request for a good example of dialogue usage. I'll let you know when she responds.

All the best :-)

Lynda N Hi Alex, thanks for your questions regarding stakes and dialogue, which I will now endeavour to answer.

Chekov's 'Misery', which is a great story to analyse, follows the three-act structure: what does the character want, what is stopping them from getting it, and how do they eventually solve the problem? The three-act structure may seem formulaic but most of the time we don't even notice it's there. It's this kind of subtle writing that I find the most interesting. These stories have depth and don't give up all their secrets easily. What's at stake in 'Misery' is Iona the cab driver's mental health and wellbeing. He is trying to alleviate his grief but his efforts are thwarted because no one will listen. In the end he finds comfort close to home, which is ironic because that's where all his heartache stems from.

Stakes can be emotional or physical, internal or external. They don't have to be overly dramatic but there is always something a character wants and always a reason they need it. Stories without stakes are more vignettes. There are many different types of short fiction and here I'm referring to stories in the more 'conventional' sense.

The amount of dialogue differs from story to story. 'Misery' has a fair amount but it's fitting because the story itself is about communication. ' For Esmé – with Love and Squalor ' by J. D. Salinger has a lot of narrative exposition and is a good example of dialogue coming out of narrative. There is no right or wrong but often when writers put dialogue before narrative the reader will feel 'ungrounded'. It's a balancing act :) Hope that helps. Keep writing!

Alex P Hi Chris. Thanks for responding, it is good to know what the publishing trends are today. Unfortunately, it seems that only stories which follow a certain formula (setting -> conflict -> resolution) get published, as I noticed this trend in modern books.

As for Chekhov's short story, the cab driver didn't have anything to lose, as by the end of his shift he starts telling his horse about his son, because no one else would listen. The whole point of this story was how 'small people' of society are often ignored.

Chekhov is actually well known for writing stories where, well, nothing happens. In 'The Lady with the Small Dog' a married couple have an affair and they go back to their respective spouses. There is another story which solely revolved around little children playing in a nursery and it ends with them going to bed. Chekhov didn't focus on plots, he analyzed personalities.

Samuel Beckett's 'Waiting for the Godot' is entirely based on two men waiting for someone called Godot.

Like you said in your last point, there are no rules in writing. Like any great pieces of art or science, they were all created by people who dared to experiment and tried to be different, shunning the usual trends.

Looking forward to future updates.

Chris Fielden Hi Alex. Thank you for your reply.

Please see Lynda’s response above (I think your comments may have crossed in the ether). In it, she points out that in ‘Misery’ (the Chekov story in question) there are stakes and the story does follow a three act structure. It’s subtle, but present. I guess this illustrates the quality of Chekov’s writing – the reader doesn’t notice the conflict and structure is there. Stakes in a story don’t have to be in your face like an action film and the main plot points don’t have to happen on a specific page in the script. But you need something in a story to make a reader care about the main character. That’s the point I guess.

But yes, I agree with you, experimenting is important. If no one dared to be different, nothing new would ever come along. At least with the increasing numbers of indie publishers who will consider work that isn’t mainstream, experimental works have a chance of being printed :-)

Lynda N Hi Alex. In stories where 'seemingly' nothing happens an awful lot is going on between the lines. The real story is in the subtext and not what is happening on the surface. These are tales that make the reader work a bit harder to discover the meaning. In Hemingway's 'Hills Like White Elephants', a couple are talking while they wait for a train but the piece is thick with undercurrent. The man wants different things to the woman and she has the most to lose. There is always conflict but we don't always notice it.

Allen A Hi Chris and Lynda. Thanks very much for this. The article contains a lot of good advice and recognisable content. I particularly liked the guy who wrote narrative narrative narrative narrative then dialogue dialogue and never the two serving the same purpose. Fascinating.

Re 'Show Don’t Tell' – I once wrote a scathing review of a professionally published novel in which the heroine took four pages to come downstairs from the bathroom to the kitchen. And no, it wasn’t a horror – no monsters on the stairs, no possible intruder waiting with a knife.

The other factor I find that is prevalent in beginner stories is the rushed ending. Eight or ninety percent build-up and background then bam it’s all done.

Chris Fielden Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Allen, much appreciated. That's a very good point about story endings too. I feel another guest post coming on... :-)

Lynda N Hi Allen, thanks for your comments. Your girl coming downstairs for four pages made me laugh. Perhaps the author should revisit it and turn it into a horror :)

Allen A Hi Lynda, thanks for your reply.

Your part about people over-believing the 'Show Don’t Tell' maxim struck me as I often receive work to critique where unnecessary scenes and conversations are played out in full. You know the sort of thing, Susie gets off the tube and goes to the coffee shop, hello, hello what would you like, I was going to say a latte but I see you’ve got a special offer on cappuccinos and biscotti… There you go, says the barista. Hands full, she wandered up to her office…

Like I said earlier, very impressed by the depth and coverage in your article.

HR K Thank you, Chris and Lynda, it's great to be reminded of the techniques for writing well. I'm currently editing my second book and 'rules' help me focus my attention and spot those sections that need either more or less.

Your comments on show don't tell are interesting. I find it a troublesome rule, exactly for the reasons you mention, yet it is often quoted, especially in critiques from other writers.

Most of all, I like rule No 7 - rules are meant to be broken. If you break the rules, the trick is to do it well. I personally think rules are only a guide, and you've explained that well.

Thank you again for an interesting article.

Chris Fielden Thank you, HR, glad you enjoyed Lynda's post. I hope the editing of your second book is going well :-) All the best.

Adrian H This post is fantastic, and these tips are essential! And that's making me furious, as I just wrote 83,000 words of a novel. I wished I'd read this first!!

Chris Fielden Thanks Adrian. Maybe Lynda should add another rule - Blunder 8: Not reading this post before writing a novel LOL. I guess you're now in the luxurious position of being able to edit your 83,000 words with her advice in mind :-)

Adrian H Thanks, Chris, I feel I've achieved something by using my 'commuter time' to bang out a novel. Naturally, writing around 300 or 400 words a day, it's a bit disjointed, so there will be a lot of revision. This blog was very useful. 'Point of view' is something I was particularly interested in and I am making full use of the links that Lynda included.

I've got a couple of main characters, and swap 'point of view' halfway through, just to see the same picture through very different eyes, then sometimes swap back again towards the end of the book. Anyway, in a couple of years I'll let you know how it went!

Looks like you've been pretty busy, and hardworking, as ever...

I'm guessing that your bookshop plans are on hold - or (sadly) shelved completely (pun intended!)?

Hope you're doing OK, all the best.

Chris Fielden Ah the joys of point of view… easy to deal with when you know how. It’s the ‘knowing how’ that takes a bit of time to learn, that’s all.

Great to hear you’re using commuter time so effectively. I’d be tempted to learn from that and emulate you, but my commute down the stairs isn’t long enough to get much done :-)

Yes, I have a habit of sticking my fingers into too many proverbial pies… The bookshop pie is waiting to go in the oven. Despite your beautiful pun, it isn’t shelved. We still plan to cook that pie, fingers crossed later this year. We’ll just have to see how it goes.

All the best and good luck with your novel editing.

Adrian H Thanks, Chris, and good luck with the pie shop/ book shop project. (Mmm... 'Pies and Books' - that sounds like a combination!)

I'll take a breather from the novel to put something together for the greatest writing competition in the universe, with the undisputed prize of prizes...!

Chris Fielden Thanks Adrian. Pies and books… what a combo :-)

I w ill look forward to receiving your entry when it’s ready.

Kartar S Thanks Chris. It is creative itself to learn from an authentic site. This enables me to claim that most of the stories published do not follow such tips. These tips if adhered to would make those stories more interesting.

Yes, it is a rare post, uncommon for the social media.

Those engage in writing should follow the advice, losing a bit of ego, I mean.

Chris Fielden Thank you for your message, Kartar, very much appreciated.

Nate If I'm searching online for a solution to a problem, whatever it may be, 9 times out of 10 after reading maybe the first paragraph of the website I've landed on... I would get utterly bored or frustrated and leave to go and find the next website. In this case as a total beginner to creative writing, I absorbed everything in this post. No fluff, no crap, no filler, no plagiarism... just answers to what I've been trying to find for ages.

Chris Fielden You're welcome, thank you Nate. Glad to hear you found Lynda's post helpful :-)

Brian M I have used Chris's critique services and have benefitted from a fruitful partnership with Lynda. Chris is indefatigable in his desire to provide opportunities for people with a desire to write. Lynda's kindly critique has helped me to decide that Drabble writing is my preferred choice. We are lucky that such support is available for us.

Chris Fielden Thank you for the kind words, Brain. Very much appreciated. I shall use them as a testimonial on the critique services page. I hope that's OK :) All the very best to you.

Brian M Of course it is.

Chris Fielden Thank you Brian :)

The copyright of the stories and content published on this website remain with the author.

Christopher Fielden and all the other contributing authors published via this website have asserted their right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the authors of these works.

The stories and articles on this site are provided for you to read free of charge subject to the condition that they are not, by way of trade or otherwise, copied, lent, sold, hired out, printed or otherwise circulated in any format without the author’s prior consent.

The Write Practice

10 Best Creative Writing Prompts

by Joe Bunting | 53 comments

You get better at any skill through practice. Prompts are a great way to practice writing (as you might imagine, we're really into practice here), and in this post, I have ten of our best creative writing prompts.

Try a few out, and if you're ready to take the next step in your writing, check out our 100 Best Short Story Ideas .

10 Best Creative Writing Prompts

How To Use These Creative Writing Prompts

At the end of every article on The Write Practice , we include a writing prompt so you can put what you just learned to use immediately. And we invite you to share your writing with our community so you can get feedback on your work.

The Write Practice is more than just a writing blog. It's a writing  workbook , and we think it's the best one on the Internet (of course, we're a bit biased).

One of the most important parts of practice is getting feedback, and we want to help YOU get feedback on your writing. To do that, choose one of the prompts, write for 15 minutes, and then copy and paste your practice into the box at the bottom to post your practice in our forum for feedback. You'll be able to read others' practice and give feedback too.

And if you want even more prompts, you can download our workbook,  14 Prompts , for free here (it's normally, $5.99).

Our Most Popular Creative Writing Prompts

Why not try using two or three of these creative writing prompts in your writing today? Who knows, you might even begin something that becomes your next novel to write or short story. It's happened to Write Practicers before!

Enjoy the writing prompts!

My 3 Favorite Writing Prompts

Write about a time you felt out of place, awkward, and uncomfortable. Try not to focus on your feelings, but project your feelings onto the things around you.

Write about a ghost. How do they feel about the world? What do they see and hear? How did they become a ghost?

1. Grandfathers

Write about a grandfather, maybe your grandfather or your character's grandfather. What memories do you/does your character associate with him?

See the prompt: Grandfathers

Creative Writing Prompts

2. Sleepless

Your characters haven’t gotten any sleep. Write about it.

See the prompt: Sleepless

Creative Writing Prompts

3. Out of Place

See the prompt: Out of Place

Creative Writing Prompts

Write about longing. How does it feel to go about a normal day when your character wants something else?

See the prompt: Longing

Creative Writing Prompts

5. Write About Yourself

Write about yourself.

See the writing prompt: Write About Yourself

Creative Writing Prompts

See the prompt: 3 Reasons to Write About Ghosts

Creative Writing Prompts

7. Road Trip

Write about a road trip. Is your character escaping something? Is your character looking for something? Hint at the thing without telling us while describing what the character sees.

See the writing prompt: Road Trip

Creative Writing Prompts

Write about the morning. What are your character's morning routines? What is special about this  morning?

See the prompt: Morning

Creative Writing Prompts

9. The Beach

Write about the beach. Is your character reflecting on something important that has happened to them? Describe the memory while overlaying the sights, sounds, and smells of the beach onto them.

See the prompt: The Beach

Creative Writing Prompts

Write about autumn. Natural surroundings can bring up old memories and odd feelings. Describe what your character sees, feels, and most of all does.

See the prompt: Autumn

Creative Writing Prompts

Do you use writing prompts in your writing? What is your favorite prompt for ideas? Share in the comments .

For today's practice, choose one of these prompts and write for fifteen minutes . When you're finished with your practice, share it in the practice box below. Don't forget to leave feedback for three other writers.

Happy writing!

Enter your practice here:

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Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris , a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

Want best-seller coaching? Book Joe here.

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Grammar Guide

Creative Writing Tips for Beginners: 10 Top Tips

Hannah Yang

Hannah Yang

Speculative Fiction Author

creative writing tips for beginners

Creative writing can be a very fulfilling hobby.

Writing can help you explore deep questions, use your imagination, and express your thoughts and feelings in a healthy way.

If you want to learn creative writing, you’ve come to the right place. Read on to learn our top ten creative writing tips to help you get started.

How to Write Creatively

10 creative writing tips for beginners, how to get better at creative writing, where to find creative writing help.

Anyone can learn creative writing—all you need is a pen and paper, or your writing software of choice.

Once you’ve got your tools ready, it’s time to think of a story idea. You can draw inspiration from your own life, newspaper headlines, songs you like, or anything else around you.

If you don’t have any story ideas in mind, you can also try starting with a prompt. Here are a few creative writing prompts you can choose from:

Pick up your pen, choose your favorite prompt, and start writing!

If you’re new to creative writing, here are ten fiction writing tips that you can try.

Tip 1: Read Widely

It’s hard to become a great musician without having heard a lot of great music.

The same is true for writing. Reading a lot of books is a great way to get inspired and to learn more about the anatomy of a story.

It’s important to read in whatever genre you want so you can understand the conventions of that genre. If you’re writing a fantasy story, for example, you should familiarize yourself with popular fantasy novels and short stories so you know what readers expect.

On the other hand, it’s just as important to read a diverse variety of books. Exposing yourself to lots of genres and authors can help you learn about different writing styles and techniques.

Tip 2: Experiment With Different Formats and Points of View

Creative writing can involve countless different formats. You can write a story that looks like a diary entry, a song, or a Charles Dickens novel.

Maybe you want to write a story in the form of a series of instructions to the reader, like a cooking recipe or a how-to manual.

Or maybe you want to write a story in the form of a confession from one character to another, in a mix of first-person and second-person POV.

four story formats

Try out different styles, even ones that don’t feel like your usual writing style. Doing this experimentation early on in your creative writing journey can help you find your own voice and figure out what works best for you.

Tip 3: Take Inspiration From Many Sources

No story is written in a vacuum. Every artist takes inspiration from other works of art, and you shouldn’t feel bad about writing a story that’s inspired by your favorite book or movie.

At the same time, though, it’s important not to write a story that actually plagiarizes an existing one. Directly copying the work of other creative writers is both unethical and illegal. Plus, it’s much less fun than writing your own stories.

A good rule of thumb if you’re looking for ideas is to take inspiration from many sources rather than a single one.

For example, maybe you like the sarcastic humor of one book, the sweet romance arc of another book, and the Gothic setting of your favorite TV show. When you merge those three things together, you’ll most likely create a story that feels unique and original, even though you took inspiration from existing stories.

Tip 4: Show, Don’t Tell

The phrase “Show, don’t tell” is a popular piece of writing advice that almost every writer has heard before.

Essentially, “show, don’t tell” means that you should immerse the reader in your story through sensory details and descriptive language instead of simply summarizing the story to them.

show, don't tell definition

For example, you could tell someone, “My sister’s room is messy.” That sentence conveys the facts, but the person you’re talking to probably wouldn’t be able to picture your sister’s room in their head.

On the other hand, you could say, “My sister basically uses the floor of her room as a giant laundry hamper—it’s covered with so many sweaters and scarves that I don’t even remember what color her carpet is.” This sentence gives your listener a much more specific idea of what your sister’s room looks like.

Tip 5: Write With Intention

Many newer writers put down words on the page based on what comes to mind first.

For example, let’s say you’re trying to describe a character. A new writer might note down whatever details they visualize right away, like the color of the character’s hair or the type of clothes they’re wearing.

This is a great way to write when you’re just starting out, but if you want to improve your skills, it’s important to learn how to write with intention.

Try to get in the habit of asking yourself: What details does the reader need to know and why? For example, what aspects of this character’s hair color and outfit could tell the reader something deeper about the character’s personality and motivations?

It’s also important to figure out what you want to convey emotionally. What do you want your reader to feel? Excited? Creeped out? Hopeful?

For example, you might describe a sunset as “blood-red” if you want the reader to feel creeped out, or as “glowing and bright” if you want the reader to feel hopeful.

Tip 6: Learn How to Edit

No first draft is perfect, even if you’re a seasoned writer.

Learning how to edit your work is just as important as learning how to write on a blank page. That’s how you can create a creative work you feel proud of.

One helpful tip is to try reading your work out loud. That can often help you spot places where your prose doesn’t flow.

AI-powered grammar checkers like ProWritingAid can also help you identify weaknesses in your prose and learn how to strengthen them. You can catch your grammatical mistakes, avoid unnecessary repetition, choose more evocative words, and more with our powerful tool.

Tip 7: Practice Overcoming Writer’s Block

At some point in their writing journey, every writer has reached a point where writing doesn’t feel fun anymore.

There are lots of different causes for writer’s block. You might be unsure what to write, afraid of failing, or simply burned out from writing too much.

It’s important to find ways to overcome creative blocks, so you don’t end up putting down your pen for good.

ways to overcome writer's block

One useful technique is to change your environment. If you normally write at home, try writing in a coffee shop or in your local library.

Another technique is to try a different activity for a while. Go for a walk, take a shower, do your dishes, or try another hobby. Before long, you’ll find yourself wanting to write again.

Perhaps the most underrated method is to simply take a break from writing. Give yourself permission to stop for a while—it’s always okay to take a step back.

Tip 8: Study Writing Craft

Many new writers falsely believe that writing can’t be taught; you’re either good at it or you’re not.

But the truth is that creative writing is a craft, just like woodworking, oil painting, or ballet. You wouldn’t expect anyone to be naturally good at ballet without years of training, so why is writing any different?

One way to learn new creative writing techniques is by reading craft books . Some great books to start with include On Writing by Stephen King, Story Genius by Lisa Cron, and The Creative Writer’s Handbook by Philip K. Jason.

These books can help you learn the basics of how to write well. For example, you can learn how to construct high-quality sentences, how to avoid passive voice, and how to use poetic devices.

The more you learn, the more powerful your writing will become.

Tip 9: Invent Your Own Process

When you’re just starting out as a writer, it can be tempting to copy someone else’s writing process.

Maybe you heard an interview with a bestselling author who said you have to outline a story before you draft it. Or maybe you found out your favorite author writes 1,000 words every day, and now you think you have to write 1,000 words every day too.

But it’s important to remember that no two writers have the exact same writing process. What works best for someone else might not work for you.

There’s no right or wrong way to be a creative writer. Your job is to find a writing process that makes you feel fulfilled, productive, and inspired—and if your favorite writers don’t write the same way, that’s perfectly okay.

Tip 10: Don’t Aim for Perfection

There’s a good chance your writing is never going to be perfect. Mine definitely isn’t!

Remember that writing is about the process, not the product. Even if the final product is never perfect, the process has helped you grow as a writer—and hopefully, it’s also been a lot of fun.

You should decide what your main goal for writing is. Maybe it’s writing stories you might be able to publish someday. Maybe it’s telling stories about characters you rarely see in existing stories. Maybe it’s simply a fun new hobby.

Whatever your goal is, remember that you’re already on your way to achieving it. You don’t need to aim for perfection in order to succeed.

There’s no secret to getting better at creative writing. The process is very simple—it just takes a lot of hard work.

All you have to do is follow this two-step process:

The first step is fairly self-explanatory. Whenever you’re learning a new skill, it’s important to practice it. The more you write, the more you’ll learn about how to be a successful creative writer.

The second step is the one that receives more pushback from writers because it requires a lot of courage and vulnerability, but it’s just as important as the first step.

If you don’t get feedback, you could write every day and still never improve. That’s because most people can’t spot the weaknesses in their own stories.

You can ask for feedback from your friends, family, or writing groups. They can help you see your work from a different perspective and identify areas for improvement.

As long as you write consistently and listen to the feedback on the work you’re producing, you’ll be able to create a positive cycle where you create better and better stories over time.

If you want to improve your creative writing skills, there are numerous resources you can use to find help.

One great method is to join a writing community where you can share your work and get feedback from other writers.

You can look for free critique groups online, on websites such as Scribophile and Critique Circle. Or you can start your own group with your friends.

You can also consider joining a local writing class or retreat. Many schools and community centers offer classes and workshops you can join.

Another option is to use creative writing tools. ProWritingAid can give you AI-powered suggestions about how to improve your prose and make your writing shine.

Good luck, and happy writing!


Hannah is a speculative fiction writer who loves all things strange and surreal. She holds a BA from Yale University and lives in Colorado. When she’s not busy writing, you can find her painting watercolors, playing her ukulele, or hiking in the Rockies. Follow her work on or on Twitter at @hannahxyang.

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