Creative Writing Tips for Pupils

WRITING TIPS

I often go into schools and universities to talk to children and young adults about writing. I have compiled a series of hints about creative writing that I hope you will find helpful. (They are all capitalized so that I can read them more easily when addressing a big assembly).

I AM A STORY TELLER. EVERY DAY I SIT DOWN TO WRITE I REMIND MYSELF OF THAT.

PLOTASK YOURSELVES A FUNDAMENTALLY IMPORTANT QUESTION: WILL ANYONE ELSE ACTUALLY WANT TO READ WHAT I AM WRITING?

WILL I ENTERTAIN, BEGUILE, AMUSE, TERRIFY,
TRANSPORT, MYSTIFY MY READERS, OR BORE
THEM RIGID AND DEPRESS THEM??

IF YOU TELL A GREAT STORY, THE ANSWER WILL ALMOST CERTAINLY BE THAT YOU WILL BEGUILE, TRANSPORT AND ENTERTAIN.

GO ON! TAKE PITY ON YOUR TEACHERS! GIVE THEM SOMETHING THEY WILL REALLY ENJOY READING. (NOTE THAT, IF YOU ARE ENTERTAINING YOURSELF WITH YOUR WRITING, YOU WILL ALMOST CERTAINLY ENTERTAIN YOUR READERS. CORRESPONDINGLY, IF YOU ARE BORING YOURSELF, YOU WILL BORE THEM!)

HOW TO COME UP WITH A PLOT

A GREAT INSPIRATIONAL QUOTE:

YOU THINK OF THINGS THAT ARE AND ASK WHY, WHEREAS I, I DREAM OF THINGS THAT NEVER WERE AND ASK WHY NOT?

* WHAT IF – THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION A WRITER CAN ASK. WHAT IF I COULD BREATHE UNDERWATER? WHAT IF THERE WERE SUCH A THING AS TIME TRAVEL? WHAT IF I SAW A CRIME BEING COMMITTED? ETC….
* INSPIRATION -GET IT DAY DREAMING. WALKING, READING BOTH FICTION AND NON-FICTION. I LOVE QUANTUM PHYSICS AND STUFF ON PARALLEL UNIVERSES -FIND IT VERY INSPIRING – LOOKING AT ART, LISTENING TO MUSIC, WATCHING DVD’S, OBSERVING NATURE, LIFE AND PEOPLE AROUND YOU. AS AN INVESTMENT BANKER, I BECAME A BIT OF A SPY, WATCHING SCENES, LISTENING TO DIALOGUE, WRITING IT ALL DOWN, LOOKING AS IF I WERE DOING MY PROPER WORK, WHILSTS SECRETLY GETTING INSPIRATION.

* WRITE ABOUT WHAT INTERESTS YOU, ABOUT WHAT YOU LOVE – IF YOU DON’T CARE ABOUT YOUR WRITING/CHARACTERS, NO-ONE ELSE WILL EITHER.

PLOT –
* START STRONG –
* ESTABLISH SETTING –
* BREAK IT DOWN INTO MAJOR EVENTS
* BUILD IT UP, ADDING SMALLER EVENTS
* PLOT MAP – GET IDEAS DOWN AS FAST AS POSSIBLE BEFORE YOU FORGET THEM
– DON’T TRY TO THINK/PLOT STORY AND WRITE STORY AT SAME TIME. GET PLOT ORGANISED FIRST BEFORE YOU WRITE, THEN WHEN YOU ARE WRITING, PLOT CAN EVOLVE AND YOU CAN DEVELOP NEW IDEAS

** HELPS TO KEEP A NOTEBOOK HANDY AT ALL TIMES. DICTAPHONE ALSO USEFUL

FIND YOUR VOICE

*WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SAY? ENJOY YOURSELF. LET RIP. GET INSIDE YOUR OWN MIND AND YOU’LL BE SURPRISED WHAT YOU FIND. WRITING IS THE FREEST OF ALL THE SCHOOL DISCIPLINES. CREATIVE WRITING MEANS YOU CAN WRITE ABOUT WHATEVER YOU WANT. APART FROM GRAMMAR AND SPELLING, THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG ANSWER.

* HOW DO YOU WANT TO SAY IT? DIFFERENT GENRES WRITE THE KIND OF BOOK YOU WOULD LIKE TO READ. FOLLOW YOUR INSTINCT. DO YOU LIKE FUNNY BOOKS, LIKE EION COLFER’S OR MAGICAL, LIKE JK ROWLING’S, OR DRAMATIC LIKE PHILLIP PULLMAN, MICHAEL MORPURGO, OR THRILLER – ANTHONY HOROVITZ, DARREN SHAN OR ROBERT MUCHAMORE .

GETTING STARTED

* JUST DO IT!

* START. DON’T WORRY ABOUT MAKING IT PERFECT. IT NEVER WILL BE. YOU CAN IMPROVE IT IN SUBSEQUENT DRAFTS. I NORMALLY WRITE ABOUT 8-10 DRAFTS. 3-4 FOR PLOT, TWO FOR BEAUTY OF WRITING, ONE FOR DIALOGUE WORK, TWO OR THREE FOR COPY EDITING.

* MAKE YOUR OPENING LINE COUNT. MAKE YOUR READERS WANT TO READ ON. (REMEMBER, YOU CAN ALWAYS GO BACK TO THE START AND IMPROVE THE OPENING LINE LATER. DON’T LET MAKING IT ‘PREFECT’ HOLD YOU UP).

* IF IT’S GOING WELL, DON’T STOP. DON’T STOP BECAUSE YOU DON’T KNOW THE PERFECT WORD OR RELEVANT FACT. FILL THAT IN LATER. IGNORE DISTRACTIONS!

CHARACTERS
* CHARACTERISATION – PICTURE YOUR CHARACTERS AS CLEARLY AS YOU CAN. BE THEIR PORTRAIT PAINTER. BE THEIR PSYCHIATRIST – GET INSIDE THEIR HEADS.

MOTIVATION -WHY DO CHARATCERS ACT AS THEY DO?

  • CONFLICT: GOOD/EVIL/HERO/ANTIHERO/PROTAGONIST/ FOIL.
  • MAKE YOUR VILLAINS AND YOUR HEROES MULITFACETED. THEY ALL HAVE THREADS OF GOOD AND EVIL IN THEM.

* GROWTH/DISCOVERY – HOW DO THE CHARACTER EVOLVE DURING THE STORY? What do they discover about themselves? WHAT DOES THE READER DISCOVER ABOUT THEM?

CONVINCING DIALOGUE
* KNOW YOUR CHARACTERS
* DIFFERENT SPEECH PATTERNS/RHYTHMS AND IDIOSYNCRATIC WORD USE
* READ YOUR WORK ALOUD. LISTEN TO HOW IT SOUNDS.

VIVID, DYNAMIC WRITING
* VERBS – MORE DYNAMIC THAN ADJECTIVES AND ADVERBS
* SIMPLICITY – CLEAN, SIMPLE WRITING GETS THE POINT ACROSS BEST AND CARRIES THE STORY MOST SWIFTLY. DON’T BE TEMPTED TO ‘OVERWRITE’, LADLING IN TOO MANY ADJECTIVES OR MAKING YOUR SENTENCES TOO COMPLEX.

* NARRATIVE DESCRIPTIONS – USE ALL YOUR SENSES – SYNAESTHESIA; STENCH, ACRID, HISSING, TWISTED, FLICKERED, SLITHERED
* IMAGERY – STRONG IMAGES – OXTOPUS BEATING DRUMS
* PACE – SKIP UNECESSARY DETAIL. IF IT DOES NOT MOVE THE STORY ON, AXE IT.
* SCENE SHIFTING – SPEEDS UP PACE, ADDS INTRIGUE
* INSPIRE YOUR READERS – ‘I WON’T GIVE UP’. EXPLORE EMOTIONAL THEMES – COURAGE, LOYALTY, REBELLION, FEAR, WEAKNESS. USE THEM FOR INSPIRATION AND TO GIVE YOU INSIGHT INTO YOUR CHARACTERS
* POINT OF VIEW. YOU CAN SHIFT BETWEEN TWO, POSSIBLY THREE DIFFERENT POINTS OF VIEW TO LEND INTEREST AND LAYERS TO YOUR STORY.
* CLIFFHANGERS. ALWAYS GOOD TO END A CHAPTER ON ONE
* CONFLICT CREATES MOMENTUM. MOST STORIES ARE ABOUT A FIGHT OF SOME SORT
* SURPRISE. PLAUSIBLE SURPRISE IS THE KEY. DO NOT BE PREDICTABLE!
* REVELATION.
* CONCLUSION. TIE ALL THE LOOSE ENDS. MAKE IT DRAMATIC AND A REVELATION. MAKE IT EMOTIONALLY SATISFYING.

PERSERVERENCE
* FINISH WHAT YOU STARTED. WRITING’S LIKE CLIMBING A MOUNTAIN. ONE STEP AT A TIME. DON’T BE DAUNTED BY THE TASK.

EDITING –

* CONSTRUCTION – ADDING TEXT TO FLESH OUT AND ENHANCE STORY AND CHARACTERS
* DESTRUCTION – CUTTING OUT UNECESSARY DETAIL OR SCENES.
* DYNAMISM. MAKE YOUR SENETENCES SNAP! CUT OUT EXTRANEOUS WORDS AND BRING THEM ALIVE.
* TECHNICAL – SPELLING, GRAMMAR ETC
* READ ALOUD – HELPS HIHGLIGHT CLUMSY SENTENCES AND OVER-USED WORDS,

HAVE FUN! YOU ARE UNIQUE. YOUR WRITING WILL BE TOO. ENJOY IT, PLAY WITH IT, REVEL IN IT. CREATE SOMETHING WONDERFUL.

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