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Common Mistakes You Can (and Should!) Avoid in Your Creative Writing

Some texts suck us in so completely that we just can’t stop reading — though our eyes may have trouble keeping up, every word is so perfectly placed, and so easy to understand, that our minds are flying. Other pieces of writing are, well, a little trickier. These might require you to read the same paragraph over and over again, leave you wondering what just happened, or tempt you to abandon them altogether as you discover yet another page devoid of substance. Even worse, there might be careless typos, word choices that completely miss the mark, or aimless rambling. 

You, of course, want your creative writing to be the kind people simply can’t put down. By avoiding some of the most common mistakes creative writers make, you get a whole lot closer to that aim. What should you look out for in your own writing?

Your introduction is boring

What’s true for people is also true for creative writing — you can only make a first impression once. If people don’t like what they see, and aren’t curious what’s going to happen next, you are at risk of losing them. Just like it takes writers a while to get into the swing of a creative writing project, readers also need to be seduced. To make sure your readers stay with you until the end, hook them with a riveting beginning. 

Your pages are filled with purposeless details

Creative writers are continuously told to “show, don’t tell”, but if you take this advice to the extreme, you could easily fall into the trap of filling your pages with vivid and beautiful, but ultimately excessive, details that simply don’t advance the story or message in any way. Good questions to ask yourself when you decide what to cut are if the details show emotion, set the stage, or tell the reader more about your characters. If it’s not relevant, and especially if it’s also distracting, it’s got to go. 

The characters in your creative fiction don’t have any flaws

Creative writers who are attempting to write a short story or novel will want their readers to care about their protagonist. That becomes much easier if they create a three-dimensional, human character that people can root for and sympathize with. Flaws, hardships, and pain are essential parts of the human experience, so without them, you risk crafting robots. 

Your progression is too predictable

While you definitely want a coherent whole, don’t forget to add some turns and twists to the story to keep your audience on its toes! Nobody wants to see the end coming from miles away.

You’re trying to be someone else

As a creative writer, you are going to have role models — but to be the best writer you can be, you have to find your own voice. Try not to compare your work to the style of other writers whose work you admire, but instead ask yourself if your writing feels authentic. 

You don’t edit properly

This is the big one, because there’s so much ground to cover. Beginning creative writers often fall into these traps when they try to edit their work:

  • If you try to proofread your work soon after you have written it, your brain is at risk of reading what you intended to write — rather than what you actually wrote. 
  • You may get so attached to a word or sentence that you find it hard to let go, even though you know that it doesn’t belong in your text. 
  • You constantly second-guess yourself, and end up deleting passages that were perfect just the way they were. 
  • You think your writing isn’t sufficiently literary and you go overboard with the thesaurus. 

It’s nearly impossible to be objective about your own work, and very few creative writers are able to effectively self-edit. That is why it’s so important to bring a fresh pair of eyes in. You won’t hire a professional editor for every piece of creative writing you craft, but you can at least ask for feedback on a writers’ forum or get a friend to take a look.

Creative writing might be exciting, but it’s also hard work. The good news is that you get better with practice — so keep writing!

Why Poetry is Important In Today’s Society

Poetry is a genre within literature that is characterized by its beautiful words and lyrical style. Many poetic devices and styles of poetry have been preserved for many centuries from rhyme schemes to types of poems (like the haiku or limerick or the tanka). On one hand, poetry is an ancient form of literature and storytelling that dates back to Homer and the ancient storytellers. On the other, poetry is a very new format that blends many modern perspectives and tastes into its words.

The blend between the olden days and modern era is actually extremely powerful and also elegant. Great poets write are able to take advantage of the structures that were presented by old styles of poetry to tell new stories and share new ideas that are important in today’s society. For example, rhyme schemes, pacing, and poetic devices have worked and still continue to work. Poetic structures also drive emphasis to certain words and certain areas. Think about something like an iambic pentameter. As a reader, you know where the down beats are and thus what words people will naturally focus on.

Or perhaps the formatting of poems. The way poems are laid out can call special attention to things in the poems. There are many tried and true ways that have worked for centuries to place emphasis and lead the reader’s eyes along poems. 

The central themes of the poems have changed over time and actually reflect what the times cared about. In ancient times, poetry often recounted the feats and feats of warriors in combat, while in the Middle Ages, romantic poetry gained importance. Today, poems focus on social issues, equality, peace, and emotions. Poetry has always been an important form of expression and thus reflects the changing times and beliefs. Poetry has become a tool over time to convey new ideas and share what people care about. At one point, it was military victories. Today, it’s the environment. Or human rights. Or equality. Check out places like Button Poetry or Youth Speaks for prime examples of this.

In today’s world, poetry is a beautiful and artistic way to express oneself and be heard in the sea of noise. While everybody in politics argues and fights. There’s fake news and contentious debates. Poetry shines through as a simple and elegant way to fight for what the people believe in. A way that is both engraved in our path, and tied to our future.

Rupi Kaur is one example of such a poet that has done well in this new age. Not only is she extremely famous for her writing, she has also positively impacted many and influenced many with her words. Poetry sites like Instagram, Commaful, and AllPoetry have given rise to new breeds of poets.

She’s certainly a controversial figure. Many have said that her poems aren’t actual poems. Others have challenged that her poems are extremely superficial and have no depth. One thing is certain, however, her poetry has touched many people and influenced many lives.

There are a number of modern self-published poetry authors as well, focusing on reaching the masses with short bite-sized poems. These poets leverage online platforms to reach poetry lovers and sell poetry books. Another controversial style and move.

Poetry is special in that way. It means something different to everybody. To some, it might be junk. To others its art. But what’s important, is that the words are touching somebody. Impacting lives. Leading to new and interesting discussions and ideas.

Because that has been poetry’s impact on history. And poetry’s impact on society today.

How to Write a Novel: The Hows and Whys of Story Outlines for Fiction

Writing a novel can seem intimidating to a lot of authors, but it doesn’t have to be. If you think of a novel as a collection of thousands of words (sometimes upwards of 150, 000), it seems like a mountain where you can’t even see the top – but if you learn how to approach your novel with a story outline before you’ve written a single word, it becomes a much easier process instead.

Here’s how to approach your novel or story with an outline – and why you should.

Every Story or Book Has a File

Get into the habit of giving every story or book that you start its own file or folder. This can be handwritten or it can be electronic – that’s up to you. Your file is used for recording any changes, any important plot points, any character traits and anything else you think of that builds your story.

Why do this? It’s a quick-reference guide while you’re writing your book – and it can help you have something to go back to when you aren’t sure about something. (How do you think JK Rowling kept track of the spells throughout the entire series without a single mistake?)

How to Start an Outline

Start an outline anywhere and any way you like. Some writers start out with keywords that outline important plot points or characters, other writers will write down sentence snippets or paragraphs that they would like to include in their book later.

Your outline needs to answer basic questions: What happens in this story? When does it happen? How does it happen? Why does it happen? How you get to answering these questions is up to you.

Why Outlines Are Important

Outlines are vital for fiction. Sure, there are a precious few writers who can spot an entire book’s worth of plotting without having to write anything down – but it’s likely that neither of us count as one of those.

Outlines help. They can help you to see where the plot of your book is going: This is the trick to inserting clever plot twists and coming up with a great ending.

When you see your story at a glance as an outline, it’s easier to shift things around, make major changes, insert great plot twists and come up with an ending that fits with the beginning of your story..

If you aren’t outlining your fiction, you’re tumbling around in the dark and you, the writer, has no idea where your story is really going. This can lead to the insertion of a lot of loose plot points and inconclusive side-plots.

See why you should always outline?

Notes, Notes and Notes

Other than an official outline for where you’re going to take your book when it comes to the characters and plot, it can help writers a lot to also keep a separate file or book for notes. These are notes that you write down whenever you think of something could that could work for your story.

When writers sit down to think of ideas, this in itself sometimes creates a form of writer’s block where they can’t think of a single thing. Keeping a notebook on you at all times helps to avoid this problem: Whenever an idea pops up, write it down. After a few months worth of writing down your ideas, you’ll have a notebook with plenty of ideas to refer to when you’re feeling blocked.

Always keep your notes. These can be useful years down the line, and can ensure that you literally never run out of ideas and concepts to fire up your fiction.

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