Joshua Rochelle tell us some hidden tricks for a successful creative writing piece. Are you ready?
[dropcap size=big]C[/dropcap]reative writing is tricky business at the best of times: coming up with something from nothing is hard. Turning that something into a coherent, original narrative or other construction is harder. Making all that coherent? Sometimes it can seem nigh impossible.
Fortunately, the impossible becomes easy with a bit of application, and here at Arts and Lit we’ve got a few pointers on how to get to that whole “easy” part with as little pain as possible.
[divider]Attack the Adverb![/divider]
THE common or garden adverbial can look like a writer’s best friend at first sight. A convenient way of adding description to a verb, requiring only one additional word? Who wouldn’t want that? The answer is “anyone with a thesaurus”. Any time you use an adverb, check if you couldn’t use a better verb instead, because the latter option always looks more concise, and more informed.
The recent Exeposé opinion piece on an interview with Sir Steve Smith is an excellent example of this: every time Steve says something, it’s not “Steve said firmly” or “Steve said sadly”, but rather “Steve affirmed” and “Steve lamented”.
Keep in mind, however, that adverbs can be great when used in a character’s speech: talking in adverbs, especially the word “unfortunately”, is a great marker of a character who is irritating – particularly when used with the passive voice (“Unfortunately, it was decided that there will be more cuts”).
If you’re still scratching your head over the passive voice bit, fear not, and redirect yourself to tip number two:
[divider]Learn to Grammar[/divider]
TRYING to build sentences (i.e. write) without understanding grammar is a bit like trying to build a car without knowing how engines work: a really bad idea, which will probably make a mess. The naturally talented writer may be able to pull it off just as the naturally talented mechanic could do her job, but in the end, both could improve their game by knowing their stuff, so don’t fool yourself, school yourself.
Learning the ins and outs of both written and spoken language is vital to bettering yourself as a writer. Knowing what they do is even more important: having too many disjuncts in your writing, for example, will make your text look fluffy, but if a character uses them a lot they’ll often come off as defensive instead.
[divider]Know Your Purpose[/divider]
NO matter where your scribblings of scripture take you, this is by far the most important thing to remember (and also the simplest): why are you writing what you’re writing? Everything you write must be catered towards the answer to this question. Examine the purpose of every sentence you’ve written when you read back through your work. If it doesn’t say anything worth saying, it must go!
Similarly, when using grammatical flourishes as mentioned above, think about who will be reading your text. If you’re writing Twilight fan fiction, your reader’s IQ won’t exactly be on the Stephen Hawking level, so describing a character as “jurisprudent” may not be the best idea. Try “she is a good leader” instead. The grammatical term for this (check tip two again) is the “register” of the text.
Keep this trio of tips in mind, and you can’t go too far wrong. Remember: worst case scenario, it’s back to the drawing board, so don’t be afraid to mess up. What’s important is that you learn from your mistakes.
by Joshua Rotchelle