The Rules of Creative Writing

once-upon-a-time-719174__340Creative writing is what it is: creative.  And what that means to me is that there are no rules, except there are actually many.

Make a List of Creative Writing Rules

Stop for a minute, if you wish, and make a list of all of the creative writing rules you can think up.  How many on your list?  What are they? Where did you learn these rules?  Which ones do you follow, and are there any that you deliberately break?

My Creative Writing Rules

Here are the first three rules that came to my mind when I asked myself this question:

  1. Every story must have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
  2. Every character must have a complete bio (if you don’t know your characters, how can you write about them?)
  3. Every story should start with a conflict.

And I could keep going.

Queen of the Writing Rules Hands Over Her Tiara

I’m the queen of process at work.  I keep detailed notes, I’ve created style guides in former lives, and I’m good at following them.  I’m not the very best editor that I know (I know lots of very smart people) but I know how to reference a style guide.  But that’s for writing non-fiction.

I think it’s time for Fiction to have a new Story.  (Yes, I just broke some writing rules with odd capitalization in the prior sentence.)

The new Story is that it’s okay to write something creative that is only a beginning, middle or end.  It’s also okay to write the ending or to write about characters who you know nothing about–yes, I’m granting myself the freedom to not take my characters out for a blood test before they appear on the page.

As part of my self-expression, I’m going to start writing the stories that start in my mind but don’t have a clear end.  In the creativity that is called life, you don’t always have to know the end before showing up at the starting line.

Journal, If You Wish

Choose a writing rule, and break it. It can be a big one or a small one.  Join me in writing story beginnings, middles, or ends that exist on their own and characters who you haven’t background checked.

Rachel

 

Optimizing Your Writing Space

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As a creative writer, there are many layers to your work. There’s the actual writing process, and there’s your writing place.  Today, I’m going to talk about how I optimize my writing space and give you ideas on how you can optimize your own.

Where do you like to write, and how do you optimize your space?

My Creative Space

I like to go to a coffee shop on Sunday afternoons to work on my classes.  It feels good to get out.  On my walk there, I can think about whatever comes to mind.  I like the coffee there, they have free wifi, they have outlets so I can plug in my computer, and they have treats if I get hungry.  Oh yeah, this place is Starbucks.  Because while I enjoy supporting my local independent shops, this is just the best place in the area to work.

The one thing I can’t stand at this Starbucks is the music that they blast LOUDLY in the store. It’s mostly awful with an ok song thrown in once in a while.

So, I have a Spotify account, and comfortable headphones, and I write/work to loud 80’s music and sometimes hip-hop or rap.  This puts me in a good place where I can mentally focus and enjoy the process.  There may be some secret dancing thrown in for good measure.

Now that I’ve learned that I like to have headphones on while writing, I’m transferring this trick to my work at home.  When it’s Tuesday night and I’m grading papers, I can pour a glass of wine or pop up a cold club soda, put on my headphones, and get engaged in a really good grading zone, where I’m enjoying learning from my students and giving them quality feedback.

Creative Writing Teachers

Creative writing teachers, what can you take from this for your students?  I know that I have some students who are barely comfortable doing an in-class brainstorming exercise, but that they’ll do it if they know that they don’t have to share.  How can you encourage your students to find a comfortable writing place in class or out of class?

Your Optimal Writing Space

What’s your preferred writing environment?  If you don’t have one yet, I think you should try a few different ones.  Try different seats (couch, bed, desk chair?), different places (living room, office, coffee shop), different types of music or none at all.  Think about how you feel in each space, how much you enjoy or dislike the writing process in the different spaces, and look for the common denominators.

Journal about what you currently do that works or journal about your discovery process.

A Caveat

Don’t let the “lack” of the “perfect” writing space stop you from writing. Your writing has value, and you can write from almost anywhere.  You don’t need the perfect song or the ultimate desk–those are just tools to help you.

How Not to Teach a Writing Class

Interesting that I’ve been thinking about how to be the best writing teacher, and I happened to come across this old episode of Grace Under Fire that shows how NOT to teach creative writing.  Watch from about 10:52 until 12:40 to see an example of creating a non-safe space writing environment!

Journal, if you wish: I know it’s just a clip from an old television show, but have you ever had a writing teacher be so critical that you had no interest in sharing your work?  If you watch the rest of the episode, what do you think about Grace’s response?

https://goo.gl/YSmxsJ