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Creative writing exercises, prompts and ideas

What is Creative Writing?

Most writing is creative writing. Film scripts, short stories, novels, works of non-fiction, and poetry are all examples of creative writing. Excellent creative writing comes from the writer's imagination and is always expressive. Powerful creative writing can conjure up another world for the reader to inhabit.

Ten Steps to Improve Your Creative Writing Skills

Putting pen to paper- or fingers to keyboard- can be a rather daunting prospect for any writer. Suddenly, the windows are in urgent need of washing and the oven is calling out to be cleaned. Here are ten tips that will hopefully make you feel more in charge of the creative writing process and will get you off to a flying start:

1. Take a notebook with you wherever you go.

Use this notebook to jot down any interesting observations and thoughts whilst out and about. This worked for writers as disparate as George Orwell, Thomas Hardy and 'Harriet the Spy'.

2. The Five Minute Challenge

Make yourself write about anything for five minutes. It doesn't matter if it's complete nonsense. Then stop and walk away. This is a great way to overcome a bad case of writer's block.

3. A Room of One's Own

Virginia Woolf wrote a whole book about the importance of having a private space in which to think and write. If, like me, you live in a busy household with many others demanding your time and attention, try and identify a time and place when you can be completely alone. For me, this means waking up hours before anyone else, and getting down to it at the dining room table.

4. Coffee and Exercise.

A good cup of strong black coffee is a time-honoured way for writers to get their creative juices flowing. You may find that gentle exercise is a highly effective way of clearing your mind, resulting in a great burst of creativity. Or perhaps your best thoughts arrive late at night in bed, whilst drifting off to sleep. If so, why not keep a notebook handy in order to jot down these fleeting thoughts? The resulting notes may seem incoherent drivel in the morning, or they may contain incredibly profound insights inot the human condition. It's got to be worth a try.

5. Use Prompts to Get Started

These prompts are inspirational little tasks that encourage people to write. They are similar to the sort of thing your English teacher in high school may have asked the class to write and they are unbeatable at getting the ink flowing. These days, there are numerous websites with hundreds of examples of creative writing prompts. Check out Creative Writing Prompts, an example of a useful website where you can click on up to 300 different prompts, such as " Write about one the easiest decisions you've ever had to make in your life" and "List nine good reasons to break off a wedding". Of course, not all of them will be your cup of tea, but you will be bound to find something that will inspire you to write.

6. Read Voraciously

Read as widely and as often as you can. It's rare to meet a writer who is not a compulsive reader. Read as many different styles as you can; from Victorian novels, to newspaper articles, to blockbusters. Why will reading make you a better writer? Well, reading will improve your vocabulary and phrasing, almost by osmosis, hence the benefits of reading as many different styles as possible. Reading widely will almost always make you more engaged with the world; more in tune with the thoughts and feelings of characters. Good writers reach out to people; they are not insular. Try and imitate the writing style of your favourite few authors. This is harder than it seems, yet it will help you to realize which writing style you feel most comfortable with, such as the first or third person.

7. Write an Engaging First Paragraph

The first sentence, let alone the first paragraph, should be instantly compelling, luring the reader onward. The best-selling author, Stephen King reputedly spends months perfecting the first paragraph of a novel. The first paragraph could do many things- set the scene, allow a tantalising glimpse of mystery- but what it should always do is leave the reader hungry for more.

8. Develop Your Characters

On a sheet of paper, write a description of your main protagonist. Use as many adjectives as you like. You could even draw a picture or two. Try to make the character fully alive in your imagination; think about his or her motives and objectives. If your characters are alive to you, they will be more likely to spring to life in your writing.

9. Don't Waffle

Try to write as concisely and meaningfully as possible. Avoid unnecessary waffle, as it is irritating for the reader. Words such as 'really', 'very', and 'quite' are weak and rarely essential to the meaning of the sentence. Common phrases like 'In my opinion' and 'Little did I know' are also overused.

10. Think about Conflict and Tension

Your plot should be driven by conflict and tension. Most novels and short stories end with a satisfactory resolution of a central problem or problems, usually after a dramatic crisis has formed the most exciting point of the story. Most writers find that good planning is the key here.