How to Learn Creative Writing

Creative writing is any form of writing intended for entertainment, although it may also inform or persuade. It encompasses fiction, poetry, song lyrics, scripts, biographies, and anything that combines these elements. Although creative writing is an innate skill, it can be taught, and its techniques must be learned in order to develop as a writer. There are a number of ways to learn creative writing; the steps below cover some of these ways.


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    Decide what form of creative writing interests you most. You may have interests in several forms of writing; however, it's usually best to start with one form or a few similar forms before branching out into other areas.
    • To determine where to start, consider what interests you most. If you enjoy a particular genre of fiction, such as science fiction, and imagine how you would write the story differently, you may want to begin by learning to write in that genre. If you find yourself paying particular attention to the choice of words in your favorite songs, you may want to learn how to write song lyrics.
    • You may also wish to tackle a smaller project within the form of writing that interests you most, such as a short story or novella instead of an epic trilogy, or a few good songs instead of a concept album, for example.
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    Take creative writing classes. Creative writing classes are available in a number of venues:
    • College campuses. Many colleges and universities offer the opportunity to major or minor in creative writing as part of a fine arts degree, or as an elective class for credits to count toward a degree in something else. These classes are usually taught by tenured or adjunct professors, with classes lasting an entire semester.
    • Community colleges. Many community colleges offer a variety of non-credit, continuing education classes for those who want to learn new things. Writing classes are often among their most popular offerings. Some community college writing classes may last a full semester, while others run only a few weeks. These classes may be taught by professors at the college or by experienced writers in the community.
    • Seminars. These are short, one- or two-day classes that may be held at a community center, a civic organization, a writer's retreat, or at a convention devoted to a particular genre. These classes are usually taught by experienced writers.
    • Online. Online creative writing classes may be offered by four-year or community colleges as an outreach program or by organizations geared solely to teaching writing online. Some classes may be offered for free, while others have charges ranging from nominal to substantial.
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    Read books on creative writing. Books on creative writing cover a number of aspects:
    • General how-to books teach the basics of creative writing. These books may include techniques on how to stimulate your creativity, provide suggestions on how to structure your writing time, or offer advice on dealing with agents and publishers.
    • Technique-specific how-to books teach particular writing methods that can be applied across a number of writing genres. Dwight Swain's "Techniques of the Selling Writer," for example, teaches how to structure stories to build tension.
    • Genre-specific how-to books teach how to write in a specific genre, such as mysteries, science fiction, or romance.
    • Genre-specific reference books provide information that writers need to know to create realistic settings for their stories in that genre. There are books covering life in the Middle Ages for historical fiction and fantasy writers, books on forensics for mystery writers, and books of age-appropriate words for children's book writers.
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    Attend writing workshops. Writing workshops provide you the opportunity to share your work with and have it reviewed by fellow writers, and to learn how other writers develop their works. Writing workshops may be part of college writing courses, continuing education classes, or part of writers' conferences or conventions.
    • Most writing workshops will require you to have a piece of writing to share with the other writers attending the workshop.
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    Follow writing blogs and podcasts. A number of authors set forth their opinions on writing in the form of either a weblog or podcast. You can find authors who write in the area you are interested in and either bookmark their blogs or download their podcasts to review at your leisure.
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    Join a writers' group. Writers' groups provide the chance to network with other writers to share both techniques and opportunities to market your work. Large writing groups may share writing techniques through the group newsletter, while small groups may be organized as critique groups, which function similarly to writing workshops. Some groups meet physically, while others connect online through forums or Yahoo groups.
    • You can find writers' groups in your area by using an Internet search engine or through
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    Practice. No matter what formal or informal methods you choose to learn creative writing, the surest way to improve your writing skills is to write regularly and often, applying what you've learned from the methods listed above.
    • If you write fiction, one way to practice is to take part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWiMo), held informally during the month of November. The goal is to start and finish a writing a novel during those 30 days.


  • As you learn more about how to write, you'll find yourself looking at published writing with a more critical eye to see how other writers apply a given technique to bring their stories to life. When you do this, read as widely in your chosen area as you can to expose yourself to a number of different styles to help you develop your own individual style.


  • Be aware that some online writing programs are not on the up-and-up. This is usually not a problem with programs affiliated with a recognized institution of higher education but may be with a private organization. If you're not familiar with the organization behind a writing program, take the time to investigate that organization before committing your time and money.

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