As an author, the most common questions I am asked are, “How do you organize your
plots and characters?”, “When do you write?”, and “How do you make your writing
interesting?”. While everyone has a different approach, I’m going to share three of the most important points I use in my creative process when writing fiction.
1-Make a Free-flowing Outline
The number one thing I do to gather my thoughts together for a fictional story is create what I call a free-flowing outline. If you are a college graduate, the word “outline” itself will probably make you groan. However, this outline is not about which words are or are not proper to capitalize or the indentation of roman numerals, this is all about getting down to the nitty-gritty of what your story is really about. Remember, an outline should be an organizational tool that serves you. Format your creative outline anyway you want. Include only those elements that are important to your story such as:
- Key Events
The main point to remember in a free-flowing outline is to get your ideas down without getting bogged down by the format or organization. I’m seriously OCD but organization can come later, maybe even after a second outline. Get a clear idea of what you want to happen in the story and list as many of these scenes as possible without even worrying about chronological order just yet. The more you allow the raw material to flow from you, the easier it will be to organize the material when the time is right.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s not so much about writing a lot as it is keeping the creative flow alive. Whenever I set a fixed time to write, I lose my creativity. Some books on creative writing tips even recommend a scheduled writing time that’s written in stone and, if that works for you, great! But, if you are pursuing dozens of varied creative projects on a daily basis like me, this method may only add pressure to what needs to be a flowing process.
So when I insist on writing often, I mean to write as often as you can as you feel inspired, even if that means getting only a single paragraph down in a day. That short paragraph probably didn’t take long to write but it kept your progress moving in the right direction: toward completion!
3-Say It In a New Way
Every creative writing student is told, “Show, don’t tell,” and this is golden advice. I like to take this a step further and also make sure that what I show is accomplished in a unique way. Except for character dialogue, avoid cliches and dry, everyday expressions. A good cue to keep your writing fresh is to notice whenever a cliche comes to mind when you need to describe something in your story. Take note of that cliche and think of how you could say the same thing in a fresh way.
The Bottom Line
The most important thing to remember in the creative process is just that: creativity. Everyone’s creativity is unique. Be true to your voice and to your writing.