So I did a post the other week on whether or not you should study a Creative Writing MA (or slightly longer ago now, I’ve moved house and started working at an awesome new job so sadly the blog was left sulking in a corner for a while) and I rather rashly suggested you can build your own creative writing course.
Now surely this is nonsense, right? People (like me) pay good money for a creative writing Masters, and heck, if we could do it ourselves then why bother going to an institution?
Well that’s the thing.
Anyone can write.
Anyone can pick up a pen and put it to paper.
What distinguishes a writer is that they get this urge repeatedly. They have stories sitting underneath their skin and they want them to burst out and onto a page that will hopefully, eventually, be picked up and read.
But you don’t need a Creative Writing MA in order to write.
You might want one if, like me, you had all of the urge and absolutely no craft sitting behind it whatsoever (read some of my cringe-worthy first attempts here) but equally you can get a pretty good start on learning craft without sitting in front of a lecturer.
So I am going to attempt to give you some valuable tools and resources that will help you to start building your own free creative writing course in your own time and at your own speed.
All of this will work up to us doing NaNoWriMo2018 together (if you’re still with me by that point).
Part 1: How To Write Description
Description is one of the cornerstones of writing. Not only does it set the scene but it also introduces us to your characters in how they act, how they react and what they look like. You only have words in your arsenal and you have to make them appear as vividly for your readers as if they were watching a movie.
You want to make your scenes really pop in people’s heads.
That’s why capturing it from real life is such a great way to start, because it’s already painted right there in front of you.
All you have to do is take a photograph of it. With words.
A wordograph. (Not a word.)
So for the first part, and this can be a week, a month, or however long you want, here’s what you need to do:
1. Carry a notebook around with you all the time and write down descriptions of the following things (for starters, feel free to add more as you go along)
- Facial expressions for as many emotions as you can see. And I don’t just mean she smiled, I mean try and capture it
- Describe something mundane in an interesting way (like the seats on a bus)
- Describe something interesting in a mundane way (like a beautiful sunset)
- Write down snippets of dialogue
- Describe the way someone looks
- Describe the way someone walks
- Describe the way someone talks
- Describe the colour of something without using the name of the colour
2. Take one of your descriptions and use the following prompt to build it up into a 200-word short piece of writing:
- It wasn’t (his/her) fault.
Resources for Part 1: How To Write Description
Getting started can be tricky, so here are some good resources for learning how to write description:
- How to Appeal to Your Senses in Your Description: This is a useful place to start, perhaps even before you begin your notebook entries
- How To Write Vivid Descriptions: This articles takes it step by step, discussing how to ‘see’ with your minds eye when you’re writing descriptions that don’t exist. This is why actually seeing things is a good way to start (I find it makes this transition easier.)
- Writing Powerful Descriptions: This focusses more on the type of language you should be using as well as giving some helpful do’s and don’ts for what should be included in your descriptive sentences.
- The Art of Description: Don’t let the old-school website design fool you, this article has some really valuable information about how to manage your description vs. rest of story (not so important at this point, but super useful later on.)
- How To Hit Your Goldilocks Zone of Description: Description doesn’t have to be Austen-esque. At least it doesn’t anymore. Not since the invention of televisions. One of my favourite bloggers outlines how to make sure you’re hitting the right amount of description in your work.
So, good luck my fellow writers! Have a wonderful day/week/month/unspecified period of time writing stuff in notebooks and staring at people for longer than is polite on the train.