Creative writing isn’t for everyone, though everyone has probably tried it as some point in his or her career as a writer. Just because you tend to stick to the more figurative side of the art doesn’t mean you can’t, and shouldn’t, step outside your comfort zone and try something a little different.
If you consider yourself a creative writer, it’s no small feat, and you should be proud of the work you do. It wouldn’t hurt, though, to play the role of a journalist or another type of nonfiction writer at least once or twice as you’re refining your skills. Why? Here are three skills you can develop when you expand your rhetorical horizons.
Practice Focusing On a Specific Angle
It’s easy to start writing a piece of fiction with a single plot point in mind, only to find yourself distracted with twelve back stories and a side plot that’s seemingly more interesting than the main storyboard. This is an especially easy trap to fall into if you’re trying to weave in a few hints of romance when the piece isn’t meant to be a love story.
Writing essays, papers and articles—whether for a newspaper, magazine or a fancy academic publication—is an effective way to practice choosing an angle (in some forms of writing, a thesis) and sticking to it from beginning to end.
Minimize Overuse of Adjectives
And word count in general. Taking on specific assignments, such as writing a news article for a local paper, not only includes a word minimum, but often comes with a word maximum as well. There just isn’t room for too many colorful descriptions of real-life scenes, even though that might be what you’re most used to.
Writing as many words as we possibly can in one piece is a habit we have to form before we can learn to break it. Nonfiction will teach you to communicate powerful messages in as few words as possible, so when you do pick up another creative piece, you’ll be able to apply this skill to that realm of writing as well.
Get Comfortable Doing Research
Comfortable in the sense that you’re confident and motivated enough to do it, of course—generally, if your research doesn’t challenge you enough, it’s not good research. When writing nonfiction, research is essential to the credibility and clarity of your piece. Before writing an article or essay, you’d better know the topic you’re writing about just as well as the experts do.
One misconception about creative writing is there isn’t any research involved. Most writers know this isn’t true, though. Something as simple as Google searching how to crack an egg with one hand is still research, technically. The more you immerse yourself in the art of gathering facts and syncing them to your piece, the more readers will take any kind of work you publish seriously.
We’re not saying you have to give up writing fiction. Many writers do the reverse, starting out as nonfiction writers and slowly incorporating creative pieces into their personal portfolios. Don’t be afraid to write in a style you aren’t used to. The more versatile your skills, the more successful your writing career will become.
Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.