Descriptive writing is the art of painting a picture with words.
In fiction, we describe settings and characters. In poetry, we describe scenes, experiences, and emotions. In creative nonfiction, we describe reality.
Classic literature was dense with description whereas modern literature usually keeps description to a minimum.
Compare the elaborate descriptions in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy with the descriptions in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Both series relied on description to help the readers visualize an imagined, fantastical world, but Rowling did not use her precious writing space to describe standard settings whereas Tolkien frequently paused all action and spent pages describing a single landscape. Read more
I’ve been collecting writing notebooks and journals since I was a teenager. Most writers I know tend to accumulate a lot of stationery and office supplies: notebooks, pens, paper clips, and other odds and ends that we can use to manage and organize our writing projects.
Over time, these writerly goodies pile up.
I now have a sizable collection of creative writing notebooks and journals. Some are completely filled up. Others are still blank. A few are only partially used. Read more
One of the most common grammatical mistakes that we see in both speech and writing is misuse of the words lay and lie.
This error is so common, it even slips past professional writers, editors, and English teachers — all the time.
Maybe eventually these two words will morph into one and have the exact same meaning, but until then, it’s worthwhile to learn proper usage. For now, their meanings are completely different.
Let’s take a look at this interesting word pair and find out whether we should be using lay or lie based on each word’s definition. Read more
“Ssh, don’t tell anyone. Put it in the vault!”
Most of us have had those very words whispered into our ears. In fact, most of us have probably whispered those words into someone else’s ear.
They say everyone has a secret. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that secrets sure pique people’s curiosity.
And if you can capture a reader’s curiosity, you’ll have them hooked.
That’s the essence of today’s fiction writing prompts. Read more
There’s a lot more to writing than typing words.
Writing well takes years of study, practice, and experience. It requires diligence and attention to detail, study and dedication to the craft. Each project has a unique set of requirements and different types of writing have different rules.
For example, when we’re writing fiction, we have one set of concerns (character, plot, and setting, to name a few), and when we’re writing poetry, we have en entirely different set of issues to deal with.
Basically, writers have to keep a lot of balls in the air. It becomes more natural with practice, but there is a myriad of elements to deal with in any given project. Read more
People often ask me how to become a writer. It seems like a simple enough question, until you start considering the semantics of the word writer.
A writer can be someone who writes, someone who has written, or someone who writes professionally. Anyone who’s been to school has written something, so this is a very loose definition. Let’s reign it in a little. We usually don’t use the word writer to indicate anyone who has written; we limit it to those who write regularly and those who write professionally (they get paid to write).
So the simple answer is this: to become a writer, all you have to do is write. To become a professional writer, you need to get paid to write. Read more
Writing resources are easy to come by. But good writing resources, ones that will truly help you improve your writing, can be difficult to scout out among the many books on writing that are available.
Originally published in 1959, The Elements of Style has been a fixture among writers who want to compose words with poise and clarity. Coming in at under 100 pages, it’s a quick read packed with style tips, grammar usage, and general advice on writing.
The Elements of Style was the first writing book I ever owned. In sixth grade, when I was assigned my first term paper, one of the requirements was to use this book. It was only recently that I finally upgraded to the latest edition and read it in its entirety for the first time, and I was impressed beyond measure. Read more
A while back, I wrote a post that had nothing to do with food, but food became a running metaphor while I was revising. The food metaphor was so delicious (or maybe I was so hungry) that I rewrote the entire post with food on the brain.
The blog posts that I write with metaphors always get a lot of positive feedback and everyone seems to embrace them. So I thought why not make writing exercises out of metaphors?
So, what makes metaphors work?
The most effective metaphors trigger our senses by connecting an otherwise intangible subject to sight, sound, smell, touch, or taste. If you can engage any of these senses through metaphor, your writing will take on new life. Not only will it become more entertaining and more memorable, it will be easier for readers to relate to what you’re saying. Read more
One of the most difficult things to execute well in a piece of fiction is a realistic character. We’ve all read stories in which the characters were dull or hollow; they come across like clones of the same characters we’ve met in dozens of stories before.
Readers want characters who are as unique and complex as real people.
Are we, as writers, obligated to deliver such characters?
Not necessarily. Plenty of stories are plot-driven or centered around theme rather than character. But the stories that resonate the most have vivid, layered characters. Readers and writers often sing the praises of character-driven fiction. So the single best way to intrigue readers is to give them characters they can’t forget. Read more
When I look back over all my years of formal education, from preschool through college, only a few classes stand out as truly educational in a life-changing way.
In sixth grade, we did a section on space, which fascinated me. I retained a lot of what I learned. Later, I took astronomy and learned even more about the universe. A class on women writers exposed me to a whole world of literature I didn’t know existed. And two writing workshops (poetry and creative writing) put me on the path to becoming a professional writer.
The main difference between a regular class and a workshop is that a workshop is interactive. You work together with your fellow students, critiquing each other’s work, asking questions, and exchanging insights. Whatever you can learn from a single instructor is multiplied by all the knowledge and wisdom you gain by sharing ideas with a roomful of your peers. Read more
“Only a generation of readers will spawn a generation of writers.” — Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg is one of my favorite storytellers. He and I have something in common: we were both English majors! He knows what he’s talking about when he emphasizes the importance of reading. The simplicity and elegance of Spielberg’s remark makes this one of my favorite quotes on writing. Read more
Fears. We all have them, and we all have to face them sooner or later.
Some people are plagued with fears that interfere with their ability to live a normal and healthy life. Others dance around their fears, cleverly avoiding those things that give them a nervous twitch. Still more people simply live day to day with minor, almost meaningless fears that are a source of mild irritation.
But how often do we sit down and ask ourselves what am I truly afraid of and why? Read more