When we begin our careers as writers, we undoubtedly take to the internet in the hunt for creative writing tips for beginners. But sometimes this can be counter productive.
We read articles entitled “things writers should never do”, or “writing rules that all authors should follow.” They can fill us with angst and despair—I don’t do any of these things! I must be an awful writer!
Wrong! The tips and advice that we see in articles and guides, or even in books for writers, should be treated as guidelines.
Why, you may wonder? Well, as you progress through your career as a writer, you’ll discover that there isn’t actually a right way to scribble a book. Instead, we write in ways that suit us, that we find most comfortable.
So in this guide on creative writing tips, we’ll cover finding advice you can trust. And we’ll look at guidance from great writers, quick tips for improving your writing style, what you shouldn’t do, plus lots of links to other guides to help you sharpen your writing skills.
Select A Section
- Finding Writing Tips You Can Trust
- Writing Tips For Beginners
- Advice On Writing From The Greats
- List Of Writing Tips For Fiction
- Do You Have Tips For Writing A Cover Letter?
- What Is The Best Writing Tip?
- What Should You Not Do When Writing?
- Writing Tips and Grammar
- Join An Online Writing Group
- Study Creative Writing
The internet is awash with articles that tell you to do this and never to do that, especially when it comes to writing. But as we’ll see in this article, and as you’ll no doubt discover in your author journey, you can pretty much ignore them.
Because writing is a fluid craft. It changes with time. For example, fantasy authors in the days of old were much more partial to including worldbuilding info dumps. Now, it isn’t tolerated as much by readers.
So when it comes to finding creative writing tips for beginners, read every morsel you can find, but don’t listen to them when they say this is something you should always do, or should never do.
When it comes to finding writing advice for beginners, you can stock up on books and bookmark webpage after webpage, but how do you know which to listen to?
Well, it all comes down to analysing your sources.
As a digital marketer, I’m fully aware of how Google’s algorithm works. It prioritises quality and user experience over everything else now. So when you search for “creative writing tips for beginners”, for instance, the results that you see on the first page will be high-quality, detailed and informative. You can therefore trust these sources.
When it comes to books, checking reviews left by those who’ve bought it and used it are incredibly useful. For example, the 80+ reviews I’ve received for A Fantasy Writers’ Handbook drive organic sales because people can check out the thoughts of others before purchasing.
Finding book recommendations from successful authors also works well too. In Stein On Writing, for instance, Sol Stein made a few references to an author and playwright called Lajos Egri. I found those references so useful I went off and bought his book, The Art of Dramatic Writing, and now I regard it as one of the best books for writers tips I’ve ever come across.
Speaking of great writers, I wanted to share with you some of my favourite bits of writing advice. These are tips that I include within all my lectures and workshops and when training writers in my day job.
George Orwell’s Writing Tips
When it comes to writing prose, I think George Orwell’s guiding principles are some of the most useful.
Orwell felt compelled to spell out these six simple rules because of what he saw was a wilful destruction of good writing practices on the part of the establishment.
In his lauded essay, Politics and the English Language, published in 1946, Orwell slammed the politicians of the day for using overly complex language that only serves to confuse people.
Orwell’s belief was that writing should be like looking through a clear pane of glass. In essence, the writing itself shouldn’t draw any attention to itself. The story should be clear for the reader to see, follow and enjoy. If they have to break away to look up a word, then you may have run into an issue.
Here are Orwell’s six writing tips:
- Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print;
- Never use a long word where a short one will do;
- If it is possible to cut out a word, always cut it out;
- Never use the passive [voice] where you can use the active;
- Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent;
- Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
In this section you can find links to some related writing guides you may find useful, covering a range of topics on the craft of writing.
- How To Plot a Story
- Character Plotting
- The Crucible
- Plotting: Architectural Suspense
- How To Plan Writing A Story As A Non-Planner
Viewpoint and Tense
General Writing Guides
- The most hated rules of writing
- 4 easy ways to begin writing a novel
- How to write romance scenes
- What is passive voice?
- How to format a manuscript
- 5 reasons why every writer should use Story Origin
- Mental health in fantasy books
- My guide to notebooks for writers
Writing a cover letter can be harder than writing a novel or a short story. And as writers seeking to get published, or to get representation from an agent, we have to write a lot of cover and query letters.
There are a few best practices you can follow when it comes to writing a cover letter, and below I’ve included a link to my guide which should help you out.
Perhaps the best writing tip is to have an open mind. Absorb all information at your disposal. Analyse it, determine if it is useful or not. Take what you need from it, experiment with using it, and if it doesn’t work, don’t feel like you’re bound to it.
From a practical standpoint, however, that’s not too useful. So my best writing tip is to practice. Write as much as time allows. Push yourself to write different forms, different styles, viewpoints, narratives, perspectives. Try poetry. Try flash fiction. You learn new skills from every different form of writing.
And it’s true what they say. Practice does make perfect. Trust that if you put in the time and effort, you’ll succeed.
One of the things I love most about writing is the freedom it brings. You can write about anything you like—from an epic fantasy novel thicker than War and Peace, to a pirate-themed space opera.
So when it comes to advising what not to do when writing, it can be tricky. We’ve covered one of my pet peeves when it comes to writing tips—the listicles promising the world, quick fixes or instant results and how can they derail us or dampen our enthusiasm.
One of the things you should not do then, is pay much heed to these articles and writing guides. By all means, if you see something that you don’t know much about (for me it was the passive voice), go off and learn as much as you can. Only then can you decide whether it’s something worth fretting about or not.
Something else you should not do when writing is heap pressure onto your shoulders. When we see other authors celebrating their successes, it can make us yearn for the same. We may feel that we’re unable to emulate them, that we might as well give up and that nobody would ever want to read our books and stories.
This all has the effect of quashing our enthusiasm, our hopes and aspirations. As someone who teaches creative writing (see Project Anthology), one thing I always try to encourage writers to do is harness that enthusiasm, nurture it and don’t let anything cause it harm. A writing Tamagotchi if you will. It’s our enthusiasm that helps us fall in love with the craft, and that’s something we want to promote and preserve.
Grammar is so important when it comes to writing. When editing, it becomes even more of a consideration. There’s nothing worse than self-publishing a book or submitting it to a publisher or literary agent, looking back at what you’ve sent and spotting a glaring typo. Even studying all of the writing tips known to man cannot save you sometimes.
The good news is, this is something we can easily fix. There’s many a great tool for spotting grammatical errors. Here are some of them below:
- Grammarly – like the classic Microsoft Word spellcheck only miles better. Grammarly not only picks up on spelling and grammatical errors, it highlights any clunky sentences and analyses your writing to let you know where you can improve. I also quite like it’s tone of voice assessment—ranging from joyful to disappointed. Most important of all, Grammarly is free. It does have a paid version which gives you access to lots more tools.
- Hemingway – this is another free app, available to use online or via a desktop application. Hemingway is more of an assessment of your writing as opposed to your grammar, but there’s a bit of an overlap here which is why I’ve included it. It checks for the likes of passive voice, adverbs, and similar to Grammarly, assess your writing and highlights any clunky sentences.
- Google Docs – over the years I’ve grown to love Google Docs. Perhaps the biggest reason is that it saves your work after you type every single word. Never again do you have to worry about losing a file. But when it comes to grammar, I think the Google Docs spellchecker is a winner. I use it everyday in my day job too. I find it great for picking out any simple spelling or grammatical errors.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of using these tools is that you learn the rules of grammar. You can see what it highlights and study the explanations behind why. Over time you’ll become less reliant on them.
When we begin our writing journey, it can feel like a solo pursuit. We sit in solitude writing our stories. And while that can be a lot of fun, there comes a time when we have to seek the advice and feedback of other authors.
That may seem daunting, but the only way to learn and improve is to get impartial feedback from fresh eyes. Now you could just hire an editor or beta reader. They’ll give you lots of fantastic guidance. But that costs money, and I don’t know if you’ve heard, but writers don’t earn all that much.
One way around this is to work with fellow writers. Over the years I’ve both helped and received help from many a great writer. I’ve learned much and they’ve helped me land successful submissions. It gave me the idea to create a dedicated writing group, a place to share and connect, get feedback and grow together.
Would you like to join us? Just click the button below if so.
If you’d like to take your learning to the next level to get a degree or qualification in storytelling, I’ve included some informative links below to help.
- Study creative writing with the Open University – UK
- Or check out this writing course with the US Open University
- Learn creative writing and poetry with the University of Chicago