14 Creative Writing Tips (Plus 5 Jobs in This Career Field)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated July 20, 2022 | Published May 17, 2021

Updated July 20, 2022

Published May 17, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Creative writing is a versatile skill that can serve many purposes in your personal and professional life. It can help you communicate your ideas, express your emotions and connect with other people. If you enjoy writing, learning how to develop your creative writing skills can help you find greater success in this field. 

In this article, we define creative writing, explore different creative writing careers and share tips to help you improve your creative writing skills.

What is creative writing?

Creative writing is a form of writing that requires imagination or invention to express unique ideas. Some common genres of creative writing include poetry, screenwriting, playwriting, fiction and creative nonfiction. Creative writing differs from academic and informational writing, which are centered on facts.

Creative writers may use a wide variety of literary techniques to tell a story, including figurative language, metaphors and idioms. The goal of creative writing is to engage readers by communicating ideas, feelings and stories in an original way. Here are some elements of creative writing:

  • Plot development

  • Dialogue

  • Character development

  • Underlying theme or message

  • Visual descriptions

  • Points of view

  • Emotional appeal

  • Imaginative language

Related: The Creative Writing Process

What careers use creative writing?

Here are some careers that use creative writing:

1. Social media specialist

National average salary: $46,435 per year

Primary duties: Social media specialists are marketing professionals who use a wide range of social media platforms to promote their clients. They develop effective digital marketing strategies, engage with online audiences, research target markets and create social media posts. Social media specialists may work with social media influencers, graphic designers, photographers, videographers and other marketing specialists to create campaigns.

2. Journalist

National average salary: $47,660 per year

Primary duties: Journalists are professionals who investigate, research and write articles, reports and news stories. They can work for magazines, newspapers, television networks and other media outlets. Journalists usually spend some of their time in an office setting writing articles and some of their time out in the field conducting research and interviews. They work closely with editors, marketing professionals, news directors and other journalists to develop their stories.

Read more: Learn About Being a Journalist

3. Grant writer

National average salary: $56,068 per year

Primary duties: A grant writer composes research proposals and submits applications to receive funding from a grant agency or another organization. They typically work with nonprofits to help them obtain funding for various projects, goods, services and other items they may need. Grant writers can work exclusively with one nonprofit organization or with several organizations as a freelancer.

Read more: Learn About Being a Grant Writer

4. Content writer

National average salary: $57,664 per year

Primary duties: Content writers are marketing and communications specialists who write online content, such as blog posts, social media posts and sales copy. They conduct market research to help them craft clear, consistent messages that engage a variety of audiences. A content writer may work with several clients as a freelance writer, for an agency that serves multiple industries or for a single company. They often collaborate with editors and other marketing professionals to produce and refine copy for their clients.

5. Public relations account executive

National average salary: $62,952 per year

Primary duties: Public relations account executives create and maintain a positive image for brands. They draft media releases, develop advertising campaigns and schedule appearances to influence the public perception of a company, product or organization. Public relations account executives may work for one company or for several brands through an agency or as an independent contractor.

For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the link(s) provided.

14 creative writing tips

Here are some creative writing tips to help you with your next project:

1. Read often

Most writers are also avid readers. Reading regularly can help you build your vocabulary, discover new writing techniques and explore different genres. Reading can also help you develop new ideas for stories, find writers who inspire you and identify publishers to work with in the future. Make a habit of reading to improve your overall writing skill set.

2. Capture your readers’ attention

Knowing how to attract and engage readers early on can determine whether they continue reading your work. Craft a strong opening sentence and encourage them to find out what happens next. Here are some tips to help you write an intriguing opening line:

  • Begin at a pivotal moment in your story.

  • Introduce conflict in the first scene.

  • Put your characters in an unusual setting or situation.

  • Introduce your antagonist.

  • Leave some details out to create a sense of mystery.

  • Start with a compelling piece of dialogue.

  • Use juxtaposition to create unusual imagery.

3. Show rather than tell

Instead of telling your readers what a place, person or object in your story looks like, use sensory details to illustrate it for them. Consider how you might use taste, touch, sight, sound, smell and emotion to make your readers feel like they’re experiencing your story for themselves. Here’s an example of how using sensory details can improve a story:

  • Telling: I walked through the field. It was a cold winter evening.

  • Showing: Snowflakes danced in the blustery wind as I trekked across the barren field covered in white. The sun hung low on the horizon and I knew I needed to hurry if I was going to make it to town before dark.

Related: 8 Types of Symbolism

4. Freewrite

Freewriting is a tool that many writers use to help them develop new ideas and overcome writer's block. The purpose of freewriting is to develop as many ideas as you can about a specific topic.

Set a timer, take out a pen and a notebook and see how many ideas you create. This can help you increase your creativity, find inspiration and make connections between different topics. Remember that freewriting is all about the process and having fun. You may end up uncovering an interesting story you can use in your next creative writing piece.

5. Learn from professionals

Learning from other professional writers and creative people can help you hone your writing skills, develop your process and build your confidence as a writer. Enroll in a writing class through a local institution or online to get started.

There are many writing topics you may choose to learn about, including how to write dialogue, craft short stories and create realistic characters. You can also find a wide variety of books on writing to help you develop new techniques.

Related: 22 Degrees in Writing

6. Let your characters tell the story

Let your characters tell the story by using dialogue to help each scene progress. This can add personality to your writing, help readers build a stronger relationship with your characters and increase the pace of your story. Dialogue can also help you break up long pieces of descriptive text to keep the reader engaged and give them insight into what your characters may think or feel.

7. Carry a journal with you

Carrying a journal with you can help you record your daily thoughts and observations, make connections between your experiences and emotions and provide you with an endless supply of inspiration. You can also record your notes using a mobile application or a voice recorder. Each of these practices can provide you with plenty of material to reference the next time you're looking for an idea.

Related: Learn How To Journal in 9 Steps

8. Set measurable goals

As a writer, it’s important to set measurable and achievable goals to track your progress. Creating a goal for your writing can encourage you to write more frequently and help you develop writing as a habit. Consider what an attainable daily or weekly goal might be for your writing. Then choose a metric that’s easy to track, such as the number of words or pages written or the number of hours spent writing. You can break your goal into smaller pieces to help you track your progress.

For example, if your goal is to write 1,000 words each day and you have approximately two free hours each evening to write, you can calculate that you need to write at least 500 words per hour to meet your goal. Use a spreadsheet, mobile application or pen and paper to track your results. At the end of the month, check your progress to see whether you achieved your goal. This can help you assess what areas you were successful in and where there may be room for improvement.

Related: 12 Tips for Creating SMART Goals

9. Get to know your audience

If you’re writing about a specific topic or genre, researching your target audience can help you curate your content to match their interests. Identify well-known writers who write on the same topics or within the same genre you do. Then, research what their fans like about their work and what else they enjoy reading. You can use a search engine to read reviews, fan boards or forums to gather information.

Related: Defining Your Target Audience: What It Is and Why It’s Important

10. Develop a routine

Establishing a writing routine can help you build good habits and increase your productivity as a writer. Instead of waiting to feel inspired, identify a recurring time you can set aside each day or week to write.

Schedule your writing time by adding it as an event on your calendar or setting a reminder on your phone. Then prepare for your writing session by limiting distractions and ensuring you have all the tools you need to focus. Here are some steps you can take to prepare:

  • Turning off the notifications on your phone or laptop

  • Charging your laptop or tablet

  • Ensuring you have writing materials, such as notebooks, pens and sticky notes, nearby

  • Brewing a cup of tea or coffee

  • Setting out a snack

  • Filling up a water bottle

Related: How To Create an Effective Work Routine (With Tips)

11. Join a writer's network

Joining a writer's network is a great way to meet other like-minded individuals, learn from your peers and receive feedback about your work. Many writing associations offer peer-mentoring groups, critiques and online discussion forums that can help you hone your writing skills. They may also host writing challenges, professional development seminars, Q&As with best-selling authors and other networking events.

Related: 7 Steps for Building Your Networking Skills

12. Organize your notes

If you’re working on a longer piece of creative writing, organizing your notes can help you save time, ensure details are accurate and improve consistency. Consider creating a short bio or cheat sheet for each of your characters that outlines important details about their physical experience, backstory, interests, education, job role, habits and relationships.

You can also create cheat sheets for different settings and locations, develop a timeline of important events or create an outline of your story. When you’re writing your story, you can reference each of these items to make sure your details are consistent from one scene or chapter to the next.

Related: 7 Methods for Taking Organized Notes

13. Tell your family and friends

Letting your family and friends know that you’re working on a new creative piece of writing can be a great way to hold yourself accountable and increase your motivation to keep writing.

Talking about the project you’re working on can also help you develop new ideas, draw different connections and get feedback from potential readers. You may also consider sharing parts of your writing journey on social media to provide regular updates, promote your writing and attract potential fans of your work.

14. Save your edits for later

When you begin a new creative writing project, jot down your ideas and craft a full first draft before making any edits. By saving your editing for the end, you can increase your writing speed and improve your creativity. It can also minimize disruptions and help you focus on telling your story. When you finish your first draft, give yourself a little time before you begin the editing process. Allowing yourself to take a short break from working on a piece can help you edit it more objectively.

You may also consider sharing your piece with a colleague, friend or editor to get additional feedback. This can help you improve your skills as a writer and create an error-free final draft.

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