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Posted on May 12, 2021

How to Start Creative Writing: 7 Ways to Fast-Track Your Writing

There are plenty of great reasons to begin a creative writing journey, whether your goal is to have fun, express your feelings, improve your language skills, or even become a professional writer. If you’re uncertain about how to start creative writing, the key is to start small. By taking things one word at a time, you can reliably develop your craft and habit — learning how to get your voice on the page while attuning yourself to a sustainable writing routine. 

To help you get the ball rolling on your new life as a creative writer, we’ve compiled a list of approaches to try out. We’ll start with a few ideas that require little time and effort commitment, and grow more ambitious as we go. Y’all ready for this?

Start a journal

How to start creative writing | Book cover of Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding
Plot twist: you end up publishing a a bestselling diary-style novel inspired by your journaling.

A journal doesn’t need to be a “dear diary”-style chronicle of your entire day. Instead, it can be the perfect way to get used to expressing yourself without feeling self-conscious, since no one will be able to read your entries. If having an audience motivates you, you could instead start an anonymous blog and post your entries there — just be careful not to share any information that might let people identify you.

Journaling ideas

Pick a moment and expand on it. This could come from your day or a recent experience. How did it make you feel? Why do you think you chose this particular moment?

Write about someone you saw recently. It could be someone you know or a passing stranger. Try to describe how they were feeling or what they were up to.

Reflect on a big question. What do you think you deserve in life? What makes you happy? What are your most joyful memories?

Take five and write anything. On days when you’re feeling emotionally charged, set a 5-minute timer and just do a word dump. The only rule is that you don’t stop writing. Just write down anything that comes to mind, from daily stressful thoughts and worries to your hopes and aspirations.

Write a secret letter. Take inspiration from Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and write letters to people from your past: your favorite teachers, people who wronged you, your first crush, someone who let you down. You don’t need to mail anything to anyone: the process alone can be cathartic and helpful in untangling how you feel about your experiences. Plus, you’ll be getting lots of practice in articulating feelings and writing about emotionally intense subjects!  


How to Build a Solid Writing Routine

In 10 days, learn to change your habits to support your writing.

Start an anonymous Twitter account

How to Start Creative Writing | Screenshot of a tweet by the Twitter account "Chaucer Doth Tweet"
You can now catch up with your favorite English poet on Twitter.

Like anonymous blogging, an incognito Twitter account avoids the self-conscious feeling that comes with attaching your name to your work. Anonymously putting tiny stories out into the ether means you don’t have to worry about the consequences — so long as your stories aren’t offensive, don’t defame anyone, and avoid the trap of spreading dangerous conspiracy theories, of course. Just remember, you’re not doing this to fool anyone into thinking that your account is real: be a good citizen and mark yourself a fiction account in your bio. 

Twitter creative writing ideas

  • Challenge yourself to write tiny flash fiction stories that fit into Twitter’s 280 character limit, or build a thread of tweets that grows into a story.
  • Practise writing endings or last sentences for stories you haven’t written yet. 
  • Try to capture the essence of a character in one tweet. 
  • For one week, tweet from the point of view of an imaginary persona. 
  • Follow one celebrity’s tweets closely, and write the tweets you think are missing from their timelines (without tagging them or using their name, of course!).
  • Tweet about your day in rhyme.

Give creative writing exercises a go

Sometimes practising writing isn’t so much about putting together a cohesive, polished piece as it is about strengthening a specific aspect of your craft. That’s where creative writing exercises come in!

Such exercises offer a low-pressure sense of direction for your writing — while helping you actively improve on particular elements like voice, building tension, or characterization. If you’re struggling with a certain part of creative writing, try out a writing exercise with that element as its focus. To help you out, we’ve identified some common problem points, and devised some example exercises to flex that specific writing muscle.

Example exercises

How to start creative writing | Photograph of a suspicious-looking man standing in the shadows

Plot: Write a short story (or a pivotal scene in your longer project) from the perspective of an outsider, someone who has no significant role in the story.

Character Development: Establishing how your character is perceived by others is a great way to give them deeper context. To give this method a go, write a scene in which your character is only present through candid descriptions by others.

Dialogue: The next time you go outside, discreetly listen in on any conversation between two people for five minutes. Then go home and "fill in the blanks," using Person A and Person B's cadences and speech patterns to complete the conversation yourself.

📚 Head to a more complete list of 100+ writing exercises for more inspiration!

Try out some writing prompts

If your number-one writing obstacle is a lack of ideas, then meet your new best friend: this directory of 1000+ creative writing prompts. Ranging from suggestions for character studies to potential opening lines, the prompts in this directory are sortable by genre topic, so you’re sure to find one for every occasion (and for many you’d never considered before).

The best thing about writing prompts is that you can do almost anything you want with them: they’re inspiring without being too constrictive. Prompts can help you start a project, test your skills in a different genre, or stretch your creative muscles after a long time on the bench!

Prompt examples

  1. Create a ghost story where there’s more going on than it first appears.
  2. Write about a character who smells something familiar and is instantly taken back to the first moment they smelled it.
  3. Try writing a story that feels lonely, despite being set in a packed city.
  4. Write about someone who’s stuck in an elevator when the power goes out.
  5. Write a story that starts or ends with someone asking, “Can you keep a secret?”

Take part in writing contests

If motivation is what you’re lacking, how does a hard deadline and a little prize money sound? Writing contests are another fantastic way to dive into creative writing, especially if you sometimes need a kick in the pants to get to work (no judgment — we’ve all been there!).

This is the route we’d recommend if you haven’t written creatively in years, or if you frequently start pieces but never seem to finish them. The combination of competition, an inflexible due date, and the potential to win a prize or even have your work published is often just what’s needed to propel you over the finish line. 

We actually run a weekly writing contest over on Reedsy Prompts, so you can segue from casual user to contest entrant without skipping a beat! Head to that page to check out this week’s contest and read our (fairly straightforward) rules.

Or if you’re looking for writing contests in a specific genre or medium, take a peek at our directory of writing contests which features some of the most prestigious open writing competitions in the world. 

Sign up to creative writing classes

For a more structured, dedicated approach to creative writing, you can’t go wrong with a writing class. Classes on specific topics can really help strengthen your weak spots and build up new skills. On the other hand, you might prefer a more general, workshop-style class similar to a critique circle, in which everyone offers feedback on each others’ work.

How to start creative writing | Reedsy Learning homepage listing available courses

Head to our list of creative writing classes to see some of the most popular online options. Whatever you choose, make sure you read the course description and reviews before you enroll: classes tend to be a bigger, pricier commitment than simply picking out a prompt, contest, or writing exercise. That being said, you can also find some excellent free classes out there — like this short story course from Reedsy Learning.


How to Craft a Killer Short Story

From pacing to character development, master the elements of short fiction.

Commit to writing a book

If you’re not someone to shy away from a challenge, you also just take the plunge and try writing a book off the bat. ‘Writing a book’ doesn’t mean you have to write a novel — you could also write a book of creative nonfiction (e.g. personal essays) or assemble a poetry collection. You can even go mega-ambitious and start to write a whole series of novels, if you like!  

Whatever type of book you choose to work on, the key is to write the whole thing, and be prepared for it not to be a masterpiece. It’s a learning process, and it’s not for the faint-hearted: it will involve coming up with a book idea, then planning, writing, and editing, before preparing your work for publication. It’s a long process, but the satisfaction you’ll feel when you finally write ‘The End’ will be all the sweeter.

💡 Pro tip: If you think you’ll need an incentive or a deadline, consider signing up to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a writing challenge which takes place every November.

Free course: How to actually start writing your book

Take the leap with this inspirational course and become an author like you've always dreamed. Get started now.

Remember that the important thing is not to expect a magnum opus the first time you set pen on paper. Don’t overthink it, or spend ages obsessing over tips and books on writing if you don’t find them helpful: sometimes, rather than agonizing over how to start creative writing, you should just start writing. 

There’s no right or wrong approaches to creative writing. All of these methods and many more are perfectly legitimate ways to put your creativity to use, and get better every time. And who knows? It could even lead to a creative writing job down the line. 

In the next post in this series, we take a look at the various creative writing classes available on the web. Some are free, some not, but we've listed our recommendations for you to choose the best class for you!