We writers love to create, but our creative writing pieces can be littered with pitfalls without careful crafting. As enthusiastic writers, we understand the desire to dive into a new project, fingers blazing away at the keyboard as ideas flow freely.
However, succumbing to the temptation of an unstructured approach often leads to a jumbled mess of a story with flat characters, excessive descriptions, a jumpy point of view, and minor tension or conflict to propel the narrative forward.
If this sounds familiar, don’t worry – you’re not alone! In this blog, we’ll explore some of the most common creative writing pitfalls and how to avoid them for a polished piece your readers won’t be able to put down.
Lack of Structure and Organization
As writers, we love diving into a new creative project with unbridled enthusiasm! However, it’s easy to get carried away in the creative flow and end up with a disorganized mess. Trust us, and we’ve been there. That’s why structure and organization are so important.
With it, readers can follow your narrative and understand your key messages. Take the time to outline your piece and determine the best way to progress through your ideas logically. Group related thoughts together and use transitions to connect them. Establish a clear introduction, body, and conclusion.
Break up long sections into shorter paragraphs that each contain a single idea. Use headings and subheadings whenever possible, making your work infinitely more scannable! Numbered or bulleted lists are also reader-friendly.
During creative writing, re-read and re-outline as needed to ensure coherence. It’s a balancing act, but with practice, you’ll get better at pouring your creativity onto the page in an organized fashion. Editing and revising your draft to improve flow and connectivity is worth the effort.
With structure and organization locked down, your creative piece will shine through as the polished, compelling work you intended! Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll steer clear of messy, jumbled writing and transport your readers smoothly through your creative vision.
Avoid Undeveloped or Stereotypical Characters in Creative Writing
Don’t rely on stereotypes or flat, one-dimensional characters. Flesh out backstories, motivations, quirks, and details that make each character come alive. Give the characters authentic voices and distinct personalities. Help the reader understand what makes each character tick.
When we start writing, it’s easy to take shortcuts with characters to move the plot along. But simple or predictable characters won’t engage readers. We must show all sides of a character’s personality – their good qualities and flaws. Make them complex and contradictory, just like real people.
Give secondary characters meaningful details and backstories, not just your main characters. Every character, no matter how minor, should feel fully formed. If we achieve this, our stories will resonate so much more.
Developing fascinating, authentic people can take more time and work, but it’s worthwhile. Your readers will appreciate the depth and connect more deeply with the story.
Too Much or Too Little Description is Harmful in Creative Writing
As writers, we want to find the perfect balance in how much detail we provide readers. Too little description leaves your story sparse and lacking, while too much bogs it down and bores your audience.
Painting a Vivid Picture
We want readers to feel immersed in the story, so providing illustrative descriptions is critical. Discuss the sights and sounds, and smells – engage all the senses.
As a writer, you must expand your view and explain your creativity in telling a story they can imagine. Your Creative writing might be complex and multidimensional, but how you present it to your audience matters.
Rather than great paragraphs of description, sprinkle vivid details throughout to keep things interesting. Use concise yet compelling language to give readers a sense of the story without drowning them in superfluous prose. Think impressionistic brushstrokes rather than photorealism.
- Describe a few unique features that capture the essence of a character or place rather than listing every attribute.
- Use poetic or dramatic language to evoke a mood or theme rather than just stating facts.
- Show key events unfolding through action and dialog rather than bogging the pace with wordy explanations.
Creative Writing: Editing with an Eye for Economy
Once you have a first draft, tighten excessively descriptive passages. Look for opportunities to trim lengthy or repetitive sentences and be ruthless in eliminating unnecessary words and phrases. Ask yourself if each descriptive element is essential to moving the story forward or just extra fluff. Regular practice balancing descriptions will make your writing more engaging and impactful. Aim to use the perfect amount of detail – not too sparse but not too lavish – to craft a compelling tale.
Telling Instead of Showing
We’ve all been guilty of telling rather than showing in our writing at some point. As creative writers, we must resist the urge to tell our readers how our characters feel or what’s happening in a scene.
Paint a Picture with Words in Creative Writing
Instead, we need to show our readers by using descriptive language that helps them visualize what’s unfolding. Rather than saying, “The old house was spooky,” paint a picture with words: “The ramshackle Victorian loomed over the hill, its broken shudders creaking eerily in the wind.” Readers can now imagine the details for themselves.
- Use vivid verbs and adjectives to appeal to the senses
- Describe characters’ actions and expressions to convey their emotions
- Share specific details that help the reader visualize the setting
Put the Reader in the Scene
By showing rather than telling, we transport the reader into the scene. You also let them feel, taste, smell, see, and hear what the characters are experiencing with captivating words. They feel like they are with the characters, discovering critical details as the story unfolds.
- Describe the sounds, smells, and textures that surround the characters.
- Have the characters interact with the setting by touching objects, walking around the space, etc.
- Use dialog that shows the characters’ feelings through their voice and word choice.
Creative Writing: Strike a Balance
Of course, as with all writing techniques, show vs. tell requires balance. Provide enough vivid details to paint a picture but keep the reader manageable. Move the story along with some telling by summarizing events or transitions. Use a mix of showing and telling for the most compelling creative writing.
With practice, show vs. can become second nature. Remember these tips, study examples from your favorite authors, and get feedback from others. Your writing will blossom as you master this essential skill.
Lack of Conflict or Tension
As authors, we always strive to keep readers interested from beginning to end. One of the quickest ways to lose someone’s interest is by needing more conflict or tension in our stories. Readers crave drama and suspense—without it, a story falls flat.
Build suspense through conflict in Creative Writing.
To remedy this, we must incorporate conflict and tension into our writing. Introduce challenges or obstacles for your characters to overcome. Pose unanswered questions to create mystery. Foreshadow future difficulties to come. Keep raising the stakes to sustain interest.
- Create a primary conflict that propels your narrative. This makes it more compelling for the reader to turn the page to find out how it is resolved.
- Uncertainty or unsolved questions can add strain. To keep the reader guessing what will happen next, leave some of the story’s details unclear.
- Raising the risks gradually will heighten tension. Keep your affairs private. Save some information so you can later surprise the reader.
- To forecast upcoming conflicts, use foreshadowing. This increases interest and compels readers to keep reading to discover what happens.
By mastering the art of suspense, we can transform a dull story into a dynamic page-turner. Keep your readers guessing until the end, and they’ll be engrossed. Through conflict and tension, we breathe life into our writing and craft stories worth remembering.
Failure to Proofread and Edit Thoroughly
We, writers, live and die by the editing process! As much as we may dread it, editing and proofreading thoroughly are essential to crafting a polished piece.
Don’t Skimp on Self-Editing
We have to scrutinize our work with a critical eye before asking others to review it. Read your draft aloud to catch any awkward phrasing or lapses in logic. Look for repetition and replace overused words with synonyms to strengthen your prose.
Tighten up sentences and paragraphs by removing unnecessary comments and restructuring for clarity. Double-check that topics flow logically from one to the next. Polish your opening and closing lines to pull the reader in and tie it all together.
Get Fresh Eyes on Your Work
After self-editing, ask a friend or family member to review with a fresh perspective. Let them know precisely what type of feedback would be most helpful.
They may catch inconsistencies, plot holes, or confusing sections you glossed over. Be open to their constructive criticism—they want your piece to shine as much as you do!
Finally, proofread carefully to fix spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors. Reading backward sentence by sentence can help you focus on each word. Double-check the proper use of homophones like there/their/they’re and your/you’re. Use a dictionary or thesaurus to confirm correct word choice and spelling.
While the editing process requires effort and patience, it produces polished work you can be proud of.
Your readers will appreciate how seamlessly our ideas flow, characters come to life, and descriptions spark the imagination when we take the time to thoroughly self-edit, get a fresh perspective, and proofread meticulously.
Inconsistent Point of View
When writing creatively, we must be careful to avoid switching perspectives haphazardly. As authors, maintaining a consistent point of view is essential for reader immersion and clarity.
Choose your perspective wisely.
Do we want to tell the story in first person from the main character’s view? Third person limited to one character’s experiences? Or omniscient third-person to get into everyone’s heads? The options are many, so select carefully based on the tale we want to tell.
Stick with it
Once we’ve decided on a POV, we must remain consistent throughout the piece. Don’t start in first person and suddenly shift to third without warning the reader. This jars them out of the story and confuses them. If a perspective change is necessary, do so gradually by:
- Introducing the new POV in a separate chapter or scene.
- Using a page break to mark the transition.
- Rewriting portions of the story from a new perspective.
Resist the urge to jump into multiple characters’ thoughts and feelings within the same scene. This “head-hopping” gives readers whiplash as they try to keep up with the revolving perspectives. Choose a primary POV for each scene and stick to it.
By remaining consistent with our point of view, readers can immerse themselves fully in the story without distraction.
And as authors, we have the satisfaction of crafting a polished piece that thoroughly engages the audience from beginning to end.
Maintaining a steady perspective can become second nature with practice, allowing creativity to flow freely onto the page!
Final Thoughts on Creative Writing Pitfalls
As writers, we now have the tools to craft a compelling story and steer clear of hazards. Keeping these creative writing pitfalls in mind will allow our prose to shine through.
With the proper structure, complex characters, vivid yet balanced descriptions, showing instead of just telling, building tension and conflict, choosing a consistent point of view, and diligent editing, we can transport readers into the worlds we create.
Our stories can make people laugh, cry, and contemplate life’s most profound mysteries. So put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, and get writing – your masterpiece is waiting to be born! With passion and perseverance, we can achieve creative greatness. The possibilities are endless.