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Creative writing is the process of writing stories or narrations that focus more on entertaining and telling a story than simply relating facts. It is a form of fiction, or created work, and it can take the form of a novel, novella, short story, poem, essay, anecdote, biography, autobiography, memoir, and more. Even writing that is generally considered to fall into the non-fiction category can be written creatively, so creative writing is not limited to the fictional. Generally speaking, any story that uses figurative language, a narrative story arc, or other elements that allow the writer to focus on the narrative and writing rather than the simple relay of facts can fall into the creative writing category.
Short stories and novels are perhaps the most common forms of creative writing. A short story is a piece of prose writing that is usually 6,000 words or fewer; it generally follows a plot structure, which includes an introduction or exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement or resolution. This plot structure can be altered to suit the author's purposes, but usually at least some of these elements are included in the story. Fictional characters are also generally included in the narrative, as well as a setting and specific tone to the writing.
Novels are much longer stories that usually range anywhere from 60,000 words to 200,000 words or more. These stories also usually follow some sort of plot structure, though novels tend to have a more complex plot structure and more characters. The novel may include several different settings over the course of the narrative, and more than one plot line may be present in this creative writing form. Shorter stories that are too long to be short stories and too short to be novels are known as novellas.
Creative writing can also be done in non-fiction. This relatively new craft is sometimes known as creative non-fiction, and it involves writing about factual events while paying attention to the quality of the prose. Traditional non-fiction generally focuses on relating facts, while creative non-fiction aims to relate facts stylistically. The writing may be more interesting and may contain figurative language, plot structure, character development and assessment, and a less direct manner of relating facts. Memoirs often employ such writing, as may biographies, essays, anecdotes, and so on. Events may also be analyzed during the narrative to enhance any humorous aspects of the event, dramatic aspects, poignant exchanges, and so on.
@bythewell - I agree it is a good idea to make sure you take a well rounded course, although you will also want to eventually focus on a single kind of creative writing.
Otherwise it can be difficult to develop the skills you will need to succeed.
However, I think the most important thing when choosing a creative writing school is making sure it is well respected.
Try to take a course where they ask for writing samples in your application, but don't take that as a given that it is difficult to get into. See what they post as their acceptance rates. They might not even look at the samples, after all.
Ask around to see what the reputation of the school is with other writers. You can look on forums and blogs for example.
Sometimes these so called schools are just an excuse to take your money and won't give you any real value at all.
If you are going to take an online creative writing course, I would recommend taking one which teaches a wide range of different kinds of creative writing.
I did one which taught scriptwriting, journalism, short stories, poetry and so on and it was really good getting a chance to try out all these different forms. You can really learn something from poetry, for example, if you want to write creative non-fiction, or from scriptwriting if you want to write a novel.
Limiting yourself to only one form is a mistake in the modern world, where you need to be able to put your hand to everything if you want to keep your career going forward.
Creative non-fiction is a relatively new term for something that has been gaining popularity for the last couple of decades.
It is a really exciting kind of writing, too, with a wide open interpritation at the moment as to what can be considered creative non-fiction.
So, the message can be put across in a poetic form, or as a story, or as an essay, or any other way you can think of, as long as you are trying to convey factual information, rather than fiction.
Bill Bryson is a good example of someone who started out writing travel biography and is now writing books about science and history in a way that is interesting and easy to understand, and which often makes use of tools like narrative.
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