What is creative nonfiction writing? The genre of creative nonfiction (literary nonfiction) is broad. It includes travel writing, nature writing, science writing, sports writing, biography, autobiography, memoir, the interview, and both the familiar and personal essay.
Among other things, Nonfiction text must be factually accurate and written with attention to literary style and technique.
“Ultimately, the primary goal of the creative nonfiction writer is to communicate information, just like a reporter, but to shape it in a way that reads like fiction.”
Creative writing doesn’t have a specific definition. The act of writing creatively involves writing all types of non-fiction including some of the categories listed below:
Articles, Short stories, Children’s stories, Novels of all kinds, Non-fiction books, Journalism, Radio, TV and the Stage.
Evolving Genre- Creative Writing
Huber, S. (2011), contributory author to “Digital Suspicions” and “How Do I Write?” acknowledges that nonfiction is a fourth genre equivalent to poetry, fiction and drama. This includes nonfiction’s subgenres: memoir, nature writing, personal essays, literary journalism, cultural criticism, and travel writing.
Huber, S anthology is aimed at drawing a common ground between the practising writer and the practising scholar so we connect creative writing practice and composition theory.
In doing this, Huber achieved to bridge the gaps between the teaching of composition, creative writing and Literature in the English department.
Writing Reports Creatively
Caulley, D. (2008) recommends the use of creative nonfiction techniques in writing reports to make reports less boring. He adds that despite being creative the writer is supposed, to tell the truth.
Gutkind, L describes Creative Nonfiction as the voice of the genre of nonfiction that is packed with news, long-form essays that blend style with substance, writing that pushes the traditional boundaries of the genre, notes and crafts.
Is Writing Self-Taught?
There is a myth around the subject of writing. Some people believe writing is self-taught. On the contrary, the Creative Writing course at the University of East Anglia (UEA) produced some impressive results that prove a writer can actually be taught the craft of writing.
Bell’s book, The Creative Writing Course (2016) supports the same idea. Bell believes Creative Writing can be taught and this can be achieved in three stages. The first stage is the process of gathering facts and information. Before looking at the information gathering process, let’s address the question below.
How do I start writing?
We often hear people saying skilful writing comes with practice. Knowing exactly when to pick up your pen and to start writing can be tricky. This can be stemming from a lack of confidence. This is when you don’t believe in yourself.
The moment I realised that to generate ideas I had to start writing was the initial step I took to start writing.
(1) Learning to make observations and using your memory.
Your observations are a useful source of a large pool of information your creative ideas will come from. Writing down some notes is a clever way of starting. Make it a habit to jot things down and keep notes.
(2) Choose a concrete subject to write on.
To break the ice, just put your pen to paper. Start writing randomly about any subject you like. It’s like someone who is fumbling around and trying to find their way in the dark until they see a ray of light at the end of the tunnel. As you continuously write, you will eventually find your voice.
(3) Writing creatively takes a considerable amount of concentration.
Use your notebook to capture things. Everyone is different. Keeping a diary of activities does not suit everybody. So, find what is right for you. Personally, I have come to realize that I work well during quieter spells. Especially in the early hours of the day. I prefer writing down ideas, as they come, on my iPad.
(4) Start off with a mind mapping
Let’s say, you were planning to write a novel, you could start off with doing a mind mapping exercise. This is just to give you a skeletal picture of the themes you want to feature in your novel.
A sketchy plan, to begin with, gives you a guide to follow as you work and continue to add more flesh or ideas. The good side to having a plan is that you can decide where and when to write. Once, you have a plan in place it becomes easier to adhere to it.
(5) Boost your vocabulary
No one knows it all when it comes to writing. Some authors improve with more practice they do. Creative Writing embraces things like developing your imagination and how to develop your powers of observation. To be able to write in a vivid and attention-grabbing manner, a good vocabulary is a must have. This is where you see the benefits of reading widely.
(6) Be organised
To succeed in your creative writing journey, you need to be organized. As mentioned earlier, a plan of action is one such tool that will help you accomplish this goal. Including personal qualities such as perseverance, determination, self-organisation, resilience and confidence.
(7) Deal with writers’ block
It’s not a smooth sailing journey, though. Writer’s block can be an issue. More importantly, knowing how to overcome it. There shall come days when you feel you don’t have a creative bone left in your body and you just want to throw in the towel.
Basically, writers’ block means you can become mentally tired and stale if you overdo your writing. One way of getting out of writers’ block situation is going out to meet other writers.
The Writers Workshops are good places to hang out with fellow writers. At such events, you get the exposure to engage during brainstorming sessions. This helps you in shaping your ideas and it gives you a picture of what works and what doesn’t work in this area of work.
(8) Networking and sharing of ideas
Networking and sharing ideas at Writers Workshops are key. You get help on how to write your novel up to the finishing stage and publishing. You also learn about the rules for developing a good style and how to avoid common mistakes. Including how to sell your writing.
Why do people write in the first place?
People write out of different motives. Some find solace in writing. Others see writing as a source of pleasure. And some perceive writing as a way to express themselves, to have a voice.
You have to remember that no one can write exactly as you do. ”You are the unique product of unique life history. Even if you had an identical twin, they could never write precisely the poems and stories as you. So if you don’t write in your own particular way, then no one else ever will.” These are words of wisdom from Julia Bell (2016).
There is still a debate going on to prove if creative writing is a skill that can be passed on through teaching.
Looking at the global situation today, the formal teaching of writing is gaining popularity. And it has become evident in the sheer number of courses that are currently available in Britain and elsewhere in the world.
The Writer’s Bureau Comprehensive Writing Course is a good example of writing courses that are available today.
Creative Nonfiction Writing Samples
- How School Holiday Plans Made Me A Better Mum
- Runaway Child
- Travel Writing Articles
- Writing for Children – Creative Writing Ideas
- The Cry of the Immigrant
- Cheap Tickets Flights
- How to go shopping in Harare
(1) Bell, J. The Creative Writing Coursebook: Forty Authors Share Advice and Exercises for Fiction and Poetry (2004), Pan MacMillan, London.
(2) Caulley, D. N. Making Qualitative Research Reports Less Boring: The Techniques Of Writing Creative Non-fiction’ Sage Research Article, Publications,(April:2008).
(3) L. Gutkind, L. Creative Non-Fiction: A Movement, Non-A Movement, Journal Article No. 29, Special Issues: A Million Little Choices: The ABCs of CNF, (2006), p. 6-18.
If you have any questions in relation to my blog post, Creative Nonfiction Writing, please leave them below. I am more than happy to respond as soon as I can.
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