There are few things constant in the world, and creative writing is not one of them.
Sure, it may not look like it on the surface. After all, creative writing is one of those things which stays evergreen, supposedly. Books on creative writing written decades ago still have relevance in the present. Creative writing advice from years ago is still useful today.
It’s the reason why I wrote Creative Writing 101 in 2010, and it’s the reason why that resource remains the most popular on Writers’ Treasure, as well as still being evergreen content. Outdated? Of course not.
But it’s been five years since Creative Writing 101, and as specified, it was a beginner’s guide. What about an upgrade? What about the next level? …..
So here you have it. Announcing Creative Writing 201 – a new series of articles, a new creative writing resource aimed to upgrade your creative writing skills to the next level. The aim is to upgrade a creative writer to become an intermediate and then an expert.
Intended as a proper successor to Creative Writing 101, this series of articles will be even more in-depth, more readable (like always).
We’ll start from a macro look at creative writing as it stands today, move on to the macro issues, macro tips and techniques, and macro examples of effective creative writing.
See the keyword? Macro? What does it mean? And our topic today: creative writing in 2015. Isn’t this topic contradictory to what I said a few paragraphs ago? The answers to these questions – and many more – are found in the full explanation below!
Why creative writing keeps changing
In theory, creative writing is supposed to stay constant and not change.
In practice though, it’s not like that. Sure, the rate of change is slower than different fields of course. In a fast-paced world such as smartphones and consumer electronics technology, even six months are like light years.
In creative writing, it’s not like that. But if you think you can get by solely on creative writing advice from decades ago, if you think there’s no such thing as “keeping with the times” in creative writing, if you think what you wrote ten years ago is still great in the present, you’re wrong.
Here’s the answer: creative writing keeps changing. It has to change. The world is changing. In fact as they say change is one of the only constants. Creative writing is changing because its constituents are changing.
Take the example of fiction publishing industry. They’re moving to e-books on a large scale.
That itself makes all the difference to a fiction writer, since e-book is a completely different platform from a regular physical book, leading to different styles of writing, different marketing, different outlook.
Take the example of ultra-descriptive content. It worked a long time ago. Now, if you even attempt it, you’re guaranteeing your own failure.
Or take the example of falling attention spans, general market saturation in all fields, and the decreasing quantity of plots available. All this wasn’t out there in the past. These are characteristics of the present scenario.
When all these factors and constituents change, creative writing cannot stay still. And so it follows that creative writers also cannot stay still. If they stay still, they’re one of millions. They’re not special. They have to keep on with the times.
But before we move on to the detailed changes, we need to get this out of the way: for what purpose is creative writing written?
Creative writing and its many purposes
As I explained in An Introduction to Creative Writing, there’s no real definition to creative writing, you won’t find it anywhere. Even pros have to turn to language such as “all other forms which doesn’t fall inside these boundaries” and the like. Reading such vague language causes frustration.
Even the purposes of creative writing aren’t clear. Written to entertain, to spread awareness, to express one’s thoughts. We get it. But are you planning to make a profession of it, or are you writing for pleasure?
Let’s make one thing clear. By and large, creative writing isn’t one of the profitable forms of writing. Few writers are published today. Even fewer actually attain a respectable degree of success.
So whether you’re writing fiction, poetry or creative nonfiction, it doesn’t matter. You’re out there to get published. That’s fine. But if you’re writing simply for the purpose of money, it’s not great.
The returns in this industry are already low, and as the quantity of writers increase in tandem with rise of global situations, they get lower still. What’s worse is the noise. There’s so much of it that even the real, true ones are ignored by default.
Even if you get a big contract, there’s still a long time before you do get to that stage. Many writers don’t. Few – fewer and fewer in 2015 – do. And like I said, even the great ones miss out because of the current scenario.
So if we eliminate the money part of the equation, creative writing for pleasure remains. Written to express one’s thoughts. That’s a statement which can be made on even other forms of writing, but creative writing is one of the forms where it’s more applicable.
Conclusion: Before you change your writing to fit with great creative writing in the present, you need to take a look at this question: “For what purpose am I writing this for?” Primarily, it should be for pleasure, not for profit. That may come later, or it may not arrive, it doesn’t matter.
If you get no pleasure at all from creative writing, you don’t belong in this field, my friend.
A macro look at creative writing in 2015
The reason why I keep repeating the word “macro” in this article is simple. What I’m interested in here is to analyse the creative writing world from an aggregate perspective, where every factor depends on every other factor, all the variables are important.
Ready? Let’s get to the crux:
- The more the competition, the lesser you have to work. Err, what? This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. Surely when you have more competition, the chances are less for individuals, so the advice is to work harder. But this doesn’t take in mind the deteriorating standards of writing. If you put in the effort to even be moderately good by avoiding mistakes, you’re off to a flying start already: far too many can’t clear the first hurdle.
- Write your content for readers in 2015, not in the past. It means to let go of heavy descriptive text, ensure there’s a proper balance with narrative and dialogue in fiction for example, or between strong verbs and adverbs. Use factors such as figures of speech and learn the importance of word count. Simply put: there are different standards for effective creative writing these days, just don’t violate them.
- Adjust to new platforms. Is this advice written for me or for you? Both of us, it turns out. Initially I don’t trust any new platforms for writing, but since the others are there, you have to jump in too or you’ll miss out. So if the publishing industry is moving to e-book, then make an e-book even considering all the disadvantages such as DRM. Do the tasks which are expected of you – but when common sense goes against popular recommendations, learn to reject them too (more below).
- What’s popular is not always right. Keep this in mind. So you’re expected to do so-and-so thing in your creative writing, and write according to the industry leaders. And it goes against public expectations, morals and ethics. Should you do it? No. Whatever you do, don’t sell your integrity, even if it means going against the tide.
- Always stay alert regarding new trends, and calculate whether to follow them or not. Trends are crazy. They come, they go, nobody can tell why. Take for example Google Authorship in web content. It arrived in 2011 with much fanfare and so much attention that you were said to be crazy if you weren’t following it. Fast forward three years later, and it’s been retired. Platforms come and go. Trends come and go. But great creative writing remains great creative writing regardless of “here’s what’s trending.”
Creative writing is a changed world to be sure.
Sometimes it feels weird. All those deteriorating standards, all those examples of creative writing which are immensely popular: it goes against common sense. All those trends and popular topics: it goes against all the creative writing advice which we’ve read.
Can you make sense of it?
That’s what we’re here to. We’re here to do that and lay down the strategies for following / being neutral / actively going against the situation. It’s not going to be easy to do this, the same way it’s not even remotely easy to succeed with creative writing in 2015, even if you’re only interested in it as a hobby.
But we can do it. And we are going to.
This article signifies the start of Creative Writing 201: The next level in creative writing series. Get free updates via Treasure Trove – the Writers’ Treasure Newsletter, and also be sure to have your say. Because that’s what we need. Instead of silence and mere observation, it’s better to be an active participant in the changing world of creative writing, right?