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Steps to Creative Writing in the Language Arts

by Christi O'Donnell

Creative writing exercises are part of the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts for all students in elementary, middle and high school. By practicing how to write creatively, you have will an opportunity to explore the use of sequencing, pacing, narrative structure, literary technique, dialogue, character development and audience in a variety of ways. Assignments focusing on narrative fiction, poetry, memoirs, short stories and plays often begin in the early elementary grades with simple illustration-based compositions and grows more sophisticated as students move into middle and high school.

Choose a Genre

Creative writing comes in many forms. As you begin the prewriting phase of your creative writing project, decide what you will be writing. Novels, short stories, memoirs, poetry, plays, flash fiction, songs and novellas are all forms of creative writing. Take into consideration how long you would like your project to be and whether your work will be fiction or nonfiction. Each form of creative writing has its own conventions, and some can be trickier to adhere to than others.

Read Some Samples

Once you have chosen a format for your writing, take a look at what other authors have written. Reading the work of published writers will give you ideas for how you can structure and pace your own writing and will provide insight into the kinds of literary techniques that make successful creative writing engaging. If you are having trouble finding literary examples that interest you, ask your language arts or creative writing teacher for suggestions.

Choose a Conflict

Whether you have decided to write a novel, a short story, a creative essay or an epic poem, presenting some form of conflict in your writing will help it take shape. The most common conflicts in literature are person versus person, person versus nature, person versus society and person versus self. Conflicts do not always have to be external; some of the most interesting conflicts can take place inside a character's own mind. Choose a conflict that you confidently feel able to resolve in the course of your writing.

Develop the Plot

Choosing a conflict will lead you directly into sketching out a plot. With the introduction of conflict, your writing will naturally adopt the arc of a story. Characters will be introduced and then encounter the problem that will become central to the story. The rising action of the story will unfold as readers get to know the characters and as the characters attempt to resolve the conflict. Just as tensions in your writing are at their peak, the characters will confront the conflict in the story's climax; the action will subside as you explain how the conflict is resolved.

Flesh Out the Characters

Once you know where your characters are going and how they will get there, pay attention to your characters as individuals in and of themselves, not just plot devices. Consider each character as you would a real person. What are her habits? Her motivations? Her personal quirks? How do these nuances of her personality inform her interactions with other characters? The more carefully you craft the people in your story, the more alive they will seem to your reader.

Write Creatively

With all of your prewriting planning done, the time has come to follow the final steps of the writing process and put your plans into action. Write your story, poem, play, essay or memoir. Read it over and make revisions to the storyline or to how you tell your tale. Experiment with language, and look for new and unique ways of describing people and actions. Edit your writing by hand, looking for mistakes in spelling, punctuation, grammar and writing conventions; remember that computer-based spelling and grammar check programs are not enough. Computer based spell checks only look to see if the word you wrote is spelled correctly without taking into account meaning, so misplaced homophones slide right by. Consider sharing your writing with a friend or classmate. Take your own revisions into account, as well as any feedback from others, and write your final draft.

About the Author

A lifetime resident of New York, Christi O'Donnell has been writing about education since 2003. O'Donnell is a dual-certified educator with experience writing curriculum and teaching grades preK through 12. She holds a Bachelors Degree from Sarah Lawrence College and a Masters Degree in education from Mercy College.

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