From the Mind to the Computer Screen – A Creative Writing Strategy
By Elaine Ernst Schneider
There you sit, looking at the computer screen. You have this wonderful idea floating around in your head, but no clue as to how to get started formulating the words to express it. Even creativity needs a plan. Try following a few simple steps to get organized.
1. C – Conceive the notion. Take time to think your idea through. Don’t just start to write. Jot down points you think you might like to make on a piece of paper near the computer. Leave it. Do something else. Come back to it. Does what you wrote on the paper still look like what you want to say? Are there other facets you might like to explore? Don’t begin to write until your notes please you and express your idea.
2. R – Relay and communicate the message you want the reader to glean from your piece. You might start by grouping the ideas you jotted down. Ask yourself what fits together well as a paragraph. Some writers number their paragraphs in the order they plan to use them. Use the strongest material first to write a convincing topic sentence. You want to snare the reader’s attention right from the beginning.
3. E – Explain, expound, enhance, and emphasize. Add strength to the topic sentence by citing reasons and examples. Even if you are writing a fiction piece, the plot must be supported by the character’s actions. Writing that has focus will use details to emphasize a main idea, theme, or moral. In a persuasive article, you want the reader to be swayed to the position you are presenting. In fiction, the desire is for the reader to feel a certain way about characters and the things that happen to them. You set the mood and tone by what you create – the places you allow the characters to find themselves, the word choices you write into the characters’ speech, or the pace at which you unveil the plot. One thing supports another toward a common theme.
4. A – Artistically develop the style of the piece. Don’t copy someone else’s way of writing. Express yourself how you are most comfortable. This will produce your best work. But be consistent. If the piece calls for an organized presentation, then stay with that until the end. Don’t stop to reminisce about an emotional experience between technical paragraphs. Or if your romantic short story is built around the dreamy quality of the blue sky, don’t try to switch to high action drama mid-piece. Two rules of thumb taught in journalism class: don’t switch tense and don’t switch style.
5. T – Talk it through. As you create, read what you have written out loud. It is amazing how different something can sound when you hear it than how it seems to be on paper or on the computer screen. You may discover subjects and verbs that don’t agree or dangling modifiers that sound awkward when you hear yourself read aloud.
6. E – Edit, edit, edit. No matter how great your idea is, poor packaging can turn off the most interested reader. Check for misspelled words, run-on sentences, misused words, tense changes, or typing errors. If your idea is worth writing, it’s worth writing it correctly.
The letters spell CREATE. Don’t be fooled into believing that organization and creativity aren’t part of the same process. One does not stifle the other. Rather, organization propels an idea into motion and sets a direct path for your thoughts to follow. And the finished product will say what you want it to. That is the ultimate goal, isn’t it?