One of the best bit about creative writing is there’s technically no wrong answer. You can’t get caught out bullshitting the names of Egyptian pharaohs or the year the International Criminal Court was established because English, especially creative writing, doesn’t need facts.

What it does need, however, is a bit of creativity so that you don’t end up writing a shit story. So how do we do that?

1. Don’t write it on the spot

You need to have something prepared. As much as creative writing is about making a story up, don’t walk into the exam without at least a rough outline of what you’re going to write. Trust me, it’s going to be shit. The pressure will get to you, you’ll waste time trying to decide between ideas and your story isn’t going to have enough direction to get top marks. You don’t need to have anything memorised, but have something so your story doesn’t turn into one long rambling idea.

2. Pick a moment

You’re going to need to smash this baby out in a forty minute time period, so the best thing you can do for yourself is pick a specific moment to focus on. What I mean is, instead of going through the entire timeline of a character’s life, and a massive story arc, you just need to pick a single moment when something is happening and focus on that.

3. Stimulus

A lot of the time, you won’t need to literally incorporate the stimulus into your writing, you’ll just need to make sure you’re writing about whatever the stimulus represents in a symbolic sense. Don’t ignore it completely; if you don’t somehow reference it you’ll lose easy marks.

Along with this, don’t write about the first thing you think of when you see the stimulus. It’s exactly what hundreds of other students are doing and if you want to set yourself apart, give yourself a a bit of extra time to properly think about your idea.

4. Don’t warm up with poor writing

Again, you’re on a short deadline, so don’t waste time with ‘warm up’ paragraphs where you describe irrelevant things like the weather in the story (unless it is genuinely crucial). For creative writing you don’t need an intro, you need a hook to give readers a taste of what they’re in for.

5. Don’t get carried away

Because it’s English, you probably feel the need to cram as many English techniques in your creative writing as you can. Squishing a million techniques into a single sentence isn’t going to make it read any better and just because you know a  particular technique doesn’t mean you should use it.

6. Avoid dialogue

Writing dialogue is hard and  requires a lot more punctuation and grammar than you have time for. If not done right, dialogue just sounds clunky and awkward, rather than something someone would actually say. Better creative writing pieces won’t have to rely on dialogue to push the story forward, so remember this if you feel like chucking it in.

6. Don’t ditch proper spelling and grammar

Think about your markers. They want to see that you know what you’re doing and making silly mistakes with your spelling and grammar will detract from the story. You want to grab your reader and take them along for the length of your piece. Every time your marker notices a mistake they’ll be jolted out of the story, which isn’t going to work in your favour.

7. Avoid a story set in an entirely different world

Realistically, you’re not going to have enough time to properly set up a fantasy world as well as banging out a solid story. Stick to a setting that is recognisable and use that to your advantage.

photo cred: unorthodoxrhythm

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