Write like a creative writer: part two

What can creative writing teach you about writing at work? More than you might think. When our Marianne isn’t working at Writer HQ, she’s busy writing plays. Over the next few weeks, we’ll share her top tips for improving your writing.

Part two: making sure it’s good


Writing is rewriting

So, you’ve come to the end of your draft. Sometimes the sheer relief of having finished something blinds you to the fact that there’s still a shedload of work to do. You’re going to need to go back and edit it, as ruthlessly as you can. (The writers of Peep Show admit they get to 22 drafts.)

Creative writers famously have to ‘kill their darlings’ – getting rid of anything that isn’t strictly necessary.

I learnt this the hard way when my first short play was put on. It was pretty thrilling to see my work in action. Apart from when it got to the ‘quite funny’ lines I’d left in. Those were rather painful to listen to. Because you’re squirmingly aware of how much you’re wasting your audience’s time with anything that isn’t completely necessary. They have to sit through that stuff. It’s easy to forget that when you’re writing.

So – read it out. Are there parts that sound unnecessary, clunky, don’t quite hit the spot? If so, improve them or bin them. People are busy, so every word should be there for a reason.

The best way to get some distance is time. At least one night, if possible. And for a really big piece of work, a week or longer is ideal.

Two brains (or more) are better than one

Find the people who’ll give you the right kind of feedback, and treasure them. At The Writer we have a two-stage process for this. A second brain (not just a second pair of eyes but someone who’ll really think about what you’re doing) for the big picture view of what’s going on with your work. And an editor, who’ll pick up on any typos and grammar problems. You need people who’ll be rigorous, but constructive too.

When you’re getting feedback, listen out for the problems people are spotting, even if you don’t agree with their solutions. If a couple of people tell you something isn’t working, you need to pay attention.

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