FUNNY WOMEN #151: Creative Writing Tips


Need to write something for some reason? Here’s how. 

Just Write

Ohmigod! Why are you reading this article on writing tips? You should be writing! You should write like there’s no tomorrow and your small contribution is all that will remain of civilization. No one is going to care unless you write it. You have to write despite that your writing may remain unread or be used for kindling. And don’t worry about the other part—the part that is the place where your stories will go to die: revision.


Look at your work and cut one-third. Then cut another third. Then another. Keep doing this until you’re down to one word on the page. That word will be in your story. On second thought, cut it.

The Extended Metaphor

So, you got these magic beans, right? These are the seeds of your story. You need to plant them, water them, nurture them. Then, they will grow. Then, you climb the vegetation. When you’re higher than your wildest dreams, you grab the next branch. It breaks, and you fall thirty feet. You end up in a coma. That’s writing.

Writing Isn’t Just Writing

Everyone thinks that writing is the physical act of putting words on a page, but there’s researching, interviewing, marinating, and baking. There’s also reflection and self-loathing. There’s envy. Sloth. Rage. Most of the seven deadly sins, five stages of grief, and twelve steps factor into writing. There’s self-medicating as well.

Character Development

Riveting stories are all about strong characters. The character not only has distinct traits, but also inner desires. What makes this character tick? What’s her backstory? Character development takes skill and practice. One way to hone these skills is to observe real people. Go to a coffee shop. Eavesdrop. Take notes. Follow them home. Watch them sleep. Cut a lock of their hair. Bundle the hair with rubber bands. Create dolls of your characters. Pin these dolls on a wall to map out the arc of your characters. I find law enforcement backs off when you say, “It’s for my novel.”

Finding Time

It’s hard to find the time to write. How do writers do it? Well, did you know that before electricity, people had two sleeps a night? People would have a first sleep, then wake up for a few hours, be productive, then go to sleep again. Try the two sleeps and write in the dead of night. In the morning, you can savor your sentences, which are variations of “I’m so fucking tired.”

Several Oxymorons

In order to write well, you have to write badly. The best fiction comes from reality, and the best nonfiction comes from Mary Karr. You are never more connected to people in this world than when you are alone at your computer writing. Remember to listen to people and not to listen to people. You should read, but also not read, you get me? Also, write like you aren’t writing. When you aren’t writing, you will be writing!

Don’t Use Tips

Tips are a conspiracy to keep you agonizing over the writing “process” instead of actually “writing.” Think about it! How many literary readings have you attended where the author talks about craft and says, “I owe it all to writing tips”? See what I mean? Even though this is a writing tip, you should follow it because I wrote it and I’m published. The fact that I’m published demonstrates that I know how to write and that I can impart wisdom so you, too, can write.


Rumpus original art by Kaili Doud


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Anita Gill is a writer, editor, and Fulbright Scholar to Spain. Her essays, memoir, and satire have appeared in The Iowa Review, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Prairie Schooner, The Offing, The Baltimore Sun, and elsewhere. Her writing has been listed as Notable in Best American Essays and has won The Iowa Review Award in Nonfiction. She is currently at work on a novel. Follow her on Twitter at @anitamgill or visit her website at More from this author →