How Content Writers Can Benefit from Basic Tenets of Creative Writing
I’m always struck off balance by writers who identify exclusively with one form or prefer to pigeonhole their work or niche. It makes more sense to me that different forms of writing are somewhat connected. I liked writing as a child; I was good at it. And that informed most of my career and education decisions, whether I was going for a copyeditor position or applying for an MFA in Creative Writing.
Content writing is a much different experience in the day to day than creative writing. Writing an article has its own host of obstacles that differ drastically from those of writing a novel. But at the end of the day, aren’t both achieving a similar goal?
Much of writing, if not all of it, is creative because it means putting words together in a way they were not before.
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I struggle with branding myself for this very reason: By day, I am a freelance content writer responsible for aggregating journalistic facts and knowledge of content managing systems. I’ve written articles like “What to Know Before You Get a Genital Piercing” and “Chronic UTIs Put My Life on Hold.” But by night, I’m also a creative writer pursuing a graduate degree, writing a nonfiction book based on my life. How do I brand myself, using both?
The bones are the same. If I can write an article about reproductive health and the female anatomy, then I should feel nearly as confident about my ability to write long-form fiction or memoir. One may be 1,000 words and the other may be 100,000 but both strive for the same end-result: to inform, to give the reader something new. Storytelling is universal in all types of writing and whether it’s a novel or an article, all stories need to achieve good storytelling.
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Content writing can benefit from the same tenets creative writing thrives on. Keep reading for four tenets of creative writing content writers can use for successful writing!
Tenets of Creative Writing Copywriters Can Use
Point of View
Point of view is one of the most crucial parts of writing creatively, whether it’s fiction, nonfiction, or poetry. It dictates how the story will be narrated, which informs syntax and diction decisions. Let’s elaborate on the aforementioned urinary tract infection piece. A personal essay in which you use a true-life anecdote would be very different from an informative article that never uses the word “I.” See? You’re already making choices about point of view.
Understanding the advantages of each will better inform which point of view your article would benefit from. Will your story be most compelling in first person? If you personally have a first-person experience with the topic, then yes. If you’ve answered no, then maybe a third-person narrative will be most effective.
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When I wrote about urinary tract infections, my firsthand experience with the ailment compelled me to write in first person. I start off the article with an attention-grabbing anecdote about my own experience: “Sex for everyone else seemed fun and rewarding; for me, it was a tremendous source of anxiety because of my susceptibility to UTIs.”
Definitely attention grabbing. Which leads us to…
All pieces of writing have to have a narrative arc, no matter which category they fall into. If a story doesn’t arc, then what is the payoff for the reader? You can think of “narrative arc” as similar to a plot. Now, if you’re crafting an article, don’t get stuck on the term “plot” in the traditional sense of fiction.
Narrative arc, or plot, simply refers to the shape of a story. A story — whether it’s a short-form health article or something longer-form, like a book — needs an inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. Inciting incident refers to grabbing the reader with an opening action that motivates them to continue reading. Rising action develops and raises the stakes, while the climax builds upon everything that’s happened earlier. The falling action is what the reader needs to feel satisfied with the explanation of what’s happened, and the resolution is a wrap-up.
In the UTI essay, the inciting incident is an anecdote about my personal experience. (Read: above.) The rising action ups the stakes when I write, “I’ve estimated that I have had over 100 UTIs since becoming sexually active.” The climax is the moment that builds upon everything mentioned earlier: “So I stopped having sex. For nearly two years.” The falling action comes in the next few paragraphs where I describe writing about sexual health as an outlet, as a way to understand my own. Lastly, the resolution: “But in the end, UTIs didn’t win… No one deserves to be fearful of sex because of pain, discomfort, or sickness. We all deserve to enjoy every aspect of a relationship, even sex.”
Yeah, even information-driven health articles have conflict. No matter what topic you write about, there should always be mention of conflict. In health content, it’s usually in the form of risks, while in tech, it’s probably common issues and how to troubleshoot them. In fiction or other forms of creative writing, it might be a death, diagnosis, or other complication that moves the plot forward.
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Throughout my personal essay for HelloFlo, chronic UTIs are the main conflict. The narrator (me) experiences chronic pain and grapples with resolving this issue.
MFA settings frequently mention syntax. But in content writing, we don’t bring up the term as much. However, it still exists. Freelance writers know all too well: most brands looking for writers almost always have a Guidelines doc of sorts.
It’s even relevant when it comes to ranking high in search engine optimization (SEO). Companies like Yoast — a search engine optimization firm that educates bloggers and businesses on the latest practices in SEO — have settings that test your writing’s readability. One of the components of the readability function is the Flesch Reading, which determines how easy the text is to read.
Syntax refers to the arrangement of words and phrases to create well-structured sentences. Many brands overtly say the kind of syntax they prefer in their Guidelines. Similarly, Yoast tests your writing’s syntax for readability, reinforcing how important syntax is to successful writing of any kind.