Writing a story or book is a complex process. Being able to string words together can take you far, but developing additional skills can take your work to the next level. You don’t even need to practice them—just learn the basic theory to enrich your narratives.
There are so many useful hobbies to choose from, but here are 10 of the most important if you want to improve your creative writing skills. Googling everything is well and good, but already having the answers for different storytelling needs saves you time and confidence.
Your characters are the heart and soul of your stories, so you need to make them realistic. If you don’t quite understand how people think and feel in various situations, however, it’s difficult to flesh out fictional characters in a convincing and interesting way.
Think of bestsellers like How Much of These Hills Is Gold and The Thursday Murder Club. The main reason why they work is because they have compelling characters.
So, find yourself reliable resources to introduce you to the fascinating world of human behaviour. If you don’t want to spend too much money on this, check out platforms like Udemy or high-quality YouTube channels like TED-ed.
Make sure you branch into specialized fields to improve your writing and characterisation skills further. For example, child and forensic psychology are great for developing young characters, villains, and anti-heroes.
Ultimately, the more you understand things like impulses, behaviour patterns, tics, and mental illness, the more natural your characters will feel. You’ll be able to engage with them better as an author, making the whole writing process that much more rewarding.
As a writer, you may already know the struggle of choosing the right names for characters, locations, concepts, and so on. You want them to be interesting, original, and, ideally, nothing rude in another language.
Learning as many languages as you can is a good solution, but don’t stop there. Linguistics is an invaluable field that can improve writing skills in so many ways.
You could follow in Tolkien’s footsteps and create your own fictional language, one that brims with character, culture, and speech patterns.
Getting to know the nuances of linguistics also opens you up to the beauty of language as a technology, art, and form of communication. You can play with it while developing characters and plots, as well as you own writing style.
3. Medical Sciences
Consider this: where would crime fiction be without murder? And what makes the best books in the genre? They know their way around the human body and how to weave medical details into the narrative.
So, if your plot involves anatomy, physiology, pathology, toxicology, or any such science, make sure you know what you’re talking about. While you could read up on things as they come up or have an expert check everything, it’s better to tell the story with knowledge you already have.
While channeling your inner Kathy Reichs is ideal, it’s not just murder mysteries that benefit from medical knowledge. Even fantasy universes can have healers, broken bones, and illnesses. Understanding how organisms function can also help you fabricate new ones, creatures that make sense no matter how surreal.
In the end, regardless of where or when your story unfolds, it’s your responsibility as its writer to make your illustration of medical themes as convincing as possible.
4. Martial Arts
It really is the minute details that distinguish a book of quality, so putting the extra effort in will improve your writing skills. Continuing the list of insightful hobbies, you should use the same care when learning about and describing combat, no matter how minor.
For example, if a character needs to escape a headlock or disarm a sword-wielding opponent, the accuracy of their techniques can affect the reading experience.
You don’t want an actual martial artist calling you out for unrealistic moves…
When it comes to combat, whether in real life or a fictional story, different factors determine the best way to handle any given situation. Are weapons involved and what kind? Is one opponent bigger than the other? What’s their environment?
Joining a self-defense class—or several—can teach you all about these matters and more. If you want to expand your skills with videos or written tutorials, a personal experience will also help you understand the instructions and get more handy tips.
All this can then inform your creative writing. However, be careful not to stuff your story with too much detail and block up your action sequences. Even battle scenes need a nice flow.
Guns, greatswords, battleaxes, bows. We encounter them all in books. While they can be simple enough to describe, going into greater and accurate detail when necessary makes a story more interesting and immersive.
The beautiful extreme are books like Cyberblade: The City of Five Skies, a weaponry extravaganza.
Fortunately, skills like swordmanship and blacksmithing are still around alongside marksmanship, offering training to anyone brave and willing enough to dedicate themselves to such arts. Alternatively, there are plenty of resources for theoretical study.
Both avenues can improve your creative writing skills. Whether you need to describe how a weapon looks, works, or is made, you can have personal insights into the matter. It’s useful knowledge to everything from contemporary fiction to fantasy and steampunk.
6. Survival Skills
When you dump a character in the wilderness or a difficult situation and you mean for them to come out alive, real survival skills should drive you towards plausible solutions.
Considering how brilliant or weird some methods are, incorporating them can make your story quite engaging. At the same time, readers can get valuable tips as they follow your hero’s exploits.
If you don’t want to run into the woods and learn by yourself, there are, of course, loads of online and in-person training options like the Bear Grylls Survival Academy.
Just make sure your sources are reliable and that the survival tricks they share aren’t myths. Then, you can add them to your narrative without worries.
Animals are just as popular in literature as humans, so it’s worth getting to know them better as a writer. Why? To improve your writing skills in creative and descriptive ways.
Since knowledge tends to limit imagination, expanding your kaleidoscopic view of the real world actually helps populate your fictional one with fantastic but valid constructs. The overall fauna of your book’s universe can benefit.
Learn all you can about zoology—cryptozoology as well—and you’ll find incorporating animals into your stories easier and more fun. Creating whole new species can be just as exciting.
Familiarising yourself with the animal kingdom comes with another perk: you learn the terminology and ways to describe creatures in simpler terms. This is invaluable to creative writers trying to put fictional animals and their behaviour into words.
Botany is useful for the same reasons as zoology and survival skills. If you have a good grasp of existing plantlife, you’ll be able to choose the right tree, bush, or flower for every storytelling occasion.
It should also help you narrate plots in natural settings more efficiently and with flair. Being a gardener, for example, gives you a better idea of what soil feels or smells like, what markings on leaves mean, and even how to use certain plants for sustenance or healing.
No matter the genre, these kinds of insights can improve your creative writing skills. On a grander scale, botany is a great way to learn about ecosystems. Whether or not you develop this hobby further, your fantastical worlds can make more ecological sense.
9. Fashion Design
A conundrum that comes up often: “How do I describe this outfit?” Once again, you could just Google the answer or ask fellow creative writers for advice. But knowing your garments from the get-go can make your life so much easier.
This is especially true for authors of historical fiction and high fantasy. In addition to the names of pieces or styles of clothing, a background in fashion design can instruct you on how people would dress in a particular period or climate.
It’s a skill that enriches the logic of your world-building, as well as its styles, patterns, fabrics, armour, and even cultures. After all, there can be so much more to fashion than mere aesthetics. A story that reflects this fact can have a deeper impact.
Don’t worry! You just need some basic maths under your belt—unless your plot deals with complex number puzzles or somesuch.
To begin with, common mistakes in manuscripts involve inconsistencies in timelines, ages, or other numeric elements. So, you need to make the necessary calculations and ensure everything adds up.
Working on your maths to improve your writing skills is a wise decision, but not just because it helps you dodge embarassing mistakes. It also gives you an analytical mindset, perfect for planning your story, ideally before you even start composing it.
Curiosity Makes Better Creative Writers
Enriching your brain really can improve your writing in terms of detail, depth, characterisation, narrative style, and more. If you want to take up the challenge, there are many ways to tackle it.
You can see what your work in progress needs and dive into that specific set of hobbies. You can follow a discipline that interests you and look for inspiration while learning its ins and outs.
Alternatively, why not let your curiosity run wild and devour every popular, obscure, and fun fact you come across? Whatever you choose, make sure you can retain the information and apply it to your creative writing.
Here are more Book Breath guides to help you evolve as an author…