Creative Writing vs. Content Writing: 7 Elements of Each Type of Writing
Written by the MasterClass staff
Last updated: Aug 6, 2021 • 3 min read
Most professional writing falls into two categories: creative writing—which includes novels, short stories, poems, and screenplays—and content writing, which includes manuals, guidebooks, and marketing products. Here are some key differences between the two types of writing.
Here are some of the elements of creative writing that transcend various media:
Creative writing allows for artistic freedom. Creative writing can be fiction, nonfiction, or lyrical.
Creative writing has the capacity to entertain. Often, creative writing serves entertainment purposes, such as in fiction or creative nonfiction texts.
Creative writing has the potential to inform. Creative writing can be informative, like biographies and memoirs.
Creative writing can build on the creative work that came before it. With creative writing, you might adapt or repurpose previous works of creative writing—most obvious in movie sequels or serialized comics.
Creative writing is an art form. Often, creative writing is evaluated on some combination of an author’s mastery of language, storytelling, character development, and use of literary devices (such as metaphor, figure of speech, and foreshadowing), and worldbuilding.
Creative writing can explore deep themes. Creative writing often presents a strong underlying theme—either explicitly stated (in nonfiction) or via the trials of a main character (in fiction).
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13 Examples of Creative Writing Forms
Creative writers use a wide array of media to get their work out. Here are some of the most common within the English language:
Newspaper columns, letters to the editor, and other persuasive essay writing
Biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs
Travel guides and travelogues
Self-help and instruction books—like cookbooks and how-to books, but not instruction manuals
Nonfiction accounts of both hard sciences like biology and social sciences like political science and economics
Humor books and comedic essays
Journalism, including news and feature stories
Radio and podcast scripts
Lyrical content including poetry anthologies, verse-based theater, and song lyrics
7 Elements of Content Writing
Compared to creative writing, content writing is far more transactional. It tends to fall into two categories: Marketing and branding-based writing, particularly for the Internet; and technical writing that explains how to do something. Content writing is not an expression of the author’s personal voice; it is about conveying information for a specific purpose. Some fiction writers also double as successful content writers, but ultimately it requires a somewhat different skill set. To succeed as a high-quality content writer, consider the following elements of content writing:
Content writing is often a marketing tool. You’ll need to be able to write for a business’s target audience.
Content writing may require a quick turnaround. Be prepared to meet tight deadlines.
Content writing should be engaging. Have a knack for readability and holding a reader’s attention
Content writing will likely involve a degree of research. Be fluent in rapid online research, including targeted searches and keyword research.
Content writing typically aligns with a brand. Learn to assimilate to a brand’s content strategy and marketing strategy into your writing.
Content writing relies on creativity. Be able to work creatively within the narrow boundaries of an assignment (this skill is sometimes called creative content writing).
7 Examples of Content Writing Forms
If you’re a freelancer interested in paid content creation, here are the types of content assignments you can expect to come your way:
Content marketing, including short advertising copy and longer-form blogging
Website creation for small business and corporate clients, including landing pages, company blogs, and digital storefronts
Web content, especially informative articles designed for search engine optimization (SEO)
Repurposing SEO content for digital marketing and social media posts
Incorporating keyword phrases into sales copy or website copy
Drafting technical manuals
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