I want to write a novel. But to do so, I need to improve my creative writing skills. I turned to writing poems to help that process, here's what happened.

The first formal writing training I had was for journalism. I still love journalistic writing. It has a formula for delivering the facts in a clean, clear succinct way.

That presented a problem. Because when I turned to write fiction, the facts first approach wasn't going to work.

So, then I tried reading lots of novels. That wasn't hard - I love reading. And while I was doing that, I tried to read as a writer. Also, I wanted to learn how published authors did things like: narrative and dialogue etc.

Then (I thought) I was ready. I fired up the Scrivener app and started writing. I didn't have a plan, but I didn't feel like I needed one.

The words flowed out of me for several days. I wasn't stopping to read back or edit. I ploughed on until I reached around 20,000 words. Then I stalled.

I'd lost my way because the story idea wasn't strong  enough. I know that now, I didn't work it out straight away. I started to read back what I'd written and realised a few things. The first and main one being: it was a load of shite.

Aside from the story being weak, the writing was a bit too straight. I didn't want to write flowery crap, but at the same time, it had to read like a story.

I tried again a few more times but the result was the same. The story improved. But it was still straining to get out from under the tight, journalistic prose I was writing.

I gave up for a while but researched more about how creative writing actually works. I learned that it was ok to be a little more arty when describing a scene or character etc.

I returned to my novel manuscript and got going again. It was better this time. I still felt I had work to do while creating visual imagery that I could teleport into my readers heads.

One evening, I was reading a World War One poetry book. And it caught my writers attention. It occurred to me that writing verse would be a good way to practice writing with a creative thread.

The next thing I did was to write poems using various forms. Sonnets, Triolets, Villanelle etc. It was pretty awful but I started to get a feel for it. Not only that, it helped my creative writing skills.

So, I haven't written a novel yet (I'm working on that) but I do write poems now. I reckon that's a good start.