Writing Course: Forms of Writing

There are many different types of writing in existence. The writing industry demands they are categorised. This can cause a rigidness but is also handy for organisation and assists in identifying publications.

Writing is generally categorised into two main areas – fiction and non-fiction.


Fiction is created from the author’s imagination. Forms of writing in this area are novels, short stories and poetry.

Novels: A novel contains all or some of the following:

  • concept or issue, usually referred to as the theme around which the story is told. The theme often involves social, political or moral issues
  • plots and sub-plots, which layout the design of the novel
  • characters, developed by the author
  • passage of time, to suit the story
  • a setting, which may include a world developed by the author


Novelists draw on experience, history, imagination, social issues and research to write their stories. These things are combined with suspense, drama, intrigue and tension to keep the reader interested and guessing.

Another form is the novella, a short novel. However, these are more difficult to market.

Short Story: A short story is a work of fiction that concentrates on a particular event or character. Unlike a novel, which has multiple characters and plots, the short story homes in on only one character and event and confines its scope. It will usually have a brief time frame. Short stories are generally 1,000 to 10,000 words in length. Many short stories have been turned into a novel, a play, a film and even non-fiction over the years.

Poetry: Poetry defies definition. It is an imaginative use of language which may or may not take the form of a sentence. Poetry attempts to create atmosphere, perceptions and emotions. It uses words to stimulate the imagination. A poem can contain symbolism, metaphor or simile. It can be written for self truth, for publication, for expression and for performance.


Non-fiction is the construction of true stories. It documents actual events and facts. It can take the form of instructional manuals, recipes, history, facts on animals, the environment, politics, nature, outer space, science and much more.

Faction: A recently introduced term which refers to a combination of fiction and non-fiction. This style is used to bring immediacy to the writing and/or to protect the people referred to in the writing by using pseudonyms.

News Reporting: The factual account of events, usually found in newspapers, radio and television, and also in some magazines. Good news reporting involves good and accurate observation, verification of facts, economy of words and the ability to write and edit quickly and to a deadline.

Features: A feature is the major article found in a publication. They can be a detailed profile of a person, an investigation of an issue, an exploration of a place or a bit of all these things. Most feature articles rarely go over 2,000 words. A good feature writer draws on many sources and is able to write using different techniques and styles but always remains true to the facts.

Reviews: Reviews are found in newspapers, magazines and on many websites. They give a critique, description and opinion on books, movies, events or locations. A good review will inform and educate the reader.

History: Writing about history involves much more than excellent research skills. The writer must interpret findings in such a way as to produce a reliable and authentic account of the past.

Biography: This is when you write about the life of someone else. It involves a profound insight into this other person and an understanding of their life. It’s important to report the information with utmost accuracy.

Autobiography: This is when you write about yourself. The writer must be objective, accurate, truthful, ethical and have the ability to understand and make fair judgements when relating information about themselves and others.

Screen Writing: This is very much visual story telling. This is different to a story being read, it is all about image, being seen and heard. A screen writer must understand the significance of combining music, action and light to create atmosphere.

Stage Writing: Theatre is an ancient craft. Before stories were written, they were performed so a stage writer must understand the dynamics of the theatre, for stage is the be seen and heard.

Corporate Writing: This is primarily writing for business. It is often seen as dry and uncreative. A corporate writer must understand business dynamics, have the ability to understand and work to a brief, be able to work quickly and to a deadline and appreciate relationships within and outside the business.

Technical Writing: This is writing which usually is published in specialist publications. For such writing the writer needs to be well informed, accurate, concise and up-to-date. This type of writing is mostly formal and authoritative.

Education Writing: This involves writing instructions and must be clear and concise. This type of writing requires logical expression in giving step-by-step instructions, a knowledge of the readers and their expectations and an understanding of how people learn.

Text Books: These can cover all sorts of topics and vary in complexity depending on the target audience. The writers of these books are usually specialists in their topic. Thorough research in required and they must always be clear and concise.

Essay Writing: Essays set forth an idea then proceeds to explore it through analysis and argument supported by evidence. Logic, clarity and organisation are important aspects for an essay writer.

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