on 18 July 2007
I use this book to teach Creative Writing to undergraduates, postgraduates and more mature students at the University of the Third Age, and it has been universally well-received.
The organising principle is simple and effective: for any particular element of fiction writing, the book first outlines some theory, goes on to analyse good, published practice and finally offers exercises for the learning writer to practise themselves. To illustrate: in the chapter on dialogue, there are some (well-researched and referenced) thoughts on what makes for good dialogue alongside a passage from Sarah Waters's 'Affinity', which the author analyses and evaluates in some depth, with related exercises to follow.(The chosen examples of good practice are one of this book's great virtues, ranging from Kate Atkinson and Colm Toibin to Anita Shreve and David Foster Wallace.)
The other aspect of this text which particularly suits it to my purposes is the emphasis on reflection - essential in a university Creative Writing programme.
In short, I like it a great deal and my students quote it widely in their own reflective writing. An accessible, well-structured and interesting text. Highly recommended!
on 10 July 2007
How To Write Fiction (And Think About It) does what it promises, offering writers a user friendly text that they can dip in and out of as the need arises. It doesn't have to be read from cover to cover but allows the reader to easily access specific writing exercises that may help with particular problems they're experiencing.
The ten minute 'writing bursts' liberally spread throughout the book provide simple phrases that are enough to spark off a bout of writing and get your creative juices flowing without first stewing over what to write. Boxing-off the phrases makes them stand out from the rest of the text.
I particularly liked the fact that you are given practical examples to illustrate a point, for example, how to go about creating believable characters through watching and listening or the step by step guide to producing credible dialogue. A comprehensive 'Notes' section near the end, broken down into the different chapters of the book, allows you to easily follow up the work of writers cited elsewhere in the text. Another plus is the inclusion of longer 'Story Project' exercises should you wish to sink your teeth into some meatier writing exercises. An all round practical and easy to use handbook.
on 20 May 2009
Robert Graham has gathered together a range of articles and essays on topics such as viewpoint, description, dialogue and plot (the usual suspects, in other words) to form quite a comprehensive guide to fiction. He also liberally peppers the book with 'writing bursts' (a short word or phrase which you use as a springboard to write for ten minutes), as well as including plenty of exercises and even assignments, which grow in length as the book progresses.
It's written in a clear and concise manner, and the focus is perfect as the book is aimed at fiction writers (so no screenplays or poetry here). The exercises are very useful and the writing bursts are a good way to get you going again if you feel creatively 'stuck'. Highly recommended.
on 3 December 2010
I was recently recommended to get How to Write Fiction (and Think About It). I was very surprised how extensive its coverage is. It covers all aspects of creative writing from characterisation to dialogue, from narrative tension to setting etc. however it does it in a unique way which sets it apart from the mainstream creative writing books. It is thorough, interesting and goes into a great of depth and as the title says it helps you also to think about what has been said.
An excellent book for a beginner writer or a much more experienced writer. I would say it is a must on any writer's bookshelf.
on 10 April 2012
There are loads of manuals available for aspiring writers, and whilst Road to Somewhere would be my first recommendation for a beginner, this is ideal for a writer who has already decided that their writing style is best suited to fiction. What sets it apart from other books on the topic is the reflective approach. Thinking About It might be in brackets on the book cover, but relection isn't an add-on extra. It's an embedded element of the guidance Robert Graham offers, and is a vital tool in the process of improvement. Recommended.