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on 17 August 2001
This book is a welcome breath of fresh air to anyone interested in creative writing. As someone who has bought every book under the sun on the subject, I can safely say this is the best book on creative writing that I've read. It doesn't offer formulas or guarantee success, as some books do. Instead it dissects the craft of writing in a thorough and clear way, highlighting pitfalls and offering great advice on how to improve your writing. The exercises are useful and demanding, and the references to novels to illustrate various points are extremely helpful, citing very recent popular novels and not just highbrow literature. I very much liked the way chapters - such as characterisation, point of view etc - are broken down into sections written by different writers. It helps to illustrate that everyone works differently,that there is no set correct way to go about things. What they all have in common though is the belief that the craft of writing is one that needs to be worked at and worked at, no matter which way you go about it. It was money very well spent.
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on 20 August 2007
I bought this book on the strength of the reviews given here, and as such I have to offer an alternative view of this book than that which has been portrayed so far.

This book is *not* a bad book, it just meets none of the expectations I was led to believe it contained, which I felt was worth mentioning in case others are looking for similar.

From the description, and reviews so far, I expected this to be a course on creative writing which I could study alone in my own time. It is not, except in the loosest sense. For me, this book is more suited as material for someone who wishes to create their own local creative writing group, rather than an individual that wants a progressive series of exercises to follow - the focus is significantly towards group work:

"Try the following exercise either yourself or in a group." (Which it then goes on to add, "This exercise is especially effective in class because...".)
"Have the workshop participants read out their hundred-word stories..."
"Now choose just one of the stories the class has..."
"But a favourite group exercise in this area..."

There are, however, exercises which individuals can do, but I never had the feeling of being addressed as a reader or participant, and the exercises seemed to be difficult to work out when I was actually supposed to do something. This tended to be due to the text describing the exercise to be performed, rather than `giving' me the exercise to do:

"The following exercises are intended to free up the memory and imagination. And to put the writer in closer touch with her or his own self.

1. Shut your eyes and put yourself back in a childhood bedroom. Spend some time there remembering the wallpaper, .... When you are ready, write about it in as minutely detailed a way as you are able....
2. Now remember yourself.... Write about yourself from the pen of the six-year-old....
3. etc."

The above may seen fairly direct as it tells you in each point to `write', but the narrative paragraph directly following the numbered exercises says...

"Put a time limit on each exercise. They should all be done quite quickly. At the most thirty minutes each. It is a liberating exercise to get students to read out their work to one another soon after writing it."

You can see that if you started the exercise as you reached it, you wouldn't get the instructions that followed them, and this is a recurring problem in that it establishes a pattern where you don't want to start the exercises when it appears you are being prompted, as there is likely to be further instructions later. This gets you used to skipping over the exercises, and the narrative never takes you back to them. (You can also see here, again, the focus on it being better as a group exercise, further leaving the impression that there will be little reward in performing them solo.)

As the previous reviewer said, and is very apt for the approach taken in this book, "useful as little thought-experiments even if you don't actually do them", because in a lot of cases you will not do what is suggested.

I could go on, but I hope I have given a flavour of the style of this book, and as I said to begin, it is not a bad book but it does have a very particular style to it. This is a common book to find in most high-street bookstores, so before you buy this book I would recommend you visit one and browse the book to see if the approach matches your own needs.
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on 3 October 2003
I have little faith in books of the "how to write a novel" type. What they generally do is tell you the glaringly obvious in a fairly superficial way, and do little to stretch the would-be writer. This one is quite different, however, a real revelation. It's the first book of its type I've seen that appears to be written for grown-ups. It is full of hints and ideas, and exercises that are entertaining and yet challenging and eye-opening. I can feel the benefits I have drawn from it in my own writing. Apart from all that it's a good read in itself.
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on 20 February 2006
This book is an excellent resource for writers.
Firstly it covers everything that you have to tackle as a writer: getting started, characterisation, setting, plotting and shaping your writing, stepping back to examine your work and revising your work.
It is written by a large number of contributors which provides a great insight into how different authors write (and rewrite) their work. The authors all have different levels of experience also which provides the reader with a wide range of advice and styles.
From the start this book provides lots of tips and hints (such as diary keeping) but it also provides a wealth of activities to help in every aspect of your writing. The activities are great, for example you are asked to rewrite an instruction manual from a different point of view (such as a character who expects a negative outcome). You are also asked to write about an eclectic mix of things such as Marilyn Monroe and garden furniture – such activities not only stimulate your mind and push you into areas which maybe you would never normally write about, but they can also inspire stories and get your creative juices flowing – as well as possibly highlighting areas of your writing which could be improved.
This is a really interesting book for writers – and if you go through the activities then you should also be able to comply with the advice in this book and write something every singe day.
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on 22 October 2002
As a journalist i am used to writing but as an author i am still learning and this book is definitely helping. This book isn't about 'how to write a best seller' but more how to write with integrity. Everything from beginnings, themes, characterisation and plot is covered along with really useful technical tips on how to present your work - punctuation, grammar and all the bits inbetween that so many writers (and journalists!) forget - and how to find an agent. This book will help you build on the ideas you already have and write the best fiction or poetry you can. As essential as your notebook or dictionary.
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on 8 February 2008
I bought this book quite a while ago and still dip into it now and again for inspiration. Different writers give their advice, and i have earmarked those chapters written by the writers i found the most inspiring/helpful. There are two or three 'advisers' whose advice is a little superior and somewhat irritating, but this is made up for by those whose advice i have gleaned plenty from. I have recommended this book to several writing friends, and was certainly glad to discover it myself. You WILL find this book useful and an ispiration when you are stuck for where to go next in your story. If you read this book with 'your story' in mind, you will end up writing down copious notes for copy of this book is full of margin notes!! Certainly worth the money.
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on 15 July 2011
Let me start with the positive elements of The Creative Writing Coursebook:

1. it contains numerous suggestions for exercices that have the merit that they will at least get you started, and while I agree with some of the reviewers that not all of them are suited for the individual sitting by herself behind her writing desk and are meant as group exercises, this is not true for all of the exercises;
2. some of the advice given is very sound (particularly in the section on finishing up/ reviewing your work);
3. the large number of authors giving advice is also a decided advantage. This prevents the book from being too heavily biased one way or the other.

Having said that, on the negative side, I agree with other reviewers who've stated that this book might not be the right introduction for someone wanting to get started in creative writing. It is not intended as a systematic introduction/ writing course and it also does not cover (with the exception of a few short paragraphs) genre/ popular fiction.
The other shortcoming of this book, at least in my opinion, is that it does not look closely at the writing of successful/ beloved/great/... writers, past and present. It does not "teach" the budding writer how to read like a writer, in other words.

Finally, some of the authors come across as slightly snobbish and some of the exercises seem rather pointless, as others have pointed out before me.
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on 23 March 2007
"The Creative Writing Coursebook" contains a wealth of information for the aspiring writer. At 400 pages it is both substantial and comprehensive. It is structured so as to cover every stage of the writing process, from gathering first ideas, to characterisation, points of view, setting, plotting, and then to revising your text. Lastly it discusses the values of writing workshops and the practical business of finding an agent or publisher. Each of these topics is subdivided into a number of articles by different authors, which helps convey the variety of approaches and styles adopted by writers. This is the beauty of this book, as well as the thing which separates it from many similar titles on the market. This is no step-by-step guide claiming to guarantee bestselling success but a more thought-provoking book which encourages you to think for yourself. Sometimes you may even find yourself disagreeing with the authors on certain points, but this is legitimate as well!

The articles help you to explore how/why/when/where you write, and, from that basis, to develop your own methods and voice. At every stage there are also exercises to help loosen your creative muscles - useful as little thought-experiments even if you don't actually do them. There is also a useful bibliography, both of fiction and of other useful books on writing, to help you go further. It is possible to read it straight through or even topic-by-topic, almost as a reference book, if you like. I find it most useful to open it at a random page whenever I have a spare moment, since there is always good advice to be had no matter what stage you are at in your writing. However you use it, it is an excellent book with something to offer for every writer out there.
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on 11 January 2008
This book implies that is is a guide to creative writing. I found it irritating. It's more like a group of people discussing elements of writing from their own particular perspective, with little to no constructive advice.

Yes there are excercises suggested, but the instructions are often badly laid out. There is a certain element of literary 'snobbery' - commercial success appears to be frowned upon by the authors and contributors.

I would not recommend it to anyone who is looking for an introduction to creative writing, especially if their interest lies in popular fiction.
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on 6 August 2009
40 writers share advice, and they share very good advice at that.

The book offers some of the following:

How to start writing and keep writing
Reading and Research
Training the eye
Showing and Telling
Developing Character
Point of View
Rereading and Revising
Advice on Publishing

I believe this book could have offered more technical detail, i.e. like on different types of character dialogue; more on different methods of character development, direct and indirect; creating fictional time...

However there are many strong points to this book and you receive an eclectic range of advice from experienced writers and teachers. I think the power of this book lies in showing you how stories work and inspiring you to write your own, and that it is possible for you to write your own. As the book says:

'The biggest misapprehension about writing is that it is as instant and effortless as its master practitioners would have us believe. It is not for them, and it is not for anyone. It is hard. It is a process. A novel never slithers out whole like some clever-eyed prodigy. It is made, not born.'

So this book teaches you that writing is a craft and has to be learned and after reading this book you will be well on your way to creating this craft. And as the inspiring Paul Magrs cleverly adds 'Remind yourself that anyone learning a craft has to practice and waste materials as they learn. But our materials are relatively cheap - paper, pens. At least we're not cutting diamonds or stained glass. One slip of the pen and you haven't blown a fortune.'

This book was very helpful and inspirational. I definitely recommend it to beginning writers. And remember my fellow writers 'that no one can write exactly as you do. You are the unique product of a unique life history. So if you don't write this text and in your own particular way, then no one else ever will.'
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