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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 29 January 2014
I bought this book about five years ago and at the time found it very helpful. But now, having tried and failed to complete a longer piece of fiction, I am beginning to realise I have massive holes in my knowledge of the craft, at least in terms of novel writing. This book does not address outlining and structuring in any detail - and these are essential! Nor do does it focus much on story. In the last three years, I have turned to all kinds of writing guides and resources, particularly those that emphasize story structure. The OU book is lovely - it offers examples from Virginia Woolf and Raymond Carver, both writers I adore. But it won't help you to bang out the structure. What is the character's motivation? His/her flaws and weaknesses? His/her all-consuming goal? How will the character change throughout the story? What will he/she have learned at the end that he/she didn't know at the beginning? I feel the book emphasizes good writing, in the sense of mastery of the language, and unique voice. My writing was all about the language, and the wonderful words. And yet nothing happened to the characters. I was unable to move them across the page. I was clueless about their inner processes and drives. It never occurred to me that a character needed to 'grow'. These are all own particular weaknesses, and I am whittling them down by focusing on what story is - what will satisfy the reader? And I'm afraid that wonderful writing (which I love and will always love) won't keep the reader engaged if there is no story. Whilst this book is very encouraging and does contain interesting and useful content, I would urge every writer who wants to create compelling fiction to also look at story structure - I've found books on screenwriting helpful. I've taken several courses with US-based tutors and find their approach seems more focused on story. Some of the information is more applicable to commercial fiction, which isn't really my 'thing', but it's been very constructive for me to approach writing from that angle. My writing had become very 'artsy'. Now I am trying to redress the imbalance and get to grips with narrative flow and story.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 13 February 2013
Creative Writing: A Workbook with Readings is divided into five different sections of more or less equal length: writing fiction, poetry, life writing (including biography and autobiography) and going public with your writing (including editing your work and finding publishing avenues). The final section of the book contains different readings/ samples of published/ well-known writers that illustrate the points made in the different "theoretical" sections.

Basic concepts such as characterization, choice of narrative viewpoint, structure and plot, etc., are explained well in a way that makes them easy to understand, even for beginners, but the real strength of this book lies, in my opinion, in the numerous writing exercises that allow you to apply these concepts to your own writing. In addition, the exercises are "cumulative" and build on each other, which really helps to internalize the things you've learned. The exercises also help you to realize where your own strenghts and weaknesses as well as preferences as a writer lie.

I would have given this book 5 stars (the usefulness of the writing exercises alone would warrant this), if it weren't for the fact that it does not cover genre fiction (with the exception of one or two very short passages, it does not refer to sci-fi, romance or the detective novel, for example). Another, albeit minor, negative point relates to the weight/ size of the book. This is a very heavy/ bulky book indeed.

Still, as creative writing books go, I believe that this is one of the better ones on the market due to the clarity of the explanations provided and the very useful writing prompts/ exercises.
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
I am studying this book in conjunction with the Open University course and I can say that this is the best creative writing book that I have ever read.

It suggests exercises to help you tap into your own creativity without being prescriptive and allows you to work out what is best for your own work, while providing readings that illustrate the techniques suggested.

Not just a book that you can work through but something that you can keep forever and flick through for inspiration whenever you get a little stuck.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 14 January 2009
I'm also studying with the OU and am using this as a set book. It's on the level 2 (mid level) A215 course.

The first section of the book is devoted to prose writing and develops characters and scenery, tense and narrative, and other technical aspects of writing short stories.

The second section is about writing poetry- about alliteration, where to break up lines, how to approach writing series and themed poems.

The third section gives a sensitive approach to 'life writing' or biographies and true stories.

There's also a section on how to get published, things like market, presentation and pitfalls.

Lots of readings and practcal exercises to work through, ways to encourage the muses and how to avoid writers block. Had a lot of fun writing poems about tea cups and stories about the neighbours...

It's not a quick book to get through- it's a university course book so it's not written for a quick read. It can be pretty intense, but maybe thats the time line associated with it in some aspects. The course does one chapter per week.

There are different writers writing different sections so it's not generalised by one author who thinks he/she knows all about writing. It's written pretty well, which is what you'd expect. So yes, i'd recommend.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
To really understand the value of this book, you have to understand that it forms the backbone of a university course from the Open University. A course that costs £700.

If you've studied with the Open University, or know someone who has, then you'll probably know how well written, researched and organised their course materials are. This course is no different. They have to be as there is not a lecturer physically present to guide you.

I studied this book in the final year of my degree, became a published writer (can't prove the connection for you unfortunately) and regularly still flick through it.

Some people will tell you the book is worthless without the rest of the course. I say, balderdash, set yourself a timetable to work through this book, download the FREE bits of the course audio content from the Open University's iTunes U page, get yourself into a writing group for feedback and see the improvement in your writing.

If I have one criticism, it would be that I wish I'd done the above and used the money to pay for the more advanced course!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 24 February 2009
I have to say that this is the best creative writing book that I've seen to date. Having skimmed through and bought others only to be disappointed with them, I was delighted with this. It is the coursebook on an OU course, however, it is very easy to work through alone, with great exercises that are very effective.
What particularly appealed to me was the matter of fact way that it deals with topics and the combination of readings and exercises - having specific text to refer to when discussing an element of writing was incredibly helpful.
I can't recommend this enough and I imagine that I will continue to dip in and out of it for years to come.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 20 June 2010
a thoughtful collection of exercises designed to draw from the writer's imagination all the essential aspects of the craft, and referenced to carefully selected illustrative readings from well-known published authors.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 3 July 2010
I own this book - it was part of the OU creative writing course I took a few years ago - and have found it clear, concise and full of ideas. In particular the exercises were innovative and helpful.

By the time (in the course) that we attended our poetry seminar, those of us who completed all the exercises had written drafts of 27 poems! Not bad for one book, and there are equivalent numbers of exercises for the fiction and life writing sections, plus the publication section.

The readings included illuminate the points made in the text and introduced me to some new authors and genres.

My only hesitation in giving this five stars is that it is designed to be used as part of a range of materials, including audio, and so I am not qualified to judge it as a freestanding item. I have returned to it for practice many times since completign the course, but if you are considering buying this book, I would recommend the OU course in full instead as there is so much more to it!
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 17 July 2006
This book is fantastic. It gives a clear explanation of the various aspects of writing. There are lots of interesting and useful exercises to help you improve your writing.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
This is the set book on the Open University Creative Writing Course. It has everything you need to get you started and develop your writing from using a journal to presenting work professionally. There are readings in the back of the book which illustrate the text.
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