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on 5 September 2013
This book is great value for money, giving a real insight into the writing industry. It covers all levels, too, from writing your book to getting it out there as a real, published novel. As the title suggests, it's a very quick read, so perfect for an evening or weekend. A pint-sized writing manual!
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on 25 July 2014
This is a slim volume in the Guardian “masterclass” series but it is certainly no shrinking violet. The preamble boldly states “our writers will take you through every step of the creative writing process”. By creative writing they mean novels of the Booker prize shortlist variety - there’s nothing here about poetry or drama and precious little about different genres.
Unsurprisingly, the text fails to live up to this ambitious promise. Setting aside the question of whether the creation of a piece of writing can be reduced to a series of seemingly arbitrarily chosen steps (to be fair, some of the contributors do ask that question) - the eager reader seeking enlightenment from “the masters” is going to find the content decidedly thin.
The format is one of short contributions from published authors interspersed with exercises from ‘The Writing Book’ by Kate Grenville.
So far as the exercises go I admit I can’t comment too much other than to say they didn’t really inspire me to set pen to paper (shades of long ago memories of English Language O level). Probably they are more intended for a classroom setting than the solitary writer at his or her desk. I did find myself wondering about statements such as “improvisation is all about hearing the voice of the unconscious …improvisations are likely to be your own ideas and your own natural language rather than secondhand thoughts and language borrowed from other books …” Hmm. I’m not convinced that somewhere deep in the recesses of the brain there is an aquifer of pure inspiration which we can tap into more or less at will. Scrabbling after the chimera of originality is more likely to result in a piece of unreadability. And if someone regards a blank sheet of paper as “the enemy”, (as it is described in the first workshop) and has no idea what to write about, then really, what is the point? There are plenty of other creative activities to enjoy.
So what about the contributions from these published, prize winning authors? It wouldn’t be too difficult to precis most of them down to a few sentences: Mark Billingham on suspense - ‘make the reader care what happens to the characters’; Geoff Dyer - (who baldly says he has no interest in plots or stories) - do what you’re already good at because you’ll never get any better at the other stuff; Andrew Miller - strong characters are at the heart of literature and how they emerge is a bit of a mystery; MJ Hyland - expect to have to write lots of different drafts. And so on, though I should give an honourable mention to DBC Pierre who contributes a down to earth piece on writing dialogue.
The contributions from Rachel Cusk and from Meg Rosoff are intriguing although not in the way you might expect. Rachel Cusk, ostensibly writing about points of view, declares that great writers spend most of their time thinking about truth and in order to construct a point of view the writer must first determine “what is not a matter of opinion, what is true”. Which would seem to be a tall order indeed and likely to send you back to that idiot’s guide to philosophy which you never actually got round to reading. And in a similarly challenging vein, Meg Rosoff warns that the writer’s ‘voice’ should be an expression of “your mind, your heart, your soul” and that you need the depth of self knowledge which will allow your work to come from “the deep dark corners of your subconscious mind”.
And here’s me thinking most readers were just looking for an author who could tell a good story.

PS: As I’m never going to make a living from writing I thought I might put on a workshop - “How to write a scathing book review”. £1000 per person sounds about right, don’t you think? After all, I went to Oxford* and I once spoke to a best selling author at a book festival.
*not the University of that name
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on 2 April 2014
First point - the book was very cheap. Is that good or bad?

Several of the 'Expert' contributors of the book shot themselves in the foot in my opinion, using stupidly long sentences, and unnecessary 'clever' words. Professional writers' jargon? I don't know- I don't know any professional writers. For me, it just clouded what they were trying to clarify, so said much about themselves.

However most contributors gave me food for thought, which is what I hoping for; showed up flaws in my thinking and writing effort so far, which was extremely helpful. Even better - two or three of them confirmed for me, good things contained in my writing (which I produced without any prior in depth analysis of writing, or attachment with any writers' workshops or groups).

So - worth reading, but not brilliant.
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on 3 January 2013
Interesting reading with some useful tips for the budding writer. Not a prolonged read, just something to dip in and out of.
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on 1 June 2014
As an absolute novice advice like this, particularly from this calibre of author, is very hard to come by. Supported with a series of helpful and progressive exercises, this book has a number of incredibly useful nuggets, and I know that I'll be regularly dipping into this book as I continue to try and improve my writing. Will definitely be taking a look at others in this series.
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on 9 March 2013
Really helpful starter guide for those thinking of embarking on a creative writing path or similar. Short helpful exercises and practical supportive tips written in a clear, non patronising way.
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on 31 January 2015
It's ok but it's not a book I would read again.
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on 25 December 2014
Great book. Short but effective.
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on 15 April 2015
Useful reading
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on 20 May 2015
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