The Best Self-Teaching Book for Creative-Writing Basics

★:  Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft (4th Edition) (Penguin Academics Series) (Paperback) by Janet Burroway, reviewed by  C. J. Singh  – See all my reviews

As expected, the fourth edition adds new short stories, nonfictions, poems, dramas and drops some of the ones in the third edition, keeping the overall page count of the book about the same. The new stories added are by Tobias Wolff, Jamaica Kincaid, Ursula Le Guin and others; new examples of creative nonfiction are from Michael Chabon, David Sedaris, and others. Also new are nearly half of the poems and dramas.

Some of the “new” additions are from the most widely anthologized, for example, Tobias Wolff’s “Bullet in the Brain,” Ursula Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” and Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl.” That’s good for beginners: if you haven’t read them before, they are great additions; good for instructors: if you have read them before, they cut down your preparation time.

The expository sections of Poetry and Drama are expanded. Particularly helpful for self-teaching will be the first and final drafts of Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “One Art” and Patty Seyburn’s “Anatomy of Disorder.”

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The Classic College Textbook on the Fiction-Writing Craft (The Current Edition)

★ Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft (8th Edition) (Paperback) by Janet Burroway, reviewed by C. J. Singh on amazon.com, copy posted January 14, 2012 (43 of 44 people found the review helpful.)–  See all my reviews 

 

In the current edition, more than half of the 22 stories are new, including works by contemporaries like Stuart Dybek, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Ron Hansen, Sherman Alexie, and Junot Diaz. A welcome return are short-shorts, one of the highlights of the sixth edition that were dropped in the seventh. Also, the new edition features a more detailed discussion of the revision process: it presents the early and final drafts of a short story, “Keith, by Ron Carlson, an established writer and professor of creative writing at UC Irvine.In the preface to the eighth edition, Burroway notes that “the idea of a text for writing fiction is itself problematic. Unlike such subjects as math and history, where a certain mass of information needs to be organized and conveyed, the writing of fiction is more often a process of trial and error–the learning is perpetual and, paradoxically, the writer needs to know everything at once. If a text is too prescriptive, it’s not true to the immense variety of possibilities; if it’s too anecdotal, it may be cheering but is unlikely to be of use.” Excellent criterion, emerging from the author’s decades of writing and teaching experience. This edition, like the seventh and sixth, engages and isn’t too prescriptive. Continue reading

Excellent Teach-Yourself Book on Creative-Writing Basics – “Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft” (3rd Ed.)

★ Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft (Penguin Academics Series) (3rd Edition) (Paperback) by Janet Burroway, reviewed by C. J. Singh on amazon.com, copy posted October 5, 2013 – See all my reviews

 

(The following is an addendum to my review of the previous edition that was posted on 8 April 2007.)

Janet Burroway’s Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft, 3rd Edition adds several new short stories, nonfictions, poems, dramas and drops some of the ones in the second edition, keeping the overall page count of the book about the same. Notably enhanced are the chapters on drama and on poetry. The drama section includes several examples of a newly popular genre, the ten-minute play.

Although marketed as a textbook for Creative Writing 101, this book can serve as an excellent primer for self-teaching. On completing the brief “try this” exercises included, you’ll acquire a good understanding of the craft elements and be able to judge whether the comments on your work by other apprentice writers in a workshop or your friends are on the mark or not. Beware that even positive, flattering comments (“I loved this image…”) can mislead you.

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