Refracted Input

Clare O’Farrell’s blog on books, TV, films, Michel Foucault, universities etc. etc.

Janet Burroway, Imaginative Writing. The Elements of Craft. New York: Penguin Academics, 2007.
My rating: ***

Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft (2nd Edition) Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft by Janet Burroway

This is a large and detailed book on how to engage in creative writing. Each chapter contains explanations of various elements such as ‘image’, ‘voice’, ‘character’. It covers techniques of fiction writing, creative non fiction, poetry and drama.

Each chapter contains short exercises scattered throughout the text but handily enclosed in highlighted text boxes. These can be undertaken in writing workshops or by an individual writer. At the end of each chapter, there are short stories, short pieces of creative non fiction, poems and short drama scripts.

The exercises are very useful and the explanations of the various categories are detailed and useful as well. This is a great textbook for use in creative writing workshops.

I only have a few relatively minor quibbles. The first is that it is not always clear how the pieces of writing at the end of the chapter form examples of what has just been discussed. The second is that as the book goes on, the selections of material become a veritable gloom fest leading into serious slit your wrist territory. Some of poetry on the other hand is a bit less maudlin and I found some of the pieces quite clever and amusing.

Another problem is a purely geographical one. Working with this book in an Australian context the overwhelming focus on North American examples and literature has a rather alienating effect. But this can be easily remedied by modfiying the exercises to give them a more local flavour and choosing different short stories as examples.

All in all, this is a wonderfully comprehensive text which can be used at both the introductory and advanced levels in teaching creative writing.

3 thoughts on “Imaginative Writing (2007)

  1. Bruce says:

    I couldn’t help reading paragraph 2 sentence 1 as:

    Each chapter contains short exercises which can be undertaken in [writing workshops] or by [an individual writer scattered throughout the text but handily enclosed in highlighted text boxes].

    They say that good writers leave something of themselves in the text.


  2. Clare says:

    Ambiguities duly erased! Befuddled 5am writer certainly scattered about through the text!


  3. Bruce says:

    I rather enjoyed the ambiguity! Loved the idea of a writer scattered throughout the text – very Robert Bloch. An earlobe on page 4… the left little toe on page 17…


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