Creative writing guidebook

Creative writing guidebook
Graeme Harper. London: Continuum, 2008. Pp. viii + 142.

Reviewed by Wu Wenmei
Hainan Normal University, China

Harper s Creative Writing Guidebook is designed primarily for those interested in the learning of Creative Writing in colleges and universities (p. 3), as well as those interested in learning creative writing beyond the academy.
The book is divided into two parts: The Workshops and Across the Workshops . The first part contains nine chapters. In the first, Zobal and Dent explore audience, subject, plot and nature of the contemporary short story. They also trace the history of the short story and establish its framework with the overarching goal of presenting participants with an approach to produce their own polished, thoughtful and moving stories. In the next chapter, Kroll looks into the nature of poetry writing, lays emphasis on the ethics of poetry teaching and learning, and gives a step-by-step demonstration of poetry writing. The author also sheds light on the public and private space of poetry.

Harper, in chapter 3, highlights the work ethics connected with novel writing. In exploring the genre s organization and structure, he points out novel writing is a way of thinking, a way of imagining, a way of envisaging (p.31). Likewise, the workshop exercises highlight not only the act and action in process, but also the final product evaluation. Mayer s workshop on playwriting in chapter 4 goes on to outline such key elements of playwriting as passion, struggle, character, plot, and rhythm. The exercises that follow then provide concise directions to help readers write their own plays.
In the fifth chapter, Dancyger makes clear the purpose of scriptwriting workshops and issues related to the successful operation of such workshops. He then provides a clear, detailed explanation of character, structure, plot and genre and closes the chapter with emphasis on post-workshop issues such as commercial, visual action, surprise, and energy.

The next two chapters venture into different sorts of media. The first is by Mort. In this chapter, the author explores radio formats and the technical considerations that govern writing for radio. He then gives insights into the nature of radio as a broadcast medium. The chapter also offers clear guidance on the process of creating a complete radio piece by focusing on areas such as the central narrator, temporal structure, a small cast of characters, the use of sound and voice effects, and dialogue. In the next chapter, Smith outlines the task of creating a simple animation based firstly on words and then words in conjunction with images. He also recommends online magazines and books for further reading.
The last two chapters of part one bring the reader back from the world of electric media to more conventional ones. In chapter 8, Pennin elaborates on the differences between fiction and non-fiction writing along with their similarities. He also puts emphasis on the exploration of ideas and the importance of considering language use. In the last contribution of this part, James provides knowledge about different age groups specific needs such as picture-book readers, emergent readers, middle-graders and teenagers, and emphasizes that children s literature should take children s emotional and mental development into consideration. He then provides a workshop with guidance on the choice of voice, organization, character, and narrator.
The second part of the book is much shorter than the first and is composed of only two chapters that work across individual genres rather than focusing on individual ones as the first part did. The first chapter by Finlay offers a brief introduction to the history of crossing genres in the context of structure, style, and theme by looking at excerpts from published hybrid-forms. This chapter also provides useful writing exercises and suggestions for future reading. Harper wraps up the book in the last chapter by focusing on voice, form, and point of view. This last chapter also illustrates the links between the modern book market and creative writing practices.
Overall, Creative Writing Guidebook has a number of positive features. One of its greatest benefits is that it lays out the rationale for teaching writing in a way which goes hand in hand with current trends and creative writing practice. Another is the large amount of genre-specific knowledge it provides, which is most certainly of service for readers who wish to explore their genre of choice or compare and contrast approaches to the writing of different genre. Finally, each chapter is independent from the others so that readers can skip to the one that is of specific interest to them. This makes the book potentially more accessible to a wide audience.