Creative Writer's Handbook / Edition 5

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This handbook is the perfect reference for beginning creative writers. It offers abundant illustrations, exercises, and useful techniques in all genres. While emphasizing problem-solving and the mastery of literary conventions, this handbook also takes the apprentice writer on a journey from inspiration to revision.

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Editorial Reviews

Teaches beginning writers to tap and shape their creative energies. Introductory chapters discuss a writer's motivations, journal keeping, point of view, language, and the relationship of invention and research. Subsequent sections address individual genres such as poetry, fiction and nonfiction prose, and drama, and discuss the business of writing. Numerous examples in the text include stories by Joyce, Hemingway, and Salman Rushdie, among others, and more than 30 poems. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780136050520
  • Publisher: Longman
  • Publication date: 3/13/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 5
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 203,477
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Read an Excerpt

In this edition we have given more attention to the interrelationships among genres. Though techniques of character development or dialogue may appear irrelevant to writing poetry or nonfiction, they are not. Nor are the techniques of sound patterns beside the point when one comes to write a play or a story. As we tell students in our workshops, what makes writing both fascinating and difficult is the fact that everything counts.

Almost everywhere, we have added and replaced examples, expanded sections, deleted some material and added other material. We have tried to make the book more readable, and we have added tools like the "scam sheet" and "Proofreading Check List" in Chapter 16. Chapter 2 has new material on the journal as a literary form. Chapter 4 includes an enhanced discussion of style. Chapter 5 attends more fully to electronic research. We have added new stories to Chapter 12 as well as a creative nonfiction essay that is not a memoir. In Chapter 15, two ten-minute plays have replaced Trifles because we felt shorter plays would be more helpful models for beginning writers. We have deleted and added exercises. In short, we have tried to do what a revision ought to do.

If you are coming to The Creative Writer's Handbook for the first time, you may be overwhelmed by both the amount of detail and the number of questions we ask you to consider as well as the sizeable number of exercises. Don't be. Our idea was to provide you with a smorgasbord from which to choose what tempts your palate.

We wish to thank the following reviewers for their valuable contribution: Joan Connor, Ohis University, and Juliet W. Kincaid, Johnson County Community College.

We want to stress again that this book is about useful techniques for the beginner. No book teaches; practice does.

Finally, we want to thank those students, colleagues, and friends who have helped us to improve the work.


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Table of Contents



Anthology of Poems

Preface to Fifth Edition

Part I A Writer’s Concerns

Typical page from a journal

1 Working like a Writer

Pleasure and Passion 0 ~ Attitudes 0 ~ The Writer Participates in Writing 0 ~ A Digression for the Classroom User ~ On Being Unprofessional ~ Working Habits ~ A Word About Intentions

2 Journal/Research/Invention

Why Keep a Journal?

Your Journal ~ What to Write in the Journal ~ Getting Started ~ Keeping Up ~ What Will You Do with It All?

The Relationship between Invention and Research

Searching and Imagining ~ A Word about Resources

3 Point of View

What Is It? ~ Who Will Do the Telling? ~ The Decision and Its Consequences ~ The Range of Perspectives ~ Third Person ~ First Person,

“Sex Education” by Dorothy Canfield Fisher

4 Language Is Your Medium

There Is No Such Thing as a Synonym

Choosing Well

Accuracy, ~ Precision, ~ Concreteness, ~ Appropriateness, ~ Idiomatic Usage,

Some Diction Problems

Overwriting, ~ Overmodification, ~ Saying It Twice,~ Excessive Variation ~, Latinate Diction, ~ Archaic Diction ~, Sonic Boom ~, Passives and Operators,

Figures of Speech


Evoking Styles ~ Incompatible Styles ~ A Style Checklist

P art II The Concerns of the Poet

Typical submission for a poem

5 The Elements of Poetry

The Nature of Poetry ~ The Line ~ The Line and Meter ~ Lines and Rhymes

The Line and Free Verse ~ Lines in Combination ~ Imagery ~ Sound Patterns ~


6 Practicing Poetry

Imitation ~ Fixed forms ~ Memory Poem ~ Formula Poems ~ Ritual Poems ~ List Poems ~ Dramatic Poems/Character Poems ~ Event Poems ~ Personification Poems ~ Epistolary Poems ~ Time Warp Poems ~ Advice Poems ~ Picture Poems ~ Music Poems ~ Poems on Poems ~ Found Poems 154

7 Poetry Problems

Out of Tune ~ Archaic Diction ~ The Anonymous Voice ~ Appalling Abstraction ~ Unintentional Humor ~ Jarring Diction ~ For the Sake of Rhyme ~ The Clash of Poetic Elements ~ Writing Past the Poem ~ Treasure Burying ~ Saying Too Much ~ The False Start ~ Punch-Line Endings ~ Ineffective Line Break ~ Out of Order ~ Derivative Drivel

P art III The Concerns of the Storyteller

Typical submission page for prose

8 The Elements of Fiction

The Nature of Fiction

Plot and What It Does


Point of Attack

Character and Characterization

Action, ~ Appearance, ~ Thought ~ Dialogue, ~ Indirect Discourse,

~ Other Means, ~ Functionaries and Stock Characters ~ Naming Character ~ The

Relationship of Character, Plot, and Setting,

A Note on the Novel

9 Narration and Its Techniques



Scene and Summary



Needless Complication, ~ Misuse of Dialogue, ~ Sudden Comfort, ~ Sudden Omniscience, ~ Ping-Pong, ~ Wrong Technique, ~ Pogo Stick, ~ Descriptive Clutter, ~ Other Problems,

10 Creative Nonfiction

The Nature of Creative Nonfiction

How the Writer Convinces the Reader

Exposure of Self, ~ Testable Elements Hold Up to the Test, ~ Anecdotes Must Feel Universal,

Virtues in Nonfiction

Problems in Creative Nonfiction

Finding Materials

Reading, ~ Exploring Yourself, ~ Exploring Others,

“The Fact Behind the Facts” by Phillip Gerard,

11 Stories and Nonfiction

“You Won’t Remember This “ by Kate Blackwell

“A Very Short Story” by Ernest Hemingway

“The Boarding House” by James Joyce

“Sunday in the Park” by Bel Kaufman

“The First Day,” Edward Jones

“Just Married,” Tony Earley

“Chinese Medicine” by Hilary Tham

“Grandmother’s Nose” by Robert Coover

P art IV The Concerns of the Playwright

Typical submission page for a play

12 The Elements of Drama

The Nature of Drama

Storytelling with People and Things

Characters ~ Presenting Character ~ Characters in Place and Time ~ Setting

13 Dialogue and Its Problems 311

Dialogue: The Essence of Drama

Principles and Common Errors

Your Exposition Is Showing, ~ Contractions and Formality, ~ Interruptions and Other Ways of Creating Verisimilitude, ~ Fake Dialogue or the Dialogue Dummy, ~ Designators, or Stealing the Actors’ and Director’s Jobs, ~ Long Speeches, ~

Grunting and Pausing, ~ Accents, Dialect,and Verbal Tics, ~ Swearing, ~ Locker

Room Raillery,

The Day They Shot John Lennon by James McLure

14 Plays and Screen Plays


Procedure by Joyce Carol Oates


Off Hand by Michel Wallerstein


A Word on Plays for Film and Television


Part V The Writer’s Business

15 From Drafting to Revision to Submission



When to Revise, ~ How to Revise–Checklists for poetry, prose, and plays, ~


Checking for Correctness, ~ Facts ~ Some Possible Problems ~

Some Words About Proofreading

Finding a Home for Your Work

Manuscript Form ~ Publication Markets ~ Play and Film Markets ~

Before You Write that Check ~ Cover Letters ~ A Manuscript Checklist ~

What About Copyright?

Glossary of Key Terms



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