Sunday, 1 July 2012

Read all about it

Some of my fellow students enjoyed The Open University's course in "Advanced creative writing", but, if the posts in the dedicated Facebook group were anything to go by, many were disappointed. In fact, a significant minority felt short-changed by a course which simply didn't do what it said on the tin.

I'm somewhere in the middle, but only because it's the average between two extreme positions. I loved the mutual support thing with my fellow students, and my tutor was fun (if slow at marking) but I despise the course book and those responsible for it. More than once I've ended up angrily claiming that one could spend the course fee on a nice little holiday and use the change buying thirteen books from Amazon which would outshine A363's Big Blue Book.  When challenged to put my URL where my mouth was, I'd often already moved on to another whinge in another thread, so here it is... click here: My recommended reading list.

I'll write detailed reviews of some of the most important books on that page in due course, but for now, here's a very quick mention for my top three:

  • The Writer's Journey - absolutely indispensable. If you aren't familiar with the concepts in this book, you risk severely handicapping yourself from the start. 
  • Getting into Character - promises "secrets from method acting that can be used by writers" and it delivers. In spades. 
  • The Nuts and Bolts of Writing - To be honest, there are many books of this sort, but I have a soft spot for the much-missed Michael Legat, as it was one of his very accessible books that first made me realise (a) I might not have been born a literary giant and (b) there might be something I could do about it.

If you only read three creative writing books in your life,
you could choose far worse ones than these.

After seeing it mentioned in various corners of the Internet, I took a chance on Creative Writing for Advanced College Classes by George Williams. Published in 1954, it needs allowances made for some old-fashioned (and entirely incidental) attitudes. But it's solid gold. Its first half in particular is packed with tips of the goodness-I've-been-writing-like-a-turd variety. Sadly, the going rate on Amazon is about thirty quid, but - if you can afford it - it's an excellent follow-up read to the Legat book mentioned above.