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Creative Writing 101

Ross at Play
Updated:

Can anyone recommend any books that would be worthy as the first book on the required-reading list for a beginners' course in creative writing.

I'm not looking for answers, or any formulae, just something that is well written and a reasonable place to start.

Please note, anyone who thinks they are being "helpful" by pointing out 'it's not that simple' should anticipate a long reply littered with Australians' favourite adjectives!

Crumbly Writer

For 'beginner's creative writing' you'd do better talking to recent college graduates. I'm guessing, given the demographics here, that most of us never took any creative writing courses, but simply dove into writing without having a clue what we were doing, and thus started on the most difficult (and the most specific) writing aids (like Steven King's "On Writing").

Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

David Morrell's "A Lifetime of Lessons about Writing and Publishing."

He was an English professor turned author (created Rambo character in his novel "First Blood"). I found it in the public library. Great book.

Replies:   graybyrd
Ross at Play

Well at least I've found something worthy of the writing quotes thread ...

to write is human, to edit is divine.
-Stephen King

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ross at Play

To CW & SB
Will try both of those. Thanks.
Anyone else ...

sejintenej
Updated:

OK so I haven't looked up THAT subject but many universities (mainly USA) post their lectures on the internet. I followed MIT on undergraduate Spanish as one example.

My bookmark is pretty old but loaded fine as I write this

http://bestonlineuniversities.com/2009/how-to-find-free-college-video-lectures-online/

The Google tip in para 2 looks a possibility also

best of luck

Edit; out of interest I since looked at the various universities (there are others hidden at that site) and didn't find too much. The Google tip looks far more interesting - especially look at the pointers/links at the very bottom of
https://www.google.com/search?q=genre%3Aeducational+creative+writing&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b
(you will need to adjust / edit out the Firefox reference perhaps)

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

Well at least I've found something worthy of the writing quotes thread ...

Great quote. Unfortunately it's posted in the wrong thread. :(

By the way, I started the quotes thread because I've been collecting epilogues (quotes used within stories) for a few years. I've always admired well chosen epilogues, and used them in one story which never got published/posted (I really need to get that one finished off), and have used them for a couple more stories. My soon to be published book uses them extensively (every chapter, as opposed to only for every section break).

Crumbly Writer

Since you suggested 'entry level creative writing', I'm sitting on most of my recommendations (not that I have that many). Most of mine fall into 'specific use' or 'specialized technique' categories, rather than basic 'creative writing' books.

Ross at Play

Thanks, All.
I think I've got plenty to get started with by now.

Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


that most of us never took any creative writing courses, but simply dove into writing without having a clue what we were doing,


Speak for yourself. Over the years I attended many writing courses related to the work I was doing, and I'd argue a course on How to Write Press Releases and Parliamentary Briefs gives you more training on creative writing than any college course. While the Technical Writing courses may not be aimed toward creative writing they do cover a lot of techniques on writing in general.

typo edit

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
REP

@Crumbly Writer

most of us never took any creative writing courses,


That sounds true in most but not all cases.

I was essentially a Training Instructor, then one of my bosses threw me into the technical writing arena, and it was a sink or swim situation. Other than High School English, which I hated, I had never written anything other than a book report. They were very poorly written.

I went from essentially no writing experience to being the Manager of a Technical Writing and Training Department. I survived in that capacity for about fifteen years. Done in by the DotCom era and circumstances beyond my control. After I retired, I just jumped in and started writing fiction after a very rocky start. So far, I've never taken a creative writing course or used any writing aid. However, I would probably be a far better writer if I had.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
graybyrd

@Switch Blayde

Great book.


Absolutely... Great book! The first chapter alone is worth the book. Read it twice; think about it for a day or two, and then read it again.

The 2008 edition is updated; it's available as an eBook on Amazon for $10. Well worth it. The book is a complete fiction writer's seminar.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

While the Technical Writing courses may not be aimed toward creative writing they do cover a lot of techniques on writing in general.

Strange. I had several "technical writing" courses, and I don't recall a lot of 'basics' being covered. Instead, they focused on how best to present hard to understand material. I suspect we were taking entirely different courses.

Crumbly Writer

@REP

So far, I've never taken a creative writing course or used any writing aid. However, I would probably be a far better writer if I had.

I'd consider a few college courses, but I'm afraid they'd waste all my time going over basics (like sentence construction, which I learned in grade school), rather than how to become a better writer.

Likewise, technical writing courses tend to foster passive 2nd person phrasing, rather than teaching you to write flowing sentences which lead into the following sentences.

I currently have a couple online courses sitting unused on my hard drive. One of these days, I'll have to listen to them.

Replies:   REP
Crumbly Writer

After purchasing a few books on writing techniques, Amazon keeps inundating me with new recommendations, often 'situational' thesauruses (emotional thesaures, descriptive thesauruses, idium thesauses).

However, one of my favorites was Dialogue for Writers, Create Powerful Dialogue in Fiction and Nonfiction, by Sammie Justesen. Another good one, though not as helpful, is The Sense of Style - The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker.

One of my editors sent me a huge list of various writing ebooks, though I have a hard time remembering which I've read and which I haven't. Note: Never mind. Those were on an older, now defunct HD. :(

Capt. Zapp

@Ross at Play

Creative Writing for Dummies by Maggie Hamand

:)

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Capt. Zapp

Creative Writing for Dummies by Maggie Hamand


Writing a Romance Novel For Dummies.
https://www.amazon.com/Writing-Romance-Dummies-Leslie-Wainger/dp/0764525549

Yes, that's a thing.

Worse, but not for writing, Breastfeeding For Dummies.
https://www.amazon.com/Breastfeeding-Dummies-Sharon-Perkins/dp/0764544810/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1488505094&sr=1-1&keywords=breastfeeding+for+dummies

WTF?

Dominions Son

Writing Fiction For Dummies
https://www.amazon.com/Writing-Fiction-Dummies-Randy-Ingermanson/dp/0470530707/ref=sr_1_33?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1488505302&sr=1-33&keywords=for+dummies

My god they have dummies books for everything.

A search on Amazon for "For Dummies" found 36,144 books.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

A search on Amazon for "For Dummies" found 36,144 books.

Writing For Dummies Books For Dummies For Dummies By Dummies

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Writing For Dummies Books For Dummies For Dummies By Dummies


:-)

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Writing For Dummies Books For Dummies For Dummies By Dummies


The worst one I saw, was How To Get Into Medical School For Dummies.

What could possibly go wrong. :)

Dominions Son
Updated:

@Dominions Son

I also saw How Washington Works For Dummies.

I wonder if I would get in trouble if I bought a copy and had it shipped to Donald Trump at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ross at Play

@Dominions Son

The worst one I saw, was How To Get Into Medical School For Dummies.
What could possibly go wrong. :)

Ha! Ha! Ha!
Ha! Ha! Ha! ...

Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

I also saw How Washington Works For Dummies.

I wonder if I would get in trouble if I bought a copy and had it shipped to Donald Trump at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?


He doesn't need it, he's reading the copy Obama left behind.

Ross at Play

The best 'for Dummies' book I've ever seen is Kakuro for Dummies.
For those who don't know, Kakuro has some similarities to Sudoku, you need to find positions for digits so there are no repeats.
Whatever claims may be made, there is no such thing as a difficult Sudoku problem. If you know what you're doing, the worst they can be just requires going through the same process more often, and not making any mistake along the way, and the solution will always drop out.
The only types of problems that may require some inspired deduction is those where the sums of numbers must equal the specified total without any repeats. The two most common types of those problems are Kakuro, which looks like a crossword puzzle, and Killer Sudoku which has a 9x9 square and nine internal squares.
I find the only Killer Sudoku problems which satisfy me are in books published by The Times (of London). I buy their books of 150 problems they classify as fiendishly difficult, and start at number 101.
I have only ever found one set of Kakuro problems that are genuinely difficult, in Kakuro for Dummies. All other Kakuro problems do not require any advanced deductions to solve them, they just make the size of the puzzle larger, exponentially increasing the number of mechanical steps which must be made without any error for the solution to drop out.
If you really think you know how to solve Kakuro problems and are looking for a severe test, try the last 30 problems in Kakuro for Dummies. They are not even particularly large, and they can be solved, i.e. none require any intuitive deduction you might never spot, but they are incredibly difficult. I've managed to work my way through them twice, and totally wasted over a month of my life both times!

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Dominions Son

The worst one I saw, was How To Get Into Medical School For Dummies.


But medics are dummies!

AJ

awnlee jawking

@Dominions Son

Writing Fiction For Dummies


The paperback is cheaper than the e-book!

AJ

awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

Whatever claims may be made, there is no such thing as a difficult Sudoku problem. If you know what you're doing, the worst they can be just requires going through the same process more often, and not making any mistake along the way, and the solution will always drop out.


I'm not convinced Kakuro is any different, it just takes longer because the puzzle is usually larger.

I prefer the 'codeword' type puzzles in my newspaper. They challenge logic and vocabulary.

AJ

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

I'm not convinced Kakuro is any different

One big difference - anything that requires only finding the right position for the digits is solvable with simple mechanical techniques. Only those require both position and the numbers to add up to the correct sum are possible to make impossible without some inspired deduction.
If you want something you might never be able to solve, no matter how good you get at them, The Times Killer Suduko is what you should choose.

ustourist

@Ross at Play

There is a crossword format type mathematical puzzle - I had a book some 40 years ago but it is currently in storage and I won't go through umpteen boxes to find it - it can be done quite easily with a calculator, but since the harder puzzles ask for cube roots or large multiples it can be stretching mentally. The initial difficulty (IIRC) is that there is no starting number to work from and the questions / answers reference each other, so knowledge of times tables is essential to even get a starting digit.
The first puzzles are very simple. the later ones do require brain cells.
I thought it was called Crozzles, but that seems to have been used by a child's game. Now I have that annoying nag in my head to go locate the book.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
StarFleetCarl

@Crumbly Writer

I'm guessing, given the demographics here, that most of us never took any creative writing courses, but simply dove into writing without having a clue what we were doing,


While I admit I started writing prior to taking any classes - my first stories were written while I was still in junior high school. I wrote Star Trek fan fiction, mostly for my own enjoyment. But I'm oddball, anyway - I taught myself how to type, albeit not touch typing, when I was 10, so I COULD write. I had read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea when I was 6, so it was ... interesting, to say the least ... when I was in elementary school and they were trying to teach See Dick Run and basic math, and I'm sitting there with Rocket Ship Galileo and Red Planet on my desk.

I did take several writing classes in college, just to fill in things, and because I thought they'd be easy. In one respect they were, but that's also where I got burned out for a long time on writing. It's one thing when you write for your own enjoyment, or to just post here. It's another when you're on a deadline, and your muse decides to take a vacation.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

Unless the Kakuro puzzle is a cook, there's only one possible solution. That means it's susceptible to mechanical attack.

AJ

Replies:   Ross at Play
REP

@Crumbly Writer

One of these days, I'll have to listen to them.


I know what you mean. I'm 70 and the odds of me making 80 in reasonable health and a sound mind are not the best. I'll just muddle along as is and enjoy myself by writing and posting stories.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@awnlee jawking

Unless the Kakuro puzzle is a cook, there's only one possible solution. That means it's susceptible to mechanical attack.

Yes, a computer could always get there using trial and error.

By "impossible", I meant by a person, using logical deductions to eliminate possibilities, until the number of possibilities is reduced to a point where trial and error becomes a practical option.

I have only found 30 Kakuro problems, in Kakuro for Dummies, that are worth doing, because they can only be solved that way.

In contrast, I have found a number of Killer Sudoku problems, but only at the end of The Times books of extremely difficult ones, where the clues required to solve them require some sort of deduction that even someone who really knows how to do them might never spot.

Crumbly Writer

@ustourist

I thought it was called Crozzles, but that seems to have been used by a child's game.

I have a hard time solving crunuts, mainly because I slip into a diabetic coma mid-way through the problem. 'D

Crumbly Writer

@StarFleetCarl

I did take several writing classes in college, just to fill in things, and because I thought they'd be easy. In one respect they were, but that's also where I got burned out for a long time on writing. It's one thing when you write for your own enjoyment, or to just post here. It's another when you're on a deadline, and your muse decides to take a vacation.

I went to school (college) just after they phased out required courses for all but major courses (courses required to complete a major). However, I adopted an attractive English major to edit all of my musings. I learned more from her, than I did from most writing books. It's best to see writing working or failing in practice, than to read about what you should do.

awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

As it happens, my daily paper has a Kakuro. I gave it a try. Once I got the hang of it, it was pretty mechanical. Obviously not on a par with your 30 :(

AJ

Ross at Play

I thought a book including '101' in the title qualifies for this thread - "101 Things to do Instead of Playing with Your Phone".
My guess is #102 was 'Look for another 899 things to do'.

awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

My Saturday newspaper had quite a hard Kakuro in it, along with a telephone helpline for clues if readers couldn't wait for the solution to be published. I had to use some Killer Sudoku-type techniques to solve it but I got there in the end.

AJ

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

My Saturday newspaper had quite a hard Kakuro in it, along with a telephone helpline for clues if readers couldn't wait for the solution to be published. I had to use some Killer Sudoku-type techniques to solve it but I got there in the end.

A gift idea for someone you hate. One of The Times books of extremely difficult killer sudoku problems - with the solutions pages cut out, to be "helpful".

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Ross at Play

A gift idea for someone you hate.


nah, there are nastier things you can do.

A few years ago one of my mid-twenties nephews who's into on-line video games upset me, so I convinced my brother to buy his son the latest in a series of games the son loved for his Christmas present that year. Naturally, at his age, recently married, and just after Christmas the young man had no money for personal fun for the next few months, and we all had fun while he slow burned after being given a great game he wanted but couldn't play because he had to spend several hundred dollars on hardware upgrades before his system could run it. My brother and I got a hell of a lot of laughs out of the situation. Payback can be a bitch for the receiver.

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