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Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft

3.82  ·  Rating Details ·  517 Ratings  ·  48 Reviews
Written by best-selling author Janet Burroway, " Imaginative Writing" -- an introduction to creative writing -- covers all four genres: creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and drama. "Imaginative Writing" discusses elements of craft common to all creative writing before delving into the individual genres. Each of the first five chapters investigates a specific element of ...more
Paperback, 402 pages
Published June 1st 2006 by Longman Publishing Group (first published 2002)
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Venus Blancia
Jan 04, 2016 Venus Blancia rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: struggling writers and enthusiasts
I definitely recommend this book to struggling writers and enthusiasts for this covers writing in creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and drama. For sure, aside from the theories this book has offered, what you'll love the most is the "Try This" section where as a reader and writer you can follow through and try it yourself. You'll enjoy too the thousands of writing prompts for all writing genres.
Michael Burnam-fink
Feb 15, 2014 Michael Burnam-fink rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, 2014
The basis of this book is that writing should be play-even for professional writers there has to be an element of fun and joy. As long as an author can keep having fun, they can write indefinitely and improve their craft. While I'm no fan of the Iowa Writer's Seminar, (and this book is steeped in that tradition), it has a lot of useful tips and exercises for writing a little every day, and improving your own writing. I could see this useful for teaching a creative writing class, or as a self-gui ...more
Chanel Earl
This was a pretty good creative writing textbook in that it helped start some good discussions. Part of the reason it did that though, was by saying things that were somewhat controversial like "Poetry should be spoken aloud" and "it is impossible to write a good story using only summary." I had trouble with some of the limits that I felt the discussion sections put on creative writing, but still enjoyed the book.

The reading selections (which I didn't read all of) were sometimes brilliant, other
Jan 01, 2012 Clare rated it liked it
Shelves: writing-tips
This review is also posted on my blog at

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 ind
Apr 28, 2016 Amanda rated it really liked it
I didn't get to read the entirety of this book because some weeks I would have time to delve into the prompts and some weeks I wouldn't, but it was very helpful and taught me more about creative writing. Personally, I'm not a fan of writing guide books, but for a class assigned book, this is the most helpful one I've encountered so far in my college career. Which is saying a lot, considering I'm almost graduated.
Ashley Elliott
Jul 08, 2016 Ashley Elliott rated it really liked it
Used this for a creative writing course I took through BYU, and it was very helpful! I absolutely LOVED all of the writing prompts scattered throughout the book and used a lot of them for my exercises.
Dec 06, 2009 Karen rated it it was ok
Recommended to Karen by: Peggy Balwin - creative writing class text
Shelves: read_chunks_of
Because of their strident whimsy, I soon took all the try-this excercises to be rhetorical questions. What if your main character was a giraffe? What does it have in it's pockets?
Jun 02, 2015 Kathleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: textbooks
I used this textbook for my Creative Writing class. It was alright, but the author included a large amount of short stories and poems that were rather revealing of her political viewpoints. But whatever, I don't really care. I found the parts about poetry to be rather dull, but that is most likely just personal preference.

All of the example pieces that were included were interesting and well-written. It is difficult to write a book about creative writing, so this book just had examples of prose
Sarah Schantz
Apr 05, 2015 Sarah Schantz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was skeptical when my lead gave me the required creative writing textbook for the Front Range Community College CWI classes. I wasn't sure about a textbook for the craft. I've always taught technique by supplementing students with excerpts from Stephen King's, On Writing, Natalie Goldberg's, Writing Down the Bones, and others such as Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and Gaston Bachelard's, The Poetics of Space, and while I still supplemented the text with these handouts, I read Janet Burroway's boo ...more
Jul 10, 2016 Jack rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
I read this book for a class at Berkeley. It's a nice overview of creative writing as a whole, covering four different genres (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and drama). It's weakness is that it covers four different genres. Between the exercises, the example literature at the ends of chapters, and the detailed appendix, there really isn't much time to spend on any particular genre. Entire books can be written on a single form, which means that this book has to gloss over certain things. I didn't ...more
Jan 01, 2008 Kristin rated it liked it
Shelves: teaching
It really depends on how one teaches an intro. class in creative writing, I think. I don't personally like the break-down of image, voice, etc. before / separate from the chapters on genre. However, I can easily see how it would work and why the book was put together this way. It's just difficult for me in terms of time and getting students writing specific pieces that focus on structure, etc., as opposed to focusing on part of craft (such as image) while writing in any genre.... But, what do yo ...more
Kayla Batz
Feb 18, 2015 Kayla Batz rated it liked it
It has helped me begin writing in a more concise and creative manner. I enjoyed the way it made me think about my writing in new ways. The writing techniques are very informative and I would recommend this to anyone wanting to get a better handle on their writing skills.
Jan 31, 2008 Michael rated it really liked it
Shelves: el231
We've just begun theSpring 2008 semester, and this is my first term teaching this title by Burroway (whose book, "Writing Fiction" I've often used for a class by the same title). It's actually a multi-genre book, covering fiction, poetry, scripting, and creative non-fiction, so it's useful in Intro to Creative Writing courses (I'm using it in a 'topics' course in Horror & Suspense writing, because the examples she chooses cover the basics of the craft in great ways...any book that holds up A ...more
May 05, 2016 Bettie rated it it was amazing
Read for my creative writing course. Great textbook for creative writing courses that are going to cover a variety of literary genres. I'd use it again!
Emma Goldman-sherman
Apr 29, 2015 Emma Goldman-sherman rated it it was amazing
Great textbook for creative writers! I have read it several times, and I still love using it for teaching -- there are exercises throughout.
Frannie Cheska
Helped me a ton. This book was extremely helpful for my class, I learned a lot and it changed the way I read things too now.
Nanako Mizushima
Sep 27, 2014 Nanako Mizushima rated it really liked it
We used this for a fiction writing class and I liked it as the textbook. Very good examples and exercises.
Oct 01, 2011 Izlinda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-college, writing
For my Intro to Creative Writing course. I liked how Burroway separated her book into chapters. Some examples she used at the end of each chapter (poems, non fiction and short fiction) kind of confused me because I thought they'd be better examples for other chapters. They were all good examples, though. She does have useful exercises. The fact that I got stuck on a few of them was a reflection on my own lack of skill. We did jump around but the format was such that we didn't have to go too line ...more
Paula DeBoard
Highly recommend for anyone teaching creative writing.

I loved the explanations, writing exercises, and the variety of examples.
Shaye Tova
Jun 13, 2016 Shaye Tova rated it liked it
Cool book for teaching Creative Writing class.
I used this textbook for an Introduction to Creative Writing class. While I think nobody explains elements of craft better than Janet Burroway, overall I was pretty disappointed with this textbook. The organization wasn't useful for a class that covers each genre separately, and I found myself having to supplement the readings with a lot of handouts. Students complained that the craft discussions in most chapters dragged on for too long, and honestly in some places I agreed with them. I won't be ...more
Apr 13, 2013 Jessica rated it it was ok
Shelves: school-books
I had to read it for my intro to creative writing class, and I have to say that it was interesting at first, and she has many very good ideas and tips for fighting off writer's block, but I would suggest limiting yourself to just the first portion of the book. Or the middle. Or the end. But since she tends to be so repetitive, you can really get most of the content from just a portion of the book. If it had been edited down to a shorter length I would have given it more stars.
Debbie Bateman
Jun 03, 2013 Debbie Bateman rated it it was amazing
Although I am still working through this book, I think it's fair to say that it's one of the best I've read about writing. The explanations are clear. For years, I've heard the advice that writers should "Show and not tell." After working through the section in Imaginative Writing about avoiding abstractions, generalizations and judgements, I finally understand what that advice really means.

This is a must-read for all serious writers.
Laura Caitlin
Feb 09, 2012 Laura Caitlin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: burgeoning authors
Recommended to Laura by: Darrin Doyle, Goodreads author
Imaginative Writing is a book I first read in a creative writing course (taught by Darrin Doyle, Goodreads author) in 2007. Since that time, I have returned again and again to the instructional and reading portions and have reused the exercises. I will move this book from shelf to hand repeatedly in the years to come. I highly recommend it to burgeoning and seasoned writers alike.
Mar 03, 2016 Christine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is wonderful -- it really opened my eyes to many paramount aspects of creative writing I have overlooked.
Sep 16, 2008 Angela rated it really liked it
A good overview of all four genres. As always, Burroway does a great job teaching the nuts and bolts of good writing, and her own writing is clear and clean and interesting. My one complaint is I wish I liked some of the fiction and creative nonfiction included in the book a little better. But overall, a very helpful tool for teaching an intro to creative writing course.
Tara Calaby
May 20, 2013 Tara Calaby rated it liked it
Shelves: writing, read-for-uni
This is quite a good creative writing text. It doesn't assume that readers are complete writing beginners, which means that the hints and activities in it are more useful than in some books. I personally thought that the chapters on character and development & revision were the most helpful, but others would have different preferences.
Nov 17, 2012 Morgan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finished this for class. Well, I didn't read all the chapters but I read most of it and we're done using the book in class. Anyway, the chapters are helpful and the exercise suggestions are unique and I'd like to give them a try sometime when I'm not bogged down with homework. This is a good beginners read for writers.
Jennifer Louden
Jul 05, 2015 Jennifer Louden rated it really liked it
Excellent smart overview of writing fiction and memoir, written with the college student in mind. Janet Burroway is one of the most insightful and practical writing instructors. If her classic "Writing Fiction" was a bit over your head or you want more or you teach high school or college, well worth owning.
Kelly Lynn Thomas
Sep 03, 2011 Kelly Lynn Thomas rated it liked it
Shelves: writing
This book covers fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction so it's a good overview. The only reason I gave it three stars is Janet Burroway is kind of obnoxious and condescending and obviously thinks she's better than you, the reader, and reminds you of that fact at every possible opportunity.
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Janet Burroway is the author of seven novels including The Buzzards, Raw Silk (runner up for the national Book award), Opening Nights, and Cutting Stone; a volume of poetry, Material Goods; a collection of essays, Embalming Mom; and two children's books, The Truck on the Track and The Giant Jam Sandwich. Her most recent plays, Medea With Child, Sweepstakes, Division of Property, and Parts of Speec ...more
More about Janet Burroway...

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