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Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  718 ratings  ·  64 reviews
Janet Burroway offers an introduction to creative writing, covering the four genres: creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry and drama. She investigates a specific element of craft - Image, Voice, Character, Setting and Story - from a perspective that crosses various genres.
Paperback, 402 pages
Published June 1st 2006 by Longman Publishing Group (first published 2002)
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Danela Hi Esther. I am Danela, I read that a year ago you study from this book. I am starting taking classes in creative writing and I would like to know you…moreHi Esther. I am Danela, I read that a year ago you study from this book. I am starting taking classes in creative writing and I would like to know your experience using this book. I would like to read your opinion about it. (less)

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Venus Blancia
Oct 19, 2015 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 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014, fiction
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
Feb 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chapter 1: Invitation to the Writer
Try this 1.5: Make your list of "Questions I want answered." Pick one. Go online and research (on at least 4 sites) what is known about that question. If it is not an answerable question, you'll find much more written about it. Make notes in your journal. Then put away the notes and write what you seem to have learned, in the form of a poem or a dialogue.

Chapter 2: Image
* Any character – whether in a memoir, a fiction, poetry, or drama – who speaks in generaliz
Kristin Boldon
Nov 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: writing, 2019
I am a teaching assistant using this text in an Intro to Creative Writing Class. I admired and learned from Burroway's Writing Fiction, but this text didn't work as well for me. It has a useful framework to guide students through the elements of craft, but is largely devoid of joy and humor, which are so necessary in writing. The reading samples skew way too white and old, like a collection of old New Yorkers. Supplemental readings in a multiplicity of voices are a necessary corrective, but stil ...more
Apr 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I took so long to read it as I was often inspired into a spurt of writing before bed. Pick and choose what stories and exercises work for you and its a great tool.
Mar 11, 2009 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
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 02, 2013 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.
Apr 28, 2016 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
May 23, 2016 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.
Oct 01, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommended to K by: Peggy Balwin - creative writing class text
Shelves: 1read_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?
Riley K.
Dec 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is the book that all authors or writers should read. It definitely helped me hone my skills. The line editing guide is amazing.
Emily B.
Mar 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: artsy
This textbook makes ‘dissecting’ a story entertaining. Its large variety of lessons offer many perspectives as well. For example, I’ve found at least three different ways to look at plot. Is it a matter of thwarted desire (I wanted x, but then y happened), or is it more like a crime story, with an interrogator and culprit?

I often read this book outside of class too. I like the short stories and poems within this volume, as well as the writing prompts. I might save some of the prompts for later!
Pardeep Kaur
Nov 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Awesome book! I really recommend this book for new writers such as myself. Being a business major and never writing creatively, this book allowed me to learn new techniques for all sorts of genres, one chapter at a time. I really enjoyed reading this book even though it was for a class. The chapters are so helpful and the exercises throughout the chapters are there to sharpen writing skills further.
Shawney Hilpert
Dec 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a college textbook I rented for my Creative Writing class. It's an easy enough textbook to follow, and the professor did a good job quizzing us on the things that mattered. The content was full of definitions and example stories/essays/poems/screenplays. I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants to better understand writing in general or to get better at it.
Nov 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A great book if you are looking to get into creative writing. I acquired it in order to complete a college writing course and my professor studied under the author so that is kinda of neat. It goes over four genres of writing: creative non fiction, fiction, poetry, and drama. It has info, exercises, and examples of each genre. Very helpful and worth reading.
Sarah Schantz
Jan 23, 2015 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
Tree Langdon
Aug 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This text was the best tool I purchased for a Creative Writing course at our local college. It covers structure as well as encourages you to use your own voice.
Cecilia Hernandez
Dec 03, 2017 rated it did not like it
too much to read for the same repetitive information .
Excellent practical introduction and overview to the art of creative writing.
Taylor Carson
Apr 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Another helpful book. It was my textbook in my creative writing class in college. I learned a lot.
Aug 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-own
There are so many great poems, stories, and ideas in this book. Lots of advice for writers and explanations of how to advance your scenes and on editing and revision.
Jan 01, 2008 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
May 21, 2015 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
Jan 31, 2008 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 Annie ...more
Jun 14, 2016 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 16, 2011 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
Debbie Bateman
Apr 24, 2012 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.
Sep 16, 2008 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.
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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

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