Just the right stress

The Routledge Creative Writing Coursebook. First Edition

May 25, 2007

After an opening chapter entitled "Writing as Art", Paul Mills devotes the rest of his book to five genres: personal narrative, poetry, fiction, children's fiction and drama. Each of the chapters is further divided into sections; the last chapter on drama, for example, discusses film, radio and theatre.

The book is intended for students on creative writing courses, although the teachers of such courses will also benefit from reading it.

An unusual feature of Mills's book is its eclectic range of references and quotations: in the space of a few pages he refers to the 16th-century English poet Sir Thomas Wyatt, the television soap Coronation Street and Quentin Tarantino's film Reservoir Dogs.

This is a book completely free of snobbery; it is totally focused on the needs of its readers.

Throughout his book, Mills asks many questions of his readers, usually acknowledging that there are rarely satisfactory answers to them. "Should students of creative writing continue to be encouraged to focus on personal experience as their foremost subject, and so risk neglecting themes such as war, poverty, terrorism, global warming, human rights, racism, marginality?" This is an important question and, characteristically, Mills debates it, rather than attempting to resolve it for his readers.

Each of the six chapters concludes with sound, practical advice for aspiring writers, and with useful exercises. Even more pragmatically, each of these sections concludes with a page entitled "Revision and editing".

While all six chapters are full of shrewd, economical insights into their subjects, the one devoted to poetry will probably be the most informative and helpful for students of creative writing.

Clearly aware that many of them regard such essential elements of poetry as metre and stress with trepidation or boredom, Mills wisely delays their appearance until near the chapter's conclusion. Moreover, he performs a valuable service to students with this suggestion: "Instead of the usual question 'What does it mean?', the preferred question should be 'How does it speak?'"

The Routledge Creative Writing Coursebook. First Edition

Author - Paul Mills
Publisher - Routledge
Pages - 242
Price - £15.99
ISBN - 9780415317856

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