B=Burroway & Takeaways: What Books on Craft Can Do (Feb 3)

There are a thousand tomes on writing – including this one (we’ll provide a reading list of them when we get to Z in our final lesson). Looking for a guide to how words work in a creative way? Consider Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft by Janet Burroway.

Burroway breaks the book into two sections, craft and genre, which are tabled below:



Let’s be clear, though. This book – or any book on writing – isn’t a cure-all. Here’s a quick dive into what it doesn’t cover.

The book doesn’t cover style, per se. Nor does it give rules on writing (and life) like my first-grade teacher (no water fountain for you kid – swallow your own saliva). It’s not a code – for that, try pick-up artists or religious dogma.  The book’s style is also rather dry. Its precise sentences show a deft understanding of the craft but cannot show you how to bring your story to life. I take that back . . . it can, but only to a point. There are “TRY THIS” boxes which give helpful general prompts – but the inspiration to write, the specific spark, must come from you (see Y: YOU for more).

The author focuses on crafting words for impact, which is the only reason to pick up a pen or tickle a keyboard. However, making your words connect to a reader is craft and more. Knowledge of craft, though helpful, leads to good writing in the same way that shooting a basketball well may or may not lead you to become an all-star basketball player on the court.

Burroway alludes to one last thing, a thing missing in many books on writing: regard for your reader. A deep respect for the craft has to be paired with a deeper respect for your reader. As a writer, don’t waste their time. What you write is valuable to you. Work like hell to ensure it is valuable to them.

LEARN: Buy a book on writing such as Burroway’s, or On Writing Well by William Zinsser for a technical knowledge of the craft, or The Elements of Style by Strunk & White for a basic primer.

USE: Read the book, either in conjunction with this series or afterwards. By having multiple viewpoints you acquire perspective.


Published by robanderik

We are long-time writers and editors, now living in the Middle East. Our idea is to create a series of tips to help others improve their writing and editing skills. Think of it as a lesson plan for ESL learners that combines the practical with the aspirational.

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