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The Cambridge Introduction to Creative Writing
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  • 12 b/w illus.
  • Page extent: 290 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.602 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 808/.042
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: PE1413 .M583 2007
  • LC Subject headings:
    • English language--Rhetoric--Problems, exercises, etc
    • Creative writing--Problems, exercises, etc
    • Report writing

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521838801)

The Cambridge Introduction to
Creative Writing

This pioneering book introduces students to the practice and art of creative writing and creative reading. It offers a fresh, distinctive and beautifully written synthesis of the discipline. David Morley discusses where creative writing comes from, the various forms and camouflages it has taken, and why we teach and learn the arts of fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction. He looks at creative writing in performance; as public art, as visual art, as e-literature and as an act of community. As a leading poet, critic and award-winning teacher of the subject, Morley finds new engagements for creative writing in the creative academy and within science. Accessible, entertaining and groundbreaking, The Cambridge Introduction to Creative Writing is not only a useful textbook for students and teachers of writing, but also an inspiring read in its own right. Aspiring authors and teachers of writing will find much to discover and enjoy.

DAVID MORLEY is Associate Professor in English and Director of the Warwick Writing Programme at the University of Warwick.

Cambridge Introductions to Literature

This series is designed to introduce students to key topics and authors. Accessible and lively, these introductions will also appeal to readers who want to broaden their understanding of the books and authors they enjoy.

  •Ideal for students, teachers, and lecturers
  •Concise, yet packed with essential information
  •Key suggestions for further reading

Titles in this series:

Eric Bulson The Cambridge Introduction to James Joyce

John Xiros Cooper The Cambridge Introduction to T. S. Eliot

Kirk Curnutt The Cambridge Introduction to F. Scott Fitzgerald

Janette Dillon The Cambridge Introduction to Early English Theatre

Janette Dillon The Cambridge Introduction to Shakespeare’s Tragedies

Jane Goldman The Cambridge Introduction to Virginia Woolf

Kevin J. Hayes The Cambridge Introduction to Herman Melville

David Holdeman The Cambridge Introduction to W. B. Yeats

M. Jimmie Killingsworth The Cambridge Introduction to Walt Whitman

Pericles Lewis The Cambridge Introduction to Modernism

Ronan McDonald The Cambridge Introduction to Samuel Beckett

Wendy Martin The Cambridge Introduction to Emily Dickinson

Peter Messent The Cambridge Introduction to Mark Twain

David Morley The Cambridge Introduction to Creative Writing

Ira Nadel The Cambridge Introduction to Ezra Pound

Leland S. Person The Cambridge Introduction to Nathaniel Hawthorne

John Peters The Cambridge Introduction to Joseph Conrad

Sarah Robbins The Cambridge Introduction to Harriet Beecher Stowe

Martin Scofield The Cambridge Introduction to the American Short Story

Emma Smith The Cambridge Introduction to Shakespeare

Peter Thomson The Cambridge Introduction to English Theatre, 1660–1900

Janet Todd The Cambridge Introduction to Jane Austen

The Cambridge Introduction to

Creative Writing


Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo

Cambridge University Press
The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 8RU, UK

Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York
Information on this title:

© David Morley 2007

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception
and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements,
no reproduction of any part may take place without
the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 2007

Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge

A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library

Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication data

Morley, David, 1964--
The Cambridge introduction to creative writing / David Morley.
p. cm. -- (Cambridge introductions to literature)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN-13 978-0-521-83880-1 (hardback: alk. paper)
ISBN-10 0-521-83880-0 (hardback: alk. paper)
ISBN-13 978-0-521-54754-3 (pbk.: alk. paper)
ISBN-10 0-521-54754-7 (pbk.: alk. paper)
1. English language – Rhetoric – Problems, exercises,
etc. 2. Creative writing – Problems, exercises, etc. 3. Report writing. I. Title. II. Series.
PE1413.M583 2007
808′.042 – dc22

ISBN 978-0-521-83880-1 hardback
ISBN 978-0-521-54754-3 paperback

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs
for external or third-party Internet websites referred to in this publication, and does not
guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

To teachers

‘several things dovetailed in my mind and at once it struck me, what quality went to form . . . Achievement especially in Literature & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously – I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.’

John Keats

‘When it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. The poet, too, is not nearly so concerned with describing facts as with creating images.’

Niels Bohr


  Preface page xi
  Acknowledgements xv
Chapter 1   Introducing creative writing 1
Chapter 2   Creative writing in the world 36
Chapter 3   Challenges of creative writing 64
Chapter 4   Composition and creative writing 88
Chapter 5   Processes of creative writing 125
Chapter 6   The practice of fiction 155
Chapter 7   Creative nonfiction 177
Chapter 8   Writing poetry 194
Chapter 9   Performing writing 215
Chapter 10   Writing in the community and academy 234
  Illustrative bibliography 258
  Index 264


The purpose of this book is to introduce readers to the practice of creative writing. Equally, the purpose of this book is to introduce writers to the practice of creative reading. Writing and reading share an interdependent orbit around the open space of language.

This double helix of reading and writing makes you more alert to your potential as a reader and writer of yourself, of other people and of other writers. It also creates a discipline in your life that makes these acts of attention a way of life. It is then vital you learn to work alone and beyond your potential – writers and readers alike work beyond their own intelligence.

As this is an introduction to a discipline, we discuss where creative writing comes from, the various forms and camouflages it has taken and why we teach and learn it. I do not present you with an anatomy of the various histories of creative writing in higher education; there are fine examples available in print (Dawson, 2005; Myers, 1995).

The first five chapters explore principles and procedures of creative writing that apply generally to the writing and techniques of fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry and, to some extent, drama. Guests to this party include reading, criticism, vocation, influence, reflection, experience, play, publishing, editing, language, translation, imitation, experiment, design, form, quality, discipline, notebooks, working habits, fieldwork, composition, incubation, planning, fluency, finishing, rewriting, deadlines, precision, confidence, practice, audience, voice and selves. We look at the meaning and sound of language; the different states of mind we use for writing; the workshop in its various guises and disguises; and the enemies and allies of creativity. I also explore the characteristics of mind by which we might develop writerly stamina.

The first five chapters concern the generics; Chapters Six to Nine introduce important genres. They present some of the techniques and practice for fiction, poetry and the international supergenre, creative nonfiction. However, not all creative writers write for the page. We look at creative writing as a verbal art in performance; as hybrid with public and visual art; and as electronic literature. I argue that none of these is at odds with the making of books; they are all spaces open to creative literary practice. Chapter Ten looks at writing as an act of community; I then attempt to speculate modest engagements for creative writing in the creative academy, for example within science.

For experts in this field, all of what I have to say is rudimentary. This book is for creative writing students, beginning writers and new teachers of writing. The cast of this book is about the roots of creativity in writing, and the routes into the writing of fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry, rather than higher techniques. My reason for the book’s architecture is to send you immediately into the action of writing, by offering a series of open spaces for discussion, reflection and practice. It has been argued that half the skills a writer needs to learn are skills of psychological sturdiness, and the other half are skills of literary craft (Bly, 2001: xix). I agree, and the book is designed to address these complementary phases of creative development.

This is an introduction, partial and selective. No book can, or should, cover everything. I think that you should be given open space to find your own way in these matters, and to argue back on points I take to extremes. Given its length, I centre on topics rather than texts, tempting though it was to select examples instead of moving forward single-handed. Guidance is offered through the lists of recommended reading, and by following up the next section on examples and sources. A book about creative writing requires lifetime subscription to The Alexandrian Library, and my recommended reading lists scan only the eye-level shelves. That said, ‘A man will read a library to write just one book’ – Dr Johnson. Those lists are starting points.

Since this is a book about, of all things, creative writing, I tried to keep my language open and personal, tuning out academic white noise – citations only when necessary, endnotes shown the door. I welcomed into the book subjective and general values like pleasure, passion, experience, love, intuition, hate, pain and playfulness. Moreover, the book is written to be read from beginning to end, as a story of learning. It is not a hoard of tips, or a compendium of games. I wanted to make a book that hits things fresh; one that is written from inside writing. While I do not disguise the difficulties of process, I celebrate its epiphanies, especially the euphoria of reading. Reading and writing are never-ending journeys. I wanted to remind myself of how it feels to be beginning as a writer, the first excitements of reading, the waking in created countries.

Creative writing – even clear writing – closes distances between us. It makes us wake up. What this book offers you is an introduction and an invitation. Think of it as a miniature stage: the matters that are closest to the covers are your entrances and exits. What is in the middle is play, where you are both the players and – with your acceptance of this invitation – those upon whom ideas and language play.

I gathered the arguments and discussions from my own reading but also from others more deeply and widely read than myself. I took examples of practice from hundreds of discussions with contemporary writers about their philosophies, influences and craft. I reflected on my own teaching of creative writing in universities, adult education, communities and schools; and co-teaching and observing teaching in the English-speaking world, especially the United States, Canada and in Europe. Writing this book has been a chastening personal experience, and my admiration for writers and teachers has increased inestimably. Errors in this book are my responsibility.

Examples and sources for writers

Readers who wish to become writers find resonance – even purpose – in statements on the writing process made by authors who have lived their lives by the word. I pepper the text with examples, and attempt to synthesise some of the best standard guidance. When thinking about the aims and processes of creative writing, literary biographies and autobiographies are a useful place to begin to find out about a writer’s working methods and philosophy. The Paris Review interviews, downloadable at the journal’s website, remain the best resource for testimonies by writers about their practice. There are other rich sources for this type of material (Allen, 1948; Brown and Paterson, 2003; Burke, 1995; Haffenden, 1981; Harmon, 2003; Herbert and Hollis, 2000).

In writing, what we leave half-said is as significant as what we spell out. I signal a variety of key works and further reading that amplify, or exemplify, matters that need your closer attention, especially in regard to writing fiction, creative nonfiction and poems. There are several superb technical books on imaginative and formal writing (Behn and Twichell, 1992; Bernays and Painter, 1991; Burroway, 2006; Fussell, 1979; Koch, 1990; Matthews and Brotchie, 1998; Novakovich, 1995; Padgett, 2000; Steele, 1999; Stein, 1995; Strand and Boland, 2000); on the practical and philosophical processes of writing fiction, poetry or creative nonfiction (Addonizio and Laux, 1997; Boisseau and Wallace, 2004; Brande, 1981; Burroway, 2003; Dillard, 1989; Eshleman, 2001; Gardner, 1983, 1985; Gutkind, 1997; Hughes, 1967; Hugo, 1979; King, 2000; Kinzie, 1999; Kundera, 2000; Lamott, 1995; Lodge, 1992; Oliver, 1994; Packard, 1992; Sansom, 1994; Stein, 1995; Zinsser, 1976); on creative writing, revision and rewriting (Anderson, 2006; Bell and Magrs, 2001; Browne and King, 2004; Le Guin, 1998; Mills, 2006; Ostrom et al., 2001; Schaefer and Diamond, 1998); and on the nature of creativity and the psychology of writing (Boden, 2004; Hershman and Lieb, 1998; Hunt and Sampson, 2006; Koestler, 1975; Lakoff and Johnson, 1980; Pfenninger and Shubik, 2001; Pope, 2005; Turner, 1996). On questions of style, you will find your own answers as you read and practise. Be sure to pack The Elements of Style (Strunk and White, 2000) with you on the journey; it will take little room compared to what it offers so generously.

Extensive quotation of primary texts is, unfortunately, expensive in permissions. I offer examples in the main text and epigraphs to chapters, but guide readers towards literature within commonly used anthologies, as widespread in public libraries as they are on international university reading lists. You need not possess those anthologies to use this book. This is the key:


The Norton Anthology of American Literature, 6th edition/package 1: vols. A and B. General editor: Nina Baym, Norton, 2003.


The Norton Anthology of American Literature, 6th edition/package 2: vols. C, D and E. General editor: Nina Baym, Norton, 2003.


The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 7th edition/vol. 1. General editors: M. H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt, Norton, 2000.


The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 7th edition/vol. 2. General editors: M. H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt, Norton, 2000.


The Norton Anthology of Poetry, 5th edition. Editors: Margaret Ferguson, Mary Jo Salter and Jon Stallworthy, Norton, 2005.


Writing creatively can feel a little like working out logistical, even mathematical, challenges. Writing Games provide this elegant calculus in taut form. A bare page can terrify; a game simulates the real thing, or is a means of keeping your hand in, almost like playing scales. With practice, simulations can become the real thing. No writer creates a book at one sitting; they write it in stages, as passages, scenes and stanzas, and each stage requires several drafts. Writing Games clone this process, and are often true to the natural rhythm of literary production in that technique and style are often learned on the job. There are many creative writing projects embedded in the text, as well as ideas and suggestions that students and teachers can use as starting points for games. Within the body of each chapter, I offer some self-standing games that help you explore its issues. Each project has an aim for judging progress.


My wife Siobhan Keenan provided wonderful support, ideas and criticism. I thank my colleagues at the University of Warwick – above all, Jeremy Treglown, who took on all of my administrative and managerial duties during the period of composition; and my friend Peter Blegvad, whose drawings are a much-needed parallel world for the reader. Peter Blegvad, with Maureen Freely, led me towards authors I simply would not have come across, left to my own devices. Thanks are due to the University of Warwick for research leave, and for a Warwick Award for Teaching Excellence, the proceeds of which were spent researching this book. Thanks to those who made life easier during the time of writing this book, especially Peter Mack and Thomas Docherty.

My thanks to those who discussed some of these ideas, or who, over the years, were teachers or co-teachers: Anne Ashworth, Susan Bassnett, Jonathan Bate, Richard Beard, Mike Bell, Jay Boyer, Zoe Brigley, Andy Brown, Elizabeth Cameron, Ron Carlson, Peter Carpenter, Nina Cassian, Jonathan Coe, Peter Davidson, Douglas Dunn, Brian Follett, Maureen Freely, Dana Gioia, Jon Glover, David Hart, Miroslav Holub, Ted Hughes, Russell Celyn Jones, Stephen Knight, Doris Lessing, Denise Levertov, Emma McCormack, Paul Muldoon, Les Murray, Bernard O’Donoghue, Maggie O’Farrell, Melissa Pritchard, Al Purdy, Jewell Parker Rhodes, Jane Rogers, Carol Chillington Rutter, William Scammell, Michael Schmidt, Jane Stevenson, George Szirtes, Michelene Wandor; and to the following institutions where thinking took place: the Arvon Foundation, the University of Warwick, National Association of Writers in Education and the Virginia Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University. I field-tested many of the Writing Games in the United States, Europe and China. I thank the thousands of members of the public, students, school pupils, medical workers, teachers – and writers – who let me play. Finally, thanks to my former teacher, Charles Tomlinson, who taught me that the first cause of creative writing is creative reading.

Extracts and versions of this text appeared in a slightly altered form in Anon Magazine (Edinburgh), the Guardian and Poetry Review (London).



Write a 500-word introduction to your own imaginary collected poems or complete stories. Assume your working life has undergone a struggle, from obscurity to hard-won fame. This is your final opportunity to say something wise to your readers and critics. What were your strengths; and why did your audience first ignore your writing, then welcome it? Do you have any literary or personal debts outstanding? Now you can settle them publicly. State what you think the future holds for your work.

AIM: Writers feel intense dissatisfaction. Learn to wait, and work at it; get used to that feeling of being perpetually dissatisfied with your abilities, achievements and the mercury-movement of language as you try to control it:

Trying to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say
T. S. Eliot, The Four Quartets (1943)

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