Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT Back to Creative Writing School by Bridget Whelan @agoodconfession #bookreview

Today’s team review comes from Terry, she blogs at

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Terry chose to read and review Back to Creative Writing School by Bridget Whelan


Back to Creative Writing School by Bridget Whelan

4 out of 5 stars

There are two distinct schools of thought concerning creative writing courses and ‘how to’ books: those who consider writing a skill that can be taught, and those who think that the ability to write compellingly is an innate talent that you either have or you don’t; yes, your craft can be improved upon, but if you don’t have what it takes to keep readers turning the pages, no amount of diligent study will make that much difference. I stand, arms folded, in the latter camp and, thus, approached this review choice with cynicism. I am delighted to report that I now bow to Bridget Whelan’s expertise!

Back To Creative Writing School is a charming and inspiring book that encourages the reader to discover the rhythm and beauty of words. At first I thought it was just a basic beginner’s guide for the student who has never tried to write so much as a descriptive paragraph; some of the instruction goes right back to the things you learn at school (hence the title, I’m guessing), like the difference between similies and metaphors. Many of the exercises, though, are so clever and unusual that they might help undiscovered talent to bloom—which is, I think, the book’s strength.

About half way through I found myself thinking, ‘hmm, yes, that’s a good point’ more than once, to the extent that I’d recommend any fellow ‘old hands’ to give this a read, too.   I’ll be the first to agree that writing is a constant learning process, and it’s good to remind oneself of the basics. I nodded my head in agreement at the examples of the unrealistic, information heavy dialogue often found in debut novels, the explanation about unnecessary adjectives and adverbs, the warning against the dreaded clichés and ‘telling not showing’, the use of onomatopoeia and alliteration. The only section I was not so keen on was the one about humour—I reckon that writing ‘funny’ is something for which you really do need to have an in built knack. The ability to analyse why something does or doesn’t work doesn’t necessarily provide the fine skill necessary for effective comic timing.

A few ‘thank yous’ to Ms Whelan: 1) for the excerpt of James Joyce’s ‘The Dead’—I have not read ‘The Dubliners’ since ‘A’ Level and had forgotten how much I loved it; 2) for making me laugh: I have about 200 superfluous occurrences of the word ‘just’ in all my first drafts, too!! And 3) I am one of the 3% of people who have the condition synaesthesia (a sensory mix-up in which you see letters, words and music as colours), and this was a reminder of what a gift it is to a writer.

In short: the innovative exercises in this book won’t teach you how to produce a spellbinding novel, but if you do have the talent it could well unlock the door to a new creative world.

Find a copy here from or




Guest Author Pete Denton

We’re back with another guest author interview today. Please welcome Pete Denton to the blog, I met Pete during the April A to Z Challenge 2013 as one of the many great people who were taking part and I began to follow his blog afterwards. Pete kindly agreed to be our guest today and talk about his writing journey.

Pete DentonLet’s find our more about Pete;

1) Where is your home town?

I am from Sheffield, which is the capital city of the People’s Republic of South Yorkshire, once the stainless steel and cutlery capital of the world. Now, littered with Starbucks and Costa Coffees like the rest of the planet.

2) When did you start writing?

I think I’ve always enjoyed writing or at least imagining stories and characters in my head. At school I enjoyed English lessons and have always tinkered with stories. I wrote my first book, a dungeons and dragons style book, when I was thirteen.

3) I’m very impressed that you went “Back to school” and took a creative writing diploma, tell us why?

I’d written many first drafts, but lacked the confidence and skills to taken them to the next stage. My wife sent me an email from our union that they were paying for members to do a writing course with the Open University. I jumped at the chance and enjoyed it so much I decided to enrol for the Diploma in Creative Writing. I learnt about editing and re-drafting so I could understand what I needed to do next with my work. Having tutors and fellow students read and critique my work helped me improve my writing and it brought me into a writing group. Without doubt, the best decision of my life!

4) You have written short stories, flash fiction and scripts, tell us about some of your work.

My preference is for the longer writing. I wrote the script for my final assignment on the OU course about a teenage girl who returns home to questions from the police after being missing for three days. I keep meaning to tinker with it and send it off to the BBC as a one-off drama, but never seem to get around to it.

Short stories for the course have been enjoyable and I love writing flash fiction to help hone my skills, but I never seem to write enough of them as I’m always working on novels.

5) You’ve just completed the July Camp NaNoWriMo, what is it? how did you get on and what did you write about?

The original National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo is in November and encourages you to write a 50k novel in a calendar month. Seems crazy, but it seems to work. It’s free to take part (though they encourage donations) and you find good support from fellow participants.

They also run two Camp NaNo during the year where you can set your own word count. I have to say, July seems so long ago already! I managed to hit the 50k word count, but haven’t written anything since. The novel is the second in what I hope will be my British Crime series. I need to finishing mapping out the rest of the book and just need to get my finger out and write the damned thing!

6) We met (virtually) during the April A to Z Challenge, was that your first year of taking part?

It was. I’d intended on taking part last year, but in the end didn’t have the time to dedicate myself to it properly so decided to wait until this year.

7) Would you recommend the A to Z Challenge to others? Why?

Now, there is a question! And, I’m not sure how to answer. During April, I had a blast. I had a vague plan for about a third of the posts when April hit. Looking back, I don’t think that was enough. I found it hard going trying to visit and support fellow bloggers (like yourself) taking part and keep writing the posts each evening. A title alone does not mean a post is written and ready to post!

May was a tough month as a result and my blogging seems to have suffered each month since as I seem to have had a bit of a burn-out. More planning and writing 90% of the posts ahead of time would have made all the difference so I won’t be taking part again in 2014, but might the following year. Just the reading next time.

If you post a lot anyway and have time I definitely recommend it. If in doubt maybe better to read other posts instead.

8) I loved your post “Twitter made me buy a Kindle” can you quickly tell the readers why Twitter did this?

Thanks 🙂

When I started blogging I was firmly in the NO TO E-READERS camp. Then I joined Twitter and met a whole host of writers who had self-published their work and I wanted to read them. My writing group decided to self-publish a collection of short stories from our course and I decided to take the plunge into self-publishing and e-books. The next step was to buy a Kindle.

I suffer a bit from arthritis in my hands and holding a thick book like a 600+ page David Baldacci curtails my reading time sometimes and the Kindle has solved that. Every book now weighs the same. I’ve downloaded loads of e-book that are not available in print. I’m so glad Twitter forced me to make the purchase.

9) Do you go down the e-book route for all of your own work?

So far, my only published work is in the anthology. I do plan on self-publishing when the time is right and I finish my latest draft.

10) Where can readers find your blog? What are your writing plans for the rest of 2013?

 You can find me at http://petedenton/ and I do plan on stepping up my blogging again as it’s a great way to get back into a regular writing routine.

Plans for 2013 are to finish the latest draft of my crime novel. Once that is done it will be off to my beta readers and I’ll take it from there. I hope to finish the first draft of the follow-up by the end of the year and try and self-publish and see what happens.

Thank you Pete and Good Luck with the writing, is anyone going to be taking on the NaNoWriMo this November?