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Textbook The Practice of Creative Writing by Heather Sellers

Bedford’s Student Site includes additional practices and projects.

Introduction: How Creative Writing Works (Use NOVA Connect log in for Films on Demand database)

  • Research (SEGMENT) (05:48) from The Write Stuff: Essentials of Becoming a Writer

This segment highlights the importance of research for creative writing, which we will practice throughout the semester in the Discovery Journal.

Description from Films on Demand: “Authors conduct research in various ways. Some study human nature and some take on aspects of their characters lives. Some authors spend years reading background material and interviewing experts to ensure the accuracy of their work.”

  • Writing: Notes and Style (SEGMENT) (04:12) from In the Beginning: So You Want to Write a Story

This segment addresses both note-taking from life and imitation in writing. The note-taking details connect to the Discovery Journal and the various creative writing exercises we will develop throughout the course. Imitation is a technique we will practice several times throughout the course, and test as an essential skill in the midterm exam.

Description from Films on Demand: “Some writers are copious note takers who develop a broad spectrum of raw material from personal observations. On the other hand, writers may not want the “real world” to intrude upon their creative processes. Imitation and modeling can be very instructive at the early stages of writing.”

The Practice Of Creative Writing Heather Sellers Ebook Free Pdf

Chapter 1 Finding Focus (Use NOVA Connect log in for Films on Demand database)

  • Creative Process of Writing (SEGMENT) (04:36)

This segment features different writers talking about how they get started and where their inspiration comes from. Some argue that consistent routine is essential; others argue that writers at different stages of maturity have different inclinations. All of the authors’ comments illustrate the importance of intentionality in the creative process.


Description from Films on Demand: “Women writers such as Mona Simpson and Isabel Allende discuss their particular approaches to the writing process. Amy Tan uses music throughout the process of writing a novel.”

Chapter 2 Reading to Write (Use NOVA Connect log in for Films on Demand database)

  • Read (SEGMENT) (04:11) from The Write Stuff: Essentials of Becoming a Writer

This segment features published authors talking about how reading helps writers develop their style and understanding of what makes good writing.

Description from Films on Demand: “Reading helps writers learn the rhythm and flow of language. Several authors credit a love of reading for their success as writers; some are suspicious of writers who are not avid readers.”

  • Role of Reading in the Writing Process (SEGMENT) (03:07) from Teaching Writing: A Process Approach

This segment addresses the importance of avid reading towards successful writing from the educators’ point of view. It highlights K-12 students in the classroom clips, but it makes points applicable to student writers of all ages and stages.

Creative Writing Meaning

Description from Films on Demand: “Students need to read professional writing as models. Good writers borrow ideas from what they read. Reading helps to develop grammar, mechanics, and literary devices for writing.”

  • “Revising Your Writing – 4 Things You Need to Know About Feedback”

In this YouTube vlog, author/musician/playwright Sara Crawford addresses challenges in sharing creative work with an audience, and how to use feedback productively. She has many useful points that will help creative writing students get into the right mindset when sharing work with classmates in our course.

  • Related Article: “How to Learn to Write by Reading” by Monica M. Clark.

Clark’s article on The Write Practice website talks about the fundamental concept of learning to improve one’s writing through active, intentional reading. The informal article begins waxing poetic about Francine Prose’s book, Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them. Clark admits she has not read the whole book yet, but she finds herself so inspired, she shares the crux of the main principle with examples. It’s good food for thought.

Chapter 3 Building Blocks

“Vonnegut Advice: Short Stories”

This video presents Kurt Vonnegut’s ideas about effective short story writing. The list provides interesting food for thought; as a prolific American writer, his prescription worked well for him, but it is hard to find rules that work for every writer.

“Why People Need Poetry”

In this TED video, you will hear this Harvard English Professor’s explanation of why poetry unites people, and is for all people. Burt explains how the patterns in poems can illuminate the human experience from all points of view—different ages, genders, ethnicities, and eras.

Chapter 4 Images

“How to write descriptively”

This Ted-Ed original lesson introduces the essential importance of sensory detail to effective literary writing, and it provides animated examples from different published works.

Description from the Ted-Ed site: The point of fiction is to cast a spell, a momentary illusion that you are living in the world of the story. But as a writer, how do you suck your readers into your stories in this way? Nalo Hopkinson shares some tips for how to use language to make your fiction really come alive.”

“Inspirations for Creative Writing: the sound of footsteps”

In this video, a narrator walks the viewer through a creative writing exercise by showing a mysterious person walking down a hall, and asking questions about who the person might be, where they are going, etc.

Description from YouTube: A video aimed at getting students to improve their creative writing skills by writing about sounds; this video focuses upon footsteps.

Chapter 5 Energy

“Story Pacing pt. I: Prose”

This video addresses how to use varied pacing in literary prose. Professor Anderson addressses when to use faster pacing vs. slower, what to do when you want to shift speeds, and how to write effectively in both. She provides strategies, examples to illustrate the different pacing, and as well as some useful do’s and don’ts.

“Three anti-social skills to improve your writing – Nadia Kalman”

This TED-Ed Original video lesson suggests that “you already have everything you need.” It presents ways to generate ideas for dialogue using your everyday activities and basic understanding of how people talk.

Description from Ted-Ed site: “You need social skills to have a conversation in real life — but they’re quite different from the skills you need to write good dialogue. Educator Nadia Kalman suggests a few ‘anti-social skills,’ like eavesdropping and muttering to yourself, that can help you write an effective dialogue for your next story.”

Chapter 6 Tension

“Kurt Vonnegut on the Shapes of Stories”

In this video segment, Vonnegut lectures with levity and humor about the universal shapes of stories. He illustrates “beautiful” and “simple” and easy to understand they are by telling several age-old stories and graphing them on an axis.

Related article: The Six Main Arcs in Storytelling, as Identified by an A.I. by Adrienne LaFrance Broadcast playout software.

This article tells how “A machine mapped the most frequently used emotional trajectories in fiction, and compared them with the ones readers like best.” in its opening paragraphs, it references Vonnegut’s theories, and links to the video above. Later in the article, it goes further in depth of the most comment arcs, and how they were electronically mapped.

“Writing Better Fiction: How to Increase Conflict and Tension”

In this YouTube vlog, author/musician/playwright Sara Crawford talks about different ways to think about fiction to help increase conflict and tension, which helps keep readers engaged. Her advice blends food for thought as you compose and plan, as well as useful questions to ask during the revision process.

Chapter 7 Pattern

“Using Perfect Rhymes – Creative Writing”

In this segment from the Berklee Online YouTube channel, creative writing instructor Caroline Harvey defines and provides examples of “perfect rhyme,” explaining how use of perfect rhyme “creates a feeling of stability in writing.” She goes on to talk about how to use imperfect rhymes to enrich the relationship between sound and a writer’s intended meaning.

“Alliteration, Assonance, and Internal Rhyme”
This instructional video defines and provides examples of all 3 of these sound patterns in poetry. While the target audience seems to be kids, the explanation and examples are so clear, it’s a great quick review.

“The index card treatment (The Creative Turn #004)”
from Yuvi Zalkow on Vimeo

The index card treatment (The Creative Turn #004) from Yuvi Zalkow on Vimeo.

This video includes great illustrations of different organization strategies for extended works of creative writing, such as index cards, Scrivener, and just taping the pages of your writing on the wall. Author and blogger Yuvi Zalkow talks about the process of organizing and reorganizing the content of a novel based on his own writing experience, as well as details from an interview with author Kate Maruyama. Interestingly, she talks about how her prior experience as a screenwriter informed her strategy when she revised the organization/pattern of her debut novel Harrowgate.

Description from Vimeo site: “In this video, I get to focus on Kate’s perspective on the index card treatment, which is how she lays out index cards to outline her novel. It not only can help with plotting a story, but with detecting patterns in your book. Kate also came up with a fabulous metaphor about a risk with the index card treatment — a metaphor that required all of my bad animation skills. She says many more things that I didn’t get a chance to animate, so check out the full one-hour audio conversation ( for more of her insights. Enjoy!”

Chapter 8 Insight


Lee Gutkind explains how to focus works of creative nonfiction (narrative nonfiction) with a clear point; he reviews strategies to get readers involved, as well as questions writers should ask themselves to confirm a finished piece has a focused meaning.

Chapter 9 Revision

“Revising Your Writing 6 Questions to Ask Yourself When Revising Your Novel”

Sara Crawford talks about the 6 questions she recommends asking about a novel during the revision process, especially in terms of submitting your work for publication. I think her questions are useful food for thought, regardless of genre.

YouTube description: “Questions that will help you to revise your novel and make it the best novel it can be.”

Chapter 10 Recipes

Additional Online Resources:

  • “Setting in Short Stories“
  • “More Than 25 Websites Where You Can Post Stories for Feedback” This page is from someone’s blog; it doesn’t look classy, but I like the idea of sharing it with students!
  • Webpage: Writing a Short Story (which includes a link to this page with lots of great images of different types of story arcs. We could consider borrowing some of these images to dress up the Assignments page for ch 6 Tension.

Last Updated: July 30, 2016

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