Barbara Dynes (Murdoch Books/Constable & Robinson) 2014, 240pp, RRP $19.99

This is a comprehensive instruction manual that covers all the creative writing basics across 50 short chapters. Each chapter includes easy to follow explanations, examples, tips and exercises. Lessons are condensed into straightforward skill summaries. Beginner writers will find excellent guidance here. Experienced writers who have struggled with a particular aspect of their craft will need to pick over the text to sift out what is appropriate to them. Masterclasses In Creative Writing - Barbara Dynes - Murdoch - The Clothesline

Dynes is careful to address novelists and short story writers in all chapters, and her focus is very tightly held on commercial fiction (for example, women’s magazines). After all, she says, what’s the point if you can’t sell it? Literary writers may still find value here, but they will need to pan for little nuggets of wisdom rather than take everything at face value.

While there is a lot of helpful and digestible content here, I was left with the feeling that this was more how-to than masterclass. When I think of a masterclass I think of a sage expert who has herself mastered the rules and then broken them in interesting ways. I think of that wise writer passing on knowledge to me that I can’t get elsewhere, knowledge that is specific to that person’s writing experience. Rather than that, Masterclasses is a concise summary of the rules of creative writing.

Dynes notes in her introduction, “Throughout the book, please read ‘he’ to encompass both men and women. No sexism intended!” Unfortunately, whatever her intention, she is being sexist and by ignoring ‘she’ Dynes is not talking to the women writers much of her content seems tailored for.

Lynette Washington

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