Book Recommendation: Immediate Fiction

5 Jun

by Cristina Rose

~~~

I’ll never forget the first time I encountered a Writer’s Guide. I was in Barnes & Noble, sometime in my early years of high school when I was first toying with the idea of writing for a living. I don’t exactly remember how I came upon it, but I picked up a book titled The Writer’s Idea Workshop by Jack Heffron. I fell in love with it within the first few pages, and seated myself at the cafe (being lucky enough to find a seat there–anyone who knows how crowded New York City Barnes & Nobles are knows it must have been fate) to flip through it while my mother finished shopping.

I was fascinated by my connection with the writer; it felt like I was having a conversation with him, rather than being preached to by someone who felt he was above me. I felt comfortable with him, as if I could practice and make mistakes and not be penalized for them. It almost felt like I was a baby again being taught how to walk by my parents.

And this is how I’ve felt about most writer’s guides I’ve encountered. While a school setting can be helpful, with a chance to workshop with other writers and often published professors, I enjoy the opportunity to work at my own pace. And though I’ve had my doubts about how helpful these guides really are in t he long run, I enjoy them all the same.

But despite how awesome The Writer’s Idea Workshop is (and it is awesome!), that’s not the book I’ll be talking about today.  For my first book recommendation, I’d like to introduce you to  Jerry Cleaver’s Immediate Fiction.


Some of you out there might have the same reaction I did when I saw the title. To be honest, I cringed–I had to read it for my Creative Writing class this past semester, and I knew as a practiced writer that there is no such thing as “immediate” fiction. I was also skeptical, as I just mentioned, of writer’s guides. Despite my love for them, I knew that they can only go so far before the writer is left on her own. And once that time comes, the writer has to rely on herself–something the book might not have taught her to do, or possibly worked against.

But I opened the cover and, all preconceived biases aside, was immediately interested. My first assignment was to read the introduction, which is where the writer caught me–something that’s very rare,  as I usually find introductions tedious and boring. He writes in the conversational, writer-to-writer tone I love so much that makes the reader instantly comfortable and receptive, but with enough confidence to be trusted as a sensei-type figure on the matter.

As for the writing advice itself, Cleaver covers the basics that every other guide does, such as the “show, don’t tell” rule, as well as the not-so-obvious and unique suggestions that even the seasoned author will find useful.

The book also offers several great exercises per chapter, which are helpful either for sparking ideas or just practicing with essential elements such as setting and character development. And the prompts are anything but boring.

Cleaver also does a great job of covering the process of writing, from the initial idea to the writing itself, to the revision and the final product. Though he can occasionally make writing sound like it has fixed, inflexible rules (which any writer strongly dislikes), it’s more a matter of his wording than his method of teaching. He does recognize the need for flexibility and variation in writing, which is evident in the flexible “rules” to his writing exercises.

Overall, I’d highly recommend this book to any writer who wants some practice, a refresher on the basics, or just a conversation with another witty and talented author. While I still stick to my opinion that the best writing is self-taught, I’d definitely consider keeping this book handy the next time I write or need  a push in the right direction. If you like it, consider picking up The Writer’s Idea Workshop, as well!

~~~

Cristina Rose has recently earned a fixed position at her internship as a reporter for a local newspaper. She is finishing up her second semester of her Sophomore year at her college and plans to tackle a long list of reading and writing goals as soon as the summer starts. You can read about her on her blog and follow her on twitter.

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13 Responses to “Book Recommendation: Immediate Fiction”

  1. Jules June 5, 2010 at 12:17 AM #

    I think my two favorite books on writing are “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers” by Renni Browne and David King (which will pulverize and heal you of your bad and beloved writing habits) and “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg, which doesn’t so much teach you how to write, but how to make writing a lifestyle. Fantastic reading.

    WIll definitely pick up the two you recommended, also!

    • Cristina Guarino June 5, 2010 at 11:05 AM #

      I’ll be sure to check those out! I hope you enjoy these, they’re great as well.

  2. Julie Eshbaugh June 5, 2010 at 12:46 AM #

    Great post Cristina! I just came from the bookstore; I wish I’d read this before I went! 🙂
    My favorite book about writing might be Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Like Natalie Goldberg’s books, it’s as much about life as it is about writing.

    • Cristina Guarino June 5, 2010 at 11:05 AM #

      Why thank you Julie! 😀 I’m sorry you read this too late; if I knew you were going I would have let you know! I’ll check out Bird by Bird, definitely sounds like my kind of book.

  3. svonnah June 5, 2010 at 9:50 AM #

    Totally gonna buy this book. Thank you so much for the rec Cristina!

    • Cristina Guarino June 5, 2010 at 11:06 AM #

      Thanks Savannah, glad you liked it! Let me know how you find the book 🙂

  4. Kelly June 5, 2010 at 10:46 AM #

    Awesome rec!

    sigh…

    There goes another ten bucks+

    • Cristina Guarino June 5, 2010 at 11:06 AM #

      Haha thanks, and sorry! It’ll be worth it, I promise.

      • Cristina Guarino June 5, 2010 at 11:06 AM #

        Those $10 will be nothing once you make all that money from your bestseller 😉

  5. Kat Zhang June 5, 2010 at 6:29 PM #

    I own this book too–or, at least I think I do, lol. I used to go through writing books like water, and I definitely remember this cover, at the very least. Though…the cover is very similar to that of HOW TO WRITE A DAMN GOOD NOVEL, so maybe I’m getting them confused? 😛 Both are good, though! (and the latter, if I remember correctly, is quite funny at times)

  6. Biljana June 6, 2010 at 1:58 AM #

    Great article! 🙂 I’m not one for books on writing but I think I’ll check this one out.

  7. Glaiza June 10, 2010 at 12:36 AM #

    I’ll be on the look out for this book when I go browsing 🙂 I also highly recommend “By Cunning and Craft: sound advice and practical wisdom for fiction writers” by Peter Selgin. I love this book, the introduction alone hooked me. I’m also reading Chapter by Chapter by Heather Sellers, its good for getting into good writing habits but I occassionally disagree with some things in it.

    • Cristina Guarino June 10, 2010 at 10:02 AM #

      That’s what I love about these books though! It’s liberating reading on other writers’ writing habits/rules, but being able to disagree with them. I think it’s just another way to better know your own writing style, habits, etc.

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