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Immediate Fiction: A Complete Writing Course Reprint Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 158 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0312302764
ISBN-10: 0312302762
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Musicians and artists might need talent to succeed, but writers don't, says Jerry Cleaver in Immediate Fiction. Cleaver allows that talent is needed to win a National Book Award, say, but otherwise, any of us can do it. All we need is the ability to "develop and exercise sadistic license." The operative word is conflict. As Cleaver puts it, "Happy lives make lousy novels.... If the characters are having a good time, the reader is not." He takes the mystery out of fiction writing. You don't have to write about what you know, he says; write what you can imagine. Don't fret if you can't find large chunks of time to write. Start with five minutes on weekdays and 20 on weekends, and you'll have 100 to 300 pages by year's end. Perhaps most refreshing about Cleaver's approach is the lack of directives. Some writing instructors demand that you work with an outline; others forbid it. Cleaver claims that teachers who tell you to do it one way or the other are telling you not how you work best, but how they work best. --Jane Steinberg --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Adages ("Want + obstacle = conflict"), advice ("Make all of your story worth showing") and even an assortment of solitary words author Jerry Cleaver considers important ("fear," "worry," "hope") stand out in boldfaced type on the pages of Immediate Fiction: A Complete Writing Course. Cleaver, who founded the Chicago writers' workshop the Writers' Loft and has ghostwritten several books, insists that all one needs to be a successful writer is the "right tools" (while painting may require "inborn talent," writing doesn't) and in enthusiastic prose, he describes those tools one by one. With its writing exercises, time management hints and endlessly jocular encouragement, this volume will please many a would-be Welty or Wilde. (St. Martin's, $24.95 304p ISBN 0-312-28716-X)

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (December 3, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312302762
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312302764
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (158 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,912 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I graduated a couple of years ago from a university that specializes in cranking out creative writers. (I apologize if I have not successfully masked my deep bitterness; usually I do a decent job of appearing well-adjusted.) I learned more from reading this book than I learned from four long years of higher learning. Mr. Cleaver is not vague. Somehow he managed to come up with a detailed, specific answer for each one of the countless questions I had when I began reading his book. (What constitutes conflict? What is the best way to end a chapter? What are the most common pitfalls, and how can I avoid them? And on and on!) If you are serious about amounting to anything as a writer, you need to read IMMEDIATE FICTION. The author's instruction and advice leave no stone unturned. There is no comparable book out there on this subject, with the possible exception of Dorothea Brande's classic BECOMING A WRITER. Yes, come to think of it, you should probably pick up that one, too. Five stars for both of them!
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Format: Hardcover
If you want to become a better writer or a more critical reader, buy this book. Most offerings in this genre resemble a well picked over smorgasbord in which one finds a few good tips among acres of wilted lettuce. What remains of the main course, conflict creation, resolution and character development is incoherently scattered among the weeds. Cleaver gets it right by giving us a complete road map to writing, self-editing and publishing fiction. He shows how to convert your onmiscient narrator essays into scenes and dialogue that drive the plot, develop character(and keep the reader's attention), how to replace those "telling" images of emotion(e.g.,"icy stab in the stomach") with "showing" the emotion through thought and dialogue. Not only is this book a "sine qua non" for writer's, it is a fun read.
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Format: Hardcover
I have been writing all of my life and have read many books about writing. Immediate Fiction by Jerry Cleaver is the only book about writing that I would put next to Dorthea Brande's classic Becoming a Writer. When Brande's book was published in 1934, the information she gave to writers was not only ahead of its time, but timeless through the many decades since its first published date. The same can be said and will be said about Jerry's book. In a time when "story" is driven by what is in the media and pop culture, Jerry tells us about what really makes a story - want, obstacle, action - thus, developing the characters and the conflict as the story progresses. I have several different stories and characters I have been working on for years and I thought I knew well. When I applied the - want, obstacle, action - my characters and their conflict developed better because I finally found out what they wanted. Jerry gives writers ideas about finding time to write, getting organized to write and completing projects that have lost their way. I cannot recommend Jerry's book enough.
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Format: Hardcover
My high school english teacher, Mr. Severe, once told me if I really want to become a great writer I must read James Joyce's ULYSSES from beginning to end at least twice. I will never know if he was right because I couldn't get through that possibly great, but definitely puzzling book even once. But I did get through Jerry Cleaver's extremely straightforward IMMEDIATE FICTION, and I recommend it highly to anyone who truly wishes to succeed as a writer. The instruction I found in these pages was immediately helpful; I was able to solve a couple of problems I have had with my writing for years. Show me anyone else out there who has defined conflict so eloquently and concisely. When he writes about his discoveries in the strange world of writing creatively, I am consistently surprised by the thoroughness of his insights. I only wish he had published this book when I was seventeen. (I am almost twice that age now.) Please do yourself a favor and give this book a try.
...I heard he has a writing workshop in Chicago and I am quite seriously considering packing my bags and jumping on the next train heading to the Midwest.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First, you should know that I never do the exercises in writing books like this. I want to read all the advice and evaluate it before I put it into practice so I didn't do what the author said. I began this book with some hope that it would be more practical than other writing books than just repeat the same old advice like: "write what you know. Work on finding your 'voice.' Create likeable characters. Write the end first." etc. Some writers enjoy making it sound like such an impossible chore to write that their advice is mostly discouraging.

Happily, Cleaver debunks a lot of this advice and offers hope. Although his advice won't bowl you over at first, as you read on you become more convinced that this writing thing has been made more complex than it needs to be. Most of the writing instructors and books you've read really fall more under the category of artsy-tartsy "literary theory," which is fine for examining literature after the fact, but not very helpful in the writing process.

So when Cleaver reveals the 1,2,3 of dramatic writing (want, obstacle, and action) you don't really feel like you're hearing anything new. (Gee, conflict is important. What a suprise.) But like I said, once you see that Cleaver is releasing you from a lot of other misguided advice and actually showing you the sure and steady way to develop on your own, he makes his case.

He also discusses different approaches and writing practices, encouraging the reader to do what works for him. Also advice on showing (not telling) and character emotion (where the connection to your reader is made) have the ring of truth.

I think this book is very good for writers who want to cut through the literary rhetoric and just write. I just finished reading it, but Cleaver's advice looks easy to take and seemed very insightful to me once I read his whole approach.
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