Immediate Fiction by Jerry Cleaver is a writing book I respect half-way. It has everything you need to know to write a good story. It distills story craft into five needed elements to make writing a story easy: conflict (want + obstacle), action, resolution, emotion, and showing. It’s repetitive to the point where you want to groan, but he acknowledges the repetitive nature of the book. Furthermore, it is a writing course designed to get you to study on your own, and the casual, friendly tone makes it easy to follow.
However, I don’t respect this book all the way because of how little he appears to respect other authors who are in the boat with him, trying to make sense of story craft.
He quotes Aristotle. He quotes Shakespeare. He gives authors and titles of books on writing really likes. But when it’s a book on writing he doesn’t like (which I believe is James N. Frey’s How to Write a Damn Good Novel from Cleaver’s mention of an author explaining how each story has its own “premise”), he gives no mention of the author. Sure, sometimes, knowing the name of the author is irrelevant. But what really irks me is that even though Cleaver acknowledges that there’s no one right way to write, he dismisses ideas and methods that he disagrees with. I respect authors that engage with material that contradicts what they think, and has a conversation with those authors. Not mentioning the authors makes me wonder if Cleaver doesn’t want readers to go out and find said-book he dismisses, give their time and money to it likes it’s some kind of competition.
Also, I wondered where Cleaver’s editor was, or if he had one. The prose was just not tight in some areas. There were two instances where “not” was misspelled as “no” on adjacent pages, and “what” was missing from a sentence, which made it very confusing. I don’t know if I got a bad edition of this book or not; I want to give it the benefit of the doubt.
Overall, concept-wise, and being a self-study course, I’d recommend it to beginning writers that want a no-nonsense approach to craft, as well as strategies to get you in the habit of writing. But this is not the end-all writing book of writing books. There are plenty more out there besides this one, and this one could be tighter.