Amazing advice on how to write dialogue, a mouth-watering comprehensive list of reference books all writers should have, and a whole chapter just on flash fiction...this is great stuff. He thinks every writer should be reading the books he chooses for us.
Although a writer at any stage of development will find inspiration in this bookand at minimum an exercise or two to jump start your processit really is focused on providing guidance and encouragement to the new writer, especially those that have always wanted to write but haven't yet made the commitment.
Readers looking for a more objective craft text may be put off by this, but I imagine others will love it for exactly the same reason. There's more heart here than in your average craft book.
When I hear someone who claims to want to write ask 'where do you get ideas?' I'm afraid my response is "Frankly, if you don't know then count yourself lucky not to be haunted by them and stick to the joy of reading!" If you have no ideas, then you have nothing you're compelled to express and, I think Dufresne would agree, no piece of writing - or art - is worth anything if the writer has nothing to say.
This is book which ascribes to the point of view that you can work your way into becoming a writer. If you are a literary fiction buff, and you are lacking in ideas of your own to write, this book might be of some use to you. If I had followed this book to its conclusion, I would probably have given up writing and taken on some other pastime like amateur plumbing or beetle husbandry -- anything to avoid the drudgery of depicting countless "earthy" scenes from my past in fiction form. So, I shelved this book and have been writing out my story ideas ever since. However, my writing has certainly improved by leaps and bounds: 1) Read A LOT of literary fiction; try to go down the list of universally-accepted masterworks. 2) After a few years or reading hardcore literary fiction, you will have the language of the great writers floating around in your head. You need to have excellent grammar or nobody will read more than a paragraph of your work. 5) Once you have outlined your story and characters, start writing out scenes. Bad writers tell you about the characters in the book. Or, maybe you are a literary-fiction writer; in which case, you will have such boring tastes that rewriting the quotidian events of your past will be inspiration enough for you.
I met the author at a writing conference and decided to buy his book. It covers the basics that beginning writers need to know, such as how to make time in your day for writing, what to write about, how to develop characters, how to create a plot. I think it is important to be encouraging and positive with beginners, because the task of writing is severely daunting. To this end, every page of the book includes one or two epigrams, pithy quotes from writers and artists of all kinds, on aspects of writing and the creative life. For example, Read some opening scenes from books that you admire and try to figure out what is working there. For example, for the assignment just mentioned about reading opening scenes, he goes on at length to suggest these questions: Whats the date? Despite these shortcomings, I still think that for a naive beginning writer of fiction, especially a younger one, this book will be harmless, yet informative and encouraging.
His descriptions in other chapters had me laughing out loud several times, and the writing exercise found within can challenge an open writer to push outside of their comfort zone to find new areas of interest or new writing styles they would never have explored on their own.