Reviewed! The Writer’s Idea Book by Jack Heffron

The Writer's Idea BookJust the process of reading Jack Heffron’s THE WRITER’S IDEA BOOK is like mining for gold. And with over 400 writing prompts, that’s exactly what you’ll do. You’ll mine every inch of your own experience, imagination, hopes, fears, regrets, and dreams for writable material until every inch of your fertile soul is wrung dry. And that’s just the beginning of the book.

After the first hundred pages or so, you delve into the craft itself, exploring issues like character, setting, story structure, point of view, great openings, strategies for endings, tone, voice, etc. Here THE WRITER’S IDEA BOOK really shines. Heffron’s 17 years of experience teaching at writing workshops and conferences suffuses the back half of the book with valuable anecdotes, observations, and advice.

But the best part of the book are the prompts throughout this section. These prompts help you discover and/or develop your own understanding of and relationship to the elements of story. Many prompts call on you to analyze pieces you’ve already written, to take another crack at a scene from a different angle, and in various other ways to tackle either drawer manuscripts or your current WIP.

This is what makes this book a must-have for the craft-focused writer. You can use the prompts and advice to enhance your current project. It isn’t just about coming up with ideas for a new story. It’s about improving the story you already have going.

THE WRITER’S IDEA BOOK is a great value, because it’s actually two for the price of one. Heffron goes far beyond most collections of idea-inspiring prompts by steering the reader into a more conscious approach to the elements of story. He also goes far beyond most book discussions on craft by relentlessly plying you with prompt after prompt until you get the craft of writing grafted to your very bones.

My favorite part: Part I alone is worth its weight in diamonds. It explores all the various ways in which we limit ourselves and our writing and how to combat those evil forces. I, for one, need constant reassurance that I’m not a bad person for stealing time away from external responsibilities to write. This section provides that and other valuable insights about setting up an effective writing habit.

This book is for you if: You learn by doing. Far beyond an intellectual approach to writing craft, this book is about figuring it out for yourself (with a healthy dose of guidance from a wise and venerable sage).

This book is not for you if: You’re on a deadline. This book is an exploration. An ascending of Everest. You will come out a better writer on the other end, but 400+ prompts? Yeah, this one’s going to take you a while.

About Mary Elizabeth Summer

Mary Elizabeth Summer is an instructional designer, a mom, a champion of the serial comma, and a pie junkie. Oh, and she sometimes writes books about teenage delinquents saving the day. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her daughter, her partner, her two neurotic dogs, and her precious prince--er, cat.
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