View Full Version : [Coaching] Jerry Cleaver 'The Complete Story'

05-26-2012, 01:10 PM

I'd like your input regarding the coaching programme 'The Complete Story' by Jerry Cleaver. (http://www.immediatefiction.com)

It comes with a hefty price tag, but the credentials of Mr. Cleaver are convincing. The programme is based on the book 'Immediate Fiction', which appears to present reasonable ideas and concepts as well. I just would like to have some feedback and guidance regarding the application of those principles, hence my interest in the coaching programme.

Some strange 'administrative' things made me a little wary:
-I wrote an email to Mr. Cleaver for clarification. His reply came within 48 hours but only concentrated on one of my questions and consisted of copy-and-pasted material from the Web site in large parts
-the online paying link on the Web site, which I clicked by pure curiosity, doesn't work
-the fax number on the order form doesn't work, either
-my second mail, asking about the broken payment methods, was returned by the email server, stating that Mr. Cleaver exceeded his mail quota

I'd be grateful for any comments and experiences.


05-26-2012, 02:46 PM
I can't give you any specific information regarding Mr Cleaver because I've never heard of him (don't read anything into that, I'm British, so I wouldn't have done).

I also can't tell you whether or not writing courses can help - I've never done one and I don't intend to.

Whatever credentials Mr Cleaver has - it won't get you published. You will get you published.

What I would urge you to do is question if this is the right place to start. As you say, $2000 is a heck of a lot of money.

His website asks "Is this You?"

You want to write but you have no time.

Make time. Either stop doing something (watching television is a good one), get up earlier, or stay up later. Giving somebody money doesn't give you any time.

When you do find time, you just can't drag yourself to the desk.

Make yourself. When you sit down at a desk, open your damn work and get on with it. Giving somebody money doesn't make you sit at your desk.

If you do get going, your writing starts strong, but becomes such a mess you don't know whether to keep working or dump it all and start something new.

You have to finish work. There are different approaches for this problem - finish it anyway and address the problems afterwards. Outline before you start. Finish it anyway and burn it. Some may start over with a better idea of where they're going, but I think if you run into problems it's better to make notes for the rewrite and plough onwards. If you don't finish it, it doesn't matter what problems it has.

You write lots of bits and pieces, but none of them fit together into a meaningful whole.


You have training (workshops, college courses, or even a degree in creative writing) but little or nothing you write gets published.

Get Betas.

You haven't taken a class because you're not sure where to turn or what to do first. One thing you do know is you want to get the right start so you don't waste a lot of time working on things that don't matter.

You can't know whether things will matter or not before they're finished. And writing is never a waste of time. Even if you're writing fan-fiction, you're still learning how to craft sentences, how to express yourself, lots of stuff.

Where are you in your writing? Have you written a novel (if that's your poison) at all yet? If you haven't, save your money and start there.

You can take all the courses in the world, read every How-To book out there. The only way to write a novel is to write a novel.

Once you've done that, you'll be able to figure out what problems you're having. AW can help find the solutions to them.

People speak well of Stephen King's On Writing. Noah Lukeman's The First Five Pages is also very good (if you've already written your novel).

Good Luck.

05-26-2012, 03:09 PM
Thanks for your comments, Theo.

Actually, getting published isn't really my goal. Okay, I wouldn't mind being published, but I want to get a better grasp at 'the craft' first.

Moreover, I self-published a novel as a kindle ebook. Deluded by positive reactions I got from readers on free story sites, I hoped it to be successful. In a certain sense it is: it sold 120 copies in less than a month. For a completely unknown author, that's more than okay. But now, I'm confronted with mixed reactions to it for the first time. I simply underestimated the bias in the feedback before: someone who doesn't like the story won't bother to comment. Valid points of critique are raised in the reviews for the novel, and I am determined to work on them. I started to read books on writing, but I constantly question whether I'm implementing the tips correctly. So, coaching seems to be the way to go for me.

I see your point that I could have it for free, and I'll just have to make up my mind about it.

05-26-2012, 03:59 PM
My own feeling? I wouldn't spend the money, personally. I could buy a handful of craft books for far cheaper (if $2000 is indeed the price tag). I also suggest, if you're not doing this already, getting a couple of trusted people to act as beta readers for you. 'Trusted' as in you can trust them to be honest about your writing and give you solid feedback about what works and what doesn't.

Also, if you haven't done it, hike on over to the Share Your Work section of AW and read and critique others. While you're commenting on other people's work you'll be noticing things about your own work and find yourself thinking, "hey, I do that, too." It's a great experience. I didn't notice your post count, but once you get 50 posts you can put your own work up there for critiquing, too.

Old Hack
05-26-2012, 07:13 PM
There are lots of courses that you could take which will help, which cost a lot less than that one. And that amount is enough to fund your attendance at a good writing convention, where you'll learn all sorts of stuff and meet good people, too.

I'm glad you're asking questions before spending your money. That's good.

05-27-2012, 03:33 PM
There are lots of courses that you could take which will help, which cost a lot less than that one. And that amount is enough to fund your attendance at a good writing convention, where you'll learn all sorts of stuff and meet good people, too.

I'm glad you're asking questions before spending your money. That's good.

QFT. Being able to meet agents, go to pitch sessions and put in your query "we met at ... conference" is invaluable (although by no means necessary). And questions are always good.

I'm going to post this here rather than PMing you, because I think (ha!) it's the kind of thing which would hold for anybody considering doing this, or any other course.

The appropriateness of taking a course (or anything else) depends on what you want - the same as any path through publishing.

So, what do you want? From your post, it sounds like you want to be a better writer so, you've investigated, read stuff, but now you're wondering if you're doing it right.

We see a lot of people here who twist themselves into knots because they've got a head full of rules expressed as soundbites - "Open your MS with an explosion!" "Don't start with the MC waking up" etc without actually understanding what the rules mean (both of these refer to the necessity of beginning your story where your story begins: when something happens, rather than making the reader wade through several thousand words of setup and backstory to "understand" the character first.)
The answer, generally, is "Does it work?" It doesn't matter if you break "the rules" if the result is good.

If I were you, going on what you've outlined, I'd save your money for the moment, and hang around somewhere filled with writers of all levels, from those just beginning their very first novel, to Orange Prize longlisters (hint, you're already a member).
Read the threads, read the stickies, participate, ask any questions you have (although do a search first for the more common ones because if we see another prologue thread, or a "what does show vs tell mean?", we're going to take to the streets with impeccably punctuated placards). When you've got 50 posts, you'll be able to seek feedback on your own work in our Share Your Work (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=26) section (the password is "vista"). You may even find some people who write in your genre willing to Betas for you - there are a lot of sites out there which are ostensibly for feedback, but have a culture of praising everything. It's nice, but it's not helpful. Also, as Jeffo says, critiquing yourself, or just reading the threads and the comments, will help you to see things in your own work.

There's also a sub-forum for self-publishers (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=47), who are full of information pertaining to that subject (FWIW, 120 sales in your first month sounds like a LOT to me, but these things are hugely variable depending on genre, price etc.)

Whatever you choose, good luck, and if you do decide to take this course, I hope you'll come back and tell us how you found it to be.

05-27-2012, 03:54 PM
I'd like to echo the above comments.
1) Giving up TV has freed up lots of time for myself. Now I need to give up Facebook and Twitter.
2) If you need a push, join or start a writers group. I joined a few and then eventually set up my own using meetup.com. I ran it for about a year and then had to leave as I was progressing in my craft faster than my peers. I have since joined a semi-pro group.
3) A couple of good craft book suggestions if you wanted to read:
3a) Characters and Viewpoint, Orson Scott Card. I'd highly recommend his writing class or bootcamp if you really wanted to spend $$.
3b) Writing Dialogue, Tom Chiarella.

I'd also recommend conventions with writing tracks or writing seminars as a good way to meet people.

Stacia Kane
05-27-2012, 05:38 PM
Speaking of Share Your Work, you can comment and critique other people as soon as you join, you don't need 50 posts first. Critiquing and reading the critiques of others can be immensely helpful. :)

05-27-2012, 06:34 PM
Unlike many other so-called writing coaches, he seems to have genuine credentials. However, as other people have pointed out, there are many less expensive alternatives--plus, if you do pay for a course like this, there are no guarantees, not even that you'll materially improve your writing.

I agree with Theo81--if you were to do something like this, you'd do it because other strategies (critique groups, books on craft, communities like AW) aren't working, or haven't worked well enough. Jumping from zero straight to an expensive coaching course doesn't make financial or artistic sense. You don't have enough experience at this point even to know exactly what it is you need as a writer. I'd never suggest doing something like this without having concrete goals for what you want the course to accomplish (rather than something vague like "I want to improve my writing")--which in turn will make it easier to evaluate the course and the coach and be sure they are the right choice for you.

Ultimately, the thing that will most improve your writing is...writing. Reading a lot--and reading critically, with an eye to technique, structure, etc.--is also vital. And remember that there's no "correct" way to do things--the tips you find in writing books, or that other writers will suggest to you, are guidelines, not rules--and the guidelines aren't set in stone. Good writers break them all the time.

Ultimately, what works is what works for you, though it may take you some time, and practice, to find out what that is.

- Victoria

05-28-2012, 07:20 PM
Thanks for all the feedback!

I can see your points. Still, I've decided to participate in the course. And I will complement it with your suggestions: finding betas, posting my work here, learning by writing etc.

I've got some concrete goals in mind: getting rid of my tendency to sugarcoat (my chars will suffer in my next stories... muahaha), improving on showing, knowing when to tell, learning to trust the reader (at the moment, I've got the habit to spell everything out, just to be sure). These are classics, I know, and there are more topics to work on. Of course, I could learn all this on my own, but I feel that some guidance in a more intimate setting may shortcut the process for me. It sounds dramatic, but I've reached a critical stage in my writing and want to make the best of the possibilities lingering in this transition.

I'll keep you informed about the course and whether it stands up to my expectations.
To boldly go (and split infinitives) where no writer has gone before. ;)

Concerning rules being recommendations
I love the Taran books by Lloyd Alexander (Book of Three, The Black Cauldron etc.) since I was a child. Yesterday, I started to read them again and found some "rule violations":
-fanciful attribution: "bla bla," Taran cried. / "bla bla," Taran protested. / "bla bla," Dallben said ruefully.
-telling: He looked at him in dismay.

Hey, if one of my favorite books does it, so may I. :tongue

05-28-2012, 07:26 PM
Please keep us informed as to how it goes. I for one would like to hear about your experiences and possibly it could help future people pondering the same course.