Fiction Writer's Workshop by Josip Novakovich

A great source for fiction writers, although it falls short in some areas. Each section begins with a lecture of some sort, with examples and thoughts, then numerous assignments. It's divided into Sources of Fiction, Setting, Character, Plot, Point of View, Dialogue and Scenes, Beginnings and Endings, Description and Word Choice, Voice, then Revision.

The chapter on gathering story ideas is pretty generic but useful in a broad way. He lists some general things to trigger thinking, like childhood, friends, stories you hear, but that's as far as it goes. Setting is divided into many sections, all useful, very informative, alive with detail. If you had a problem with setting before, this is up your alley. The character section discusses round characters, their mannerisms, appearance, etc. It has useful comments but again is all general.

Plot is a great chapter - he discusses character conflict plots, non confrontational plots, and combinations. He mentions a note card technique for generating plots, it's more of an educational guide and not an inspirational one. I didn't find much useful advice for organizing or structuring a story. His point of view is loaded with stuff I've never seen before; I consider this one of the best chapters the book offers.

The only problems I had was the guide was written in a sort of stuffy way at times. Also, many of the story examples used were not works I read, or have an interest in reading, more literary types work that you focus on in school. Because of this, it was harder to get drawn into these examples. Overall, though, it's a great guide for writing itself, not necessarily novel writing or short stories alone.