This book does not attempt to teach the craft or writing, such as plotting, characterization, dialog, etc., nor is it appropriate for non-fiction writing. Keyes’s intent is to help the aspiring novelist deal with the fear of writing, which may be interpreted as the fear of exposure and/or rejection before our peers and family. Keyes uses extensive quotes and anecdotes from various writers like Hemingway, E.B. White, Faulkner, Proust, Frost, and Ezra Pound to illustrate how great writers dealt with this fear. His anecdotes serve to prove the point that you are not alone in your fears. Even the best in the business felt fear.
A previous reviewer mentioned an important point, which I feel needs to be re-iterated, and that is, Keyes presents so many different takes on how various writers overcame their fears, the reader is left with a confusing array of options, none of which are presented in a concise or manageable format. Simply put, the book does not congeal any techniques into a workable plan. As a writer, I have read quite a few books on this subject and eat technique and craft ideas like candy. This book did not satisfy my appetite for clear-cut techniques. That said, the book succeeds in illustrating how we (writers) must all travel a private path towards his or her writing goals.
This is a short and highly readable book, which I would recommend for all writers; however, while reading the book I remember feeling a bit depressed about the writing process. After reading this book, I pulled out the first draft of my second novel and began to rework it. We’ll see where it goes.