Read Like A Writer

There are two ways to learn how to write fiction: by reading it and by writing it. Yes, you can learn lots about writing stories in workshops, in writing classes and writing groups, at writers' conferences. You can learn technique and process by reading the dozens of books like this one on fiction writing and by reading articles in writers' magazines. But the best teachers of fiction are the great works of fiction themselves. You can learn more about the structure of a short story by reading Anton Chekhov's 'Heartache' than you can in a semester of Creative Writing 101. If you read like a writer, that is, which means you have to read everything twice, at least. When you read a story or novel the first time, just let it happen. Enjoy the journey. When you've finished, you know where the story took you, and now you can go back and reread, and this time notice how the writer reached that destination. Notice the choices he made at each chapter, each sentence, each word. (Every word is a choice.) You see now how the transitions work, how a character gets across a room. All this time you're learning. You loved the central character in the story, and now you can see how the writer presented the character and rendered her worthy of your love and attention. The first reading is creative—you collaborate with the writer in making the story. The second reading is critical.


John Dufresne, from his book, The Lie That Tells A Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction

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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Monday Or Tuesday by Virginia Woolf

Word Count:  290

LAZY AND INDIFFERENT, shaking space easily from his wings, knowing his way, the heron passes over the church beneath the sky. White and distant, absorbed in itself, endlessly the sky covers and uncovers, moves and remains. A lake? Blot the shores of it out! A mountain? Oh, perfectthe sun gold on its slopes. Down that falls. Ferns then, or white feathers, for ever and ever

Desiring truth, awaiting it, laboriously distilling a few words, for ever desiring(a cry starts to the left, another to the right. Wheels strike divergently. Omnibuses conglomerate in conflict)for ever desiring(the clock asseverates with twelve distinct strokes that it is mid-day; light sheds gold scales; children swarm)for ever desiring truth. Red is the dome; coins hang on the trees; smoke trails from the chimneys; bark, shout, cry "Iron for sale"and truth?

Radiating to a point men's feet and women's feet, black or gold-encrusted(This foggy weatherSugar? No, thank youThe commonwealth of the future)the firelight darting and making the room red, save for the black figures and their bright eyes, while outside a van discharges, Miss Thingummy drinks tea at her desk, and plate-glass preserves fur coats

Flaunted, leaf-light, drifting at corners, blown across the wheels, silver-splashed, home or not home, gathered, scattered, squandered in separate scales, swept up, down, torn, sunk, assembledand truth?

Now to recollect by the fireside on the white square of marble. From ivory depths words rising shed their blackness, blossom and penetrate. Fallen the book; in the flame, in the smoke, in the momentary sparksor now voyaging, the marble square pendant, minarets beneath and the Indian seas, while space rushes blue and stars glinttruth? or now, content with closeness?

Lazy and indifferent the heron returns; the sky veils her stars; then bares them.

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