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 13, 2016

How To Write Fiction, Especially The Art Of Short Story Writing : A Practical Study Of Technique by Sherwin Cody (1896)

I. THE DIFFERENT KINDS OF SHORT STORIES

II. GENERAL OUTLINE OF METHOD OF WRITING 

III. MATERIAL FOR SHORT STORIES

IV. THE CENTRAL IDEA

V. THE SOUL OF THE STORY

VI. CHARACTER STUDY

VII. THE SETTING OF A STORY

PART SECOND

THE GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF FICTION

I. THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE SHORT STORY AND THE NOVEL

II. HOW TO OBTAIN A GOOD COMMAND OF LANGUAGE

III. NARRATIVE, DESCRIPTION, AND DIALOGUE 

IV. HARMONY OF STYLE

V. PLOT CONSTRUCTION

VI. IMAGINATION AND REALITY 

VII. THE USE OF MODELS IN WRITING FICTION

VIII. CONTRAST

IX. MOTIVE

X. WHAT MAKES A STORY WORTH TELLING

XI. HOW TO OBSERVE MEN AND WOMEN .

XII. THE TEST OF ABILITY

XIII. CONCLUSION

APPENDICES

EXAMPLES

I. THE NECKLACE

II. A STORY RE-WRITTEN

III. A SHORT HISTORY OF MODERN ENGLISH FICTION


Most young writers imagine, when they first think of writing stories that one writes well or ill by nature, and if one does not write well in the first place, improvement is a matter of chance or the working out of inherent ability in some blind way. That the art of story writing is something that can be learned seems not yet to have suggested itself very practically to authors or critics. Yet Maupassant studied seven years with Flaubert before he began to print at all, with the result of a very obvious, skill, and this suggests the possibility that others also can learn the art. But any writer, young or old, who has gone to an acknowledged master of literature in order to get instruction, knows how Iittle practical assistance is commonly obtained.  


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