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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Friday, May 12, 2017

Personality of the Author by F. V. N. Painter

Every literary work reveals, to a greater or less degree, the personality of the author. Every literary production may be regarded as the fruitage of the writer's spirit; and there is good authority for saying that "men do not gather grapes of thorns or figs from thistles." A book exhibits not only the attainments, culture, and literary art of the writer but also his intellectual force, emotional nature, and moral character. Wide attainments are revealed in breadth of view and in mastery of large resources. Culture is exhibited in a general delicacy of thought, feeling, and expression. Literary art is shown in the choice of words and in their arrangement in sentences and paragraphs. The artistic sense, without which a finished excellence is not attainable, reveals itself in the proportion, symmetry, and completeness of a work.

Excrepted from Elementary Guide to Literary Criticism by F. V. N. Painter.

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