Sunday, January 06, 2008

Eleventh Sunday Salon 8.40am Reading Like a Writer - Chapter 1 and 2 Close Reading and Words

Well I've made my choice: Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose - a book I first came across through Debra Hamel's blog.

I did start reading it last night and liked it. She says that every writer learns how to write mainly through what they read and how they read. She said that a writer notes how a book is written when they read - the voice, the point of view, how the sentences work with each other, the word choice and so on. This, I think is true. I remember discussing point of view with my former agent and she told me that she was never aware of the point of view, or which 'person' is narrating the book (first person, third person, omnicient narrator); she was just aware of the atory. But how a story is written fascinates me and I always take note as soon as I start reading a novel: why choose first person, for instance, or do we follow just one person throughout the book?

Another point I find greatly reassuring: she says that, unlike some authors, she never feels she needs to give up reading other people's books when she is writing one herself. Rather, she says, she feels inspired by her reading, and feels it improves her own writing. This is something I've always found myself. She says that if she'd had to give up reading when she was writing (which is, after all, an almost continual process) she doubts she would have been inclined to write that much at all. It's such a great feeling to discover that I'm not alone.


Blogger jem said...

Interesting stuff. I never give up reading when I'm writing, but I do find that the balance sometimes tip more in favour of one or the other. Sometimes I'll need a lot of import, other times it will be all export.

Sun Jan 06, 10:30:00 am  
Anonymous Clare said...

Yes, Jem, that's exactly it - sometimes when I'm engrossed in one or the other, the balance shifts.

Sun Jan 06, 12:10:00 pm  
Blogger TitaniaWrites said...

I've been hearing about this book for a while, sounds like it is worth reading. One of the first writing courses I ever took (at the Iowa summer writers' workshop) was Reading as a Writer, and it was a revelation to me... pointing out all sorts of things writers need to know and see which if we read as ordinary readers we wouldn't notice - IF the story flows well. I had never heard of "white space".
And good to know she doesn't stop reading while writing... if I had to do that I'd be pretty depressed!

Sun Jan 06, 04:35:00 pm  
Anonymous Clare. said...

Yes, Titiana, it's a really good read, I think - makes you think much more than the Atwood one I read recently(which was interesting, just not as informative).

There is a little thing that bothers me, though, and doubtless it is not true...but I worry about becoming too self-conscious as a writer and wonder if this can stultify in some way.

And yes, I agree - I'm pretty glad it is not necessary to stop reading. I read that so often as in: 'I don't want some other writer's voice in my head' for instance, that I worry I am, in some way doing something wrong by continuing to read.

Sun Jan 06, 04:45:00 pm  
Blogger Wendy said...

This sounds like a good book. I pay attention to details like POV and voice and setting, etc... when I'm reading..I think it *does* make one a better writer. Before I really focused on my writing, I never noticed flaws in the books I read...or I couldn't verbalize them. Paying attention has made me a more discerning reading and I think has improved my writing as well.

Sun Jan 06, 07:07:00 pm  
Anonymous Debra Hamel said...

Clare, I'm glad you're enjoying the book, since I am guilty of having turned you on to it!

Sun Jan 06, 07:14:00 pm  
Blogger Literary Feline said...

Reading and writing are such an integral part of my life that I cannot imagine one without the other. Still, I am not a writer in the same sense that you are (I'm more of a dabbler, you could say) and so this has never really been something I'd considered. I've been pondering reading this particular book as a reader, wondering if it would be worth my time.

Sun Jan 06, 07:22:00 pm  
Anonymous Clare said...

Yes, Wendy, I've found that too. A draw-back has been that I don't enjoy certain books any more. I think it's made me much more discerning.

Debra -a definite hit, thank you...

Literary Feline: Although I think it is especially valuable to writers I think if I didn't write I would love this book. The only drawback is that it makes you want to buy the entire reading list at the back and read each one all at once.

Fri Jan 11, 11:52:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reading this book has made me feel completely inadequate at writing, and that is good, really, really good. Like wearing glasses for the first time in my life. Trees are not green blobs, they have leaves, and some leaves have shapes, and little bugs crawling on them. Stories are not just plot, they have sentences and sentences have words and words have a myriad of meanings. This means, of course, I have to learn to write anew. How exciting!

Sun Aug 23, 08:54:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Yes, Anon - pretty much the effect it had on me too!

Sun Aug 23, 08:55:00 pm  

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