Reading like a Writer is a guide to help the upcoming writers written by Francine Prose. The book was published originally in the year 2006 in the United States. The subtitle of the book makes it pretty clear what the book is about and what kind of content you can get in this book.
Apparently for people who love books and want to write the books will make the best use of this guide written by the author. She has beautifully crafted this book and added some great elements in the book that will help the aspiring writers get an idea of how the professionals do it.
Prose has made use of different elements and examples that have helped her in creating books for the individuals who are dedicated to writing and have a passion for books. She has beautifully explained how one can explain a character in his book and how you should write the dialogues in a way that they possess the highest impact.
The author has covered different subjects of writing skills in different chapters in this book and has divided the book into a total of 11 chapters. In the last segment of the book, Prose has added a long list of books that she has titled, “Books to be read immediately”. It is a wide collection of books written by ancient as well as modern authors.
About the Author:
Francine Prose is an American novelist who wrote this book. The 73-year-old author has presented the world of literature with many significant reads and one of them is Reading like a writer. The New York-based author has also written short stories and essays which get equal recognition by the critics.
Prose is also a critic who reviews others’ books and gives her honest feedback. Apart from this, she is also a professor of literature at the Bard College and also has been a president of PEN American Center. She has only written non-fiction works in her career.
Francine Prose has led a successful writing career, and her work is still very much appreciated. One of the books that she wrote on sexual harassment, Blue Angel, which is a satire was a finalist for the National Book Award. In addition to this, another book named Household Saints has been adapted into a movie.
Chapter Wise Analysis of her book:
In a total of eleven chapters, the author has explained everything. The non-fiction work of literature is designed especially for aspiring writers to help them get writing like professionals.
Chapter One: Close Reading
In this chapter of her book, the author has thoroughly discussed whether one could be taught to write. She explains that even though many other things like workshops and guide could be useful to people who want to become a writer but the best way to acquire the skill is through reading the books.
From her own experience of learning how to write, the author has shared that closely reading the book and focusing on sentence formation and dialogue construction, one can learn how to write it. She explains how this process has helped in overcoming some obstacles during her own writing.
Chapter Two: Words
Francine Prose, in this chapter, has taught to focus on each and every word that the author has used in the book to explain certain things. It explains the art of saying so much in so little. While reading a book you must focus on each word and determine what the author is trying to convey with this word.
The author has explained why it is important to stop at every point and analyze each set of words. Because as she explains, words are the “raw materials out of which literature is crafted”.
Chapter Three: Sentences
What really constitutes a good sentence? What the right choices of words that result in the formation of an impactful sentence. The book that is a combination of thousands of sentences is made great with the choice of sentences and words used by the author. If the sentence formation is not good enough, then even the greatest story in the world would fail as a book.
Through this chapter, the author has discussed how the formation of good sentences transcends time and genre. According to her, the writer who is concerned about the formation of a good sentence is most likely to get succeed in producing a good book.
Apart from this, this chapter also discussed the right use of grammar in the sentence and how the right use of grammar can improve the quality of the sentences that you are writing. You will also get to see the correct use of long sentences., short sentences and rhymes in this chapter.
Chapter Four: Paragraphs
Well, as words constitute sentences, sentences constitute paragraphs and all this eventually results in the formation of a book. Prose says that similarly to sentences, writers who are focused on writing a good paragraph are heading towards the right direction. The author explains that when you develop the practice of reading and reads widely will discover that there is no formula that constitutes a good paragraph.
She discusses that we can not write a certain set of rules for writing a good paragraph because writing is an art and it should as per the skill of the writing and wherever his heart takes him and as she has stated that there are, “Only individual examples to help point (the writer) in a direction in which he might go.”
Chapter Five: Narration
Narration includes determining a point of view from which the writer is deciding to write the book. There are the first-person point of view, second-person point of view and third-person point of view. The first person point of view is when the character in the story who is most likely to be a protagonist is telling his own story.
The second person point of view is when a secondary character who is a part of the story is telling what he is witnessing. And lastly, the third person point of view is when someone who is not a part of the story is being a distant observer and telling the story.
In this segment, the author has also shared some examples of writing in these three points of view that will help the writers.
Chapter Six: Characters
Characters are what makes the book unforgettable for the readers and it leaves an imprint on the readers’ heart by making the characters memorable. In this chapter the author has discussed how one can develop characterization by using the examples by some greatest writers in history such as Jane Austen, Heinrich von Kleist.
She says that how it is not important to explain the physical appearance of the characters but to shows the readers as much as they need to know about them. The character’s intentions and his goals must be clear to portray his image in front of the audience. But giving an honest narration is also important so that the readers can decide if they like the character or not.
Chapter Seven: Dialogue
Well, one thing while writing the dialogue you should take care of it’s that they should be clean enough so that they could sound much less caustic than actual speech. She explains that dialogues are not just sentences but they are much more than that. She reveals that they should be formed in such a way they could reveal the true intentions and emotions of the characters hidden underneath those words.
She says that they are not just the words of the surface but it’s the idea and emotion underneath them that counts.
Chapter Eight: Details
The chapter eight of ‘Reading like a Writer: A Guide for Those who Love Books and Those who Want to Write Them’ is all about the deets. Though detail and description seems like a same thing when it comes to writing a book but they share a very thin line between them. To explain something you don’t need to give a barrage of description, you can skip the part by giving detail about something and save yourself and the readers from the boredom.
Chapter Nine: Gestures
Gestures unlike in real life are not physical actions in the book. They are the illuminations that move the narrative. The gestures performed by the fictional characters should not be physical cliches. Sometimes a gesture can explain a lot about a person’s character in the book so knowing when to use them and how is a very important part of writing a book.
Chapter Ten: Learning from Chekhov
Anton Chekhov, the Russian writer who had an extraordinary talent for writing has deeply impressed Francine Prose with his brilliant writing skills. Being a fan of the Russian writer, Prose has recommended learning from his short stories and playwrights because she herself has learned from him as well.
Not just in this book but in general, too, she advises her students to read Anton Chekhov. The authors have always believed that Chekhov has tried to break into the unwritten rules of writing and do something contradictory to the typical scenario. In addition to this, the author explains how Chekhov has taught her to be a neutral observer and do not put the judgment of any kind in the description.
Leaving up to the readers how they see things is also very important. The writer shouldn’t have a judgment of his own and should be able to describe things as an unbiased observer.
Chapter Eleven: Reading for Courage
The conclusive chapter of the book Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for Those Who Love Books and Those Who Want to Write Them addresses the fear of the writers to reveal too much in the process about themselves. Prose advises that the writers must feel the resistance in sustaining the pressure and it is possible that one would experience writer’s block while determining whether it is worth it to write or not.
In times like these, the author advises to read and read. By reading you can get more courage and motivation to go on and this could be a good thing for writing.
Books to be Read Immediately
The author has added this extra section at the end of the book where she has listed a huge list of books that she feels should be read by everyone who is trying to set their foot in the writing field. We are going to mention a few of those books here so you get the idea:
1. King Lear by William Shakespeare
2. Paradise Lost by John Milton
3. Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Gibbon Edward
4. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
6. The Red and the Black by Stendhal
7. Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens
8. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
9. The Death of Ivan Illich and other stories by Leo Tolstoy
10. The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
The above-mentioned lists of books are mostly in chronological order. Though the author has listed approximately a hundred books that she feels should be read by every aspiring writer but here we have only listed the ten selected ones.
Reading like a Writer: A Guide for Those Who Love Books and Those Who Want to Write Them is a great book written by Francine Prose that is continuing to help the writers write since years and it is still one of the most preferred books when it comes to selecting a guide for starting writing.
We have given a whole summary as well as a chapter-wise analysis of the book in this article. This will help you get an idea that what you could expect from the book when you buy one. Though the chapter analysis itself has a pretty valuable lesson as given by the author herself.
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