Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Francine Prose

Continuing the Conversation ~ Reading like a Writer . . .


Reading like a writer And so, we continue from last Wednesday’s post, A Conversation about Reading like a Writer . . .

You may want to see what was said in that post, since two well-seasoned writers are quoted…

But, to continue…

Here’s what a reader said in a comment to that post; and, what I responded with:

“I read anything. I always have, so I read a lot of rubbish along with good writing. It is only occasionally I stop following the story to notice the way the author uses language. That is when I learn how to improve my own writing. I review almost every book I read but I forget them almost immediately after I have read them, with the exception of works by Stephen King. Maybe I should read a book more than once?”

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“Well…the books I’ve read more than once are, to me, quite like the ones I’ve read once—I remember certain scenes and the overall “feel” of the book; but, certainly not the whole thing—that would probably take me 10 readings :-)”

So…

That reader and I are both writers…

We both stop only occasionally to notice specifically what the author’s doing…

Is that a trait of folks who read like a writer?

Do other writers stop and notice more often?

And, is forgetting most of a book something writers have in common with most readers…?

I feel I should share a bit from the post preceding this one—from the book, Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them (P.S.), by Francine Prose:

Concerning writers reading to learn how to write—“…the connection has to do with whatever mysterious promptings make you want to write. It’s like watching someone dance and then secretly, in your own room, trying out a few steps.”

“You will do yourself a disservice if you confine your reading to the rising star whose six-figure, two-book contract might seem to indicate where your own work should be heading.”

“The only time my passion for reading steered me in the wrong direction was when I let it persuade me to go to graduate school….I left graduate school and became a writer.”

So…

The commenter from last Wednesday and Francine Prose say at least one thing similarly:

“…I read a lot of rubbish along with good writing.”

“You will do yourself a disservice if you confine your reading to the rising star whose six-figure, two-book contract might seem to indicate where your own work should be heading.”

Those are similar statements if you can link “rubbish”reading with “rising star six-figure, two-book contract”reading…

Yet our commenter reads a lot of it and Francine merely recommends not confining oneself to it…

Now, I’ll interject a bit more of my own feeling…

Of course, it’s feeling from a man who is officially old and who began writing seriously late in life…

And, it only relates to my current reading-like-a-writer activity…

I’m in the middle of reading at least 20 books (some re-reads, some not…) by my absolutely most-favorite fiction author, C. J. Cherryh

Ms. Cherryh happens to be a Risen Star and morethantwobookcontract author who has never written rubbish…

Plus, I’m only confining myself to her books until I read six books of poetry by various authors…

All that reading because I’m a seasoned old man who loves writing and listens, carefully, to his Muse when he must read like a writer…

Two ideas in closing:

1.) If you share a comment on this post, you’ll help this particular topic continue on Wednesday…
2.) But, you could share a comment about some other topic(s) you’d like to discuss…

Number two should be in the realms of Reading, Writing, or Publishing; or any combination of those realms :-)
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A Conversation about Reading like a Writer . . .


Reading like a Writer There were no comments on this past Monday’s post—Our Blog Conversation Stays Focused on Truth in Fiction—so, I get to venture in my own direction… :-)

And, my personal directional focus for the current long-haul is what many writers spend much of their time doing—Reading

Not all writers write every day, contrary to what the ‘Net-Gurus keep screaming.

Not all writers who balance reading and writing take care to read books recommended by ‘Net-Gurus.

Many very serious writers actually make their own decisions about what they read; and, often, it’s exactly what they most like reading—the stuff that gets them thinking like a writer—the books that inspire their own personal brand of creativity…

My all-time favorite fiction writer is C. J. Cherryh and I’m in process with a reading marathon of her work—many I’ve read before, some I’ve never touched—around 20 books…

And, there are about 5 books I’ll read after those—various works of poetry…

I’m preparing to go from writing my series of shorts—The Story Bazaar—to writing a second poetry book; and, contrary to those pesky ‘Net-Gurus, I’m doing only what my Muse urges me to do…

I’ll share a bit from a writer I often re-blog here, Roz Morris, from a post she wrote for Writers Helping WritersRead More Fiction (a note for non-fiction writers—you can easily “translate” what she says...):

“…we’re all story lovers. But I mentor a lot of authors and you wouldn’t believe the number who tell me they make a deliberate point of not reading other fiction. I ask their reasons, and the answers have a certain logic:

  • They don’t want to be influenced by other writers or inadvertently copy an idea, character, or plot situation.
  • They need to spend the time writing because they’re struggling to fit enough hours in.

“But when I’m critiquing their work, I frequently see problems that could be solved by studying the fiction of others. Here’s the short list of the usual suspects:

Boring Exposition
Failing to Give Readers What They Want
Dialogue Issues
Writing that Falls Flat

And, here comes another attempt to give you a reason to comment on this post and keep the Conversation going:

My past post, How To Read Like A Writer, that considers the book, Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them (P.S.), by Francine Prose.

Here are just a few statements from that book:

Concerning writers reading to learn how to write—“…the connection has to do with whatever mysterious promptings make you want to write. It’s like watching someone dance and then secretly, in your own room, trying out a few steps.”

“You will do yourself a disservice if you confine your reading to the rising star whose six-figure, two-book contract might seem to indicate where your own work should be heading.”

“The only time my passion for reading steered me in the wrong direction was when I let it persuade me to go to graduate school….I left graduate school and became a writer.”

So…

I hope I’ve given you enough to ponder so you can share your thoughts and/or feelings in the Comments to continue this particular topic…

And, if you’d rather, share a comment with your own suggestion for a Conversation here…

All suggestions need to be in the realms of Reading or Writing or Publishing; or, any two at a time; or, all three at once :-)
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If you don’t see a way to comment (or, “reply”) after this post, try up there at the top right…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Visit The Story Bazaar
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Best Source for “Book Promotion” Ideas
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~ My Bio
Google Author Page
For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com

Ever Wondered How An Author Actually Writes A Novel?


Many will think today’s post is only for writers; or, those who wish they were… Nail Your Novel

I think many readers could profit from this post—especially if they’re avid readers—people like that often turn into writers

This post could also be valuable for publishers who really don’t understand what writers do

And, since writers are readers and many readers turn into writers and self-publishing is so popular, many people wear all three hats.

So, I think most anyone should keep reading :-)

Yesterday, I re-blogged a post from Roz Morris.

Today, I’m going to plug one of her booksNail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence.

This is a book I wish I’d read 50 years ago

My development as a writer followed the arc fleshed-out in Francine Prose‘s book, Reading Like A Writer.

I’ve read omnivorously—absorbed what I needed to learn from discovering what a good book was and reading tons of them.

I think, before discovering Roz, I’d only read one how-to-write book (along with a bunch of writings tips…); and, I’ve posted here, often, that most books about writing aren’t worth reading

Nail Your Novel is vastly different.

In fact, I suspect many other authors have co-opted her ideas and sold them as their own.

Perhaps they’ve been fair and credited her—she certainly isn’t shy about given other folks credit

Here’s Roz about her credentials:

“I’ve written about a dozen novels. Spines and covers must remain hidden because they were ghosted under strictest secrecy. Millions of readers have enjoyed my storytelling – and that’s no exaggeration because average sales were 500,000 copies each.”

More exactly, she’s sold more than 4 million copies as a ghostwriter

And, she’s now writing novels with her own name on the cover.

How to explain what reading Nail Your Novel was like

It was Exciting—she woke up my Muse and set her spinning :-)

Maybe I should let Roz tell you about the book:

“Most things we do we have a plan for. In most jobs, if we have a task to do, there’s a project plan, a schedule, a methodology.”

“I’ve been writing novels for years and helping floundering writers find their way. What I notice time and time again is that so many make it very hard for themselves, even experienced authors.”

“For instance, many writers paint themselves into a corner because they are tackling a problem at the wrong time.

“They get blocked because the critical parts of their brain are inhibiting their creativity.

“Or their overactively inventive imagination is stopping them seeing the simple, rational solution. Or they are attempting to spice up a dull story by adding more events, when really they need to find a way to examine the ones they already have.”

“I’ve developed a method to tackle all the milestones of writing a novel, from initial inspiration to final polish. It’s smart and efficient. It draws on techniques from Hollywood scriptwriting, improvisational drama, project management and sports psychology – because experts in those fields have already solved problems that novel-writers come across.”

“My method will not only help you finish a novel, it makes the whole writing business a lot more creative and fun. A thoroughly planned novel takes less time to write. Even better, it is more likely to succeed in today’s market because it will have been properly structured, fixed and polished.”

If I taught writing, I’d probably have the students read Francine Prose’s book in tandem with Roz’s—get them consulting about the balance between writing to a plan and absorbing while they read

But, remember, Nail Your Novel is Exciting.

Roz certainly teaches you about the importance of structure and planning; but, she does it while letting you breathe—she lays out her hard-won wisdom and offers you alternatives, too—she lets you Play.

Actually, I’m certain many writers have read her book multiple times—each reading uncovering new nuggets of gold.

And, if you’d like to read the first 16 pages of the book<—click there.

Also, be sure to click on that cover image up there and buy the book; and, even if you’re certain you’ll never write a novel, buy the book as a gift for that friend of yours who’s holed-up in some god-forsaken shack, mired in depression

Buy the book and read it many times; then, check out Roz’s blog for a continuing refresher course

Plus, you may want to check out all of Roz’s booksNail Your Novel was followed by two other books in the series; plus, there are the novels with her own name on the cover :-)

Special Monday BlogBonus:


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Read Some Strange Fantasies
Grab A Free Novel…
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So You Think You’re A Writer…


So, maybe you are a writer; or, you fondly hope you might be…

Reading Like A Writer

Reading Like A Writer

How do you confirm whether you really are a writer or whether you might actually be able to become one?

One idea would be to write something and ask your friends…

Perhaps that’s not a good idea—if they really are your friends, they might just tell you the truth…

So, do you think they’d say you’re a good writer; or, would they suggest some other hobby you should pursue?

Another idea would be to ask yourself—your deepest self—if you’re a writer…

The worst that could happen is that your self might say no…

Can you live with that?

What if you think you could learn to be a writer?

How would you go about studying the art?

Please, oh please, don’t say take a course in creative writing.

Perhaps, you’ve already committed yourself to being a writer; perhaps, already published a book or two.

Do you honestly, deeply feel you’re a real writer?

I don’t mean the feeling that you could be a better writer—I mean the feeling that what you’ve already written qualifies as something a real writer does…

One suggestion—whether you want to be a writer or are one—one insider tip about the process of becoming a writer: read this past post—How To Read Like A Writer.

Also, I suggest you read the book that post is about—Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them (P.S.).

If you can’t do either of those suggestions, try reading this Wikipedia article about Reading Like A Writer.

If you can’t do that, try listening to this talk by Francine Prose, the author of Reading Like A writer

One little hint about learning to write, for those who can’t do any of my suggestions—you must read all the good authors you can get your hands on if you ever hope to learn to write…

But, please, oh please, don’t read their books about how to write…

O.K., I’ve done my good deed for the day—back to writing my next book………
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Read Some Strange Fantasies
Grab A Free Novel…
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To Leave A Comment, Use The Link At The Top-Right of The Post :-)
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Authors As Fans of Other Authors


I’m a fan of C. J. Cherryh, when it comes to famous authors.

When it comes to authors I know, it’s Jane Watson

I’ve learned how to write by reading other authors.

In my previous post, The “Self”-Education of Writers . . ., I said:

“Many are the writers whose education—beyond that which is learned from living fully and authentically—comes from reading other writers—their creative fiction, not books about how to write.”

And, in the post, How To Read Like A Writer, I quoted Francine Prose, saying:

“Concerning writers reading to learn how to write—’…the connection has to do with whatever mysterious promptings make you want to write. It’s like watching someone dance and then secretly, in your own room, trying out a few steps.’

“’You will do yourself a disservice if you confine your reading to the rising star whose six-figure, two-book contract might seem to indicate where your own work should be heading.’

“’The only time my passion for reading steered me in the wrong direction was when I let it persuade me to go to graduate school….I left graduate school and became a writer.’”

So, it may be rather obvious that authors become fans of other authors and there is evidence in a post over at Flavorwire called, 10 Illuminating Fan Letters From Famous Authors, To Famous Authors.

Here are just a few snippets:

From Norman Mailer to William Styron, 1953:

“I have only one humble criticism. I wonder if you realize how good you are. That tendency in you to invert your story and manner your prose just slightly, struck me—forgive the presumption—as coming possibly from a certain covert doubt of your strengths as a writer, and you’re too good to doubt yourself.”

From Ray Bradbury to Robert Heinlein, 1976:

“…I REMEMBER, WARMLY, YOUR MANY KINDNESSES TO ME WHEN I WAS 19–20–21 YEARS OLD.”
Yes, apparently, Bradbury wrote that in all Caps :-)

From Charles Dickens to George Eliot, 1858:

“I have been so strongly affected by the two first tales in the book you have had the kindness to send me through Messrs. Blackwood, that I hope you will excuse my writing to you to express my admiration of their extraordinary merit.”

From Virginia Woolf to Olaf Stapledon, 1937:

“…sometimes it seems to me that you are grasping ideas that I have tried to express, much more fumblingly, in fiction.”

From James Joyce to Henrik Ibsen, 1901:

“I can hardly tell you how moved I was by your message. I am a young, a very young man, and perhaps the telling of such tricks of the nerves will make you smile. But I am sure if you go back along your own life to the time when you were an undergraduate at the University as I am, and if you think what it would have meant to you to have earned a word from one who held so high a place in your esteem as you hold in mine, you will understand my feeling.”

an anti-fan letter from William S. Burroughs to Truman Capote, 1970:

“You have betrayed and sold out the talent that was granted you by this department. That talent is now officially withdrawn. Enjoy your dirty money. You will never have anything else. You will never write another sentence above the level of In Cold Blood. As a writer you are finished. Over and out. Are you tracking me? Know who I am? You know me, Truman. You have known me for a long time. This is my last visit.”

If you go to Flavorwire to read the complete letters, be sure to note the [via] link after each letter, to be led to more information
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