Today I'm going to do a book review—not because I like writing book reviews (generally speaking, I don't), but because it's a nice change of pace and this particular book is definitely worth looking into, if you want to be a serious writer. About half a year ago I was in a writing workshop. The instructor, a clever man by the name of Rone Shavers who liked to wear caps and sweater vests (I know you're reading this, Shavers) had us read the book over the course of a week. Admittedly, I read most of it the day before we were supposed to discuss it.
I don't hold anything against sweater vests, by the way.
“Reading Like a Writer.” Okay, yeah, I know what you're thinking—it teaches you how to write, right? Yes and no. Shavers explained it perfectly: “It shows you how to READ... so that you can write.” He follows one of my main principles, apparently—you can't write without reading. It just doesn't work that way.
And yes, her last name is Prose. Pretty badass, ne?
Prose's novel takes us through the structure of a novel. Well, through fiction, in general. We get down to the very basics, sometimes seeming to get too basic (If you think this, though, you probably haven't anything by Forster). Words, sentences. Yes, that basic. What's interesting about the book is that it isn't just a series of instructions for you to follow. Assuming you actually read the book from start to finish (Okay, fine, I skipped the prologue on the first read), the book tends to leave an impression on you. If nothing else, it'll help you with your proofreading. One line, in particular, that stuck with me talked about the way a dedicated writer spends a great deal of time just rearranging and wording things. Mind you, this applies to both fiction and technical writing. I do this. God, I really do do this.
It's hard to describe exactly how it leaves an impression, especially since it isn't exactly a how to write book. It's a how to read book. For one reason or another, I think this book also helped me enjoy reading, more, as well. You know, now when I read I stop and think about how a sentence was put together. Now and then I wonder, “Could they have said this another way?”
Fine, maybe it's just me.
One of the best things Prose does is leave lots of samples. Mind you, she doesn't explain the source material in-depth, but if you aren't willing to Google a passage or look around in the library then you're just being lazy. She talks about a lot of different novels, most being pretty old ones (she goes all the way back to Dickens, for example) from all over the place, which is nice. Her knowledge isn't without credit, and she slams proof down every other sentence— here's why it's true.
If you like how-to-write books, you should check it out. If you don't like how-to-write books, you should definitely check it out. If you like to read, even more so, either way. If you've got the cash, I definitely recommend investing. As for a couple of places where you can buy it for cheap?