by Francine Prose
Sometimes you just need to get back to basics. That is the suggestion of author Francine Prose as she reflects on creative writing workshops and concludes that they are no substitute for careful, considerate reading of classic novels. With gusto, she jumps into a discussion of technique, and chapter by chapter she works her way through the many tools at an author’s disposal. Quoting liberally from authors as varied as Philip Roth, Jane Austen and Anton Chekov, Prose analyzes each selection and dissects what makes its sentences so effective and the narrative so compelling.
If you want to boil down the book to its essential message, it’s pretty straightforward and basic: read great writers, select your words with care, and craft your sentences instead of merely tossing words upon a page. And let’s be honest – most of us know this instinctively. The trick is learning how to shape those sentences and which details are necessary and which should be discarded. With her clear examples, Prose gave me new ways to consider writing and reading. For every principle she introduced, she would provide some good examples of that kind of writing. I do wish she’d included some unsuccessful writing samples to further illustrate her points.
It’s been a couple of years since I’ve had an English professor to critique my writing, and I’m sure it’s gotten sloppier. This book served as a refresher course, and in that capacity it works very well. I recommend it as a source of inspiration, a reminder to pay attention not just to what a writer says, but how he or she expresses it.
4 out of 5 stars
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Peeking into the archives...today in:
2013: The Cavalier Mr. Thompson by Rich Tommaso
2012: Oregon Shakespeare Festival 2012: The White Snake
2011: Off to Ashland for a few days!
2010: Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith
2009: Vacation in Yosemite