A novelist draws advice for aspiring writers from the works of established writers.
This is a thoughtful and detailed guide, written in an academic but thorough style. Each chapter methodically addresses a specific aspect of writing from word choice and the art of a good sentence all the way to dialogue, details and gesture. Francine Prose quotes example after example of writers who excel at some aspect of their craft, from Philip Roth's sentences to Nabokov's characters.
The take-home message of this book is that if you want to write well you must read good writing. The author goes above and beyond this familiar refrain by dissecting the work of great writers and telling you exactly why each passage, conversation, or sentence is so effective. She also offers counter-examples, usually passages she created specifically to demonstrate her points. She reminds you that there are exceptions to literally every rule in the book; you just need to know how to use them.
Although this book isn't as pithy and inspiring as Stephen King's ON WRITING, it is a useful tool for careful readers who want to become effective writers. It is like the prose workshop to King's survey course. Hopefully after reading this book you will be more acutely aware of the specific genius of certain writers. If nothing else, it will help you pay attention to the essential nuts and bolts of compelling writing.
I received this book as a birthday gift from my mom several years ago.
What books have inspired your writing? Who would be on your must-read list for budding authors?