On reading about the book “Reading like a writer’ on Brain Pickings, I went on Flipkart and bought it. For someone who reads a lot, I still have a lot of trouble with grammar. Knowing my weakness has helped me focus on it as I improve my skill. I know well by now that writing is an art that has to be cultivated and very few writers are lucky enough to be born great writers. The others (to my happiness) spent a long time writing, rewriting and writing.
What I love about the book is that it is like taking a walk through some of the literary greats with a guide and a fine tooth comb. Author Francine Prose takes the reader on a tour of what makes a writer so unique. She nudges the reader to read closely, read aloud and read with the love for words. She makes a beautiful point:
Once again it’s worth mentioning that the composition of a sentence such as this one — or any sentence, really — is the end result of many minute decisions, and that a different sort of writer might have decided to make the same point in a dozen or so words that could have gotten the idea across as understandably but not nearly as enchantingly, nor so intelligently. Nor would such a sentence have been nearly as fun to read.
So I picked up the fiction book I am reading at the moment (Midnight’s Children) to see what she means. Rushdie picks his words so carefully that if you were to pick a sentence and replace any word with another, it didn’t have the same effect. (Just like she said!) Reading this book is like being taught literature by a word connoisseur who enjoys revealing the secrets she has discovered through multiple readings of the same book.
Along with this, I have also been doing some fiction exercises to fine tune my craft. I did not realise it would be this much fun! The first exercise in this book called ‘What if’ is to write five first lines of stories that begin in the middle of things. I had to write ten first lines to get the hang of it. The book suggests:
To get into the habit of beginning your stories in the middle of things.
Here are five of my first lines:
The way he asked, despite the lack of grand gestures, I knew it was a genuine request and he impatiently waited for my answer.
Mr. Joan lay in bed restlessly hoping that the spinning of the fan would put him to sleep.
She gleamed right through his lies but she was unfortunately unaware of what the truth was.
She looked from her empty glass to the empty rum bottle on the table; she would need to head out for more.
Her smell wafted towards him, her warmth touched his core, her hair fell on his face, her smile soothed his frayed nerves; he fell asleep with her thoughts wrapped around him.
Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter suggest that writers can “write one sentence a day for the rest of your lives”.
Even as I write in this blog everyday, I still feel so much more at ease with my book, my pencils, my sharpener and my eraser. 🙂 But either ways, I must keep writing. A sentence or two a day..