Reading Like a Writer – Author Resources

There are so many books out there that can help you become a better writer, that it is sometimes hard to know where to start. In this Author Resources blog series, I will help you out, by recommending some of my favorite books for (aspiring) writers. In this installment, I present to you: Francine Prose’s “Reading like a Writer”. This book is great when you want to improve your writing skills, as it teaches you to read books in such a way that they help you write better.

Francine Prose's Reading Like a Writer

So let’s start with a summary of Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them.

This 2006 book does exactly what it says on the cover: it teaches you to read like a writer. (Or an editor, for that matter.) The book has eleven chapters, with helpful titles such as “words”, “sentences” “dialogue” and “gesture”. In each of these chapters, author Francine Prose draws from world literature (though, admittedly, mostly English and American world literature) to explore and give advice on that aspect of writing. 

Not only is the book extremely easy to read (I finished it in two days), it further inspires you to (re)acquaint yourself with all the authors she mentions. For example: who new that Jane Austen was one of the grand masters of dialogue?

How it can help you improve your writing skills

Every single author I have ever encountered struggles with at least one aspect of writing. Often it’s with dialogue, but it can also be hard to figure out when to end a paragraph or how to determine how long your sentences should be. This particular book is brilliant when you start to look critically at your own writing. Not to give away all the secrets of the trade here, but Reading like a Writer has really helped me to be more aware of the different dynamics and techniques involved in writing a great book. 

So, when should you read this book? I think it’s a great volume to pick up when you’re in the process of self-editing. But maybe even more than that, this will be your go-to-guide whenever you get stuck. Both Francine Prose’s writing style and her selection of passages from novels are extremely inspirational. So whether you are stuck on a sentence or are experiencing writer’s block, this book can help you move along! 

Reading Like a Writer Favorite Quotes

These are three of my favorite quotes:

“Though students of writing are usually instructed—with good reason—that it is necessary to pick a point of view and stick to it, this, like any “rule,” can be circumvented by any writer skillful enough to get away with it.”

“Few pleasures are as great as the taste of a fresh idea. A new insight melts in the brain like chocolate on the tongue.”

To speak as if there were two major points of view—first and third—is like saying that the only thing we need to know in order to prepare and enjoy a delicious multicourse dinner is that there are five basic food groups.”

Which one do you like best? Share them on social media or let me know in the comments!

How can you become a better writer?

Reading books is an absolutely fantastic way to become a better writer. If you are looking for more books you can read to learn to write better, check out my other “Author resources” blog posts. 

But books can only take you so far: sometimes what you really need to become a better writer is some one-on-one time with an expert. If you’re at that point right now, just schedule your first free Passionate Writer Coaching meeting here!