Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Book report: "Good Prose" and "How to write a lot"

Notes  from the "Good prose"

This book is written by a journalist turned nonfiction author and his editor.
This is a nice book, and a good read.

"Quiet beginnings: You cannot make the reader love/trust you in the first sentence, but you can lose the reader with a grand proposition in the first sentence."

"To write is to talk to strangers. Prepare the reader, tell everything reader needs to know to read on, but no more."

"For a story to live, it is essential only that there be something important at stake, a problem that confronts the characters or reader. The unfolding of the problem and its resolutions are the real payoff."

"Revelation transforms events into a story."

"Don't mess with chronology unless you have a good reason."

"On the topic of essays:  Essayists tend to argue with themselves. Who am I to write this? Who cares to read this? If I knew my own mind, I would not make essays, I would make decisions. --Montaigne."

A main take-away from the book is the respect these writers show for their craft. They spend countless hours drafting/revising/editing with patience. They spend days discussing about improvements on a draft. The important thing is to get it right, do the right thing. At some point, over a dispute on one word with the editor in chief of Atlantic, they consider quitting their dream jobs there on principle.

Notes from "How to write a lot"

This book aims to help academicians to write a lot. It is a short book and it has a single, simple message: "schedule time for writing 2 hours daily in your calendar, and sit down to write at those times".

"Writing is a skill, not an innate gift or special talent. Like any advanced skill, writing must be developed through systematic instruction and practice. Learn the rules and do deliberate practice."

"Schedule time for writing and stick to it."

"Any action that is instrumental in completing a writing project counts as writing."

"No internet. The best kind of self control is to avoid situations that require self control."

Some recommended reading by the book are: "Writers book of hope" and "Professors as writers". I hope to check these later.

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