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       the concept is to give insights into an author's style, craft, and knowledge through selected excerpts.)
Becoming a Writer 
Dorothea Brande
New York: J. P. Tarcher, 1934, 1981 
(A Classic)

“Exercise: Its purpose is to show you how simple it is to see oneself objectively.

“[Go near a door.] . . . Go through that door. From the moment you stand on the threshold turn yourself into your own object of attention. What do you look like, standing there? How do you walk? What, if you knew nothing about yourself, could be gathered of you, your character, your background, your purpose just there at just that minute? If there are people in the room whom you must greet, how do you greet them? How do your attitudes to them vary? Do you give any overt sign that you are fonder of one, or more aware of one, than of the rest?

“There is no deep, dark, esoteric purpose behind this exercise. It is a primer lesson in considering oneself objectively, and should be dismissed from your mind when you have learned what you can from it. Another time try sitting at ease and—using no gestures at all—tell yourself step by step how you comb your hair. (You will find it harder than you think.) Again, follow yourself at any small routine task. A little later take an episode of the day before; see yourself going up to it and coming away from it; and the episode itself as it might look to a stranger. At still another time think how you might have looked if you could follow yourself all day long from a little height. Use the fiction maker’s eye on yourself to see how you would have appeared when you went in and out of houses, up streets and into stores, and back home at the end of the say.”


“Pick up fresh words.

“Be on the alert to find appropriate words wherever you read, but before you use them be sure they are congruous when side by side with the words of your own vocabulary. Combing a thesaurus  for what an old professor of mine used to call, contemptuously, “vivid verbs” will be far less useful than to find words in the 

midst of a living story; although a thesaurus is a good tool if it is used as it is meant to be.

“Last of all, turn back to your own writing and read it with new eyes: read it as it will look if it makes its way into print. Are there changes you can make which will turn it into effective, diversified, vigorous prose?”


“Reading as a writer.

“Anyone who is at all interested in authorship has some sense of every book as a specimen, and not merely as a means of amusement. But to read effectively it is necessary to learn to consider a book in the light of what it can teach you about the improvement of your own work.

“Most would-be writers are bookworms, and many of them are fanatical about books and libraries. But there is often a deep distaste at the idea of dissecting a book, or reading it solely for style, or for construction, or to see how its author has  handled his problems. Some feeling that one will never again get the bewitched, fascinated interest from any volume that one got as an uncritical but appreciative reader makes many a student-writer protest at the idea of putting his favorite authors under a microscope. As a matter of fact, when you have learned to read critically you will find that your pleasure is far deeper than it was when you read as an amateur; even a bad book becomes tolerable when you are engaged in probing it for the reasons for its stiff, unnatural effects. 

“Read twice. At first you will find that the only way to read as a writer is to go over everything twice. Read the story, article, or novel to be studied rapidly and uncritically, as you did in the days when you had no responsibility to a book but to enjoy it. When you are finished put it aside for a while, and take up a pencil and scratch pad. [Write first a summary judgment, and then a detailed analysis.]”   #                                              - 

--reviewed by Gloria T. Delamar