I’m currently reading Sin and Syntax and a lot of it is based on Orwell. A favorite of mine. But what I love most is that it is based on other author’s writings, particularly essayists.
As a writer, I think it is highly important to read other author’s opinions on writing. Giants like Orwell influence me tremendously in how I approach my work. It also serves as a basis for me to reject other opinions and form my own. My views on grammar are a rejection of Strunk and White. I loathe that little book with its pedantic view of how writing should play out. It’s commandments set in stone as the final authority on what constitutes good work. “Always use the active voice” has been the singular commandment that deserves to be broken.
Orwell is closer to my heart. He deconstructs language in a much more thorough manner and more importantly: I learn from his writing and from it not being fiction.
I believe that reading good fiction is crucial to good writing. It’s not just a cliche garbage in garbage out, it drives the mind to see different constructions. Watching Breaking Bad is a testament to a strained relationship built on life and death rather than common grounds like normal relationships. Jesse and Walt are only together because they’ve save one another’s life in the end. It’s a rocky relationship. It’s influencing my own writing between two of my main characters where I can legitimately have a rocky relationship that becomes a little more.
Essayists are even more dear to my heart than a good story. A good essay is good writing, a good construction of an argument that leads to a conclusion. After all, that is what fiction is – an argument. It argues for character’s relationships, for a plot to be believable and interesting, for the interactions, and so much more. Fiction is arguing in so many forms.
So over the holidays, maybe sit down with Orwell’s essays rather than the latest fiction at Barnes and Noble. Read something that is not quite fiction and maybe on writing itself.