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  1. Ubrechor
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    Ubrechor Active Member

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    Critiquing published novels

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by Ubrechor, May 12, 2011.

    Has anyone tried this? Taking a passage or chapter of the book they are reading and analysing it? I am curious because it seems a lot of budding writers would write in the style of their (most recent) favourite author. So when they are criticised, those criticisms would actually be relevant to the famous author and the book they happened to be reading at the time. Am I making sense?
     
  2. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is basically literature courses. :p In which case, yes, I have done this to death. :p

    (But it was how I earned the "Almighty" in my name. Perhaps. I might just say that about everything...)
     
  3. Eunoia
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    Eunoia Contributing Member Contributor

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    You do it at school in English, and in related university courses, so yes I have. :p
     
  4. NateSean
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    NateSean Active Member

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    I didn't so much critique it, but I did notice numerous spelling and grammatical issues in some Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's Saint Germain novels. And this woman has been writing for thirty years for god's sake.
     
  5. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Most lit courses are more about critical analysis, rather than treating a published work as a manuscript and going through with your red pen and treating it like a workshop submission (which I think is what the OP is talking about?).

    I do this with short stories, the most acclaimed and respected I can find. Take a red and yellow highlighter, red for 'bad' yellow for 'good' and go through it as I would some manuscript a student submitted for workshop to a class. It's a good exercise, as a) not even the best work is perfect and b) it teaches you your own style, as you're tasked to challenge what you know is successful by saying 'yes, but that's not what I would have done.'

    I also analyze published stories (usually from the 'prize' anthologies) for narrative design, plot building, balance of internal/external, basically just about every important element in fiction. If you want to learn, why not learn from the best?
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I do it all the time. It's an excellent way to learn.
     
  7. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    By now I have a difficult time reading a book without defacing it with highlighters, I get paperbacks at thrift stores 2, sometimes three for a buck. I gravitate to current mainstream novels (recently went on a run were I studied only debuts )

    I do not look for theme in an academic sense, but I look for tension, tone, strong verbs, verisimilitude and the devices used to engage readers.

    I will amend my statement, it is more of matter of emulating than critiquing, I am not by nature the pretentious art school type that believes that popular is 'sell-out' dreck
     
  8. JimFlagg
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    JimFlagg Contributing Member

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    All the time. I keep a mental note of different writing styles used to solve problems with specific story lines.

    As for the highlighter idea. I use to do this the first time through college but I ended up with books that where more highlight than not. I dog ear or use Sticky Notes in pages. This way I can write notes on the sticky that sticks out. My cats love these books though and think the stickies are great play toys. :(
     
  9. Ubrechor
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    Ubrechor Active Member

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    I was talking less about school literature courses and more about what popsicledeath and the posters below him were referring to. I'm glad to hear some people do indeed do this: I actually do not yet, but I think it's a great way to learn your own style and learn how to use effective writing techniques :)
     
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  10. Reggie
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    Reggie I Like 'Em hot "N Spicy Contributor

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    I do it whenever I am reading bank statements. It gives me something to criticize whenever I have nothing else to read. Sometimes I have to ask the teller what that sentence means when they find need to explain it to me.
     
  11. AmsterdamAssassin
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    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

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    Like a filmstudent unable to watch a movie without second-guessing why the director used that particular camera angle, I notice that since I started writing I'm unable to read a book without noticing the technique behind the prose. Which can sometimes be a bummer with books other people rave about, but I can't read because the writing is too stunted for me to immerse myself in the story and suspend my disbelief...
     
  12. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Close observation and taking note of how an author accomplished a scene, or handled a POV, or some other aspect a writer is strugging with, while taking time, is an excellent way to learn and apply proven techniques.
     
  13. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I was reading Thomas Wolfe's classic Look Homeward, Angel, and found that he uses adverbs all over the darn place. It doesn't seem to ruin his style at all, though he does tend to overwrite quite a bit.

    I do read quality literature and compare the writer's style to the conventional wisdom promoted by modern "how to write" books. I often find that the how-to books promote theories of writing that are not evident in the work of many of the greatest writers. It turns out that there's a lot of hogwash out there in the how-to book industry.
     
  14. power44
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    power44 Member

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    I like reading them and trying to critique. Its always fun.
     
  15. pinkgiraffe
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    I don't sit down and write out a full critique, but while I'm reading I'm making notes in my head on things I especially like, and things I don't think work too well. I'm always trying to be conscious of how the plot and character are developing, and why the author has chosen to do it that way. In a way, it's a bad habit, because it stops me getting lost in the book. On the other hand, it adds a whole new dimension to reading fiction that makes it interesting on a new level.

    When I finish a book, I try to spend some time thinking about what I liked and disliked about it, what I thought worked well and what could have been improved. Sometimes I make notes on those thoughts (I really should do this more, it would be a useful resource).
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i do it automatically, as i read, since my editor's and writer's hats don't seem to be removable and goofs don't just lie there for me to pass over unnoticed, they jump out and bite me!... which is why it's a good thing i read alone in my room unless traveling, 'cause i'm prone to cussing out the author's [and/or editor's] stupidity aloud...
     

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