1. James Random
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    James Random Member

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    Style How I taught myself to write.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by James Random, Nov 8, 2014.

    Until I'd started to write the two books I'm currently working on, I had never seriously written books before. I had written, of course, as thats part and parcel of the job. Every scientist can write nonfiction.

    When it came to actually sitting down and starting to write these books, however, I wondered how I was going to develop my style. The best piece of advice I was given was: 'Pick your favourite author and aim to write better than him.' That wasn't too helpful at the time.

    Music, eventually, held the answer. I play guitar. On the odd occasion I'd written my own song. I realised that I should approach learning to write the same way I had learned to play guitar: I started copying other people's stuff.

    Copying other people's stuff turned out to be like learning to play songs on the guitar. I wrote great swathes of stuff from author's whose style I liked. These were my Smoke on the Water, these were my Hallelujah.

    Surprisingly enough it worked. By making myself a participant of their style and writing habits, I soon picked it up and adapted it for myself.

    Just a little general story I thought I'd share as writing newbie.
     
  2. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't advocate copying anyone else's style. I advocate writing and writing and writing and letting your own unique style develop on its own.
     
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  3. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Do you mean you transcribed their writing? Did you apply any stylistic changes? Or did you write something very similar? (Or perhaps you wrote fanfiction?)

    "copy" is ambiguous in the context of writing -- it could mean "make a carbon copy of" (transcription produces a carbon copy; so does copy/paste) or it could mean "imitate" (i.e. if you write something similar to another author's writing for the purpose of capturing the style).
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2014
  4. James Random
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    James Random Member

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    I applied my own stylistic changes. I tend to use shorter, punchier, sharper stentences than most writers, for example. But transcribing it, which was the word I was looking for, allowed me to get into the flow of it. I didn't do anything with it. It's basically like doing a cover of a song. Nothing more. The point is that I wanted to go for a certain noir style. I had no experience of writing that way. By transcribing stuff already written by pros, it gave me the sort of feel that I needed to break out and find my own feet in that style.
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2014
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  5. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    So you rewrote someone else's story and characters in your own style?

    Sounds like a form of fanfiction, and I think that can be a great way to gain some writing skills. Have you found it challenging to make the transition to original fiction?
     
  6. James Random
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    James Random Member

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    It was a challenge at first. But for the idea that I had it was a necessary skill to develop.
     
  7. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    A lot of newer writers knowingly or unknowingly copy the style of other writers. Eventually, with enough practice, these newer writers develop their own style. There's nothing wrong with taking this approach. As an example, both Cormac McCarthy and Toni Morrison borrowed heavily from Faulkner's style in their earlier works. Toni Morrison now has a very different style IMO, whereas McCarthy's style is still a bit similar to Faulkner's, though it's nevertheless very "McCarthy" (if that makes sense).
     
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  8. James Random
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    For my main project I wanted to develop a very fast-paced, punchy narrative.

    What I'm trying to do - and the idea already has interest - is re-write HG Well's The War of the Worlds.

    The aim of the project is to do what JJ Abrams did to Star Trek. Criticize it as you will, but it did its job; brought Star Trek to a modern generation of young adults who didn't know anything about Star Trek without them having to know anything about Star Trek. Gave it a new coat of paint. A reboot, as they call it.

    The original reads like a sort of...restrospective report, I guess. A memoir. And that was the sort of 'done thing' for storytelling way back then. Times have moved on. Movie makers have tried and failed time and again to make War of the Worlds as much-loved as it once was. I want to take it away from that, tell the tale as it unfolds, inject urgency, emotion, all the things that struck me as muted in Well's version (as much as I adore it). It's still set in Victorian Britain. Also an update of the science behind it, too. SF has evolved with our greater understanding of science and the discoveries we've made in those fields. What was once a 'heat ray' we now know to be superheated plasma. And so on. I think it could work. Give it a more cinematic narrative, make it more accessible and more appealing to modern young adults. Keep it relevant.

    The agent I spoke to thinks it's a good idea, but reserves himself to see the execution.

    But what makes me think I can do any better? Nothing. Apart from just having a go and getting on with it.
     

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