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  1. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Improving Prose

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by marina, Dec 26, 2008.

    What do you think of the following advice on how to improve your prose? I read this in a blog (by Kim Smith). She says this suggestion came from a book by James Frey. I was wondering if anyone's tried this or just your opinions on it.

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    1. Find a book that is well-written.
    2. Copy, literally, a couple pages of that fine prose each day.
    3. Write an original scene in the same style each day. If the scene you copied was about an emotional view of the countryside, write an emotional view of something or other.
    4. Rinse, repeat with various books daily until you’ve got the hang of it.
    Allegedly, your writing will in fact improve.
     
  2. cwpcreator
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    cwpcreator Member

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    Just write. Write, write, write and read, read, read. If you read a lot and spend a lot of time writing, you will improve without having to go through something as time consuming as copying. That sounds like some sort of stupid school assignment to me.
     
  3. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Marina, James Frey's book, How to Write a Damn Good Novel, is not bad. There are much better, but it works.

    As for the advice--it works.

    Many people learn through imitation. I recall Dean Koontz saying when he first started writing, he imitated his favorite authors. In time he found his own voice. The same goes with art. I learned painting by imitating the masters. In time I developed my own style. Matter of fact, it is impossible not to develop your own style. If you imitate your favorite author, you will start to put your own personality into your prose.

    After doing those exercises, my prose improved. I'm still working on it. But if I showed you something I wrote two years ago, and something I wrote recently, wow, is what you would say. People that have known me for a number of years can't believe I wrote my recent stuff. "Did you get possessed or something," they say.

    I have been studying China Meiville's prose lately. I am going to do these exercises imitating his writing style.
     
  4. Daedalus
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    Daedalus Active Member

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    Imitation is usually the way people start. However, copying prose verbatim will not, in my opinion, improve your prose. Reading is the best way to learn how to better your prose. In fact, the way to become a good writer is to become a good reader. As Stephen King says: "If you haven't time to read, you haven't got the tools needed to write."

    Architectus - If you read something of mine from five years ago, compared to something of mine now, you'd think the same as your friends think of you. I attribute this to years and years of reading, writing, and honing both.
     
  5. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Daedalus, I understand that. But five years is a long time. I must wonder if you might have improved faster if you tried the exercises. I also understand we all learn a little differently. However, I wrote and read for years and my prose didn't improve. Several times I gave up on writing because of it. I thought, I have a good imagination, but I will have to hire someone else to put them in story form.

    Even if I showed you something I wrote a year ago, compared to now, I have improved greatly. I know a year from now the same will be true.

    All I can say is, these types of exercises worked for me and continue to work for me--and studying of course.
     
  6. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    I also think it's a waste of time to copy something out word for word. Apart from that, it sounds like a good exercise you can try.
     
  7. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Here is an example where I try to imitate China Meiville's style. I think my subconscious mind can't help but make it my own. Nonetheless, if you know his style I think it sort of resembles it. It is from a short story about a vampire I am working on.

    He is a vampire. His friends were the witches, the good and the bad, necromancers and conjurers, sorcerers and potion makers. They used spell books and rules of magic. Ash didn’t need spells. He could do everything they could and more by his will power alone, with out the aid of demons, with out the need of potions, like a god in an epic, or a well known myth.

    I believe if I continue to imitate his style it will influence my style. Although, I wouldn't want to write like this for my YA works. For them I would rather imitate the author of Vampire Academy.
     
  8. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thank you for responding, everyone. I should explain that I read...in fact, I read a lot. Actually, some would say I read too much. I also write a lot, but not nearly as much as I read, obviously. My fear, or actually, my sense is that my writing is pretty pedestrian (and longwinded :redface:). I'm just trying to find a way to improve my writing. And thanks, arch, for giving that example.
     
  9. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    So post it. There are many a helpful person to let you know what they think.
     
  10. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    I write a lot of short stuff, and a lot of never-to-be-completed-because-it's-that-awful stuff. I don't need people to tell me how much it sucks, because I can see that it does. I have one sucky bit in my blog if you want to get a sense of my writing.
     
  11. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Marina, can you give me some of your longwinded-ness?
     
  12. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Actually, I get long-winded when I'm trying to explain something. I was kidding, more than anything. I actually work very consciously to write in a more clipped fashion, so to speak, then I used to.

    I'm not comfortable sharing much of my stuff, but here's a short, short story:
    http://writingforums.org/blog.php?b=1495

    And here's my self-conscious ramblings: http://writingforums.org/blog.php?b=1540
     
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