1. raindog
    Offline

    raindog New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2008
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    0

    Learning From Authors

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by raindog, Jul 31, 2008.

    I am an amateur (teenage) writer and want to strengthen my skills.

    I heard that many great authors learned how to write by writing others. For instance, HST cemented his writing skills when he copied The Great Gatsby and A Farewell to Arms on his typewriter.

    Something like this requires an absorption in the material and a dedication to the author involved.

    So I ask what you think of this enterprise. Is it worthless or useful?
     
  2. TWErvin2
    Offline

    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2006
    Messages:
    2,528
    Likes Received:
    561
    Location:
    Ohio, USA
    Raindog,

    A while back I did an interview with author Sandra Kring. She's been quite successful, and her third novel with Bantam/Dell is coming out this fall (Thank You for All Things). Check out the link to the interview, and read the answer to the 5th question. I think it'll answer yours, or at least give you food for thought.

    Interview with Sandra Kring

    Good luck.

    Terry
     
  3. raindog
    Offline

    raindog New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2008
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thanks for your reply. I don't want to imitate the desired author's voice though.

    My purpose is to learn the composure of their complete novels and the writing technique involved. This includes sentence structure, paragraph focus, lucid writing and the like.

    But they may be inseparable...
     
  4. Last1Left
    Offline

    Last1Left Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2008
    Messages:
    127
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    You know that box next to the Wendy's?
    I think you should reread favorite novels of yours, and then just make mental analyses of the books as you go along. Things like diction and the connotation of certain words, or maybe the subtle techniques used to bring characters to life are all good examples. It's more enjoyable than actually rewriting a novel, and I think you'll derive the same effect from it.
     
  5. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    A writer needs to first conquer the basics of spelling, punctuation and grammar. Next comes more abstratct mechanics like the fundamentals of dialogue, sentence and paragraph structure, and to begin to develop his or her own "voice". In this second phase, the writer can learn much from studying the styles of other authors. That's authors, plural. You won't find your own voice by becoming an expert in a single author. At best you will dxiscover that author's voice.

    Later, you will continue to learn from other authors, when you have a keener eye to pick up little techniques that put more jazz and sparkle into your writing. Your voice continues to develop as long as you continue writing.

    I don't see much value in reproducing the work of another author. I know that visual artists use that technique to master some complex processes developed by the old masters, but I don't see that as being very effective when translated to writing; I'm not even convinced that it's an ideal approach in the visual arts to reproduce complete works.

    What MAY be more effective is to try to write a paragraph or chapter from your own imagination, but in the STYLE of a writer you admire. But even then, I would mix it up and do the same with other authors as well.
     
  6. Ungood
    Offline

    Ungood Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2008
    Messages:
    790
    Likes Received:
    6
    Do what you feel is best.

    I know... I know... that sounds corny but let me put this out to you.

    In the technical areas Spelling, punctuation, grammar and the like, there is no room for doing it your own way or having your own special style, IE: "well that is not the way I spell that word",

    In the Technical issues there is a right way and a wrong way, and if you are not doing it the correct way then then you are doing it wrong; end of story.

    Everyone has to follow rules and everyone needs to learn those rules. In that front, we are all in the same boat.

    On the artistic side of things, well, that goes by the person.

    Do what you think is best.

    If you want to transcribe an entire novel, then do it!
     
  7. raindog
    Offline

    raindog New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2008
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thanks for your replies.
     
  8. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    one of the exercises i use for mentees who're having a hard time finding their own 'voice' is to have them write the same couple of paragraphs in the voice/style of 3 different authors of their choice [or assigned ones, if they're not reading good stuff]... it helps them to get a feel for writing 'in character' so that when they go back to writing 'as themselves' it's easier for them to 'discover' their own voice...

    it also helps a poor writer to learn how to structure sentences and paragraphs more effectively...
     
  9. draupnir
    Offline

    draupnir Member

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2008
    Messages:
    59
    Likes Received:
    4
    I can't speak for novels, and it would certainly be a huge commitment and maybe of dubious value to just write out a whole one (maybe just one chapter?), but for poetry I think there is real value in reproducing another authors work.

    I actually set myself to copy down twenty-line extracts from random poems and give short comments on them every day and I think it is helping me. Maybe do this with two-paragraph blocks from a few chosen novels. I'd also say, don't shy away from immersing yourself in the style of one particular author and even consciously writing in that style. I've spent a lot of time reading 2/3 poets in particular and I think that's helped develop my style.

    What you've got to remember about your own "voice" is that it's not a fixed thing, it will change as you constantly read and absorb more. After all, we only learnt to write through reading and copying things out. I think we continue to do this at a more advanced level.
     
  10. raindog
    Offline

    raindog New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2008
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thanks guys...I think I should copy choice paragraphs to absorb what I need.
     

Share This Page