Monday, March 7, 2011

In The Footsteps Of Giants

I mean that in a literary sense.  Not a physical one.  Please remember that as you read.

I'm trying lots of things to improve my writing and this is just one of them, but omigosh what an eye-opener.  Grab a couple of your favourite author's books (I did this with Maisey Yates' The Inherited Bride and Nicola Marsh's Deserted Island Dreamy Ex) and type out their first chapter.  Just into a blank document.  Yes it takes a while but, trust me, the results are worth it.

What I learned:
  • Punctuating dialogue - I used to be okay at this but somehow I lost the knack.  I found that nothing can drive home the principles of punctuation like copying someone who already mastered it.  It was a lightbulb moment for sure;
  • How long is a chapter (approximately) - I used the old method of approximately X words to a line, Y lines to a page, Z number of pages to a chapter and then applied that to my documents but I was way out.  Now I have a better idea and can rewrite accordingly;
  • How often adverbs are used and where - extremely valuable lesson.  While you can pick them out when you do a multiple reading of a chapter (See my post The Perfect First Chapter) it's something else when you're typing it out and really seeing how you can write without using them in every single sentence.
  • Dialogue tags - I'm addicted to the "he screamed, she whispered quietly, he roared fearfully" type of writing and so I have to constantly remind myself that writing can be done and done really well without all that guff.  A really great lesson in showing and not telling by copying;
  • Breaking some rules - after I finished typing out the first chapter I ran it through spellcheck which of course comes up with passive sentences and fragments of a sentence etc and I could see that sometimes it is okay to break some of the rules as long as it's done well.  You can't write an entire book in fragments but you can write some of your heroines thoughts in fragments - because that's how we think sometimes; not in grammatically correct, BBC English.
I would recommend copying a few chapters from different authors so you get the maximum benefits of learning from people who have actually been through an editing process and been published as well as different styles of writing.

N.B.  Please remember that these chapters are covered by copyright.


Jackie Ashenden said...

I have to say that analysing how other writers do stuff is an awesome way to learn. When I'm reading a favourite author, I'm often popping off to the WIP to note things down. Purely because the way some people have handled an issue makes me think about better ways I could handle mine.

Lacey Devlin said...

Gotta love the reading and the learning ;-)

Actually someone asked me the other day if the writing wrecks the reading because you're analysing as you go? I say no. Not for the fantastic books. I try to read only fantastic books ;-)

Maisey said...

Dear lord woman, you have me hiding in terror. You're not supposed to know how many grammar rules I break! said the queen of the fragment.

I am glad you think I do this writing thing well, because what it comes down to is this: I'm still learning to. I always will be. And that's a good thing!