Friday, July 8, 2016

Questions from Readers, Mistakes (Part 6 of 12)

Here are more mistakes authors make.
12. They refuse to learn from the best. Go outside your chosen field and read anything that grabs you. I write primarily nonfiction, but I read as many novels as I do anything else. I’ve never written for teens, but I like many YA novels.

As you read widely, take note of writers whose style or word usage grabs you. Imitate the writers you admire.

A quarter century ago I discovered Dean Koontz and tried to read everything he wrote. (I no longer read him because I think the quality of his work has diminished.) Back then with Koontz and other authors, whenever I read sentences that struck me as excellent, I copied them in a file.

Then I’d rewrite their sentences, using their style, and change it to make it sound like Cec Murphey. I learned so much from other writers that way.

Along with that, I began asking, “Why does this writer speak to me?” Some authors get rave reviews and I read them and can’t understand the reason. Part of it may be preference or taste.

But another reason is that I try to be sensitive to the style, voice, and tone and respond positively to those who speak to me. Too many read for information or entertainment (certainly not wrong), but they pay no attention to the craft.

A film from 2000, Finding Forrester, illustrates the value of what I’ve written above. A gifted young black student, Jamal (played by Rob Brown), meets the reclusive Pulitzer Prize winner, Forrester (Sean Connery).

Forrester gives Jamal some of his own articles to rewrite and then he is to go on to make the manuscript his own work. Imitating can be a learning tool. This doesn’t mean plagiarize.

The young man’s experience of starting with the master and moving into his own words was a powerful experience for him and, in the film, he becomes an excellent writer.

Why not try it?

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