Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Writing: Copy a bestseller to be a bestseller!

I read recently in my Brainstormer writing book that when you start writing, you should take a book - in the genre you're wring in - and copy it out word for word.


This didn't make any sense but what he said next did... Why you should do this - maybe not the whole book but parts:

1) You practice writing proper grammar and punctuation. Need help punctuating dialog? Copy a master writer!
2) From copying chapters, you learn what length chapters should be, you learn story structure and proper narration.
3) You pick up tips on writing action and dialog or any areas you may be weak.
Fiction Writer's Brainstormer4) Writers have to choose their words carefully. Anyone can eventually explain their novel in 500,000 words but most publishers will want less then 100,000 so you need to value each words you pick. By copying a best-seller, you see how every word chosen serves a purpose. You don't waste your time or your words.

Now, don't actually try to sell your copied novel... that's called plagiarism. But, as you copy, take notes and write the lessons you learned. Ask yourself why the writer chose to write this way or pick the words he did.


Carol Kilgore said...

I've heard this before. But I've never tried it. Hmmm. Maybe I should try.

Unknown said...

Wow what an amazing concept! I've never considered it before, but just thinking about it, it actually makes perfect sense.

I'm going to have to try this out! Great post!

Lisa Miles said...

Good idea. I'm terrible at grammar and punctuation. Maybe I'll try it!

Jemi Fraser said...

Yikes! I think I would go crazy! Definitely wouldn't choose War & Peace!

It makes sense, but I'm pretty sure I couldn't do it.

Al said...

I don't know, I think it would drive me nuts.
I am not great with grammar, but hey that is why I get someone else to edit my work.
I do agree that you can learn an awful lot about by reading closely. Looking at a book from a technical viewpoint rather than as a member of an audience. Asking questions like: "why is the author breaking things up this way?"; or "does this build suspense and why?".

Ann Elle Altman said...

Carol, I've never done it, but I'm thinking of it.

Jen, It does make sense doesn't it.

Lisa, maybe I should to.

Jemi, yeah, I don't think a writer would do it but the concept is the same.

Al, those are great questions and yeah, that's the point of the exercise.


Tiffany Neal said...

Wow. Very interesting idea. Not bad. Maybe that'll be my next endeavor.

Doralynn Kennedy said...

What good advice. I actually learned punctuation from reading. I actually learned how to write from reading too, but I didn't realize it until later.

I'd love to hear your podcast. Send me the link if you'd like. You can send it through my website.

Great post... as usual. Love the touch of humor at the end!


Ann Elle Altman said...

Thanks, Tiffany.

Doralynn, I think I deleted the pod cast. But, glad you liked the blog.


Anonymous said...

This is an interesting idea. The connection between 'typing fingers' and the brain is stronger (I think?) than the connection between simply 'reading' and the brain. There's more physical involvement in the prior.

I might try this... if I can find the time!



from the desk of a writer