Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Are You Taking Notes?

Take notes. Jot it down. Then study it, absorb it, mull it around awhile. Okay, so what exactly is she talking about, you wonder. I'm speaking of style. When you hear the adage "read a lot, write a lot" you think that's great. You like to read and you like to write. So, that should solve everything. You will become the next Hemingway or be a bestselling author like Dan Brown. Right? Well, maybe you will. More than likely, instead of just reading you are studying. In that respect you really do get a lot out of the author's words, the style, the ability to make you feel what he or she has to say.

Some books on writing will advise you to copy down passage after passage of some work by an author you admire. That's a arduous and daunting task, but there are those who believe the ritual will help you absorb the way the author writes and make it yours. I tend to find a middle ground on this. I suggest whenever you see a word or a turn of a phrase that's clever, jot it down in a notebook so you can study it later. Or maybe it's a particular way a character acts, the words he or she says that catches your eye. Write it or describe it in your notebook.

I always think I'm going to remember what I've read or an idea I've had. I won't write it down and sure enough, it becomes buried, part of the tangled mass of thoughts crowding my mind. Write it down, please.

Then, when you have time to look over your notes, play with the words a bit. First, think and analyze the author's choice of words, the way he or she has put words together. We all want to avoid those overused, trite expressions like "clenching his teeth" or "squinting her eyes". When you see a unique phrasing, something that pops up from the page and you think, how great is that?, it's good to study it.

Next, try using some of those phrases, etc. in your own writing. See if it "fits" you. More than likely this exercise will help you to discover your own variation, a bit of an adjustment here, a little tweak there, and it's yours. Eventually--if you haven't already--you will find your own style. It will be drawn from all your experiences with reading and studying other authors' works. Then, someday, when you have your work published, aspiring authors will be studying you. And how awesome is that?!

Good luck in all you write :-)


Innocent Owner Of Mad Cats said...

What a great idea. I would have never thought to do something like this. I have the memory of nat sometimes and this is perfect.

Jenno said...

Yes, great idea indeed! I often find myself kind of reciting phrases that I've read in books because I loved their expression, and I tend to remember auditory things, hence why I talk to myself so much (that's one of the reasons many people do it, actually, although it's kind of subconscious anyway). Writing them down, I'd just be whispering anyway, hehe.

Hunter said...

I'm definitely taking notes! Great advice.

Going back a few posts here - Any advice for building credentials to include in a query letter? Are some things more important than others? Ideas for the greenest of novices?

As always, your insights are greatly valued and appreciated.


plainolebob said...

Teach, well I ain't no writer abd probably never will be, but I have to take notes any way else I git my self in a fix, and you know that can't be good.

teacherwriter said...

Innocent and Bob... I know. I feel like the post-it queen, always jotting notes down before I forget. Then I have to keep them out in the open, or else I forget where I put the notes!

Jenno... Reciting is wonderful! It brings all the words to life. Good suggestion.

Hunter...Queries are a touchy business, no doubt. I guess I would suggest that you build up -- start with small things. Like you've already done with your blog. And add to -- getting stories or articles sold. One place is suite101.com. You can write all sorts of nonfiction. Fiction is a bit tougher. Then when you write your query, make sure you include only the info that relates to writing. I will try to add more in another posting, soon, on how to build more pub credits. Great question though. Thanks for giving me the idea :-)

JW said...

I have also taken to the practice of taking notes. My little notebook is always around when I am reading. It's incredibly difficult to develop characters or present a good dialogue without a reference. Always helps when trying to write a novel.

Great advice.

ByDSea said...

I have been doing this for the last few years, it's a great way to inspire yourself as well as practice writing styles. What a great post!

teacherwriter said...

JW...you're right, if I don't have the notebook close by, and I don't want to make the effort to get up to find it, there goes another thought into my tangled mass of thoughts! Great suggestion.

ByDSea...glad to see you, like others, here, are taking it to the next step and using your notes to practice writing style!

plainolebob said...

Teach, sorry I don't know your name, bob just calls you Teach,lol.
Bob has decided to let me do the awards this week. I, decided to let each past winner, choose their favorite, what I am asking is, if you so choose, please let me know if you have a choice.
Thank you so much.

Tina said...

Hi, Kathy. I've written my first novel, currently out there with an agent (the first guy on my list) I'd love to talk writing and publishing with you! I've just looked at your books on Amazon. I'm so impressed!