Saturday, February 2, 2013

Learning from Published Authors

A version of this entry appeared Jan. 23, 2013 on "Wonderings & Wanderings," my blog about living the writer's life. 

The best way to learn to write well is to note how published authors have applied all the elements of strong prose you’re learning about. Dissect published stories and articles to see how the pros build the writing puzzle. 

Select your favorite short story from an anthology or magazine and read it critically. Consider the following:

Whose perspective is the story from?
How is the conflict introduced? 
How does the main character react to the conflict?
Does the main character solve the problem? How?
How many scenes are included? 
With each scene is a new obstacle presented? If so, how is it resolved?
If only one scene is used, how is the conflict escalated? Or, how do new problems arise as the main character deals with a problem?
What is the length (duration) of the story? (A few hours, a day, several days?)
How is the final problem resolved?
How quickly does the story conclude?

Now, do the same with an article. It’s especially helpful to “outline” the article. (And remember how much easier this is to do after the writing is completed?) Mark the paragraphs defining the topic. How has the writer drawn you into the piece? Underline each main point made in the article and mark the anecdotes or facts used to illustrate each point. 

Review the “notes” on each piece you’ve analyzed. What have you learned? Try to emulate what you’ve discovered in your own writing. 

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