This guest post is by Sarah Moore. Sarah is a writer and aspiring novelist. You can find her on her blog, Musings of a Steampunk, and (occasionally) tweeting something useful (@modernsteampunk). Thanks Sarah!
Sometimes, when I’m having a terrible, horrible, no good, really bad day, I’ll look up from the blank word document on the computer screen in front of me, glance over at the neat, colorful row of Harry Potter books on the shelf, and collapse into a black hole of despair over the fact that I’m not J.K. Rowling.
This is not healthy behavior, I know.
Photo by conejoazul
Over time, I’ve learned a way to defeat this kind of thinking. One of the most oft-repeated pieces of writing advice is, after all, to read as much as possible. Why do we do this? To get an idea of what we like, the types of stories that appeal to us, the kinds of cadences that sound right in our ears.
It’s far too easy, though, to let these other writers (better writers, published writers, et cetera) become ghosts at the funeral of your career, sometimes before it even begins. Don’t do it. Instead, use this vast wellspring of self-flagellation as an excuse to make your writing better.
Try the following:
- Ask yourself what you like so much about your favorite book?
- Are the words comfortable?
- Are the characters lovable?
- Is the story amazing?
- Pick one of your favorite scenes—the type you tend to read over and over—and analyze what’s so great about it. Then sit down and try to mimic that using your own angle.
- Later, compare. How did you do? What techniques did you learn?
Don’t Be Afraid To Borrow
Often times we are afraid of borrowing at all from other writers, for fear that we’ll be seen as borrowing far too heavily. Don’t be. If you write something and later realize you’ve just produced 80,000 words worth of Stephen King ripoff, well then, first of all you’ve written 80,000 words. Second of all, there’s almost certainly a story in there, and you’ve spent all that time honing your own voice.
It might need massive editing, but it’s far from worthless.
Beyond getting over your intimidation, your favorite writers can be a source of great inspiration. Finding a specific character impossible to paint? Need a great example of showing, not telling? Want to figure out why that love triangle is soooo gooood? It’s all written down somewhere, and the world’s literary collection is your encyclopedia, mentor, and shining example all at once. Why ignore it?
So the next time you find yourself blocked beyond belief, whether trying to bang out another chapter of your soon-to-be bestseller or just dealing with the daily grind, turn to your favorites for help. After all, they caught your attention. They’ve obviously got something to say.
Spend fifteen minutes consciously trying to write like one of your favorite authors. Don’t copy their specific word choices, themes, characters or anything that would be cheap or disingenuous. Instead, let yourself be inspired by the spirit of their writing, and try to pour that same spirit into your own practice.”
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1Ms.Kline123Sep 23, 2011, 11:47am
Responses should be two paragraphs long and include the title, author, and examples from the text.
2katiew101Sep 23, 2011, 4:00pm
My favorite character in my book so far is Buck inThe Call Of The Wild by Jack London . Buck is a dog that shows courage. Even though he has been kidnapped, beaten, and forced to learn how to be a slead dog he trys to do what he needs to do in hopes that he will return home soon. His previous owner was The Judge. Buck was not a dog that liked to be pamperd, he was a dog that liked to get his food outside and never slept inside.
The day that Buck got kidnapped started of as an ordinary day. He went for a stroll in the woods when a rope got put around his neak. He exepted the rope for one minute untill he noticed what was going on. As soon as that happed he began to fight back. The rope was twisted and he fell to the ground in pain. Buck tried to bite the kidnappers mutipul times but each atempt ended with the twist of a rope and more pain. This is why Buck is my favorite charactor. He knew when to fight back and when to let what ever was going to happen, happen.
3BradonKSep 26, 2011, 3:47pm
My favorite character in the book Gym Candy by Carl Deuker is Mick Johnson, the main character. The reason that he is my favorite character is that once he likes something he is determined to stick to that until he succeeds. One way that he is determined to stick to something is that he sticks to football until he does something good.
Another reason he is my favorite character is that if he falls down he gets back up ( He dont give up ). One way he doesnt give up is he was returning the punt and he got blasted from one of the blockers. He was carried out, but he didnt give up. He kept playing football after. He never once was scared of anyone on the field. He never gave up. He would guard anyone in his way. Mick will always be my favorite character in Gym Candy.
4tyler_english11Sep 28, 2011, 7:59pm
My favorite character in my book Blood is Thicker by Paul Langan is Savon because he is very compassionate, helpful and protective of his family. He is very compassionate about his music, he likes to rap about his life and what he has gone through. He is very connected to his career as a rapper but his dad thinks it’s a waste of time. But he sneaks out to rehearse and perform at a club for teens only. But his family believes he is robbing or doing something illegal with his friends. His cousin follows him to see what he’s up to on Friday night and sees Savon and his crew perform and he thinks they’re good. Then his cousin is trying to find him and goes into the bathroom and everybody knows not to go into the bathroom after midnight. Then Tariq one of Savon’s friends found him going to the bathroom and Hakeem is about to get jump but Savon tells them to let him go.
Savon asked what he was thinking but they had to hurry home and soon found out that they were caught. His dad told Savon not to break anymore of his rules or he is going to kick him out. But Savon tried to tell him but he wouldn’t budge so Hakeem stood up and in the morning Savon and his dad made an agreement. Then Hakeem got a phone call and had to go back to California to help comfort his ex girlfriend but his parents didn’t have the money. So Savon let Hakeem use his money from the performances that he has done and Hakeem will pay him back during the summer working at his uncle’s shop.
5Jerel13Oct 4, 2011, 3:09pm
My favorite character in my book Summer of Secrets by Paul Langan is Darcy. One thing i like about Darcy is the way she been handling the family after her grandma died. Her mother has been real stresssed out lately and the family been going through a lot and she alaways concerned for her family. Another thing i like about Darcy is the way she handles her problems. When Darcy was working at her job Scoops her friend Brisania is alaways trying to prove that she's better than everyone else. She was tryna to show off her new boyfriend Duane who is a real jerk.
In the middle of Darcy and Brisania conversation Duane comes in tryna rush his girlfriend. He was rushing her so they can go see his dad. Then he paid for there ice cream and didn't leave a tip. Then they got in the yellow mazda and zoomed off. Darcy was very mad but she didn't go off on him even though she should have. She handled it in a mature manner.
6cortezsEdited: Oct 5, 2011, 2:51pm
In my book Diary of a wimpy kid Rowley is my favorite character in the whole book. He is just like me because he doesn't talk much. Unless around people he knows like Greg. He is shy like me too. He is silly and crazy like me. He like Greg tells him to ride down this steep hill on your big wheel.
So I can try to knock you off with a football. He is funny and friendly like me I'm not a mean person. He all ways try to make people laugh.He becomes the class clown. his picture was in their yearbook.
7TabbyBOct 4, 2011, 5:52pm
Night's Child: Sweep by Cate Tiernan is the book i'm reading. So far in the book my favorite character is Moira Byrne. She is tall has long hair and is independent. She is my favorite because she is alot like me! Im short (only diffrence) I have long hair, and i'm independent. I like her because she reminds me of well me.
In the book she is a witch and has some strong powers. She feels confident about herself. She likes this boy but her mother doesn't want her to see him because her mother, Morgan Byrne, thinks that the boy she likes mother is evil and practices dark magick. she gets mad at her mom and walks up to her room and just sits there. I like her because she can stand up for herself and still be happy and social with her friends.
8chelseaaOct 4, 2011, 6:38pm
My favorite character in Nights in Roadanthe by Nicholas Sparks is Adrienne. She has and still is going through a lot. Her husband left her for a younger woman and her dad has had numerous strokes and is now in need of a stay home nurse which she dosnt have the money for. To add onto her stress, her three teenage children are a handful ! But as the years go on she starts to get and feel better. She dosn't care or cry about her ex-husband anymore, her children are all out of the house, and most even have chidren of their own. But sadly her dad passed away and is no longer there to comfort her. So that's something that still bothers her. Another problem is the tragic thing that happend to her daughter. Her daughters husband died of cancer and her daughter is still trying to recover from it. To help her a liitle Adrienne decides to tell her daughter, Amanda, about the nights she spent in Roadanthe. (;
Adrienne is my favorite character because she is caring, thoughtful and most of all strong. Of course she was a little depressed when her husband left but she didnt let it get the best of her. Most women, I think, would be stuck in there rooms all day crying and wondering why it all happened that way. But unlike other women she dosnt let her past determine her future. She dosn't get all lonely as she use to. She is a very good, caring mother. She has pretty much taken care of her kids by herself since her husband left. That shows alot !
9guadalupecOct 4, 2011, 7:15pm
My favorite character in my book Darkness Before Dawn by Sharon M. Draper is Keisha. Keisha is a really strong character and helpful to the rest of her friends. She also tries to get good grades for her future.
I thought Keisha was a strong character because her best friend and her boyfriend died. Her parents had a divorce and she’s trying to find a way to forget about all the horrible things that had happened and tries to keep on going with her future. I also chose Keisha because we have some things in common like I always try to get good grades and I will help my friends when they need it.
10indiac715Oct 4, 2011, 7:25pm
In my book freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers, my favorite character is Annabel Andrews. Anna is a thirteen year old girl that has braces, has brown hair, and brown eyes. She’s like your typical everyday person. She doesn’t think she’s beautiful or good looking. Another reason why I like Anna is that although she may have a hard task to do but doesn’t want to do it she gets it done in a reasonable amount of time with time to spare. She’s very messy and doesn’t listen to her parents very much. Anna is very enthusiastic.
Anna thought that her parents were the meanest parents on earth because she couldn’t do like some of her friends. She can’t go to the park alone, or to parties so for this she doesn’t fit in to well at school. Her mom is only trying to prepare for being the best young lady she can be. Anna also thinks that her job as being a kid is hard so to teach Anna a lesson her mom exchanged bodies with her. Anna loved her new body but she didn’t know how much responsibility was headed her way. With this Anna still showed that she was responsible.
11meganr22Oct 4, 2011, 8:45pm
In my book Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick my favorite character is Steven. Steven is a skinny geek in the 8th grade. He has a brother named Jeffery that annoys him all the time, like a usual brother. Steven is my favorite character because of his funny and sarcastic thoughts. I’m exactly like him when it comes to the fact of the funny and sarcastic comments. Steven is one of the good characters in this book, and he is why I continue to read this book.
Another reason Steven is my favorite character is when he says, "Wake up as normal people. Younger son gets nosebleed. Older son goes to school. Dad goes to work. Younger son goes to the emergency room. Younger son allegedly has cancer. Mom quits job. Mom and Younger son get ready to skip town. Father and older son stand around like idiots and prepare to buy a huge supply of- what? TV dinners?" is an example of what I act like to, and that is why Steven is my favorite character because we are just alike. Steven is also a person who is willing to try something new all the time, as in when he focuses how to play the conga part of the song on the drums for the spring concert. With all going on in his family I’m surprised he is trying to do that, and that is why I like Steven so much.
12elizabetha24Oct 4, 2011, 10:01pm
My favorite character in the book Isabel of the Whales by Hester Velmans is Isabel. Isabel is my favorite character because she is very curios and has a passion for animals. Her favorite animal is the blue whale. She has allot of curiosity because, she was on a whale watch and wanted to get so close to the whale she fell off the boat and in to the ice cold water, with whales one hundred times her size. Her curiosity and love for whales got her in big trouble.
Another reason why Isabel is my favorite character is because she is very brave. When everybody in the boat was going crazy because there were whales every where, Isabel was calm and under control. Isabel was also brave enough to get on the rail on the side of the boat and lean down to touch a whale. I like Isabel because she is similar to me in some ways. One way she is similar to me is that she has older brothers like me. Isabel is a very curios, caring, and stubborn character.
13Debrahw08Oct 5, 2011, 9:09am
In the book each little bird that sings by Deborah Wiles my favorite character is Dismay. Dismay is the dog he is Black and Fluffy. He is my favorite because i like dogs.Dismay is also my favorite because it reminds me if my own dog. He is a very loving dog. he is just like many other dogs he jumps on tables,licks people faces,and digs holes.
Another reason Why he is my favorite because he helps Comfort go through her problems. He supports her and he is her best friend. The whole family loves him and always take care of him.When dismay got lost Peach and Comfort got very sad.I probably would have gotten the same way.
14bradr13Edited: Oct 5, 2011, 10:26pm
My book The Landry News by Andrew Clements. Mr. Larson is a teacher who is very laid back and relaxed, Mr. Larson reminds me of myself. I am laid back people who do not like to bothered a lot like Mr. Larson. Mr. Larson sits in class all day and not even teach he just reads the newspaper. Mr. Larson is my favorite character who I really like a lot.
Mr. Larson is one who does not bother anyone or do not like a lot of commotion. A lot of parents and teachers complained about Mr. Larson’s style of teaching, he never gave homework in any of his classes. I would like that because I really do not like to do homework I just want to do what I feel like doing, just like Mr. Larson. Mr. Larson really do not care what people say or think about him he just stay to himself. I am that type of person who does not care much about what people think of me. Mr. Larson has had bad performance reviews on his teaching for the last 7 years and they were all bad reports and parents and teachers thought he should quit or just retire to save himself from getting fired. I think I am like Mr. Larson and not worry about it because we all do things different than others and i am the same way I learn different than others and it may take me longer sometimes to catch on to what is going on but I will eventually get it.
15malcom188Nov 3, 2011, 3:52pm
In my book mike lupicas comeback kids hot hand
Billy Raynor is my favorite charather in this book. He is cool he reminds me of me when i was his age. Billy loves basketball and love his little brother but they can get annoing at a time.Billy is a type of basketball player he shots first then past later so he is a ball hog.
one thing i like about Billy he is strong
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