Friday, May 6, 2011

Writing Update: Learning from Other Writers

There is a Bible verse that says to follow those who have gone before us, and through their faith and patience have inherited the promises of God. I believe that idea applies to our writing habits as well. Who are the others who have gone before us? Successful, published authors, of course!

The more I think about writers and the craft of writing, the more I realize how much you can learn by studying the writing of others. You can do this in two ways: you can read and listen to advice from people who are in the writing field (authors, editors, agents). There are countless books, conferences, podcasts, and other sources that offer advice gleaned from years of experience.

The other way to learn from fellow writers is to study their work and figure out why it works. Why do you like that particular author? How does he/she keep you turning pages? Their words are powerful... their words are working their magic on you. Why? How?

Answering the questions of why and how can help you hone your own writing skills. Learn what you can from those who have gone before you. And don't limit yourself to the classics, like Shakespeare. Don't feel guilty about pulling out a little Janet Evanovich or Dan Brown or whoever you like. Your goal isn't to decide whether these people are worthy of joining the literary canon. Your goal is to figure out why you don't mind dropping $8 as soon as you see their latest book is out.

Whatever it is you like, you like it for a reason. Figure out why. What's working? How does that author make it work for you? Then do it in your own writing. It'll improve your craft, believe me.

That's what I did this week... I spent time thinking about what works, reading a few scenes by authors I like, and talking about writing with my critique group. And I realized that no matter how small my writing efforts seem to me, I'm learning from them. And that keeps me going.

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