How Your Writing Heroes Can Become Your Writing Teachers in Five Seconds or Less
Today’s blog post comes from Book Proposal Boot Camp member and writer Taylor Murray.
I read my first novel by Francine Rivers when I was 11 years old.
I remember holding the thick, 500-page book with curiosity. Cupping my chin with one hand, I flipped open the novel with the other.
Almost immediately, her writing captivated me, confounded me and captured my full attention.
I sank deep into the beauty of her rich storytelling and read the book, cover to cover, in two days. I was fascinated by her writing style, and by the way she strung words together that made sense to the unspoken parts of my soul.
I was just beginning to discover my love of words. As I’ve continued to immerse myself in the writings of others, their words — stored and absorbed inside of me — have unlocked my own unique writing style.
Over a decade of feasting at the tables of my writing heroes, I’ve learned the quickest and most drastic way to improve my own writing skill is by studying the skill of others.
Here are three key tips I’ve learned along the way.
- Read with a writer’s eye.
Have you ever noticed how much time we spend each day reading? Whether it’s books, articles, advertisements or social media posts, we are constantly digesting information.
I’ve discovered that every reading moment can be a writer’s moment.
Whatever I’m reading, I’m learning to sit at the edge of the piece and peer into the writing from an outside perspective. Rather than solely focusing on what the content says, notice how the content is communicated.
- What words does the author use, and how does she pair them together?
- What word-pictures does the author paint?
- What emotions do certain descriptions evoke in you?
- What tone does the author use? How does it resonate with you?
- How does the author build her writing around her central message?
- Does the author’s flow/pace feel right to you?
- Notice when your soul sings.
I recently read the book When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd. Her writing brought me to tears. Yes, because of the content, but also because of how she used words to capture raw emotions and paint a vibrant landscape of our inner worlds.
Below are some phrases and sentences that made my soul sing.
- “Inner upheaval.” (I love how she paired these two words together to create a riveting word-picture. What words can I combine in a fresh way in order to identify felt needs?)
- “We rust over.” (“Rusting” isn’t a word commonly used to describe humans, but it resonates deeply with me. How can I creatively broaden my usage of uncommon verbs to stir emotions?)
- “My life had curled up in the frightening mark of a question…” and “…waiting is the yeasting of the human soul.” (Here, Kidd compared life to a question mark and waiting to the yeasting process in bread-making. So intriguing. How can I utilize symbols and similes to awaken greater self-understanding?
- “It’s curling up in the fogged spaces of the listening heart, sinking into solitude, wrapping the soul around some little flame of hope that God had ignited. It’s sitting on the window sill of the heart, still and watching.” (I love how she depicted the heart as possessing a “window sill” and described the soul as being “wrapped” around hope. How can I employ unconventional imagery to communicate truth in a more compelling way?)
- Whether it’s two words or 200 words, take note of everything.
I’ve saved screenshots in my phone of two words because I liked how the author paired them. My highlights typically fall within three categories:
- Thought-provoking concepts/truth
- Creative syntax
- Captivating descriptions
When I finished reading When the Heart Waits, I had collected over 250 notes and highlights!
A few days ago, I began working on the introduction for the book I’m currently writing.
Instead of starting with my words, I started with the words of others. I curled up with five or six of my favorite books and absorbed each of their introductions, studying words, structure, tone, writing style and flow. As my soul sang, my writer’s brain spun with new ideas.
With the turn of a page, my writing heroes had become my writing teachers.
What writing heroes can you learn from today?
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