Day One...(Question about developing a Writer's Style?)

by Izak Kazan
(Rome, GA USA)

Greetings,


I am an Assistant Professor of Organic Chemistry who celebrated the academic year-end graduation yesterday.

Today, being my first day-off before Summer session starts in June through July, gives me about a month to begin my first book, beyond a scientific thesis.

My goal is a heptology in six steps. Hence, I am happy to have found your web-site as a step-by-step guide to writing a novel. I have outlined the seven story goals desired to be told and am now developing a plot for the first one.

Perhaps I am going to stop after the first sentence...yet I really can't afford to do that. Writing out-of-necessity...to eventually supplement my single income for my family is perhaps no reason to write a book. However, I've always wanted to write a book. And, yet, I wonder what it would look like when finished. Would it be even worth the effort or would it be so poor that I'd be embarrassed to see it in print. Who cares, I got a month to start...three boys and a wife to support and a lecture hall and lab to prepare to teach a whole year of Organic Chemistry in 8 weeks.

Oh, here's my question. How does a novice writer successfully combine the styles of Garrison Keillor, Bill Bryson, Dinesh D'Souza and Neil Gaiman into a unique writing style?

Bert Exsted
(...who will write under the alias of Izak Kazan as my youngest son Izak Kazan Exsted is the 5 year old who actually wants to become famous. I just want to be able to help him find a vocation in life that he is gifted at, as I do with all three of my boys.)

Answer: There's a saying on Wall Street: "Must money never wins."

What that means is that you should never count on winning against long odds. Fiction writing is a tough business.

That said, I don't want to discourage you either. Writing a novel can be highly rewarding for all kinds of reasons, and new authors beat the odds every year.

Eventually, you will want to develop your own unique style, and that generally comes only through practice writing.

However, since you know a small number of authors whose styles you like, there is a short cut (even though it won't sound short when I describe it).

Take one book by each author that you think is superb. Each week, copy out one chapter from each book, ideally in longhand. This will imprint their styles into your subconscious, and when you sit down to write your own work, you will find your sense of how to string words together has improved.

This is a more natural and effective way than trying to copy someone's style in a formulaic way, and faster than learning by voracious reading (which is how most people imprint their sense of language). Using several authors as source material will stop you from simply developing a copycat style.

I hope you have longer than a month (or are gifted with unusual talent) because usually a first book takes longer - anywhere from a few months to a few years. Fortunately, it sounds as though you have somewhat of an outline created, which should also save time.

Be prepared to revise.

Best of luck.

Comments for Day One...(Question about developing a Writer's Style?)

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May 08, 2013
A slow read...
by: Izak Kazan

Dear Glen,

I appreciate you taking the time to write back and especially, the fact, that you responded to my request so promptly...yet, you wrote slowly and that was much appreciated as somehow you must of been able to tell that I am a 'slow reader'.

So this is what it feels like to be be published already, of sorts, and I am only starting-off. I feel like Bill Bryson, the eve before he stepped-foot out upon 'The Appalachian Trail'. This is exciting, yet for some reason, I fear those wild beasts which I may likely encounter upon the trail and simply become another 'mauled author', another statistic of those who tried, but failed.

Yet, I have your map and am reading it before I embark on my journey. And, I shall heed your advice by simultaneously copying long-hand chapters from authors whom I admire...just to develop a better style which I so desire.

Before reading your response, I initially went back to take a look at Kiellor's opening line in "Liberty" and dumbfounded, I found he made use of over 20 commas and then finished his opening sentence on page two. Do you think he wrote a run-on sentence intentionally, so as to lose any wanna-be-writer followers or was he simply mocking the importance of the 'opening line'. Nevertheless, he pulled-it off and also gave me a "writer's snuggy" ('snuggy' being Minnesotan for pulling someone's underwear up beyond it's normal position of comfort). I'm sure others have a different word for this, but I don't know of another, at least at this stage of my writing. Even thesaurus.com seems to be ignorant of this cultural expression.

Nevertheless, I have simply waded into the lagoon of writing. During the day, I tended to my upcoming lectures and labs, but as night has fallen, I have awoke. It is after 2 am and the house is very quiet. I've decided that this is the best time for me get-up and write for an hour or two. I usually awake during the middle of the night anyway, and instead of reading a good book or listening to various Lutheran Public Radio programming. I thought I might as well go back and tend to my first book. Before, I opened the file, I saw you wrote.

So, here I am, with several dozen thoughts racing through my mind and I guess I hit my first wall, that being the 'Long-Shot odds on Wall Street'. Yet, I've taken a step-out onto the road of writing and am surprised to see that I hit a Wall this soon. I won't stand here too long as your traffic readers have things to do than have me stand in their way.

(...part 1 of 3 to be continued...)

May 08, 2013
Lost...but making good time...
by: Izak Kazan

So, I'll get a move-on and merely begin to write further. Once I've completed your recommended re-writing assignments of various chapters of authors whom I admire, I'll hopefully develop a style of my own which will appeal to readers.

If I make spelling errors or grammar mistakes, I will correct them later. For now, while my mind is racing or ideas are simply flowing past me as I stand still, I will attempt to further the plot which I have laid-out and intertwine the various characters with the intended theme or topic at hand. As I put that in black and white, at least I am progressing. My dad once said when we were on a family trip, "I've got good news and bads news." What's the bad news dad? "The bad news is that we are lost." And, the good news, "The good news is that we are making good time!"

Perhaps, I will not make it, but I hope to make it a good time. I know that writing is not my vocation, teaching science is what I have a passion for. And, I'm sure you are recalling your author of your high school Chemistry textbook right now and dreaming about the story-line: it's beginning (i.e., the atom), the middle (e.g., periodic trends, Lewis dot diagrams, bonding, chemical equations, mechanisms, reaction rates, acids and bases, etc.) and the end (i.e., nuclear chemistry). Why the authors always ended with nuclear chemistry amazed me and still does. Yet, maybe that's the way it all ends, life, etc...and yet I hope not and aspire to a more pleasant journey.

So, I write further this evening, late into the night...yet not about science, at least not for now. If I did, it would only be another exciting textbook of sorts, required reading only for those obligated to take the course.

No, I shall write about the growing-up on the family farm in central Minnesota. A way-of-life that has eluded many from the city and is swiftly fading away from our American memory. Growing-up not too far away from Lake Wobegon, where "...all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average"...gives me the courage to write aboutit. Yet, as time passes and memories fade, the rural country becomes more and more city-like.

(...part 2 of 3 continued...)

May 08, 2013
A slow write...
by: Izak Kazan

So, my first book will be about the struggle of getting-off the family farm and fulfilling an inner desire to see the world beyond the pasture, for what it is.

And yet, while I personally long to go back to those days of a simple way of life...the family farm. Those days wherein my father and mother took care of me, cared for my childhood needs, gave me a positive outlook to move forward...well, those days have actually come around and put me in the role of my parents. Of course, that's not what the book is about, other writings will better deal with that theme, in addition to other various worldly experiences and lessons in life, yet here is where I'll start.

So, I'll write some more tonight and tomorrow begin to copy a chapter each week by long-hand from Keillor, Bryson, D'Souza and Gaiman...to subconsciously develop an affable writing style, if nothing else to further develop an even more greater appreciation of the writing styles of authors whom I enjoy reading. And, I realize we all have an affinity to various writers. I once tried reading James Joyce, but simply couldn't get through his books...not that he was a bad writer, but that I merely was unable to digest his style of writing. Yet, others feast upon his words. I'm happy their minds are well-fed and that they've acquired fine literary taste.

I'll sign-off for now and get back to work, checking-in periodically each week. Granted my writing will take more than a month as I am not a gifted writer. I don't have much talent, but sometimes a simpleton can develop interesting character(s). I've developed myself, after much tribulation and work. Learning to stand-up, brushing myself off after falling hard and expected to stay-down, when there appeared to be no reason to get up. And, so I am up this evening 'to write', but to do so...slowly.

(...part 3 of 3 conclusion.)

May 11, 2013
How can i get updates on your writings ?
by: Snuggyman :)

Hope you include your stays in Germany , Brazil and Africa ........Your hacking days of playing Basketball with Brothers and how playing sports together seems to take place of words amoungst brothers , where as i feel women tend to be more talkative , guys seem to hash it out on the course ,court or playing field ! Hope you include your drama time at school Theatre ! Your Comic routines with schoolmates, classes and Galfriends ! adios Bro

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