So, I’m sitting at the park as I often do on the weekend, my mind fuzzy and my focus like the last bit of a candle’s flame sputtering in its own wax. I open my laptop and stare at the blank new document, but instead I grab the book I brought for times such as these.
When my mind glazes over, I do what I call Fun Writing, that is, creation without a goal. I harbor no intent to “do” anything with the writing such as turn it into or a blog post, short story, or novel; however, there are times when gems float to the surface of otherwise unpalatable prose.
This is how it works: I read a favorite author, and after a chapter or two, I set out to create something, anything in that author’s particular style. While typing the author’s words, I pay close attention to the length of the author’s sentences, the phrasing, and the flavor of the yarn.
Why, you ask? Study. By imitating a favorite writer, I gain a sense of how they use language, at what point they show versus tell, and how they accomplish pulling emotion from the reader.
I first did this many years ago while a reporter at a newspaper. Over the course of a month, I went into Dickens Mode: I read Tale of Two Cities followed immediately by Great Expectations. I noticed my sentences lengthened, the aura of what I wrote took on a dark and foreboding tone. (The sports editor was not amused when my weekly article began, “It was the best of games, it was the worst of games . . . .”).
I then read several Edgar Allen Poe stories and did same. At that point I coined the name Fun Writing and occasionally partake to this very day (I’m currently reading The Hobbit).
I learned something very valuable during this exercise: mimicking another writer is a great way to beat the dreaded Writer’s Block. After having exhausted every trick to add to a blank page, and getting no where, typing another writer’s words inevitably leads me into my own creation. If I am in a quandary about a piece of dialogue, I’ll concentrate on a special interaction between two characters, or if my problem is description I’ll find a favorite section where I can “see” a particular scene. See more about Defeating Writer’s Block here.
You will probably not match the favorite author you choose (they are in all likelihood a best-selling author or prose master), but you may uncover a gem from the stony writing associated with first drafts. The gem may even be a clever turn-of-phrase suitable for a current work in progress.
I have done the Fun Writing with several different writers: John Jakes, Flannery O’Connor, Mark Twain, Jim Butcher and a host of others.
A side note: there is a website entitled, I Write Like, which uses a few paragraphs of your writing to determine who you write like among famous authors. It’s fun, but don’t put too much emphasis on it. I posted six different writing examples and it gave me four different writers (Poe was one of them, oddly enough).
I challenge you to take a few minutes and do some Fun Writing; you never know what you might find during this exercise.
Comment and let the Knights of Writ followers know how this mini-challenge helped you be a better writer.
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