The best part of a writing community includes more than personal feedback to your work. It's about the resources you might not have discovered on your own.
Even though I publish this blog, I subscribe to other writers and regularly visit several websites for tips and advice. In addition, I receive scheduled emails from established organizations: The New York Times Book Review, Writer's Digest, and Publisher's Weekly.
Each of the latter three groups provides outstanding articles on writing, authors, books, theory and practice. In addition, WD posts writing conference dates from around the US.
Today, I want to share an article I read in PW. This is no plug for an author's new book, and the interview with him that follows is priceless. Not every established writer has something new to say. When this man talks, however, I listen.
Disclaimer, I am madly, deeply in love with Donald Ray Pollock's writing. Here's one reason why.
Accompanied by the best Clint Eastwood look alike photo ever by an author, Pollock shares his favorite five writing tips. Okay, maybe they're not his favorite, but he likes them, they work, and they are easy to try.
We all have our favorite tips, so I won't go into Pollock's five here. You can simply click the link above and read them. I want to talk about Number 2.
2. Type out other people's stuff. That's exactly what it says. Go ahead and check.
There's no great process for me to describe here because you literally do what that title says. Pollock recalls typing up to seventy-five separate short stories over that many weeks. These were stories by other writers (Flannery O-Conner, Amy Hempel, etc.). He notes how doing this brought him closer to these writers' processes, how they transitioned scenes or scored dialogue.
At first, I was like, huh? Then I tried it...
Let me tell you people, this is a great exercise!
I started with my favorite story because I figured, I love this and want to write like this. For the past two weeks, I've been transcribing THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER by Carson McCullers. After the first paragraph, I became hyperaware of the punctuation--or lack thereof. She did not use commas how I was taught. I had to get over that.
Once I could ignore stylistic issues, I focussed on the actual writing, the story, character development. Whoa... amazeballs! I could see the two mutes' differences so quickly, and why she drew them the way she did, and how she was letting us know what might be a problem for them in the future of the tale.
I'm not going to transcribe the entire book because I want to explore other writing. Next, I want to write out Stephen King's THE BODY. That's the short story that became the movie, STAND BY ME.
Try this technique and tell us about your experience. Don't choose just any story. Find a writer you admire. Type out the book you want to write. Can you absorb their mystery, their vibe? Trust me, you will learn something.
Pollock says Hunter S. Thompson transcribed THE GREAT GATSBY because "he wanted to see what it felt like to write a great book."
That's my story, what's yours?