October 17, 2017, 09:32:17 PM

Author Topic: Is it common practice to retype a book to improve prose and vocabulary?  (Read 414 times)

Offline Pandekokoy

Greetings everyone! This would be my very first post, and I'm a bit nervous.

I am new to writing, but I do have lots of ideas and plots for a good book (in my opinion). As you would probably guess, I'm terrible, but eager to improve.

As a heavy metal guitar player, I improve by practicing and learning (through imitation) guitar solos from different musicians.

I was wondering if the same can be applied to improve writing.

If I take an ebook of say, A Wizard of Earthsea and rewrite it word for word, will I learn faster? Sure I would analyze how Leguin writes, but do you guys have any idea if this would be effective? Has anyone tried this before?
« Last Edit: August 10, 2017, 09:27:55 AM by Pandekokoy »

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Re: Is it common practice to retype a book to improve prose and vocabulary?
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2017, 09:34:50 AM »
Hi @Pandekokoy glad to see you here and welcome.

Don't be nervous, post away I'm sure one of those writer types were get to you soon
According to some,* heroic deaths are admirable things

* Generally those who don't have to do it.Politicians and writers spring to mind

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Offline CameronJohnston

Re: Is it common practice to retype a book to improve prose and vocabulary?
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2017, 10:29:26 AM »
I can't see what help copying it word for word could possibly be to you. If you wrote your own thing and tried to copy the style of that book using her sentence structure etc, then that might be helpful to learn how and why it is done that way.

The best way to learn is to write and get it critiqued by others. I'd suggest short stories, and you can ask for feedback on this very forum!
It is a little nervewracking showing your work to others but well worth it.
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Offline IWFerguson

Re: Is it common practice to retype a book to improve prose and vocabulary?
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2017, 10:35:41 AM »
There are also many helpful books about the craft of writing. My local library has more of these than I could read. Also, there are many helpful blog articles. mythcreants.com has writing help articles that are directed at fantasy writers. I think your retyping Leguin idea would be a fun way to improve one's typing.

Offline Pandekokoy

Re: Is it common practice to retype a book to improve prose and vocabulary?
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2017, 10:45:36 AM »
Thank you for the suggestions! Now that you mention it, retyping would only improve my typing, at the very least. I will check the website out. I will also do my best to send in some of my writings in the future for critique. Thanks again. Cheers!

Offline Lanko

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Re: Is it common practice to retype a book to improve prose and vocabulary?
« Reply #5 on: August 10, 2017, 10:45:40 AM »
An entire book? I heard about people doing that, but I don't think you should. Maybe the passages you liked the most at best, or one whom you like the use of some element.
Some elements like thinking about a certain structure or characterization are best realized when just reading, thinking about it and letting your subconsciousness filter it. As you start writing and reading about writing you're gonna notice and absorb things more easily anyway.

You said you're new but who knows how new you are...

I'd say the best topics to start are probably about active and passive voice, character motivation (or goal-conflict-outcome) and beginning, middle, end complemented with pacing. You'll find a bazillion of different material about it (except maybe active and passive voice), but it's probably really worth to gather a lot of advice on the later two to start forming in your approach on those...

For books, I'd recommend On Writing by Stephen King, half of it is biographical and when he goes to the writing per se it's in a conversational tone that's nice and easy to follow.
The Breakout Novel or The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maas. Don't remember which one I read. But I remember I got lot about pace from one of them.
And The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. If those two can help you with some practical or technical advice, this one is more about mentality, as even experienced and published authors may be overcome with doubt or fear.

Slow and steady wins the race.

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Offline cupiscent

Re: Is it common practice to retype a book to improve prose and vocabulary?
« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2017, 11:32:58 AM »
Actually, I think copying out the work of other people can be a good way to see how the flow of words feels from a different angle. I'd probably agree with Lanko - doing an entire book mightn't be an efficient use of time, but copying out a section that you feel flows particularly well can be a good way to get past the overall effect of the thing and start seeing how the individual words and sentences fit together to create that effect.

To link it back to your music analogy, Pandekokoy, this is how you add tricks to your repertoire. But composing a new piece of music is a different (though related) skill, and you want to practice that one lots and lots as well!

Offline Pandekokoy

Re: Is it common practice to retype a book to improve prose and vocabulary?
« Reply #7 on: August 10, 2017, 12:48:16 PM »
Thank you so much. I guess an entire book would be too much. Lol

Offline D_Bates

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Re: Is it common practice to retype a book to improve prose and vocabulary?
« Reply #8 on: August 10, 2017, 01:40:06 PM »
This is an interesting idea that I've considered in the past.

The main points on how I feel about it have already been covered above. I think we're very visual with our learning, which is why some teaching practices have you copy notes straight off projector cards, and I think writing another work word for word would certainly help you osmose some of the sentence structure and stylistic mannerisms similar to what reading does, only faster, something I imagine is particularly useful if you're inspired by a specific author and are trying to follow in their large footsteps.

The downside is that's all it will do. It won't give you any real insight into the word choices--their syllables and meanings--and how they affect the rhythm of the sentence. Nor will it relay why the sentence is there, as in the details it's delivering to grow character, setting, or plot. That sort of stuff there's no real guide you can follow, as it's largely down to how you feel and what you deem important, so has to be learned through trial and error and fleshed out through the understanding of the craft that you eventually grow alongside your own personal style.
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Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Is it common practice to retype a book to improve prose and vocabulary?
« Reply #9 on: August 10, 2017, 08:44:00 PM »
I think reading other books would be better, so long as one was disciplined and looked up new words and usages. And about 500% more fun - and as studies show, the more fun learning is, the more we do and the more we get out of it.
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Offline Peat

Re: Is it common practice to retype a book to improve prose and vocabulary?
« Reply #10 on: August 10, 2017, 10:34:08 PM »
I've heard people recommend it as a learning tool. I've never tried it myself mind, but you wouldn't be the first.

Personally I'd recommend just reading a crap ton for vocabulary. It might work well for improving your prose - writing out the actual flow of the words might improve your understanding of when to just describe, when to flourish, how to use the least possible words while maintaining voice. Maybe try doing a chapter, then writing your own stuff and seeing if you feel like you've progressed?
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Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Is it common practice to retype a book to improve prose and vocabulary?
« Reply #11 on: August 10, 2017, 10:53:43 PM »
They say one never knows one's own language until they learn someone else's, and I think this is true on some levels - but I learned it cuts both ways. The more obscure aspects of English Grammar were overwritten when I studied Russian and Arabic, and I didn't realize it until I began writing my book.

And it's hard to call the insights I gained in English more substantial than merely 'interesting', such as the way American English pivots around prepositions, while our English friends tend to let differing verbs take the wheel; and the way all English likes to move words from nouns to verbs over time. If you doubt this, email me  ;D
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Offline Stew Hotston

Re: Is it common practice to retype a book to improve prose and vocabulary?
« Reply #12 on: August 11, 2017, 04:00:36 PM »
read. read a lot and read everything. Don't read just what you know you'll like but stretch your horizons, find new authors, new stories in places you wouldn't normally consider

It's a much easier way (and more enjoyable) of improving your vocab and sense of how stories flow.

If you want better prose, read the best out there and compare it to your own.

Now, editing is different and that can/should improve both prose and vocab. But you were asking about literal retyping and I'd say that's of almost no value to you.

Just get out there and read

Offline cupiscent

Re: Is it common practice to retype a book to improve prose and vocabulary?
« Reply #13 on: August 11, 2017, 11:25:15 PM »
I would also always recommend reading voraciously, and analysing. But it can be hard to analyse a great book when you're in the thick of it, which is where using the typing-out to take a step back can actually help you make the step from reader to examiner. It's a tool, not a magic bullet.

Offline Skip

Re: Is it common practice to retype a book to improve prose and vocabulary?
« Reply #14 on: August 12, 2017, 01:50:46 PM »
Was it Ben Franklin who did this? Someone famous.

And the not-so-famous. Me, specifically. I read Bradbury's Martian Chronicles at fourteen and was smitten. So entranced was I by the language that I wrote out not the entire book but chapters that I especially liked. I can't say I learned much, but sometimes you just play along with other musicians for the sheer joy of it.
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