Emulating the Writing of Others

My current work-in-progress is a novel about four very different women who are old school friends and all find themselves single in their forties. They decide to compete with each other to see who can find a "keeper" - a really decent man - first. The losers will pay for the winner's wedding. The punchline, of course, is that they all find a keeper, but none of them realise it.

Making 80,000 words out of that premise isn't easy because actually, there's not much action. Sure, there are business lunches and PTA meetings and even dates, but really it's just the minutiae of the women's lives, and that's not all that interesting. So to help me tackle this project I am re-reading some of my Marian Keyes books. Marian is an Irish writer and one of my favourite authors, but nothing much happens plot-wise in her stories.Anyone Out There, for example, charts the recovery from a car crash of a woman who slowly comes to realise and then accept that her husband has died in the crash. And that's it. That's the entire plot. Yet it is absorbing, funny, poignant and beautifully written. To such I aspire with Finders Keepers, so I'm hoping that in studying Marian's books I'll pick up some tips.

The most common piece of advice found on authors' websites is to read a lot. Why? Because reading helps you to recognise and appreciate good writing, which in turn helps you, if not to emulate it, then at least to recognise whether what you have written is as good.

Reading the masters of a particular genre can really help a writer to see what the reader expects from that genre, and some of the tricks and tools the author has used to create the appropriate atmosphere. To prepare for writing Emon and the Emperor I read the Percy Jackson series and re-read some of my favourite fantasy novels from my youth. I discovered that good fantasy was unapologetic and fast-paced, with relatable heroes (they almost always seemed to be male) and a good dramatic ending, preferably involving a battle and the death of a major character.

So now I'm thinking I need to plan to write a heady, angst-ridden, overpowering teenage love story, just to give me the perfect excuse to dig out Twilight again...


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