MODELING: READING & STUDYING THE MASTERS
People interested in becoming professional novelists must first master the craft of writing fiction. Once that is done, the budding author strives to bring art to her work. The craft of writing involves a mastery of planning and executing the mechanics of constructing long fiction. The efficient way to master the craft is to study with an instructor. To teach oneself how to write is extraordinarily difficult and seldom successful.
Unfortunately, becoming a craftsman has little to do with converting talent into art. Where does the novice writer turn to develop his art? The beginner must work at writing his first million words. That million words will be read by his peers. It will have been reviewed by agents and editors. It will have been edited and reedited by the writer, and it may have been published and reviewed. Second, the novice must present his work, in whole or in its parts, to a circle of trained peers who will serve as skilled readers. And this is what you want–skilled readers. After all, books are published to be read. Third, the neophyte must strive to find a veteran writer to evaluate his output. The veteran knows from experience the level of art necessary to gain publication and how near the novice is to it.
Fourth the beginning writer must model to learn. What is modeling? Modeling is an intensive study of published novels. Why? To examine the successful author’s craft and to observe how he employs his talent to create a work that the public is eager to read.
Many of you are well read, but you have not chosen your reading matter with the intention of furthering your careers. Operating on the belief that much of your leisure time is now spent in writing, putting a premium on the amount of time you have available for reading, we are making a series of recommendations to aid you in appreciating good craftsmanship and the application of art to the profession of tale-telling. We’re giving you a series of recommendations. These novels are not just our choices but those titles gleaned from the recommendations of other writers. These novels should prove helpful as examples of what your own writing should be like. While many of our recommendations will be in only a few genres, we choose them because the application of modeling is universal across all the genres and throughout mainstream fiction.
These novels are not intended to provide you with enjoyable reading experiences. In fact, the enjoyment of them can distract you from the purpose of reading them. But the very elements that make them so deserving of being modeled, that make them so publishable, may also make them enjoyable if they are in genres that interest you.
The recommendations that I give you labeled MODELING are intended to be studied from cover to cover as an illustrated text of how to write a novel. You will see the top examples of the craft of writing and the elements that go to contribute art to writing. You should analyze every element of the writer’s craft and see how he uses dialogue, scintillating language, etc., to put art into his writing. To do this, you will need to study the novel, to read the work many times as you would any other textbook. And you will find weaknesses in these novels as in all books. This discovery is part of your learning process, too. No one has written the perfect novel, but many of these works are as near to perfection as we can find.
No attempt is being made to dictate your reading taste. Nor is any attempt being made to urge you to work in a certain genre. Many of our recommendations are in a limited number of genres, but they are not chosen unless we think that the application is universal to most genres and mainstream fiction. Many of us have some lack of experience and the examination of these novels may illustrate the effects of good and bad writing for us far more vividly than an abstract discussion.
Second, the reading time of many of you is limited, and MODELING is one of the principal ways to learn how to improve your writing. For example, nothing else offers more assistance than modeling in improving your dialogue.
Critical reading that leads to imitating the best writing and writers is one of the chief ways for one to improve himself or herself as a writer. Studying one good novel and understanding how it’s put together is worth one hundred how-to books.