from the How to Become a Writer series…
To Do: Copy a Passage
This is an exercise you can and should do over and over.
1. Choose a favorite passage from a book or story (less than half a page is fine), or choose an entire poem.
2. Copy down the passage by hand. Write it in its current form, following all paragraph breaks. Then copy it down again, but this time, separate the sentences so that each sentence gets its own line. If it’s a poem, follow the line breaks on the first pass, then isolate each sentence on the second.
That’s it, that’s all you have to do.
To get something out of it, though, stop and think about what you noticed about the passage that you never noticed before? Are the sentences and paragraphs short, long, varied? How much dialogue is used? What type of words does the author use? What kinds of sentence structures?
Try this same exercise with something by a different author, and compare them.