Do you ever type up someone else’s picture book or a chapter from someone else’s book? I do. I find that just reading a selection, even reading aloud, doesn’t get me into the language and rhythm patterns as well as typing the text does.
Words. Typing makes me focus on each word. This helps me understand the vocabulary typical of the genre I’m typing out.
Rhythm. Typing especially makes me focus on the punctuation which controls much of the rhythm. Does the text have dashes, parenthetical statements, asides, opening phrases or clauses, etc. How does it flow from one sentence to the next, from one page to the next.
Sentence complexity and variety. I get a feel for how long sentences run (Ex. mostly short with long for variety) , whether they are simple sentences, have many opening phrases or clauses. Are sentences simple, compound, or complex? Do they use “to be” verbs in predicate nominatives or predicate adjectives, or do most sentences have active verbs?
Reading level. Of course, I could do a formal check of the reading level. But typing out a selection helps me understand on an intuitive level the reading level. Are we reading block capital letters, or Latin-laced convoluted thoughts?
My intent with this exercise isn’t to mimic the selected text, but to study something about a particular genre, publisher, target audience, etc. Then, I can break any of the “rules” I’ve uncovered because I understand better why the author made this set of choices about words, sentences, rhythm patterns and reading levels. Now – off to writing.
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