Let’s say you’re reading a book, and you come across a sentence that blows you away because of its poetry or cadence or economy or expansiveness. Mark it. Then at some point, come back and don’t just read it again. Write that sentence down in your writer’s notebook, word for word, comma for comma. In doing so, you will get the feeling of that sentence in your muscle memory–the clauses, the pauses, the rhythm. When it’s time for you to write, what you learned will come out to play.
Here’s one that I wrote down recently from Elizabeth Strout’s excellent book, Olive Kitteridge:
Olive, years ago, had taught math at the Crosby Junior High School, and while her emotions at times had attached themselves fiercely to particular students, Andrea Bibber had never seemed to her to be anything more than a small, dull, asseverating mouse.
Perhaps this exercise is akin to the idea of the artist who learns by copying a much-admired painting, brush stroke for brush stroke.