Coupla days ago I read that Raymond Chandler taught himself about novel structure by copying out existing novels. He made changes as he went along to better understand how the author had structured the novel.
I remember checking out C. J. Cherryh's site and seeing one of her suggestions for getting started. You take an existing piece of fiction and keep making changes. And keep going and keep going. You can end up with a whole new story by piggy backing on top of an original work this way.
Since I haven't made any start to my story about a hit woman, thought I'd start copying Ms Smilla's Feeling for Snow - and see if I can use it as a prompt into something else. I also want to do some deconstruction and really understand why this is my favourite novel.