Saturday, December 12, 2015

You're Writing the Wrong Thing

"I'm writing what I want. I don't care about the market."

I've heard this about six times in the past four days. Normally, I love hearing this. Normally, it comes from people discovering themselves in their writing. But these past six times were not the same. No, these past six times, I actually cringed at the words. Because these people were answering to my comment that their genre was swamped. And not just that, but because these people are not writing what they want. no, they are merely writing what they've read.

I, too, used to do this. I have a couple novels that are basically Star Wars and Lord of the Rings fan fiction from way back when to prove it. Whenever someone compares their work to Extremely Famous Author, I grimace. Because I know the Almighty Publishing Gatekeepers aren't going to care. They're going to eye-roll the same way older kids eye-roll when their little siblings funny their funny or mimic their fingerpaintings. Because older siblings know that copycat little siblings aren't copying because they love them: rather, the copycat little siblings are hoping to gain the same recognition the original received. And whether it's your motive or not, the Almighty Publishing Gatekeepers will think the same thing when you base your work on the style of an Extremely Famous Author. Because they know that's not you, and there's enough people who've already imitated Extremely Famous Author and failed. Harsh, I know. And it's most likely not your intention to imitate your favorite authors. But you are. And you know why?

You're not writing according to you. You're writing according to someone else. There's a fine line between influence and imitation, and I'm afraid you've unintentionally crossed that line.

You're writing their style. You're writing their story.


It's no different when a girl imitates a celebrity. Or a musician borrows themes from another song.

Write with your style. Write your story.

You have your own voice, your own creativity, and your own story that is unique in every way from every other author's. Find it. Grasp it. It takes time. Years, even. It will require you to shelf pages and pages of effort. But it'll be worth it. I promise, because I know from experience, and most writers will, especially the Extremely Famous Ones.

You can do it. I promise it'll be hard, but it'll be brilliant.

1 comment:

  1. Wow...ok. I *think* I'm still on the "influence" side of the line. My writing is high-fantasy (like the Lord of the Rings), my sister has said countless times "Don't copy Tolkien. You'll end up like Christopher Paloni, a bad writer" I'm happy I took her advice!

    P.S. is it on the side of imitation if I use names that sound similar to those in LOTR? Eg. Faranon or Bréharlfing.