Wednesday, April 24, 2013

How to Keep From Being Influenced By Other Writers

Young Writer Writes: How do you end up creating an entirely new idea without basing the story off of any of the other books you have read?

If you steal from one author it's plagiarism; if you steal from many it's research.--Wilson Mizner 
The Writer’s Response: To put it bluntly, you can't. 
 We are all influenced by other writers. I learned most of what I know about writing by reading. Reading is like taking a private workshop with a master of the craft at minimal cost. My best advice is to read widely; that way, you're less likely to steal too much from any one person.
Don’t worry so much about coming up with a brand new idea. It’s been said that there are no new ideas—that all stories fall into a limited number of standard categories. Fear not! If you give two writers the same idea, they will write entirely different stories. Each writer brings to the page her own database of experience. Nobody has the exact same life experience as you do—they’ve not been the places you’ve been, met the people you’ve met. Even if they had, they would not view them through your unique filter. Writers are constantly gathering material for story just by living their lives.
Make each idea your own by incorporating your own experiences into the writing of it.
When I read another writer with a strong voice, that voice tends to leak into my own work. The best defense against that is writing practice. All artists do this--there is no substitute for practice. The more you write, the more likely you are to develop your own voice. Our first novels tend to be derivative; subsequent novels become more and more our own. 

1 comment:

Sharron said...

I belong to a writers' group. We are all given the same prompt. We get twenty different tales. You're right, Cinda, every writer brings their own 'take' to a story or prompt.