To Imitate or Not to Imitate

Talking to many new writers, I often hear, “I want my writing to be pure. I want my own voice…my own style. I purposely do not read other writers.” I could not agree less.

Writers need to develop their own voice and style that is fresh and intriguing, but developing that voice through studying the masters is critical. To know good writing, you must study good writing. To develop good writing, you must practice good writing.

Here are 5 ways to improve your own writing by imitating others:

1. Borrow story structure. Read some of your favorite authors. Analyze their story structure. Practice writing your own story using their arc structure.

2. Borrow writing style. Analyze your favorite writer’s sentence structure. How do they use words? How do they write dialogue? How to they create images? Practice writing in various styles until you find your own.

3. Write fan fiction. Take popular fiction and look for gaps or sections that you visualize differently. Write your own version.

4. Rewrite a passage. Scan through a book that intrigues you and find a section that stands out. Write your own version of the passage. Now compare the two. What do you like better in your version? What do you like better in their version?

5. Use the blender. Read two of your favorite stories by two different authors. Analyze how the authors develop their characters, create their arcs, and increase the conflict. What are the similarities? What are the differences? Now try writing using the techniques that you like best.

It is important not to try to publish anything that you imitate unless it is a site specifically for fan fiction because it could be considered plagiarism, but remember the old adage…every story has already been told. It is the twist you put on it, the words you choose, the images you convey that make a story truly yours. It is your voice, your style, that makes it original. Learn from the best and you will be your best. Practice your craft and your writing will be pure. Not only will this help you become a better writer, it will also help you know where you fit on the shelf.