Why Copying Is Okay

Why Copying Is Okay

No, I'm not condoning plagiarism with this post. That's just wrong and we'll talk about it in a minute. No, I'm talking about what we all probably did in our younger years. Write stories that sounded suspiciously like the works of our favorite authors. And I think that is perfectly acceptable. Why? Read on to find out.

The difference between "copying" and "plagiarizing"

• Plagiarism. The practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing it off as your own.

• Copy. Imitate the style or behavior of.

As you can see, those are very different definitions. Plagiarism is plain old stealing. Copy can sometimes be used that way too, but the way I mean is in the more imitation area. And that's what we're talking about. Not stealing, imitating.

Copying is useful

Like I said earlier, I'm sure we all have little notebooks filled with stories that we wrote that sound just like whatever we happened to be into reading at the time. I know I have stories about tiny people and talking animals from my younger years. My first novel I originally tried to make the the style of Rick Riordan, but has since evolved.

As kids, we copied everything, because that's how we learned. The best way to learn is to mimic what someone else is doing, and then learn how to make it your own. That's why I think it's okay to copy the works of authors we admire and want to emulate in our writing.

I'm not saying that you should copy their ideas, such as making a trilogy about a girl that competes in a deadly game. That gets too close to plagiarism. But trying to mimic their writing style and thus learning what your own writing voice sounds like? That's fine.

It's also okay to take inspiration from other's works. There's nothing more inspiring than watching or reading something that's well done. It might give you a good idea for a character or worldbuilding. Even great authors do that. Look at Lewis and Tolkien for example.

How to do it properly

• Writing exercises. Try writing out a passage by the author you want to mimic. See how they put the sentences together. Then try writing something in the style of their writing.

• Observe while reading. How do they write that humor you like? How do they create their character arcs? What sort of world have they built? Simply reading and taking time to notice what you like and would like to try is useful.

• Develop your own voice. Copying is a tool, to be used to find what your own writing sounds like. Let your writing take you where it will. Maybe you started off sounding like Tolkien, but then added your own flavor, evolving into something new. Don't be afraid to try different styles either.

• Don't steal. This should be obvious, but it's wrong to steal other people's work. Wouldn't you hate it if someone took your novel idea and said it was theirs? Always treat other people's work and ideas with respect.

What are your thoughts on this subject? What sort of old stories do you have that copied others? Tell me in the comments.

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  1. Another thing I would highly suggest is just to read the style you're trying to imitate a lot. Like, all the time. Because if you're anything like me, the style will leak through into what you're writing and hopefully have the desired effect.


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