To offer a counter-point to Monday’s post, Why You Should Copy Other Writers, I invited long time Write Practice reader Michael Roberts of Revive Your Creativity to share about you shouldn’t copy. Besides his blog, you can follow Michael on Twitter (@michaelwroberts) and Google +. Thanks for joining us Michael!

Quick. Think about your favorite writer. Imagine your favorite story by that person.

How has that story influenced you? Do you see traces of that work showing up in your own writing?

Van Gogh Copy

Photo by Jimmie “Home School Mom.” Painting by Van Gogh. Drawing by Sprite (age 8).

Imitation Doesn’t Work!

I love taking my cues from other writers. From dialogue to pacing to self-publishing schedules, I try to incorporate new and exciting techniques into my own stories.

Just recently, I tried to write a serialized sci-fi adventure with a release schedule similar to the writing duo of Sean Platt and David Wright (Yesterday’s Gone and many other works). I believed I could juggle a demanding writing schedule for my fiction, turn out quality work, and maintain my blog all at the same time.

Unfortunately, the gap between my serialized adventures’ publish dates grew longer and longer with each passing episode.

I’m not as quick of a writer as the talented writing duo I so admired. Maybe it’s just because I’m so hardheaded, but only my publishing schedule failure could show me my limitations.

Imitation vs. Influence

The allure to imitate is incredibly tempting. After all, if a writing style or publishing schedule worked for someone else, then all you should have to do is copy it. Unfortunately, there’s an inherent problem with duplication.

As with art of any sort, influence is helpful. Imitation is the kiss of death. We can’t “out-Stephen-King” the real Stephen King.

And that’s okay.

As author Todd Henry (The Accidental Creative) says, “Cover bands don’t change the world.”

What will you do to change it?


Take fifteen minutes to figure out what makes your storytelling original. Look at past practices, your finished pieces, and your work in progress. Specifically, look for the reasons your writing is different from your favorite author. Embrace those differences!

Then, share what makes your writing unique here in the comments.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts