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Read the stuff you like and write like them. Wait one second…

January 30, 2011

I was reading, on my favorite writer’s site (absolutewrite.com), a post about learning style and technique. An overwhelming response that I hear to the common writer’s questions is that you should read the stuff that you like and note the author’s style, trying to duplicate it.

I’m not so sure about that.

Maybe emulating your favorite authors will get you to the highest levels of riches and fame; hey, they got big, right? How could copying their style not work?

If writing were a fish tank I could keep in my living room, I’d shake it up every week. I’d never let it settle into the boring constraints of rules and history. I want new. I want to see unique. But most of all, it would be a shame to never see new fish because all the fish in the tank, although they came in unique and only needed to develop, were trying to look like the other fish in the tank.

If you read too closely to learn style, you will lose who you are as a writer. It can be argued that any writer is really only writing as a result of what he has learned from other writers (from reading or being taught) but I disagree.

A creative writer invents.

Maybe it has roots in his education or maybe it’s fresh fruit from his creative mind. I’m not against learning from the pros, but consider this; how many of the world’s greatest authors can say, “Yeah, I was a huge (famous author name here) fan and I decided to write that way, and that’s how I made it.” They got where they are because they looked around and said, “F this. I got something that doesn’t already sit on the shelves of these bookstores and I’m bringing it with authority.” Bring yourself. With authority.

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