DON’T ALWAYS EMULATE YOUR FAVORITES
Sorry, folks. This is a day late due to computer issues!
Week before last, I talked about influences. Now I want to talk on a related subject.
Okay, you have those writers you admire. You’ve probably heard others say that you should look closely at the writers you like and see how they do it. Look at the best sellers and see how they write. That’ll show you a roadmap of how to do it. Right?
Ahem… not exactly.
LOTS OF BLOCKBUSTERS ARE HORRIBLY WRITTEN
There are plenty of well-written books out there. However, just because a book is a best-seller, a blockbuster doesn’t mean it is written well. It can be a fantastic story but the grammar, syntax or style can be terrible. The book still might be a million seller because it has the “it” factor. Something about it strikes a chord with people. I could name several off the top of my head but I don’t want to badmouth other writers. All I know is that I’ve sampled plenty that was so bad, I couldn’t get through the first page.
BEST-SELLING AUTHORS CAN GET AWAY WITH MURDER
The more popular or more established an author is, the more they can get away with. Therefore, if one of them is a huge influence on you, if you try to copy their style, or let their writing influence you, you may be picking up all their bad habits.
Their editors may either have different standards, the author may come from a different or older school than what’s contemporary, or he or she simply ignores convention and writes the way they want because they generate sales and simply don’t care. Bad habits.
DIFFERENT PUBLISHERS/EDITORS HAVE DIFFERENT STANDARDS
Though some things are supposed to be universal, don’t count on it. Each publisher and editing staff sets their own standards. One of your influences may be doing their best and the editing staff may be molding them into a style that’s not quite to convention. This could be good or bad.
YOUR INTEGRITY IS EVERYTHING
Your writing is a reflection of you. It should be the best it can be and not some half-assed attempt to get by. Don’t cut corners or cheat just because others are doing it!
I have a book I’m currently reading to my writer’s group. I write it when Dubya was still in office (yeah, it was that long ago). So far, I’ve deliberately left it the same except for minor tweaks, knowing it isn’t up to snuff. When I read the first chapter to the group, I provoked the group by bringing up a rhetorical question about “Every other thriller I’ve read lately does it this way.” The responses I got were what I expected and generated discussion. It boiled down to the fact that the story started too slow with too much description and not enough action. The past few thrillers I’ve read have had almost the same thing, though not quite as bad as mine.
I did it to make a point and I did. If everyone else is doing it, why can’t I?
Because it isn’t right, that’s why. It’s not up to my standards or the standards, we as writer’s are striving for.
YOUR STORIES ARE YOUR LEGACY
When you get published, those books will be out in the world in some form, long after you croak. Do you want future generations to look back and think of you for lousy writing?
I certainly don’t!