Write like you

Last week, I read HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE by Diana Wynn Jones. (For the first time. Yes. I know what you’re thinking, and I’m ashamed of myself for taking this long, too.) While I read, I smiled so much my cheeks hurt. When I was finished reading, I hugged the book and replayed my favorite scenes in my head a few times . . . and then I had that thought. You know the one.

I wish I could write voice like that.

I’ve had that thought with other books, other authors. I wish I could write prose like Robin McKinley. I wish I could plot like J.K. Rowling. I wish I could build worlds like Ursula LeGuin. I wish I could write characters like all of these ladies.

A few months ago, a friend told me, “I wish I could write prose like you.”

I responded, “And I wish I could write twisty turny plots like a thriller author, but twisty turny plots aren’t my story. Don’t try to write like me. There’s already a me. Write like you.” We all have things we admire in others’ writing, and maybe are envious of, but here’s one of the most important things I’ve learned about writing:

Write like you.

Don’t try to write like anyone else. Write in your voice. Write characters how they come to you. Plot the way that tells the story you want to tell.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t experiment, and we can learn a lot by imitation. Stretch yourself, try new things, and learn from writers you admire — but don’t let their brilliance blind you to your own amazingness.

It’s funny. I was able to respond to my friend immediately, but it took me a few days to get over reading HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE and re-accept what I’d told my friend.

I don’t write like anyone else. I write like Jodi. And you know, as much as I love how my favorite authors write, I love how I write, too. I want to keep improving, but my writing — my stories and prose and characters and everything else — is mine. No one else writes just like I do, and there’s no reason I need to write just like anyone else.

The same goes for you.

Learn from authors you admire. Stretch yourself and try new things. But don’t be afraid to write like you.


Comments

Write like you — 15 Comments

  1. I really, really appreciate this advice. I, too, read things that make me wish I could write like so and so. In the end, all I can do is write the voices I hear in my head and create the story. And then give myself room for drafts and edits :)

  2. Wow, I really needed this right now. I’ve been doing exactly the same thing. Going over in my head who I wish I could write like and feeling like my writing is inadequate in some way. I’ve been finding fault with everything I’ve written lately no matter what my reading circles says about it. But you’re right, I really like the way I write, I like my characters (good and bad). Thank you so much for this especially today!

  3. Aw I love this! I notice so often people trying to be someone else, but writing is not like that. Its your own and people need to remember to love what and who they are! Thanks Jodi! :-D

  4. GAH! I wish I could write blog posts like this. :-)

    Sending you a million wool-filled hugs for this post– it’s nice to know that even writers we admire have those moments of “I wish.”

  5. When a novel moves and inspires you, it’s hard to NOT want to write like the author. But you are so right, Jodi. No one writes like you and while it’s sometimes difficult, every writer should trust the story/style/voice/plot/etc that naturally comes to them. Loved this post.

  6. You can take ideas from others if they offer them, but in the end, the way you word it won’t, can’t, be the way they did. There’re so many Old souls out there, that people forget to write or think about the New souls. I’m guilty of this too, and I’m one of the Elder souls that are still around…

  7. This is something I think…a lot! But at the end of the day, it’s just me and my words. One thing I’ve been trying to do more with this manuscript is to enjoy the things I do best and try to work those elements into the story more. It’s crazy that we have to “give ourselves permission,” but it’s so true. We’ll always admire others, but it’s okay to love ourselves, too. Thanks for this post, Jodi.

    • Yes! It does seem ridiculous that we need “permission” to enjoy our own stories and writing sometimes, but there you go. Humans. We are crazy creatures. :)

  8. Thank you for this post! I’ve been having doubt with the book I’m ATTEMPTING to write. I’m 22,000 words in, and I find myself wishing I was able to make the scenes on paper as vividly as I see then in my head. I’m a 10th grader in highschool, so writing isn’t my main focus right now, but it is a passion (Whether I’m a terrible writer or a great one). I’m thinking about switching from 3rd POV to 1st… Ah! I’m rambling.
    So thank you very much! I’ll need to read your books some time!

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