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.