I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Benefits of Plagiarism

I endorse plagiarism.

At one time, I was an unabashed plagiarist. I stole my favorite authors' plots and characters with the proverbial gleeful abandon.

Given the chance -- and the ability to go back in time -- I'd do it again.

All that copy-catting occurred when I was a much younger writer, say about 11 or 12 years old. Putting Bic pen to wide-ruled paper, I wrote wonderful stories that mimicked my then must-read author: Georgette Heyer.

Yes, I was a Regency Romance reader. All things m'lady and m'lord. Balls and morning calls. Dances and "diamonds of the first water."

Copying Georgette drove home the fundamentals of story: dialogue and setting and tension and, of course, the all important happily ever after. Echoing her voice was my first feeble attempt to find mine.

My almost-11-year-old daughter is a wanna-be writer. I smile and say nothing as she blissfully plagiarizes her favorite author, Donita K. Paul. (No, not me.) My daughter's stories are filled with dragons and wizards and quests.

By following in Donita K. Paul's literary footsteps, my daughter is finding her voice.

Plagiarism, while an understandable childish misstep along the writing road, is no way to achieve lasting success. At some point, every writer must step out and claim their unique voice.Georgette Heyer books line my books shelves and fill my Kindle. But Wish You Were Here, my novel that debuts in May 2012, is set in this century. Not a dandy or a fop to be seen -- but I did throw in a trio of bad-boy llamas!

Plagiarism, anyone? Were your first attempts at writing shadows of your favorite authors' novels? What did you learn from them?


  1. Well, I don't think I wrote as early as 11 or 12, and I envy both you and your daughter that experience. No, I was reading everything I could get my hands on then. It wasn't until I was about 35 that people came to live in my head and wouldn't go away until I told their story.

    I think almost all writers copy those they admire in the beginning, until they find their own voice. Even now, if I get stuck, there's a story I've read that has a similar problem and I'll look it up and see how the author handled it.

    Thanks for a great post, Beth!

  2. Pat, I like your idea of reading a book with with a similar problem when you're stuck. Great inspiration!

  3. Bad boy llamas - I love it!! I interviewed a llama farmer once when I was reporting. They surrounded me, chewed on my shoes and notebook, poked me in the face with their noses...loved it. Didn't spit, though! :)

    I used to plagiarize Carolyn Keene, for sure...and Janette Oke, too. (Her "Love Comes Softly" series was the first "grown-up" books I remember reading...)

  4. I loved my llamas, Melissa! I love the way they say "Hello!"

  5. What a fun post. I did plagiarize a state report, and the num who was my teacher nailed me! I tried to never plagiarize again.

    The way I responded to writing was to write poetry. In high school I would write stories on given topics as interestingly as I could. :) I never thought to plagiarize authors I liked to find my voice. Wish I had!

    I loved reading descriptions of people and settings because it helped me picture where the story occured. Maybe that's why I like writing description now. :)

  6. So often I read someone else (Rachel Hauck or Susie May Warren, for example) and think, "Oh, I like the way that was written!) I certainly wouldn't plagiarize them ... but I can learn from them!

  7. Rachel Hauck told me not to try to write like someone else, but to try to write like Lisa Jordan. Her words of wisdom helped me to focus on my voice. I look to my favorite authors when I'm struggling with a writing element though. Their words and techniques help me to come up with something but in my own voice.

  8. Rachel is very, very wise.

  9. You mean it's not ok to copy/paste entire chapters of my favorite authors' books into my manuscript? Oops. Who knew?!
    Seriously, I've learned to do almost everything by emulating otheres. Playing tennis, playing guitar, woodcarving. Once I get the technique down, then discover my own voice.

  10. Reba's right, we learn by studying the greats. Can't believe I missed this post yesterday--think I missed yesterday. Right, today's Thursday. Thanks, Beth.