Today we have a great guest post by Rebecca Jamison, author of the new release, Persuasion: A Latter-Day Tale.
But first, let me introduce you.
Rebecca Jamison met her husband on a blind date. His first words to her were, "Do you want to get together and play spin the bottle?" (He was trying to avoid another bad blind date, but she went out with him anyway.) Rebecca grew up in Vienna, Virginia. She attended Brigham Young University, earning a BA and MA in English. In between college and grad school, she served a mission to Portugal and the Cape Verde islands. Rebecca and her husband have six children. She enjoys running, dancing, making jewelry, reading, and watching chick flicks.
And now that we are all acquainted, you have my permission to read the guest post, in which Rebecca speaks to the topic of imitating the work of others.
Back in Shakespeare’s day, there was no such thing as plagiarism. Shakespeare lifted lines from The Book of Common Prayer and the Geneva Bible. He also borrowed freely from historians and other authors, such as Chaucer and Christopher Marlowe. There’s no question that Shakespeare was a great writer. He pulled his sources together with great skill and turned them into magnificient works.
Fast forward to today when writers can be sued for doing what Shakespeare did. We can become so afraid of “copying” that we fail to let other authors influence our writing. A good writer should be reading the best books available. While doing so, she can take note of things to emulate or writing that inspires new ideas.
Lisa Wingate, a successful novelist, offers this advice on her website: “If there is a particular area of your writing that seems to be holding you back (action scenes, dialog, description, characterization, etc) devote extensive study to this area. . . . Study other authors’ techniques in this area. Don’t just read and admire—dissect, break down, make notes, keep a scrapbook of examples and notes-to-self. Read these notes-to-self when you’re stuck/struggling/editing something that isn’t working.”
Dr. Lance Larsen gave similar advice to writers in his BYU Forum address, “Coaxing the Muse—Thoughts on the Creative Process.” He tells the story of a student named Ethan, whose poems were stale and uninspired. When asked about his sources of inspiration, Ethan admitted that he didn’t read any poetry. He wanted his poems to be completely original. What Ethan didn’t understand, according to Dr. Larsen, was that “if we don’t consciously seek out the best models, we unwittingly put ourselves at the mercy of the worst.”
During the past few years, I’ve immersed myself in the work of Jane Austen. Trying to emulate her descriptions and dialogue has been a lot of fun and taught me a lot about how to be a writer. I also sought out other authors to emulate. I’ve found great writing all over the place—in poetry, newspapers, classics, bestsellers, children’s literature, and even some self-help books.
In case you find the idea of reading regularly to be intimidating, I’ll let you in on my secret—audio books. You can read while doing the dishes and driving in the car.
Who are the authors that inspire you?
Thanks so much, Rebecca! You can catch Rebecca's blog tour for Persuasion: A Latter-Day tale, which is going on right now, by viviting her website http://www.rebeccahjamison.com/.