Be Yourself, No Copycats Allowed
by Shannon Leigh Rivera
There are so many authors worth admiring these days. Not just for their wonderful stories, but for the hard work and dedication that they have put into their craft. However, because there are so many wonderful storytellers out there, a lot of writers have it in their mind that they cannot appreciate the works of other writers because that is their competition. Or they get caught up in following the success stories of beloved authors and try to emulate their path to success. There are several things wrong with both lines of thinking. Let me explain.
First, the formula that worked for one author isn’t going to work for another author. There is no ‘secret’ path to the NYT Bestseller List, assuming that is even one of a writer’s goals. What worked for one author in terms of finding readers and growing a fan base and signing onto a larger publishing deal, isn’t going to be repeated by another author. These success stories are often unique based on a culmination of multiple circumstances. That’s not to say that a particular author’s success can’t be repeated because it can and it has. What I am saying is- yes, you can admire the way that an author became the successful person he or she is today; just don’t think that your path is going to look the same. Chances are you won’t be able to do the exact same thing and see the same reward. What you should try to do is create a marketing plan and strategy that is unique to your talent and your goals. That means taking the time to learn who your audience is and work to gain their trust and approval. It also means changing directions if something isn’t working and always, always, be willing to do something different if what you are trying to do isn’t working. Failure leads to success, but only if you learn from your mistakes.
Second, there is nothing wrong with appreciating the talent and hard work of other authors. In fact, I think that more writers need to reach out and make writing friends at all levels of the game. Writing friends, as I mentioned a while back in my post Writing Buddies: Why Building Friendships with Other Writers is Important, author friends keep us in check. They help us grow and we help them. It is a reciprocal relationship, especially when you choose the right kinds of author friends. However, even if you are not friends with authors that you admire, you can still appreciate their work and strive to emulate their work ethic. Just, well, just don’t try to BE them. You can’t be them, you can only be you. Not to sound all Zen master here or anything, but you are the only you on the planet. Your voice, your style, your talent, it is not reproducible, despite the fact that there are billions of people on the planet at any given moment. Be yourself, not the shadow of another person. Readers know copy-cats when they see them. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, but not in a writer’s world. When you make your stories, don’t be afraid to break the mold and sail in a new direction. Readers appreciate that and other authors applaud it as well. Appreciate, admire, and enjoy the success of others, just don’t try to do what they are doing. Be YOURSELF!
Lastly, there are a lot of wonderful stories out there today along with amazingly spectacular writers. They are talented and unique and they have beautiful visions that they bring to life in fantastical ways. By all means, fellow writers, love what you read and let those hard-working authors inspire you to write. Don’t just write stories, be a story lover. Read as much as you can and appreciate the talent and storytelling of the world’s many talented artists. Hating other writers because they write well is petty. There are plenty of book lovers who will gladly pick up copy after copy of available books, not just from one author, but from as many different authors as they can find. Just spend some time on Instagram and look up the hundreds and hundreds of Bookstagrammers out there today. There is plenty of love to go around. Just because someone is reading another author’s books that doesn’t mean they won’t read yours. Yet, you should also indulge in books. Reading stories by mainstream, Indie, and self-published authors widen the range of talent you are exposed to as an author, which can only help you as you hone your craft. Explore, read, soak it all in. We became writers because we love the written word and because we love to tell stories. Don’t loose your love of reading while on your writing adventures.
Remember, don’t try to be someone else when you pave your own road to success, but don’t forget to admire the spectacular roses along the way. You never know who may inspire you to be a better version of yourself.