Posts in Writing Tips
Plagiarism Fears & Genre

As a writer who is serious about her work, I find plagiarism to be a constant fear in my mind. From the songs that I listen to when I write, to the authors and books that I admire, they are all bits and pieces that become a part of who I am, and therefore become a part of my book.

But, I am absolutely petrified that they will become a part of my book that isn't fair to the original creator. What if my character says something that is exactly a lyric from a song? Or maybe I'll use a very specific word that in the same way that John Green or Tommy Wallach did. The problem isn't even if someone would notice, it's that it terrifies me to mimic someone else, because I would hate it if someone did it to me.

And let's move past the elementary school kid response of imitation is the highest form of flattery, because let's face it, it's not. When you're a kid and you copy the person next to you, it's because they're next to you. Not every person who will ever sit next to you is going to be the smartest bulb in the bunch.

But, as a writer, it is a form of flattery, but its unconscious. 

I am always afraid.

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I find that it is a lot harder for me to come even remotely close to plagiarism if I am reading a book that is a completely different genre than the one I am writing.

For example, currently I am writing a literary fiction YA book. So, I am reading Mindy Kaling's book "Why Not Me?" These book have virtually nothing in common with one another. 

However, this habit of mine gets in my own way sometimes.

The problem is that I can be writing a book that I like. That's great. It's hard to like your own work. It really is, so when I do like my own work, it's remarkable. But, I will always (okay maybe not always)

Sorry, Snape.

I will probably, most-likely, for the foreseeable future think that whatever book I am reading or whatever type of writing I am consuming (newspaper, articles, magazines, screenwriting) is significantly better than whatever I am writing.

Take last night for example, I get home from a long day of work. I like my book, I really do, but I was watching Scandal. Don't worry, as always if there are spoilers they will be marked.

Anyways, as anyone who knows anything about popular TV Shows will know, they are usually very high-stakes. And there's no way my book about four high schoolers dealing with suicide and depression are going to have the high-stakes situations of those in the White House. There just isn't a way.

Then, I think about one of the best books I've read in a while, An Ember in the Ashes. There are some serious high stakes in there. It's great.

I want my books to have that amazing fantastical appeal to it. I do, I want that more than anything. But, it's just the same thing when I'm writing a fantasy and I read Literary Fiction. Then, I want my book to be like Eleanor and Park. It's a viscious cycle.

Sometimes, I just want to yell at myself to stay out of my own business.

I don't really have a solution for this. Because it's something that I face every time. But, I do have a tip, and maybe I'll have more sometime, but today my tip is this: Stick to one project. Just finish one, and then do the other. You can have your high stakes and your perfectly ordinary romance, just take your time.

Believe me, its a tip I'm trying to take myself.

Inspiration at Home

What I find to be the common kryptonite of writers everywhere is the lack of inspiration. We watch movies and see the great actors that portray all the authors that we love so much. (Shout out to T Hiddy as my main man Fitzy D.) 

Anyways, inspiration is hard to come by. Sometimes we find ourselves in a bit of a rut and there isn't much that we can do to pull ourselves out of it. Often times a book can pull us out. I know Louisiana's Song by Kerry Madden pulled me out several times, it's spine already so tattered that I don't know how much longer it will survive.

What pulled me out the most was actually Barbra Streisand's speech in The Mirror Has Two Faces. I saw the movie for the first time in high school, and it only made my love affair with Streisand that much stronger. (Not to mention she directed it, wrote it, and starred in it with the incomparable Lauren Bacall).

Even though her speech isn't particularly about writing, though I'm sure we can all see how easy it is to get from this speech to our own writing, it's just something that has always inspired me. 

We all need that.

All the ragtag creative ones out there: the painters, the singers, the gymnasts, the writers, the creators. We all need a tool kit, if you will, to help us through those ugly, muddy, desperate days of un-inspiration. We all need that one story that we love, that one character or that one line that puts it all into perspective. Because Hemingway was right. Writing is sitting down at a typewriter and bleeding.

And that's what I have above my writing desk.

And that's what this is about.

You shouldn't have to fall into these slumps. It's not fair. All we want to do is create and breath new life into something unique and wonderful that we love as if it were a child of our own. More often than not, writers tend to not like their own work.

We are idiots.

We don't find pride within ourselves, but instead in other people's work. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but when you stop seeing the strength and the power within what YOU'VE created is when you fall into this pit of despair.

So, I'd like to take you through a tour of my inspiration spots of my home. 

The first thing that I see when I wake up (besides my phone obviously) is my writing corner. 

     

 

 

It has a lot of little bits, from the bumper sticker that used to be on my laptop before he died from too much writing. RIP Atticus. It's a bumper sticker that actually means a lot to me. You can't quite see in the photo, but it says, "Failure is not an option." That is a mantra I repeat to myself.

To the right I have a little bit of art from etsy.com that says Good Vibes Only. It's a little bit of art to remind myself that I shouldn't be to harsh on my writing. I have a photo of my dad, mom and me on my graduation day, as well as a group photo of the cast of A Very Potter Sequel, because that play means so much to me.

Then, there's the wall.

This is where I have some of my favorite books floating above my head, and I have John Green. I didn't intentionally buy this. It was through a charity that John and Hank Green host every year called Project for Awesome. I always donate and opt in for the random artwork. Two years ago, this is the piece that I got. Not only is it a beautiful piece of art that is my favorite author, but it is a medium that I can't do.

And that inspires me.

Then, there's the little post it to the bottom that says "Art Harder, Mother Fucker." I don't know why, but that has actually pushed me further and harder than a lot of so called motivational quotes.

But, I do have a favorite writing quote.

 

I love this.

This is so important to me. I think that it's something we can all take into our lives, whether its a bit of fiction or in our diaries or journals, we would all benefit just a bit from divulging a bit of what makes us hurt.

Then, I have the little area where I put the mail. It's the first thing I see as I begin my day outside of the apartment and the first thing I see when I return home.

I'm not good at writing poetry. I've never been good at writing poetry, but it has always something that I have wanted to be good at. It wasn't until I wrote a haiku about my dream: London. It was when I wrote this that a friend told me they loved it.

That's when I realized that I should try to love my own writing. It's difficult. There's that fine line of being conceded and being humble to a fault. But pride in the things that we have created.

This piece is important to me because not only is it a bit of poetry that I tried really hard on, but it's a photo that means a lot to me. London is my dream. Moving to a new country and working in publishing is my dream. I have this incredible feeling of belonging when I'm in London, and when I can't write, there is nothing more alienating.

So, having this little bit of a reminder that I have written something I like as well as a reminder to not feel lost when I have this goal that I am working towards.