February 17, 2017 @ 8:25 PM

Seven sensible steps to success as a writer: Step 2 (cont):

Influence V Plagiarism…

It’s true, of course, that writers always have to be on guard against the dangers of plagiarism: of copying too closely somebody else’s ideas and forms of expression.

In centuries past it was not uncommon for artists to adapt pretty freely from other people's work. Shakespeare's history plays, for instance, were mostly drawn from Holinshed's Chronicles; and musicians would happily recast other composers' themes.

Today, however, it is regarded as a serious offence if done consciously – though sometimes it may happen quite unconsciously and you only notice it afterwards.

Which is why I rarely read outside my subject when I’m in the throes of composition. The risks of subliminal transposition of a phrase or idea can be quite high, I find. Reading for pleasure is usually reserved for those times when I’m ‘between books’ of my own.

Yet this is not to deny the important influence other writers have in developing our own thinking: in forming our individual world view and personal literary style.

It’s mostly a conscious response to a favourite author … but again it can sometimes be quite unconscious. And sometimes you’ll come across a book from your own past that strikes you with the force of instant recognition.


Next: Christopher Robin…