There have been several stories over the last few years about authors who copied the work of others. In some cases, the authors claimed it was inadvertent. In the course of doing research, they got confused about what they had read and the words they themselves wrote. That is certainly possible when you consider all of the information that may be processed while writing a book.
Whether you are writing a book, a speech, an article or anything else, how do you know that your creation is really your original work, and not just a “regurgitation” of the work of others? Most of us don’t intend to plagiarize anyone, but it is sometimes hard to determine where the ideas of others end, and ours begin.
One of my favorite sayings is that when you “borrow” from one source it is plagiarism, but when you borrow from many, it’s research. This is a clever way of saying that most creations are the result of taking in ideas, concepts and words produced by others, processing them through our brains, making unique connections, and putting our own influence on them.
Someone suggested that we take lots of information into our heads, the thoughts and bits of data float around our brains, and when two seemingly unrelated pieces connect, a new idea is born.
It has also been said that there are only 14 plots possible in fiction. Every book, play or movie is simply a retelling or combination of these 14 plots. What makes each work unique is the choice of characters and settings, the dialogue, and the twists and spins invented by the author.
We are all exposed to many of the same stimuli, and we may independently develop similar ideas. How many times have you seen a movie or a new product and thought, “That’s my idea!”? You know that there is no way they could have “stolen” your idea, but somehow the same thing occurred to someone else.
That’s why it is important to take action when you have an idea. Sooner or later, someone else will have the same idea you did.
What should you NOT do?
Don’t take someone else’s work, and simply reword it. That is plagiarism. It is illegal and immoral.
Don’t try to duplicate the success of others by creating confusion between your product and theirs. Using deceptively similar titles is one way this happens.
Don’t think that just because you CAN copy something, it is OK to do so. Computers and the Internet have made it easy to copy the words, images and sounds created by others, but that doesn’t make it right. Respect the work of others.
So, how do you make your work “original”?
Make unexpected connections.
Put a new spin on an old idea.
Use your own voice, and language that gives your work a unique style.
Imprint your work with your life experience and values.
If necessary, stay away from reading works related to your topic while you are writing. That way, you won’t inadvertently copy from them.
Act honorably, and respect the work of others as you would want them to respect yours. But don’t be afraid to put your ideas into the marketplace as your ideas, in your voice with your unique insights and perspectives.
Copyright Cathy Stucker. Cathy Stucker is the owner of SellingBooks.com, where she provides great ideas for writing, producing and marketing books. Get free email updates with the latest articles at http://www.SellingBooks.com/subscribe-to-updates/