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Tips to Avoid Plagiarism While Writing a Book

Updated: Jan 9, 2022

Ensuring the originality of thought in your writing.

by Kashika K

Picture this, you’re standing in your kitchen with your 3rd cup of coffee for the day, and as you pour it in, a revolutionary idea crash-lands into your head and you immediately think “Wow! This is it!” You work on it for 3 weeks and as you’re excitedly telling your friend all about your protagonist, they turn to you and whisper, “That’s the plot of The Jungle Book, dude.”

To avoid this embarrassment of forgetting Kipling and a possible plagiarism lawsuit, it is important that we make sure that our ideas stem from our own creative thinking and are not a complete copy of someone else’s hard work.

Let us first understand what ‘Plagiarism’ is.

Plagiarism is defined as presenting the ideas and work of someone else as your own, without any credit given to the original creator of the work or even acknowledging them.

There are a few types of plagiarism that are most often noted and looked out for, in both academic as well as creative writing:

  1. Global Plagiarism – Plagiarising an entire text that someone else has written.

  2. Verbatim Plagiarism – Copying someone else’s words exactly.

  3. Paraphrasing Plagiarism – Paraphrasing someone else’s ideas.

  4. Patchwork Plagiarism – Copying various ideas from multiple sources and using it as a new, original work.

  5. Self-Plagiarism – Reusing your own previous work and passing it off as new.

Here’s a few things that might help in making sure that your work remains authentic and not get you into trouble even unintentionally:

  • Take Time to Build your Story

Rather than a rush-of-the-moment idea and immediately working on getting it done, focus on identifying your theme and what your novel is about slowly.

Often, we come to realise that the reason why we were able to create something so quickly is because it had already been created and consumed by us too late. To avoid this disappointment and wasted effort, begin slowly and proceed cautiously.

  • Research

Any well-written novel is extremely well researched. There has to be a concrete argument that you wish to assert through your novel, and while you build this up, it can lead you to any possible plagiarism errors you might have run into.

Any encountered evidence to your own thought process must be recognised and duly given credit for.

  • Cite Your Sources

Building on our previous point, the best way to avoid plagiarism is to always keep track of your resources and cite where and whose work you have used in proving your own point.

It is advised to always use quotations when you are quoting verbatim, and especially mention the writer/researcher even when paraphrasing an argument someone else has previously built.

An example of Citations that people usually attach at the end of their writing:

(Last Name of Author, Their Initials) (Year of Publication) Title of Paper

  • Use Plagiarism Checks

The conventional way of writing novels on paper has declined significantly. The accessibility of laptops and their ability to connect has taken over the writing sphere.

With this advancement also comes tools that help you not plagiarise. Using these for whatever writeups you’re feeling confused over helps in making sure that it is not the same as another writer’s work.

  • Look Out for Anything Similar

Reading books in the genre one wishes to write in is always a smart move. It helps you understand the type of writing prevalent, and it also makes you have an idea about the kind of work that has already been explored.

It is impossible to keep track of all writings in a genre, but make sure to research and try to find if what you are writing has already been worked upon by other writers and you do not end up presenting a similar thought process through your work.

  • Go back to what you read recently

The most important area of writing is reading. When we read something interesting or radical, it stays with us and becomes something we often come back to at least once a day.

Make sure to keep in mind the possibility of something that you have read to influence your train of thought. It is one thing to be inspired by a certain section, plotline, or character, but the key is to make the inspiration your own.

  • Pay Special Attention to your Tropes

Any good genre has some specific tropes/motifs that are somewhat consistent and are essential definers to a piece of writing belonging in the genre. For example, technology and futuristic-devices in Science Fiction, angst and love in Romance, etc.

Keep in mind that the tropes you use are utilised in a way that is original and creatively authentic. You are taking something and making it your own. Make sure that you have not just used a specific part of writing just for the sake of it, from another work in the genre to make your story seem more fitting.

Create your own version of it!

  • Search up your story on the Web!

It sounds a little silly at first, but a good way to make sure what you’re doing has not been done before is to simply look for it on the internet. With its vast knowledge of works all over the world, it can be tremendously useful.

Just search for some specific words that are important, or for phrases. The internet will show you if it already exists, and if not, it will show you the closest thing that does. Make sure to be vigilant!

  • Take time away

It is crucial to manage your time in a way that allows you to step away from your work. It is only with a refreshed mind that we can fully comprehend what we are working with, and find any faults in it.

Come back to it, read it thoroughly, and find anything that you don’t like or something that does not fit.

  • Talk to people

If accessible to you, talking to other authors in your field can be a huge help. We often feel like asking for assistance or clarification is bad, but that is entirely untrue.

Other people who are experienced, or even just interested, can help you identify and correct whatever you are struggling with, maybe they can tell you if what you are working on has already been done. Their exposure can be a massive aid.

Keeping all these in mind and using possible resources can be all the help you need in ensuring your work is not plagiarised. People often say that no work of writing today is original, but remember that pioneers in any field are known to generate something new out of all the old that they know and love.

Understanding what works, what is required, and what you want to do are all the correct parameters that you need to be met to create good work. Work hard and do your best!


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