Readers don’t come to us for a collage of what we’ve read elsewhere. It bores them.
Recycled writing includes cliches and stereotypes, including cliched and stereotyped plots. You also need to avoid something between: behaviors or appearances whose description has been exaggerated until it has lost contact with reality. Like photocopying a photocopy, each recycle makes it worse.
Take “turning green” to describe someone nauseated, ready to vomit. Some writers will describe people turning “pea green” with illness.
Have you ever seen anyone turn shamrock color? Of course not! They can’t. Can not.
Probably some nineteenth century writer described chlorosis, chronic anemia, where the skin is so pale that it’s faintly greenish contrasted with healthy skin. Someone recycled this as so pale with temporary illness as to be vaguely greenish. Next copy, the green became notable, and associated with nausea. Finally we end up with people who turn grass-color before running away to vomit.
At no time since the original has anyone checked in with reality, including the editors letting this stuff go by in pot-boiler fiction. This is third-rate writing, except maybe in humor. We assume anyone taking the trouble to stop here wants to be the best writer possible.
Don’t recycle what you’ve read.
Don’t borrow cliche phrases and stereotypical characters, any of that sort of thing. Start with reality, and find your own way to say it. Make the writing your own.
Always use your own physical experience as a touchstone for writing. This means you need to pay attention intently to the world around you.
At some time you or someone you know has been dog-sick. Was there actually any way to tell in advance? Did your internal warning match symptoms from med texts (cribbed by other writers trying to avoid pea-green) or did you fail to salivate, close your eyes, and the rest of that supposed reality? (Questioning authorities is a whole other blog.) Maybe the only authentic warning to an onlooker is an expression of surprise or distress and that hand movement to cover the mouth.
This means a writer needs to pay attention to life and experiences, small as well as showy. Writing gives us the greatest gift this way: our lives, vivid, juicy, and constantly valuable, truly lived rather than sleepwalking through them.
That doesn’t mean you have to commit crimes to write about them: you just have to learn to extrapolate. Y’know — imagine. But do your own imagining. Don’t re-use someone else’s.