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This idea was unoriginal, I knew that going in. I thought it was a brilliant idea, then stepped back, thought about it for a beat, and realized that someone had undoubtedly written about this same subject before.
That is and will forever be some of the best advice: WRITE.
It doesn’t matter that someone else has written about this before. Maybe only one word differs between me and them, but one word can make all the difference.
So now, it’s your turn to find that inspiration, to write even when the inner voice says “we’ve heard that one before.”
Steal like an Artist
There is a wonderful little book with this title that sums this entire concept up much more eloquently than I ever could. In all honesty, you should probably stop reading now and go buy that book. But the general idea is this: copy the greats or those whom you admire. Not exactly, but similarly. Make works that are not identical, but pay homage to what interests you and your personal creativity will flourish. That said…
Don’t rip off… Recreate
Read, read, read, but after all you have read, find what works and make it your own. Do not plagiarize someone else’s work, but instead see how you can transform it, mold it into something new and exciting, something that is perhaps better than the original, or is at the very least something different. Use what you have read before as a roadmap to discover what lights your soul on fire. One popular way to do this is to take a fairy tale (i.e. Cinderella) and modernize it or completely revamp it until it becomes its own piece of work (i.e. Cinder by Marissa Meyer).
Nothing is truly unique
There is a common thought that there is nothing truly “new” or “unique” in this world. Like the Tumblr post above explains, everything is recycled material in some form or fashion, sometimes knowingly, most times not. Most stories are, in essence, fanfictions of other stories. While a number of these are widely broadcast as Inspired By [insert work here], many are more subtle in the tributes they pay to their predecessors.
Comparisons are for reviews
I love sites like Goodreads for this with their Community Reviews and Readers also Enjoyed sections. It’s one of the easiest ways to hook readers: tell them how it relates to other things they like. If they liked that, they will like this. But that is something best saved for reviews. Let reviewers make those connections, and while not all of them may be exactly what you had in mind, those connections will draw your audience in. More often than not, authors who tell their readers what they are expected to link the book to will alienate those readers. Unless you are pitching your finished work to an agent and those comparisons are absolutely necessary to show that you meet their submission guidelines, leave them out.
It’s only hurting your process
Comparing yourself to others is the best way to make sure you never finish anything. As a lifelong procrastinator, this was typically my surest form of ending a project prematurely. It already exists. Someone else already did that. Someone else did it better. Someone else will eventually do it better. It’s a ridiculous means of pulling the ripcord, and returning to the comfort zone. So what if someone else did something similar? I guarantee you if you gave the same story idea to 100 different writers, you may find some similarities between the results, but they will all be true to the individual writer’s form.
I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it: write from the heart and your work will already be ahead of the game because it’s yours.
Have some writing tips & tricks you’d like to share or see discussed in future posts? Let me know in the comments! And be sure to check out our other Tips & Tricks articles: