I was around seven when my teacher encouraged me to write a short story for our school’s yearly magazine. I wonder now if she knew I was going to turn out a writer, or if maybe I, being the fast learner and worker I was, always had too much free time in my hands and she just wanted me to be busy. I wish I could ask her now, but whatever the answer is, the fact remains that I did and loved it. I wrote a very short piece (I was seven!) in which I took a character from a book I had just read and wrote something about her. (Yes, a fanfiction!) After that, I just never stopped.
I wrote my first novel at 12, my second at 13. Even back then, some of my now usual themes were already present. In my first novel, I dealt with the supernatural, the leads were all young girls, and two of them had the biggest crush on each other. The second one centered on a girl from a very conservative family who fell in love with another girl. I delved into fanfiction after that, and for a long time, that was all I wrote. Even after I tried my hand at original fiction again, I didn’t finish a novel until November 2015, when I completed my first NaNoWriMo with 53,000 words of urban fantasy. Now I’m back in the I can’t stop zone.
Writing is something I’ve never really stopped doing. When I wasn’t writing original fiction, I was working on fanfics. When I wasn’t doing that, I was working on the blogs I had at the time, churning out 4,000 words of diary entries or at the very least writing down ideas that I hoped one day would become something. I have, however, found myself stuck many times, and it has often been because of that one little problem.
It has all been written before.
You’ve heard it. You’ve probably said it. I’m about 99.8% certain it is true, and it’s often discouraging. If you don’t write, imagine this: you get an idea, and it’s BRILLIANT!, and you very excitedly sit down to write it, flesh out characters, paint a whole new world… then you tell someone, and they say something like oh, I read a book just like that recently! Boom. The idea is now not so exciting, and sitting down to work on it seems pointless.
I still struggle with this. Just recently I had a great idea, but all the excitement was gone as soon as I thought of how many people might have written it before. As a writer, you fight it. You know this is true, but you also know it should not stop you. There are probably millions of books about reincarnation, yet Susan Baker made hers interesting. No matter how many times those stories have written before, you can’t deny that Gillian Flynn or Chuck Palahniuk lend their tales voices nobody else shares. Every story has been told, and now we’re left with playing with how we tell it.
It works, too. I believe that if a story has been written seven times, it will reach seven different people. We all look for different things. We connect to different people, different situations. Maybe your voice suits some, maybe mine suits others. I’m not overly ambitious; I just my stories to connect with someone, like I’ve connected with many others’. I just want somebody to see something in my characters, my writing, that contributes something to their lives. And that, we all can do, stories old or new.
Lately I’ve taken to making lists with the clichés I’ve read in those stories before, and I try to twist them, or break them. Sometimes I just like to tell the story from the wrong point of view, or play with my characters so that they’re the ones to make the difference. Sometimes, I play with the structure. When everything fails, I watch Neil Gaiman’s inspiring speech once again, and I recover my courage, if nothing else. A lot of the time it’s frustrating, but every once in a while I come by that one twist that makes it very exciting for me again, and that’s brilliant. That’s amazing. I can sit down and do what I enjoy most in life: write, write, write. That’s usually my best day in a while.
I’ve always wondered, because this sort of doubt is common, how others deal with it. How do you deal with it? I would love to hear (read) about it! Sharing is caring, so if you’ve got a magic trick up your sleeve, I’m sure we’re all dying to know about it!