The Futility of Trying to Write Something New


My writing is going to be BIG!

I have heard, and seen in various forums for writers online, the same basic question posed dozens of times. “How do I write something that hasn’t been written before?” “How can I be sure nobody’s done this story before?” “How do I get a NEW idea?”

I have good news and bad news for the askers of those questions.

You’re not going to write something that hasn’t been written before. Somebody has done this story before. Your idea is not new. That’s the news, good and bad wrapped up together in it like yin and yang.

You might find something specific to add, a new element. With the advent of the personal computer, we began to see all the old stories made new again with the addition of computers, hackers, the internet, email. But that didn’t make them new stories. It made them old stories with a newly invented element. That’s part of the attraction of writing and reading science fiction and fantasy, by the way. We get to make up our own new elements and toss them in, and ask, “how does this change the old story?”

The bottom line in fiction writing, science fiction, fantasy, or whatever else, is that you are not telling a new story. Humans have been telling stories for untold thousands of years, and have been writing them down for about the most recent five thousand. You will not invent a new basic story.

What you bring to the table as a writer is your voice. Your way of telling the story, the details you make important to the story, the point of view you bring to the telling. As a writer, it is important to know your craft; know the grammar, always expand your vocabulary and general knowledge, know the structures of those old basic storylines you will retell. But your stock in trade will be yourself, what your voice as you tell the story adds.  As a writer, the most important part of your story is you.

Think of it like knitting. It’s all the same old yarn, they’re all the same old garments and blankets and potholders. The important bit is, what colors and patterns will you create, and how pleasing will they be?


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