I sometimes get emails from folks with writing questions, and a lot of the questions I see have to do with marketing and getting feedback on their work—which is why I put together the Markets and and Workshops pages on my website (and unless we’re buds and I’ve agreed to critique something of yours, please don’t send me your unpublished novel/story/manuscript to crit or edit. I simply don’t have the time). But a friend asked me a few writing questions that aren’t about marketing or feedback, and I wanted to share my take on them:
Q: What is there to write that hasn’t been written 100 times already?
Realistically? Nothing, probably. There’s always the chance of someone surprising me, so I don’t want to say “nothing” definitively. But the basic structures, themes, plots, and character tropes have been told and retold since before stories were written down.
When I write, I’m aware that whatever story I tell probably isn’t going to be original. Hell, I love fairy tales, and it doesn’t get much more “been done” than that. But y’know, Shakespeare didn’t write original stories either. He was shameless and boldfaced about swiping material from various sources. And he was, in my opinion, the greatest writer of the English language evah.
The trick, the goal, the thrill is in telling a story well and imbuing it with yourself, your voice, your perspective. If you write a good story, your readers won’t care that its underlying theme is ancient or that it’s a re-imagined fairy tale or whatever.