Monday 12 August 2019

The Trials Of A Crime Writer: Revisiting New Ideas

One of the things I hear going around the writing community a lot is the thought that your idea that you've come up with for your novel isn't "new", that it's been done before and therefore is invalid as an idea. I'm here to tell you that's just not true. I wrote a piece about it way back and you can find that here. I wanted to go back over my points simply because it seems to be something that keeps going around and I felt like adding my two cents would be a good thing.

So, what can I tell you that someone else hasn't? There's really only so many ways you can say that every idea has, in some form, been done before, but it's not just that. For me, thinking up new ideas is a process that has changed a lot over my years as a writer. I used to sit and brainstorm for ideas. I didn't have anything solid and would just think up plot points and try and connect them together. Of course, I was 19 and didn't even think about the fact that they'd all, most likely, been done before. I was just happy to start creating whatever I could think of.

Now that I'm older and wiser, I see some of those other ideas linked tangibly to the ones I wrote. I don't know whether I was influenced by books I'd read directly or if it was just a subconscious thing, but I do know that my ideas whether at the basic premise level they were the same, did not end up that way. Because that's the thing when it comes to writing. Everyone tells a story a different way and while the nuts and bolts might be the exact same thing as the person next to you, you're both going to tell wildly different stories. Which is awesome and something that's worth remembering when you get struck by that self-doubt and thinking that you're just copying someone else.

In my time writing I have had, quite a few, ideas that have been tangibly similar to either books I've written before (and abandoned) or stories that I've read. I read a whole ton, usually over 150 books a year so I have a lot of influence from fiction. However, I know that when I sit down to write, I'm thinking about my own characters and my own way of doing things, and I'm not reading someone else's work to do that.

Touching on that books being abandoned point. When I first had the idea for Lynne & Hope, it was basically the same as what is now Destination: Unknown. I abandoned the first draft of Lynne & Hope because I couldn't get into it, and I didn't like where the story was going. I filed it away and planned to pick it up at another time. In the end, it was only once I finished a book and didn't have anything else to write that I went looking through that pile in my storage cupboard. I found the bare bones of Lynne & Hope and changed it completely into the story it is now.

However, that idea never really left me because it then got turned into Destination: Unknown, something I only thought to write when we moved from my flat into the house I live in now which is part of my town's history. It was that link that made me think: hmm, what if? And then I got writing and the rest is history. My point is, that I was able to use the same idea twice and neither book were anything alike. Ideas are the bare bones, the rest is up to us as writers to do with what we will.

I'm pretty sure there are no completely unique ideas, but books are unique in their execution. So when someone says that your idea is too close to this book or that, remember that you, as the writer, will have a lot of power at how that plot and story goes and don't shove an idea away because it's been "done before". Unless you were the one to tell it, you can probably tell a different story. And even if you are the one who told it, you can still add twists and turns that are nothing like the first.

So keep writing and remember that no idea at its core is unique. It's the writing it out that makes the story and only you can do that.

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