Writing in General: It’s All Been Done Before – So Don’t Worry About It!

I’m taking a week’s respite from Writing for Comics to discuss something I feel very strongly about; good ideas.

Individuals who aren’t writers or creative folk tend to believe that we are all, to one degree or another, idea misers. We hoard them in safes and notebooks, and greedily snatch up bits of brilliance for later use. This is only partly true; which part is entirely your decision.

Beginning writers tend to run up against the same wall, over and over again – “What if my ideas aren’t good enough? What if somebody’s doing the same thing? What if – what if that jerk from my writing group stole my idea? Oh, I’m gonna –“

Relax.

You’re just starting out. The first story idea you have (hell, the first dozen) won’t be your best, so don’t stress out. Think of it like this – say, a hundred people start writing books. Ten give up almost immediately. Another twenty can’t keep up the pace, and give up a few weeks in. Twenty more drop out after about a month, and twenty more leave at the half-way point. Ten more hit a roadblock with their plot, and put it aside out of frustration; that leaves twenty of the original hundred who’ve made it through the first draft.

Now, of those remaining writers, cut that number in half. You’re left with ten writers whose books are both cohesive and coherent. And of those books, possibly three are good enough to be considered by agents, and one of them gets published.

Are these actual numbers, you ask? They are rather frightening…

Of course not. It’s my bastardization of the Drake Equation, and shouldn’t be taken as serious numerical evidence. (I’m a writer, not a mathematician.)

Bear in mind, ideas are only so much of the process; getting it done is the important part. You can have best-sellers in your brain, but if they aren’t on paper, they’re not doing you any good, are they?

Also, at some point, you may realize there are similarities between your idea and somebody else’s. It will freak you out. You will think, “Oh god, people are going to think I ripped this person off! OH GOD! WHAT DO I DO?” The proper response?

DON’T PANIC.
(And have a towel handy.)

It’s facetious to say everything has been written. Instead, concern yourself with how your interpretations of the idea are different. And if they are indeed too similar, re-work them so that you can be the original one.

How many holiday specials are there where somebody has to save Santa? Dozens.

How many action movies feature a former elite soldier with a grudge? Hundreds.

How many romantic comedies with a mismatched couple are produced yearly? Thousands.

(Well, not THOUSANDS, but it certainly feels like we’ve seen that many, yes?)

Focus on what will make your story stand out. It’s all you can do.

The last matter to address – it being the problem of wholesale idea theft – well, that’s a risk you’ll have to take. More often than not, people in writing groups will not steal your idea; they’ve worked far too hard on their own.

There may be one bad apple once in a while, but you can minimize this by trusting your baby to the critical eye of your friends and confidants, or – better yet – just bringing in problem sections, or being vague. It’s all about what will make you comfortable. But, at some point, I highly recommend getting critical feedback from other writers. It will only help you to grow.

(It will also help keep you sane.)

-Ryan

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