Once, when I was in college, I went to my university’s writing center for extra credit on a paper. As I left, on a whim, I grabbed a few of the postcard-sized promotions that they had out for grabs to decorate my dorm room wall.
I’ll never forget the question one of them posed:
ARE THERE ANY NEW STORIES?
What a stupid question, I remember thinking incredulously. Of course there are new stories. Countless books come out every week! There are short stories and fanfics and even multi-part works uploaded online (probably) every minute. How could anyone doubt that there are new stories?
My twenties self could use a dose of the self-assuredness of my collegiate self.
I think this is a plague of doubt that a lot of writers suffer from. We’re on twitter. We’re stalking agent blogs. We’re keeping an eye on Publisher’s Marketplace for new deals, adding things to our TBRs on Goodreads and between all of that, sometimes we come across a book that sounds a little familiar and induces this queasy, sinking feeling.
Hey, I know it well. The mere mention of the sort of magic present in my novel sends me into a frenzy. There’s even a New York Times Bestselling YA novel that has a certain aspect in common with the manuscript I plan to query soon. CP Lindsey and I frequently e-mail, tweet, and DM each other in a panic when we come across a book (or book deal) that has something in common with our projects.
But that’s the thing (and future Jen, when you fall into another one of those inevitable hopeless spirals, pay attention here). My collegiate self had it right.
OF COURSE THERE ARE NEW STORIES.
Even in stories that have already been told. There are retellings to be told and different POVs to be shared. I mean, just today, Alex, Lindsey, and I jokingly threw around the idea of Pinocchio as a horror novel. The idea stuck for Alex, inspiring her.
Humans evolve and change. Why shouldn’t our stories have the same opportunities?
Furthermore, we’re all different. Even if we have similar seeds of an idea, it’s our own experiences, interpretations, and idea that allow them to grow into separate creations. No two books written by two different people can be the same.
They’re special snowflakes that way.
So what if someone else wrote it their way? Write it your way. Your story has value. Even if it’s a hard sell. Even if it doesn’t sell. You earn something in the writing, revising and sharing.
So keep telling your stories and I’ll keep telling mine.
And maybe they’ll meet somewhere along the way.