This autumn, I’ve started teaching a writing class. It’s all very exciting and has made me think about the process of writing properly for the first time ever, because how can I teach people how to do it if I don’t understand it myself? So I know more about plotting and characters and how to put a story together than I ever have before. Another great thing about teaching is when my students share their ideas with me. One of them told me all about her characters and setting and when I said I thought it was brilliant, she sighed and said, “It’s shame someone has already written about it.”
The problem with writing stories is that there are no new ideas – everything has already been done. Some people even say that there are only seven original plot ideas (and some people say there are only five!) and if you agree with that, it’s quite hard to make sure your story is totally different to anything anyone has written before. But what if J K Rowling had thought about that when she was starting Harry Potter? Hers certainly wasn’t the first book about a school for witches and wizards (although it’s definitely the first to feature Quidditch) but it still seemed very fresh and new when it burst onto the scene. So I think the trick to writing an amazing story is all about how you tell it – it’s all about finding your own voice. If you tell your story in a way no one else can, that’s what makes it unique.
I told my student not to worry about the other book with the same idea, because the way she wrote it would be different. I think one of the best things about writing is being able to put a little bit of myself into each book. What do you think?