One of the best pieces of writing advice I have heard was to find the 10th way of doing things. It was in a screenwriting seminar, and I apologize to the wise man who said this, because I can’t remember who it was. Let’s call him Will (after Shakespeare, who no doubt used this rule whether he knew it was a rule or not). Wise Will was, indeed. He said that for all the decisions you make in your writing, you should discard the first nine and write the 10th. The first nine, he said, are the easy choices, ones that other people will also have. The 10th idea will be the one that’s starting to get really original.
Last night, I watched The Spiderwick Chronicles movie, and I realized just how true Will’s words are. As I was sitting there watching, I kept thinking, “Hey, that’s like in my book.” Yep, my novel, the first draft of which I finished writing last week. The thing is, this was my first time watching the movie and I haven’t read the books. (I know, not good for an aspiring children’s novelist, but they are on my “read really soon” list and, after watching the movie, have been bumped up to the top so I can compare the mediums.)
Now, this isn’t to say that I think like Spiderwick creators Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi or that they are unoriginal. It’s just an example that different people can have similar ideas without even knowing it. This happened to me while I was dabbling in screenplays too. A few days after finishing a vampire script, in which I had come up with something I thought was truly original because I had never seen it before in any movie and hadn’t stumbled across it in any of my research, I watched Blade III and saw my idea realized on the screen, at least, something similar to my idea.
In Hollywood, there’s a saying (well, not a saying, but a belief, or not a belief but… you’ll get the point) that there are no original ideas anymore. That all the stories have already been told. Joseph Campbell said, and proved, to a point, that all stories are different versions of the Hero’s Journey.
Maybe that’s true. Maybe all the stories have been told. The difference is, they haven’t been told by us, in our way. And for us to really find that idea, that way of doing a scene that is truly original, we have to dig deep, find our 10th idea. I’m going to do that when I start revising my novel.
What are you working on?