As the lead judge for one of the world’s largest writing contests, I read a lot of stories. Very seldom do I see a completely unique concept for a tale. For example, I see a lot of stories that have vampires or werewolves or superheroes in them. I see tales about interstellar races, cloning, haunted houses, and so on.
Sometimes it feels as if every idea is so old, it must be worn out. Yet that isn’t so. If you look at some of the bestselling novels of all time, you’ll see that they are based on ideas that are a bit faded. For example, Tolkien’s work was based in part upon Germanic folktales and Celtic myth. His orcs, ogres, elves, dwarves, and wraiths had all appeared in literature for centuries. Yet somehow he managed to re-invent them enough so that they felt . . . original.
Many authors had written stories about kids going to wizard schools, but none did it as well as Rowling.
It is possible to be too original. Imagine that I wrote a novel set on an alien world, with completely alien animals and plants. I might create tapeworm people as protagonists, fighting a war with sentient slime molds. But in writing such a story, the truth is that it would be almost impossible to capture a large audience. Most readers would find that I was stretching their imaginations well beyond the breaking point.
As authors, we need to meet our readers halfway. Readers crave originality. As is often said by singing judges on The Voice, “The same is lame.” If a vocalist simply tries to copy someone else’s song, they may do excellent, but it will still sound just like karaoke.
On the other hand, we don’t want too much originality in our singing. A musician might be able to incorporate a lot into a performance—animal sounds, whistles, scat, yodels, snorts, grunts, various slapping and drumming sounds—and end up being so original that the audience doesn’t even recognize it as singing.
The same is true with writing. Even though readers crave originality, they need to deal with ideas and inventions that aren’t mind-boggling. Thus, the most popular writers tend not to use the most original ideas; they instead tend to make them their own.
How do you make an idea your own? I think that you have to invest yourself into it fully. You have to reinvent it.
Several times I’ve seen novels that have the Alfar—elves—in a science fiction setting. For a couple of the novels, the Alfar was just another race of space travelers. I worry each time I see that idea that it has been done to death and that no editor will take it.
But once I came across a writer who had written a few books on Norse history, herbalism, and magic. His name is Hugh B. Long, and his works using the Alfar in space are . . . different, more fully realized than others I’ve seen. He’s taken the worlds of ancient Norse mythology and reimagined them as military science fiction, where elves are futuristic explorers who once visited Earth, and now mankind must unite with them to fight a common enemy.
I think that he is succeeding in taking a concept and really developing it into something new, making it his own. Here is a link to his first novel.
Just remember: “The same is lame.” If you’re going to base a story around a familiar concept, one that others have used often, you need to really own the idea, twist it in a way that makes it new. Then, you need to create an intriguing plot and write the story beautifully, so that it becomes the very best of its kind.
Advanced Intensive Writing Workshop
St. George, Utah
October 22-26, 2018
10 Attendees Maximum
$799. Room, travel, and meals are separate
Prepare for National Novel Writing Month right in this workshop exclusively for those who would rather be dead than unread!
Dave is ratcheting up his popular Writing Mastery camp and this will be an advanced workshop where we perform daily writing exercises, give daily critiques, and work to improve our writing craft.
During the workshop, instruction and exercises will cover such topics as:
- Adding intrigue to your tale
- Creating tension
- Using the eight kinds of hooks
- Using appeals to various senses to hypnotize your reader
- Weak appeals versus strong appeals versus “failed” appeals
- The music of writing–assonance, consonance, metaphors, etc
- Developing and using both your voice and your character’s voices
- Advanced descriptive techniques
- And more!
We will have at least ten assignments over the course of the class, and Dave will review each assignment and offer critiques. We will also invite other writers to offer their own insights.
During lunch and dinners, authors will be able to set up appointments to dine with David in order to talk about specific concerns that they have with their writing, or to plan their careers.
While the goal for this workshop is to allow the writer to have fun, to get inspired, to work in an intellectually rich and emotionally fulfilling environment, this will be David’s most intensive class ever!
Zermatt Resort, Midway, UT
Friday and Saturday, November 2nd and 3rd
Bestselling authors typically have a few things in common. They know what they want to write, and they develop the skills needed to write efficiently.
But many new authors suffer from writer’s block (usually because they haven’t learned what they are doing yet), or they may bring unhealthy mindsets to the craft. Well, we can fix those problems!
In this course, New York Times Bestselling author David Farland will team up with neuro-linguistic programming instructor Forrest Wolverton to teach the skills you need in order to overcome writers’ block, write more effortlessly, rearrange your own priorities, and increase your productivity. The goal is to help you develop the tools that you need in order to become a super-productive writer, the kind who can complete multiple books per year and win the trust of publishers and fans.
We’ll cover such topics as
- Designing a Career. Many writers waste years trying to figure out what to write. We’ll provide information so that you can decide now what career path you would like to pursue, and then set goals accordingly.
- Moving from apprehension to excitement. Have you lost your love of writing? We’ll teach you how to ground yourself in such a way that writing becomes more than effortless, it becomes something that you are eager to do!
- Learn to set compelling goals that you will be driven to achieve.
- Eliminate internal conflicts and self-sabotage that keep you stalled out.
- Learn how the professional authors manage their mental and emotional state to write when they want to–and do it for yourself.
- Take control of your motivation and direct it toward what you want.
- Are you better at starting, maintaining, or finishing? Would you like to be able to do all three and get you stories out and finished?
- Find out how to decrease the time it takes to find solutions for any task or challenge.
- Learn how to effectively tell your stories by understanding plots, characterization.
- Discover the secret to silencing your inner critic when it is sabotaging your work
- Eliminate doubt about your future success.
- Learn how to organize your mind like bestselling authors and get results fast.
This two-day workshop will cover all of this and more. Space will be limited to 50 students. Please bring something to take notes on and be prepared to change your life.
Register now for both days for $299 and get two additional on-line seminars (a $58 value) for free!
Fiction River Kickstarter
Fiction River is an original anthology series. Initially, it was based on the anthology series of old—Universe, Orbit, Pulphouse—but rapidly, Fiction River evolved into its own entity.
First of all, Fiction River publishes more than one genre. In thirty-seven volumes now we’ve covered the spectrum, from science fiction to romance, mystery to fantasy. We’ve combined genres, publishing stories that can’t even be categorized.
Second, we publish all kinds of writers. We publish thriller writers alongside romance writers and sprinkle the mix heavily with fantasy and science fiction writers.
Fiction River is self-sufficient, but bimonthly publications don’t remain self-sufficient if they don’t get new subscribers every now and then. So please participate in our Kickstarter to help out.