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How to Be Original as a Writer

Writing can be a frustrating process when it always feels like all your ideas have been done before. J.K. Rowling did the wizarding school in Harry Potter, Rick Riordan in Percy Jackson  took hold of Greek mythology, and Disney has an arsenal of fantasy stories to tell. You might think you have to start from total scratch. The truth is, you can be original while also using one of these ideas you love so much. If you’ve ever wondered how to make your writing ideas unique and impactful, while also using tropes and topics you love, you’ve come to the right place.

In this blog, we’ll walk you through where original ideas come from, how to inspire yourself, blend ideas, work with others, and make a story all your own.

Original Doesn’t Just Mean New

It’s okay to pull from other sources when you write an original story, as long as you don’t plagiarize. Most people want some level of familiarity in the stories they read anyway, so it’s up to you to provide a good balance of content that is both familiar and new. The combination of these ideals is what makes a story uniquely original. 

If you find yourself wanting to improve your stories, here are three techniques we’ll cover to help you be more original as a writer.

Writing Tips for Original Work:

  1. Seek inspiration
  2. Blend ideas
  3. Get feedback

Seek Inspiration

Creating original content is difficult when you don’t have the right inspiration to pull from. Thankfully, inspiration can come from a number of different places: books, movies, games, life events, art, and more. However, the best writers are the ones who read—and for good reason.

In her blog on the influence that reading can have on writers, Jan Fortune highlights 14 reasons that writers should be readers. Some of the most important points she focuses on are as follows:

  • Reading encourages imagination
  • Reading helps you see what works and what doesn’t work
  • Reading will encourage you to take more risks with your writing

If you have ideas in your head but no way to execute them, there is no shame in looking up story prompts or brainstorming ideas with friends to get your creativity flowing. Once you start writing, you’ll find yourself full of ideas and even feel inspired to write.

Blend Ideas

Sometimes the best stories come when you blend multiple ideas together. Why create just another Cinderella story when you could write a robot Cinderella story (like in Marissa Meyer’s book Cinder), or a spy adventure based in a fairy tale world, or a romance between martians?

Elsie Chapman even created a story by combining Avatar: The Last Airbender and Fight Club in her book Caster. Brainstorming combinations like these can get you started on the path to your own original story. Many successful authors begin this way. 

Blending ideas is an exercise you could even try right now. For this prompt, take the setting from your favorite show, then mash it with the characters from your favorite book. Snip out the plot from the latest Pixar film and throw your setting and characters into it.

Let your story get weird. Follow your tangents. Revise it later. As long as you make it your own, you can make it great. 

Get Feedback

While the majority of writing happens when you’re sitting at your desk, blazing away at the keyboard, it’s just as important to make your writing a collaborative activity. Surround yourself with fellow writers. Have them read your writing and give you feedback. Of course, be willing to do the same for them. 

These groups of fellow writers are often called writing groups. If you can’t find a writing group that fits your needs, then start one. You have so much freedom as a writer, but seeing how people read and receive your writing is crucial for improving your writing. There’s no shame in asking for feedback, that’s how the best writers get better.

When writing on your own, you may not always feel that your story is original until someone else leads you in a brand new direction. This type of guidance and support that your writing group offers can make your story better than it could ever be if you wrote it all on your own.

Why Does Your Story Need to Be Written by You?

If you’re taking the time to sit down and write an original story, what is it that makes it original? Is it the plot, the characters, the setting, or the crazy twist? The answer: it’s all of it! But most importantly, it’s the fact that it was written by you.

There are stories upon stories out there, but none of them have your unique touch. Start writing, find out what makes your writing unique, and use what you learned. Have fun with your writing. And, if you put in the time to write, your story can be the original story you want it to be.

Get Your Writing Out There: Submit to Inscape!

Student-run literary journals like Inscape are the perfect place to get your writing out there. At Inscape, we look for short fiction, non-fiction, poetry and visual art submissions.

By submitting, you can experiment with new ideas, get feedback from fellow writers, and have a chance at getting your work published. We want to see the wonderful and wacky ideas you come up with. Send them our way. Kickstart your writing career by submitting to Inscape.

—Hannah Harlan, Inscape