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Anonymous inquired: "What would you recommend someone do if they love writing, but struggle to come up with decent original plots, characters, and the like?"

Always write it anyway. Always write it anyway. You can always go back and change things. And you will always get better the more you write. 

My music teacher once told me that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a professional. So, even if you’re not planning on becoming a professional writer, think about how many hours you could spend getting better, how much practice you could do. Each hour (or each story) just helps you build skills. To be good at anything, you have to practice. 

And to practice, my biggest advice is to:

Write fanfiction. 

I think, more than anything else I’ve done (which includes being at school specifically for screenwriting) fanfiction helped me develop my ability to write original plot lines, develop character and the like. It helped me find my voice as a writer, and the confidence to take risks and try things, even if they don’t work. 

Fanfiction gives you the flexibility to write original stories, with varied, dynamic, boring, interesting, silly, fun, romantic plot lines, without having to worry about every little detail. You don’t need to make up the rooms, or the characters. You just get to play around with telling stories. And I think that’s a creative freedom that people undervalue. 

If you start writing something you love, overtime, those characters will talk back to you, and you’ll develop a style and a voice, regardless of the fact that the character aren’t “yours.”

Once you have your ‘style,’ and your habits, you step out to create an entire world, from countertops to character traits, with an arsenal of skills you’ve developed while you were busy having fun not worrying about a lot of the mess. 

It’s not cheating, and it’s not being lazy. Musicians learn just as much by playing covers—learning existing popular music and then tweaking it to their interests—as they do playing scales, classics, and doing exersizes. Fanfiction does the same; it stretches your writing brain. It’s practice as much as it is play. And to be honest, some of the best writing I’ve ever seen has been in fanfiction. If you never write anything else, it’s an accomplishment in itself.

On top of all of that, HAVE FUN.

If you don’t think your plots are original, write anyway. I can pick up about twelve books at Barnes and Noble that have the same basic plot, the same basic characters, and the same basic writing style. But they’re published. Plots have been derivative ever since the first story was told.

If you think your characters aren’t interesting enough, write anyway. You can always go back and make your characters more interesting later, when you’ve had time to step away from the work and can go back with fresh eyes. 

If you think your dialogue isn’t original enough, write it anyway.

Always write it anyway. The more you write, the better you get.

And read. Read everything you can. Watch everything you can. Get into British TV, see some Bollywood films, read a book translated from French (or read in French, if you can). It doesn’t matter what medium the material comes from; stories are stories, and as you soak them up, you feed your brain, and give yourself material to help your own stories come alive.

  1. fanficwriterghc posted this