When I first began writing, I believed I was creating something that had never been done before. After all, who would think to write a concept book about seasons in rhyme? In all the years I read to my own three children, I had come across only one such picture book, and it was published long ago. Surely it hadn’t been done since, right? Wrong.
Shortly after completing my first manuscript, I discovered that not only were there three season books with the exact same title as mine, but also a new one released through Scholastic. In rhyme. At first this was discouraging, but then I learned something all writers need to know: Everything’s been done. It’s the way in which you do it that makes the difference.
One of the best examples of this is fairy tales. Most of us are familiar with the story of the gingerbread man who jumps out of the oven and leads everyone on a wild chase until finally, he’s eaten by the fox. But suppose a few changes are made as in Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett, Gingerbread Girl by Lisa Campbell Ernst, or Gingerbread Man, Superhero! by Dottie Enderle. These are all based on the same tale, yet they each have their own unique way of retelling the story, providing a new voice, style and approach.
The same holds true for other fiction. One of the most common plots is: a protagonist is introduced; he/she faces conflict; he/she tries to solve conflict but faces setbacks; after several trials and tribulations, he/she finally succeeds. There are many stories that use this formula. And there are many other formulas used as the framework of a story. The job of the writer is to invent colorful characters, visual verbiage and individual design, creating “new” narrative.
So what’s left to write? Everything! In your own manner.