Upon arriving young and eager to my first creative writing class one of the first things we were told was ‘make it new’. Apparently this is a quote from Ezra Pound, though I never knew where from, but my first creative writing tutor was a big exponent of this philosophy and he was completely right. However, you don’t have to look very far to find books telling you, dishearteningly, that you can never make it new because all the plots have been done before. Similarly all the heroes and heroines fit into basic archetypes so why make an effort, eh?
I don’t think the concept of making it new really means to set out and try and write the story that has never been written before. Humanity has been telling stories as long as they’ve had language to do so, and probably before, that’s a lot of stories. Sometimes making it new is the little things; a flare in speech or description, a character that defies genre expectations or stereotypes, not getting all pretentious and prissy about ‘the art’. All of which will be explored in more depth in later articles.
I really do believe in the making it new idea but I’m not going to drone on for pages and pages about it because I believe even more that you can only write the story you want to write. Read any culture section in any newspaper and they pretty much all expound the notion that if you go on a creative writing course you will come off it all writing in some formulaic way dictated by your tutors which shouldn’t be true. Put simply if somebody tells you that you can’t write your story as you want to they are wrong.
A good creative writing tutor, course or group will help you find the best way to write your story but it will still be your story. There is a distinct difference in someone saying; ‘Well, A is interesting but have you considered B?’ And somebody else saying; ‘You can’t do it A because B is the way it should be done.’
This all ties back to the idea of newness because if you write the story your way then that will distinguish it from any other novel, play, or any other form you pick because it will be yours.
Perhaps the next time you read or watch something by your favourite writer you should consider what you like best about their writing and what makes it different from any other in your view.
To my mind what makes your writing distinctly yours is what makes it new.
For more writing advice see my archive.