So, I’ve been working on determining a project to work on for Nanowrimo. And, since I haven’t started a new rough draft in four years, I’ve got a huge list of story ideas that I’ve written down, to get to eventually.
I think I started with 18 different novel ideas. I’m down to four: the first book of a space adventure scifi series somewhat in the same vein as Star Trek; a high fantasy adventure story that’s the same world as my high fantasy trilogy but otherwise unrelated; a vague story that involves some combination of mazes, Friendship Trumps All, hidden magical worlds and is mostly still in the running because it’s so openended for the moment; and the sequel to my anthology story that’s included in the Under Her Protection anthology.
And because I’ve been treading on the same ground for years, editing and rewriting and submitting and publishing, the idea of writing something new is extremely exciting and I want to write them all. So I’ve been having a hard time eliminating ideas, and so I’ve been talking to anyone who will listen to me about them, in the hopes that one will suddenly jump into the lead and I can start planning for reals.
Last night I was going over these ideas with my husband again (only there was one more idea that has since been eliminated, because we determined that the plotline needed to be planned out in such detail beforehand in order to work that Nano was probably not the right place for it), and I explained the worldbuilding for my scifi series, which he thought was interesting, but then when I went into potential plots for this first book (crew has to learn to work together, saboteur from radical group onboard, warring colonies, transmissions from a colony thought lost) he said, “Well, what’s new about any of that?”
And I admit I went through this phase where I went “OMG he’s right, obviously I should not be writing science fiction when I’m just going to do the same plot as everyone else ever” but I got over it. And I will tell you why.
First of all, when condensed down to a single sentence, a lot of plots sound the same, whether they are or not, because summaries lack the nuances that stories have.
Second of all, the fact of the matter is that I like a good space adventure and other people like a good space adventure, and sometimes it’s okay to use genre conventions (especially if you twist them later on).
And third of all, a story is more than just the sum of its plots. And each plot is affected by the world it’s set in, by the characters involved in it, by the tone and theme of the story, by the voice. Every murder procedural ever follows that same basic plotline, but everything else changes.
So why shouldn’t I write my saboteur and my clashing personalities (arguably more interesting because they’re trapped on a deep space ship together) and my space dinosaurs? My story will still be uniquely mine, just like every story is unique to its author.