YOU are the story. Write now.

by Ranee Dillon

The story goes that some U.S. Patent official resigned years ago because everything already exists. His alleged reasoning was since every idea has already been generated, no one needed a patent office.

Though this rumor still exists – and I giggle at the thought – it reminds me of something a college professor told me.

“Only eight story lines exist in the history of the world. No story is ever unique. Therefore, nothing new is ever created. We’re simply regurgitating when we write.”

Being the 28 year old smartass I was, I raised my hand. “So, you’re telling us there’s no point in writing anything,” I said.

“No, I’m bringing to light the fact that you will never create something new,” he said. “So don’t break your back and obsess about writing anything truly original.”

End of discussion.

Back then, I didn’t know any better. I didn’t know enough about commercial fiction to form a comeback. But some twelve years later, well, I can. And there’s a critical difference between what that professor said and what it means to writers everywhere.
Yes, only so many plot lines exist. One way or another, the majority of stories we write fall into a category. (For reference, John Lescroart compiled a very basic list here.) So plots can be interesting and twisty, but they’ll eventually fit somewhere.

Does that mean we’ll never create anything original?

Um, no.

The part of a book that makes it unique, that makes it wholly original, is you. Your voice. The way you phrase things. The life you put into the characters. All of it is unique because no one else has lived your life.

Or as Becky says in THE Guide: “One of the things that sets you apart from every other writer is your story. No one else has lived your life or shared your experiences. Use that. Share your thoughts, opinions and hard-earned lessons. Trust yourself. We like other people who are like us.”

While we can mimic other people’s styles and voices, mostly because we’re afraid our voices won’t be well-received, the plain truth is no one will EVER write the book sitting in your Word document right now.

No one will describe a scene exactly like you. No one else will create characters who have the same hang-ups and insecurities, most of which are formed from your personal life experience.

Sure, plenty of books have similarities, but they don’t have what your book does: YOU.

And that comes through in every word you slap down. It pours out of every chapter like the tipped crevasse of a drunken pirate. When we don’t hedge, when we rip off the straightjacket confining our words to a slow death of monotony, that’s the moment our kickass conjurer of worlds comes out to play.

Remember, every time a reader picks up a book, they’re not buying just another story. They’re buying part of you. You are the product, so don’t leave your readers short by making a hasty exit out of your own freaking book.

Give them a reason to come back for more. Make them care. About YOU.

Ranee Dillon is an Amazon bestselling author and writing coach in our Write Raw classes. Her specialties include helping you take back your voice, laser-focusing your plot and kicking the ever-loving shit out of writer’s block.

How to NOT rip people off

The world would be a much nicer place if people didn’t steal other people’s shit. But that’s not the world we live in.

Today, we’re talking about what to do when someone else’s awesome idea sparks your own “F*ck Yeah” moment. i.e. How to NOT rip people off.

I started blogging under a pseudonym in 2008. Three years later, I stopped writing fiction and launched this site for writers, showing my face and name. I had plenty of inspiration: Danielle LaPorte, Ash Ambirge, Erika Napoletano – strong women who know who they are and what they represent. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to launch a business that showed people it’s okay to be exactly who you are.

I’m a writer. Naturally, this meant working to help writers unleash the beast. Helping them get out of their own way to just write whatever is rattling around in their heads.

My journey began with Danielle LaPorte’s Fire Starter Sessions, the kick in the ass I needed to DO something.

Then I found Ash Ambirge, who makes my brand of irreverence look like milk and cookies. By the way, she can – because she’s a marketing guru and a freaking copywriting genius.

Erika Napoletano taught me how to truly be myself, how to settle into my own skin and feel damn good about it. The sassy biz maven leads by example. I love her no-bullshit approach. I aspire to her level of professionalism and balls-to-the-wall we’re doing this now, no fucking excuses mantra.

I adopted pieces of each of these women in my own business. I didn’t take their words or their personas. I stayed true to who I am. But I got ballsy by watching them rock out in the interwebz.

Which brings me to today’s topic: It’s inevitable that we learn things from other people in our industry. What’s important is that we use those things to launch our next big (original) thing without stealing someone else’s hard work.


* One of my favorite go-to lines when I coach writers is, “We’re not curing cancer.” It means, “Hey, chill. No one is going to die if you write a sentence you don’t like. Just start. We’ll work it out.” I picked it up from a friend of mine in the dog show world (of all places). He knows I use it. He thinks it’s great.

I expect other writing coaches to tell their clients to chill. We each have our own way of talking people off the ledge – and writers often need to be talked off the ledge. But it’s not cool if they adopt “We’re not curing cancer” as their tagline.

* Most writing coaches talk about fear – a lot. Fear, after all, is what holds writers back. It has to be tackled immediately and aggressively. I’ve read millions of posts about the topic, and about how people approach it in varying industries. But I created my own way of addressing it with clients, a portion of which follows:

“It’s okay to be you. Because you are awesome. Your message is important. No one can share it the way you can.” And “You have to show people who you are and why they should care. Otherwise, you’re just one of a billion or so writers without a message that stands out. Rather than the author who throws her guts on the page and makes her words sing.” (Page 23 of THE Guide)

Feel the fear and do it anyway.

My point is the universe has thousands upon thousands of books chock-full of writing advice. Chances are excellent that many writing coaches use the same ideas and principles to help their clients. It’s okay to pickup a concept you believe in and morph it into something tangible for your business. It’s not okay to take someone else’s ideas and represent them as your own.

And if, by chance, someone does approach you about material they feel infringes on their copyright, your best response would NOT be to block them on social media and unsubscribe them from your email list.

Just sayin’.