THE HIDEAWAY (no longer working title--this one has stuck) is rocking along. I'm now in my third fiction workshop and the experience has been so valuable. Through discussion with this class several months ago, I decided to make a pretty big overhaul in the manuscript. I didn't change the story or characters, but I am telling it in a different way now. It works much better, and the story is stronger. I've finished reordering the MS and I've given the revised MS to my husband and my mom (I know, I know, you're not supposed to trust family members to give you an honest opinion, but I do trust them!) I've also sent it to three beta readers, two of whom are also writers. My hope is to finish going through the printed copy myself and compile the beta readers' comments by the end of May. In June, I plan to hand off the MS (hopefully in as polished form as I can possibly make it) to another friend who is a published author. I figure she's a good last set of eye to see it before I start querying agents. At some point, I'll need to start gathering agent info...but I suppose I need to write a darn good query letter and synopsis first. Yikes. On another note (but related to THE HIDEAWAY), I was thinking the other day about the old adage "there's nothing new under the sun." If you think too much about all the books that have already been written--all the themes authors have covered, all the story lines that have been fleshed out--it can be overwhelming to the point of tossing the pen (or computer) aside and giving up. I think the key is to remember that yes, all the stories have basically been written, all the themes have been covered inside and out--but what I can do is come up with a new, fresh way to tell my story. So it's a theme that's been done before--at least no one has done it my exact way. That's what makes mine unique.
I remember telling my mom a while back that there seemed to be so many books about women who, for one reason or another, leave their hometown, only to return to it years later with a new perspective. The theme seemed overdone and annoying. And what did I do? I wrote a book with that theme! That's just what came out as I fleshed out my characters. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the idea of home and of a sense of belonging to a place is familiar to a lot of people--that's probably why the theme has been covered in so many books and movies. It's definitely common in Southern fiction--and that's what I write--and I think that's because the idea of home and place is so important to people from the South. However, I'm sure it's a universal theme, not just a regional one.
Maybe the only way to come up with something totally unique and never-before-seen is to write scifi/fantasy where you are making up a whole new world and characters that don't exist in real life. That way, it's totally out of your imagination. But even then, these characters (or beings or what have you) will likely deal with the same themes and issues, whether it's love, loyalty, revenge, betrayal, or a host of other commonalities. I guess even vampires and the dauntless ones have hearts that can be bruised and ties that can be broken.
My point is, if you look hard enough, you'll find that every theme under the sun has already been written, but that shouldn't stop you from writing your story, whatever it is. Just make sure your spin on it is fresh and new.