Here’s the thing about them: there are none.
We’ve likely all heard it before: there are no new ideas.
Yet, even knowing and agreeing to that, I don’t know of much else that takes the wind out of my writer sails than to be explaining a WIP to someone only to have them say “oh, that sounds exactly like “insert book/movie/show title here!” Or to be almost done with said WIP, and then stumble along a Publisher’s Weekly deal announcement for a book that somehow sounds exactly like yours. And that just sold for six figures. That could have been yours. But now your idea is old news. Aaaaaand *cue sad violin song*
|On the world's smallest violin|
And even once your book sells, the comparisons continue. Some of the first few comments on FALLS Goodreads’ page compared it to a book I’d never even heard of, and so of course, I looked said book up, and realized they were right. As we'd sent FALLS off on submission, this book that had many of the same ideas about cloning as mine had already hit the shelves that same month.
And it totally sucked.
Because even though we’ll probably all admit that complete originality is impossible, most people don’t like being called copy-cats. I know I didn’t. For years, I’ve had this idea that I must be original, that real artists/writers can’t be compared to anything else. Heck, I used to freak out when I was reading a book and came across a name too similar to one of the ones in my WIPs.
But the more I think on it, the more books I write, and the closer I get to FALLS’ pub day and see more and more people excited about it (despite its supposed unoriginality), the more I think that maybe “new” ideas are less important than genuine ideas that you want to write about, even if they’ve been explored before. Because chances are, you’re going to explore them in different ways, from different angles, through the eyes of different characters. Two stories based off the same basic idea can have wildly different plots. And in some cases (I’ve observed personally) some people who loved the book that yours is constantly compared to will actually be all the more excited for your book, because it gives them another chance to explore more of what drew them to that first book to begin with.
So take heart, dear writers; even if people have seen your story before, chances are a lot of them will still give it a chance. Then it’s up to your writing and story elements to win them over from there (no pressure!). Originality exists in details, in the way you tangle and untangle your plot and characters and spin each unique sentence together. Since after all, if you boil stories down to just a few basic lines (like we see in blurbs and on covers) it's sometimes hard to see all of these little things that make your story, well, yours. Because essentially, when you get down to the bones, all stories are about the same things anyway
|Hey! That's my story in a nutshell!|
And one last thing before I go: I’m not saying ignore what’s already been done. I think it is a good idea to pay attention to the market, and to fill in gaps where any exist, IF the books that fill those gaps are what you want to write. Because bottom line? A book that you’re genuinely passionate about is always going to be a better book than one you wrote just because it seemed unique at the time.
So what do you guys think? Is it more important for a book to be completely original, or completely well-written? Or maybe a bit of both? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!
Stefanie Gaither writes YA novels about killer clones and spaceships, with the occasional romp with dragons and magic-users thrown in for good measure. Said writing is generally fueled by an obscene amount of coffee and chocolate, as well as the occasional tennis and/or soccer break. She's represented by Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary, and her debut novel, FALLS THE SHADOW, is forthcoming from Simon and Schuster Books For Young Readers in 2014. You can add it on Goodreads here!
You can find her on Twitter @: https://twitter.com/stefaniegaither
Or drop her an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
And also visit her website @: www.stefaniegaither.com