What If Your Story Isn't Original Enough?

Two days ago, I was scrolling through Instagram, oohing and ahhing over gorgeous book photos. Then I stopped, and I stared. I had landed on a photo of a book, with a cover and title similar to what I imagined my WIP's might be in the future. Surely it's different, I thought. Surely.

So I looked the book up on Goodreads. As I read the blurb, my heart sunk, and sunk. My beautiful story idea, my premise, elements of my cover and title...they were already published, in another writer's book.

I'll be honest here: I felt like crying. I felt like walking away from the story in that instant, declaring it had already been done before, that it wasn't worth it to keep working on it.



Some stubborn part of me scrolled down into the reviews. I was curious, I suppose, to see what others' thought of the book -- or the premise we shared. As I dug deeper, and as my emotions began to settle, I began to notice things mentioned in the review. The POV focus was different, I didn't have pirates, the time period was different...

We both still shared the same myth re-telling, with a female focus on a girl who had the touch of gold (or could sense gold, in the other book's case), and other various elements. It wasn't quite as bad as I first thought, but the sliver of doubt remained. What if my story isn't original enough?

Later, I was reminded of post I had recently read by my beautiful friend Hannah White @ Ink Blots and Coffee Stains, who explained how if a story was completely original, no one would be able to relate to it. To quote her:


"Where did this idea come from, anyway, that says our writing has to be full of new things? If we could create something completely new, it wouldn't be as amazing as you might think because people wouldn't even be able to relate to it. They might find it wild and interesting and highly entertaining, but it wouldn't last because they wouldn't be able to connect to it. And if we can't connect, it doesn't really have true meaning."
-Hannah White

Maybe I won't be able to throw around my premise anymore with the pride of 'Look how fresh this is! How original!', but maybe I never should have. Because writing stories should not be about crafting something that you can brag about making, about how original you are. Writing stories is deeper than that. It's about the message, the light or darkness you show, about what's burning on your heart to be shared.

When we start wringing our hands over how many points for originality we'll get, we lose focus of the story's heart. Originality is the glitter and sequins that can add some extra shine to lure others in, but they aren't the heart and soul, the foundation of a good story. 

We are called to write stories from our hearts -- sometimes those stories have already been told. But they haven't been told by you. When you put fingers to keyboard, or ink to paper, you are rewriting an old tale of what it is to be human. 

You're reaching through the page to touch hearts that haven't been reached before. And your words may be the first to do so.



Do you ever have doubts about whether your story is original enough? How do you combat them? Do you think all stories have to be original, or not?
Have a great day, and best wishes with your writing! <3

Comments

  1. Originality is overrated. I would rather be genuine and vulnerable in my writing.

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    1. Definitely! It's taken me awhile to realize that, though. :)

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  2. I've definitely worried about that before. Whenever the doubt comes around, I usually have to remind myself that there have been so. many. stories written that it is impossible for a book to be 100% unique. It doesn't have to be unlike anything else ever written, it just has to be the best I can write. And the thing is, I've read books that incredibly similar. I read one by Markus Zusak, and one by David Metzenthen one after the other and at the core they were almost exactly the same story. But that didn't matter because they were both good and I enjoyed them both, and the fact that I liked one meant that I wanted more of the same sort of thing, and there was a book that was similar and familiar, and just what I wanted more of. So when I start to feel a bit of doubt about my books, that's what I try and remind myself about.

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    1. That's a good reminder for us all, thanks for sharing, Imogen! :) You're right, often we're drawn to reading the same core story over and over again, and so that's why we seek out books with similar themes; we want to read a different approach to it. Thanks for commenting! <3

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  3. Excellent thoughts, Melissa. I totally agree. I've never personally found a book like one of mine, but that is always a possibility (a scary one).

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    1. Thanks Rachel! It is a scary possibility, but I'm sure if you ever think you see one similar to yours, yours will still be unique!

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  4. This is so good! I often struggle with that thought, thank you so much for writing this. <3

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    1. Thank you Gray! <3 So glad I could encourage you today!

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  5. I think I know what book you're talking about, and I'm pretty sure your story will be plenty different! Wonderful post - these are good thoughts to chew on, and to keep in mind. And I remember that part of Hannah's post too! It stuck out to me because I had never heard anyone say that before. There was always such an emphasis on BE ORIGINAL. But she's so right. There's not much new under the sun, and that's totally okay. xD

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    1. Aw thank you; I hope it will be. <3 Yes, it was such a great post, and I'm so thankful to her for writing it! It is definitely okay. xD

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  6. I have that fear too, Melissa! The other fear I have, ironically, is that I'm too different and that I can't market my ideas effectively cause I don't know what to compare them too...

    Catherine
    catherinesrebellingmuse.blogspot.com

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    1. Those are both understandable fears, Catherine! I suppose something to keep in mind is that if you want to read the book you're writing, someone else out there is sure to want it too. :)

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  7. Awwwww LISSSSS *tackle hugs you* This really touched my heart. I'm so glad that post came to you when it did, and that it encouraged you! I've something similar happen before, but not as extreme. I had a new concept for an idea that was really exciting, and literally the day after I saw a trailer for a movie that was basically the same thing. It crushed me, but it made me realize that if your ideas can be stolen, you have to write with something that can't be, and that's your precious self. Your story is beautiful, and so are you! <3

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    1. LIZZZZ. *accepts tackle hugs* Thanks so much for writing the post, so I would remember it when I needed your words. <3 Aw I'm sorry, I understand the pain, and it's rough. *more hugs* Absolutely, that's a wonderful way to put it. Thank you, and same to you! <3 <3

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  8. Hello!! I just found this post through the Rebellious Writing Blog. Thank you so much for this! It's a wonderfully true post. Just the little shot in the arm I needed. Now I'm also wondering if there are books out there that are very similar to my WIPs. Anyway, thanks again!!

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    1. Hi Sarah! Oh that's so wonderful! And thank you!! So glad I could encourage you. <3 Even if there are, remember, it's about the way you tell your idea, not about how original it is! :) You're so welcome, thanks for commenting!

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  9. This is a really cool post. I felt this way when I came up with my Subsapiens story and saw James Patterson came up with Maximum Ride then I noticed how different they were and I felt better. There’s lots of different versions of similar stories.

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    1. Thanks Victoria! :) Absolutely, there are stories that sound similar, but it's the author who gives it their own style and flair. And from what I know of Maximum Ride, I think Subsapiens is much better! <3

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  10. This really hits close to home for me - I've had those dark nights of the soul where I start thinking that the WIPs I'm really passionate about are no different than anything else on the market (I mean, there are probably enough epic fantasy quest novels to build a mountain). I just have to keep reminding myself that no other author will ever have the EXACT same idea as I do. And there's definitely something to be said for relatability. My favorite stories are always the ones that "speak" to me, not the ones that feel foreign and detached.

    Great post!

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    1. Yes exactly, being able to connect and relate to a story is what really makes one special and a favourite! I'm sure that your idea is original in its own unique way, and will really speak to its readers. <3
      Thank you!

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    2. Aw, I appreciate the encouragement! I'm sure your story is just as original as well :)

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    3. Aw thank you! <3 I hope your writing's going well!

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