From the Mailbag: On Originality

The other day when I strolled across the information highway to check my digital mailbox I found that someone had written to me asking for advice. That’s right. Advice. From me. Can you imagine?

Taking pity on this poor misguided soul, I responded back as best I knew how. And then, since I am basically lazy I thought, Hey, free blog post!

So now, for your reading amusement and amazement, feast your eyes as Albert the Great answers his mail!

Dear Purveyor of Internet Awesome, [okay so she didn’t actually start like this. I let it slide, but in the future ya’ll need to be remembering my official title, okay?]

I heard about you from your blog on writing and I would like to ask you for some advice.

I’ve had many ideas for stories and I would really love to finish them but after I’ve spent some time writing, I notice that there is another story out there just like mine.

I personally think mine is kinda original, but other people say it isnt and that I’m just trying to get in on money that authors are making by writing about popular things; be it vampires, werewolves, magic, etc.

I wanted to know… Do you think I should continue my story even though it might not be original? Should I just forget about other people’s opinions?

Please help! Thanks for your time.

Sincerely,

Green

Ah, yes. The originality issue. I’m pretty sure most of us who have been writing for any time at all have faced this one at least once. I believe I even wrote a blog post about my own trials with the same problem a while back.

If you happen to be facing a similar dilema here is my advice to Green, and to you.

Dear Green,

I am of two minds on this issue. Okay, three minds, but the third one is Herbert and we aren’t on speaking terms at the moment.

On the one hand, you have to be practical and realize that books with supernatural romance themes are flooding the market at the moment. If you were trying to ride that wave, it almost certainly wouldn’t work.  There are already way too many vampire/werewolf/bigfoot/whatever romance stories out there.

Even if you did somehow break through and sell such a book you’d be competing against so many other similar works, it would be an uphill struggle to stand out.

But on the other hand…there’s a golden band…

Wait, sorry. Stupid country music flashbacks.

On the other hand on some level what you write needs to come from what you love. And if what you really love is supernatural romance, then you should go for it.

It may not be salable, but hey, neither was my first book. In fact, in my experience most first books end up being “training books.” That’s not fun to hear if you’ve spent a lot of time on a book thinking its going the be the greatest thing ever, but the truth is you’re going to need to move on and keep writing whether you sell the first one or not.

The bottom line is, as always, balance. You can’t write a book thinking about whether or not there is going to be a market for it. You need the write the book that you would want to read. But eventually, someone is going to have to think about selling your work, so maybe try not to be too derivative, yes?

Sincerely,

The Great and Mighty Purveyor of Internet Writing Awesome.

So there you have it.

If you have a question for Albert the Great, don’t hesitate to shoot it my way. Who knows? I might just answer. And then I might just parade it in front of  everybody on the internet. With minor modifications for entertainment value of course.

Also, I got Green’s permission first. So there’s that.
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8 responses to “From the Mailbag: On Originality

  1. It’s incredibly frustrating when you think you have an awesome idea but someone else got there first. It’s almost off putting.

  2. Thou art wise, oh great one. Sound advice.

  3. For me, originality is as much about character and execution as it is an “original” plot. Most storylines are already taken, and are derived from basic needs. How the characters struggle and attain these things are what interest me in a story. Not every story can be a mold-breaker, but you can do a lot to make it less derivative, and to stand on its own.

    Also, with the speed at which romance readers acquire and read books, it is always a good bet you will sell a few. Eternal shelf life on amazon and a building backlist can do wonderful things for any author. If you choose to go indie that is.

  4. I started working on something about six months ago that I quickly realized was Stephen King’s “Thinner” without the creepy Gypsies. I had no desire to compete with King and ended up stashing it away somewhere, and started fresh with something I have not read anywhere before. Hopefully it works out.

  5. Very good advice, Albert. Excuse me, I mean: very good advice, Great and Mighty Purveyor of Internet Writing Awesome.

  6. Pingback: Simply Amazing Things To Remember No Matter What You Write « Perfectly Prompted!

  7. But then again, I’m not surprised. Every plot has been done before. What makes it original are the twists we put in ours.

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