The main reason I decided to write this post was because this was the first question that popped into lil’ Audrey’s head as soon as she decided she wanted to write a book. Literally my two biggest fears were that 1) somebody else had already written my story and I was an uncreative blob, and 2) that my book idea just wasn’t that original, or even good at all.
To answer that first question, you’re just going to have to trust me. Unless you have literally stolen the exact premise, themes, and characters of somebody else’s novel, then believe me, no one has already written your novel. Granted there may be similarities between your story and others, but humans just weren’t built to be identical thinkers. We are creative creatures, all with different backgrounds, family situations, jobs, interests, and hobbies, meaning that even when we are given the exact same prompt, we will each come up with something unique. If you don’t believe it, go again and try me, I dare you. Get a group of friends together, post a prompt, and then compare what you come up with. Trust me, even if there are some similarities, they. Will. Not. Be. The. Same.
But what about that second question? How are you supposed to know whether or not your story is marketable, or even *whispers* readable? What if you spend all this time writing this story you thought of, only to find out that everyone hates it? Or worse, that you hate it?
Well, never fear, my dear, writerly friends. I will help you to answer this potentially soul-crushing question. So, without further ado, here’s how you know your story is a good one.
- It isn’t a rip-off of other stories. This takes me back to the first question I feared when I wrote my first novel’s first draft. No one wants to be a copycat, but it’s like I said, you can’t exactly be a copycat if you don’t deliberately copy someone else’s work. Take a look at what happened after Twilight, for example. An explosion of vampire romance books appeared overnight. Some did all right, which were the ones that treated Twilight as an inspiration and not as fodder for their own stories. Authors often use the term “stealing” when they talk about what inspired them to write their novels, but they don’t literally do that. When they say steal, they mean they were inspired by someone else’s work, and wrote based off that inspiration. If you’re going to do that, then that’s perfectly fine. I do it all the time. Several of the books that followed Stephanie Meyer’s stories were like that, but then some of them… weren’t. Some of them appeared to have been copied and pasted straight from Meyer’s books. And those were the stories that quite simply… sucked.
- It holds true to the values of storytelling. “But Audreeeey. Aren’t we supposed to be creative and break tropes and clichés?” Yes, yes, I can hear you complaining about this contradictory advice. But listen: the whole reason that the publishing industry has been able to continue to grow, is because people stick to basic storytelling values. ‘Storytelling values’ do not equal ‘tropes and clichés’. They equals things like theme. Character arcs. Setting. Plot development. All things that your story needs to be considered ‘good.’ And if you find your story is lacking in any of those areas, then there are plenty of great blogposts on here about those things. (So go read ’em!)
Now I bet you’re wondering, “Well, how do I figure out if I have a problem with any storytelling values in my manuscript?” And that brings me to my third point.
- Go get feedback on your book. I know. It’s hard. But trust me, your novel will not make it out there in the industry if you ignore the step of getting feedback. This is soooooo crucial, you guys. There were so many issues with my manuscript that I never would’ve found or thought of if I hadn’t gotten feedback on my novel. Yeah, I’ll admit it. My story wasn’t that great before getting feedback. Getting feedback increased my understanding of its problems and how to fix them. You’re going to want feedback-givers who are honest (gentle is also preferable), or else your book isn’t going to get any better. You need people who will tell you what is wrong in your novel. It may hurt at first, sure, but in the end, you and your book are going to come out so much stronger after.
I recommend a healthy mix of feedback-givers, or beta readers are they’re normally called. This means you can’t just give it to your mom or your best friend, because while they may help, you are going to need some unbiased opinions. This means opening your connections with other writers. I found most of my beta readers through the NaNoWriMo website and on Instagram. (As a side note, please decide to stay anonymous, at least until you are an adult, and if you really must, only give out your first name. While most people are in fact lovely and kind humans, there may be that one person who you come across who isn’t. Be safe out there, my loves.) Private message people, post that you’re looking for beta readers and critique partners, do something to widen your connection to other writers. Offer your own services in return. But for your book’s own sake, get feedback.
- If you are passionate about this story, then it is a good idea. I saved this bit of advice for the very end, because it’s the most important. Despite everything I’ve told you, if you think that your book is a rip-off and that it doesn’t follow the values of storytelling, or you simply haven’t gotten any feedback on it yet, then you’ll be happy to know that this last point outweighs all three of the previous points put together. If you love this story you’ve written or are writing, if you believe in it with all your heart, then you, my friend, have a good idea for a book. I talked a bit about how authors see their own books’ potential more than anyone else in my previous post (Dealing with Rejection), and it still rings true in this case. If you look at your story, all with its messy, flat characters, confusing plot holes, awful dialogue, and more, and you still think, “No, I like this. I love it in fact,” then your idea is good. It just needs some tweaking is all.
All in all, if you are passionate about your story, then it is more than likely a good idea to write it. Even if it never gets published, even if no one else believes in it, you will benefit from writing something that you love. The first draft I ever wrote is a piece of garbage. But I saw its potential back then and that made it worthwhile to write, even if in the end I ended up trashing it. Just know that it is okay to want to move on from a story that just isn’t working out for you, because if you don’t believe in it anymore, then there really isn’t a point to trying to force yourself, which is okay. You’ll be no less a writer than you were before. And as for the stories that you do want to write, just remember: Don’t rip-off another book. Stick to storytelling values. Get feedback. Be passionate. And your novel will be your best idea ever.Log in or Register to save this content for later.