This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
by Anna Bell
As an author, you’re always looking for that killer idea. That original story with a great hook that will catch the attention of editors and readers alike. Yet just how original does that idea have to be?
I had that lightbulb moment a few weeks when I was watching a TV programme. You know that moment when an idea for a novel slaps you in the face? I jotted down a few notes, plotted a rough story and got quite excited. I then told my husband the concept and he pulled a face. It wasn’t that he didn’t like it, he told me, it was just that it didn’t sound very ground breaking. He imagined it would have been written about many times before. So I headed to Amazon, but I struggled to find a story similar to my concept. I couldn’t find anything, but he’d cast doubt in my mind. Whilst I couldn’t find another story like it, he’d tainted the idea.
Whilst there are trends in commercial women’s fiction – and to some extent it’s almost always a story of girl meets boy – it’s nice to think that your book is going to stand out from the others. When I first started reading women’s fiction, the books were centred around a single girl about town, who usually worked in PR or journalism, and had a bumpy ride on the road to true love. Now it’s more common that it will be a single girl who’s in to baking or crafts, who still has a bumpy ride on the road to true love, but it’s more about the character’s journey.There are lots of books on similar themes that, from first glance on a bookshelf, can seem like the same idea. I can think of many titles off the top of my head that have been about ice cream parlours or cupcakes. Yet, although they have similar themes, all the books on these topics – that I’ve read – have been wildly different in their plots and handling of the subjects.
How do you know if someone has written a similar book to your idea? I always do multiple searches on Amazon, trying to find the keywords of my new idea’s topic. It’s not a surefire way to find everything, of course, but it’s a good place to start. That said, it’s not a replacement for the book knowledge of you, your family or friends. Keeping track of new releases and trends is perhaps the best way to know what’s in the market. I remember a few years ago, before I started writing, I was talking to a friend about novels I’d write and she told me about her book idea. The more she described it, the more it sounded like Cecilia Ahern’s PS I Love You. In the end, I had to tell her that her idea was almost identical. The same thing happened to me a couple of years ago when I was pitching ideas of possible novels to my friends and one of them pointed out that it sounded like a plot of a Lindsey Kelk book.
But does it matter if you’re writing the same book as someone else? When my husband and I were trying to pick which DVD to watch later on tonight, we were choosing between White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen – both Die Hard wannabe action flicks about a White House attack. I guess it’s proof that I liked the concept of the idea and, not put off by the fact there were two of the same type, I bought both movies. Is it the same with books?
What do you think – is an original idea the be all and end all?