Wednesday, March 6, 2013

IWSG: When I Realize My Idea Isn't Original

It's IWSG day..thanks to the wonderful Alex Cavanaugh for hosting this monthly event.

I follow a lot of industry professionals on Twitter- authors, literary agents, editors, and other folks connected with the publishing industry, particularly in the kidlit sector. An agent that I've been following recently tweeted that she's been getting queries about characters in YA [doing exactly what the MC in my YA story is doing]. She wrote that this isn't her thing. 

As I read that tweet, my cheeks pinkened (a new word I made up). I wanted to crawl under my sheets with a giant spoon, a carton of cookies and cream ice-cream, and mumble-sing "I Dreamed a Dream" over and over again. 

I will not wonder if other agents and editors feel the same way as this agent. (Repeat that ten times to myself.)

I know I sound quite naive, but I'd also thought that my story idea was so original. So original that  other writers can't possibly be querying about this because that would mean my story isn't that original. How often do writers think that about their story gems? Yeah, I know. 

Hope is a fragile, delicate bird, the kind with the flimsiest looking wings. But in my journey as a writer, its reassuring presence keeps me going. So my bird Hope will be perched on my shoulder while I finish the rest of my WIP.

Have you ever encountered an industry professional who said your story wasn't what they were looking for? How about realizing your "original" idea isn't so original?

How does Hope look like to you?


Empty Nest Insider said...

I haven't been brave enough to even go on Twitter yet. Try not to be discouraged, as there are always different directions that you can take your WIP in to make it truly unique. And I wish I had "pinkened" cheeks!


Annalisa Crawford said...

Okay, there are two parts to my answer. One - that particular agent doesn't like X, so don't query her - others might really like X.

Second - no idea is original, but your development of the story and your style will be unique to you. Don't give up, just strive to make the story as good as you can make it. Good luck!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Oh yes, it's very common. Even if they like your genre, they may not like your story. Remember, story likes and dislikes are very subjective. And if you've got a good story, I bet your spin is a little different than the one you heard of and will find an agent who likes it. Good luck!

Carissa Taylor said...

I hear ya! This is something I've been struggling with too, because my novel is dystopian at heart, and that genre is just way too overdone right now.

I was beating my head against the wall at the fact that I'd written something totally unmarketable, until one of my betas pointed out that my manuscript didn't READ dystopian. It had some dystopian themes, but really it read more like an urban fantasy.


So I say, write the story you are passionate for, and then when the time comes worry about the packaging/pitch.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comment but I think you must be linked to my old blog which somehow got attatched to my new one.


Dianne K. Salerni said...

I think I might have seen that tweet, although for the life of me, I can't remember what it was she said the MCs were doing that wasn't for her.

Even if your premise is similar to others, it doesn't mean that your character, your voice, and your execution of the story is. And other agents might like the premise, but still be seeking the book that makes it work. Maybe yours.

Keep writing!

Elsie Amata said...

I love the word "pinkened"!!!

Sometimes Hope is hard to maintain but the important thing is that you kept it alive. Wonderful! I know my story is not original but the way I write it will be and that's what will make it rock, just like yours will too.

Kirsten said...

Oh wow, another thing to worry about!
I wouldn't worry at this stage. Your story is still a growing thing, and only once it is truly finished will you know for sure what it has become. I'd be willing to bet that your personal take on even a tired theme will be something fresh and different. Maybe not for this particular agent, but that's why there are so many agents.

Hope, for me, is a flowering vine--growing out of a snowbank right now!

Scribbles From Jenn said...

I love your image of hope. I think rejection is the nature of the writing beast. Everyone isn't going to like us. Whenever I feel this way (and I often do) I remember that even the greats like, Dr. Seuss, and Stephen King, weren't like by everyone. So, if someone doesn't like me, I must be great. Right?

Jill Haugh said...

The trouble with Twitter is that it is only 140 characters. You have an entire book to differentiate yours from anybody else's.
Go eat your ice-cream. DON'T sing "I dreamed a dream" (that's MY song, anyway), pull yourself up by your bootstrappers and realize that many stories "sound" alike, but no two manscripts are identical. They're like snowflakes! Yeah! That's it--snowflakes! An overused metaphor to describe the impossibility of sameness.
You GO Girl.
Never. Give. Up.
(Unless you totally hate your WIP then just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again.)
~Just Jill

Julie Luek said...

My response was going to be pretty much what Annalisa said. Ha-- I just realized the irony of not even having an original comment! So um, what Annalisa said-- never let one opinion defeat you (or even 2 or 3 or more), and while no idea is every organically and completely original, no one can put the same feelings or emphasis o it that you do. It's like your fingerprint.

Nicole said...

I think we've all had that realization at one point or another, but don't worry - I bet your writing and voice and how you bring it all together are still one-of-a-kind original. Hold onto that hope!

Suzanne Furness said...

It is said there are only a certain number of story ideas in the world. But no two writers will tackle or write a story in the same way, with the same voice. So whilst your story might have elements of another it is totally unique to you.

That agent may not be for you, and better you know before going any further querying them, but another agent maybe your perfect match. Go for it and good luck :)

Nancy Thompson said...

YES! Probably 120 times. And while it is true that there are very few original ideas (just look at the tropes website), it's all in how you spin it that makes it unique.

I just watched the premiere of a new TV show called Red Widow and was shocked how similar it was to my already published novel. So were enough of my friends that they tweeted about it directly to the shows writers and producers, advising them to hire me as the writer!

M Pax said...

Yes! Welcome to the world of writing. As Nancy said, it's all about putting your own spin on it. Your voice and style are original. So, keep your hope.

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

What always drove me crazy was the inverse of this. Say I was writing a story about lizards, ballroom dancing, and Antarctic research. I would hear an agent or editor say they were pining for a good book about lizards, ballroom dancing, and Antarctic research! I would send off my query with high hopes, knowing it was just what they were looking for, and get ... a form rejection.

As for finding out someone else is writing something similar to mine: yeah, happens ALL the time.

Cynthia said...

Everyone, I just wanted to thank you for your words of encouragement. I appreciate each one of the perspectives shared here.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Remember, that's just one person's opinion. Your story is original because it has your personal spin on it.
And yes, while I was writing my first book, everything I read said science fiction was dead. I wrote it anyway. Glad I did!

Paul R. Hewlett said...

Yes, to the industry professional response, and probably to the originality question. As Annalisa said above, no idea is original. It's the spin you put on it and the character development that makes it your own (among other things :) ) Keep working and don't be discouraged. Great post!

Paul R. Hewlett

Shannon Lawrence said...

I was given the opportunity to do an "elevator" pitch at a dinner, and the agent asked tons of questions, then said it wasn't for her. However, she gave me great feedback. Your idea may not be something no one else has thought of, but I'm betting no one else has written it the way you have. Don't let this discourage you.

Shannon at The Warrior Muse

Daisy Carter said...

Everyone has said it so well, and so much better than I would have. But since I can say the same thing and it will sound different since I'm the one saying it, here goes.

Oh, wait. I've already made my point. ;)

meradeth said...

As I read this it totally brought back memories of being in the exact same position a few years ago! I totally know that feeling... But everyone tells a story a different way and that's what counts. Plus, every agent has such different tastes! Keep up the good work :)

DL Hammons said...

Like Annalisa said above, very few story idea's are original nowadays. It will be your take on the characters, your voice, that will set you apart! :)

Lynn Proctor said...

i remember one time, getting a response to a song i had entered in a contest---i think it was something like "trite and predictable"---oh well, what did they know ;)

Tammy Theriault said...

Wow, girl don't fret! Maybe this person just isn't for you and its the easy way of finding out! Good luck in your endeavors!

Mike Louie said...

Even if she is right... you are very talented, driven and passionate in your work. Who is to say that your finalized draft has its limitations? Pretty much, only you.

There are so many books and movies that have been 'copied', 'duplicated' and echoed in various forms... but it's all about the story-telling and the unique approach you take in executing it. I wouldn't be worried just yet. Not until the finalized draft is complete and got over 1,000 rejections. haha (no worries, I don't think that will be the case)

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