When it comes down to it, it’s pretty hard to tell a completely original story. In the most basic sense, stories are made up of the same pieces—a protagonist with a goal, an antagonist in the way of the goal, and the journey the protagonist goes on to either succeed or fail in getting that goal.
A young kid finds out he/she is magical and must use his/her own special gift to defeat evil and save everyone. That’s Harry Potter. It’s also Alina in Shadow and Bone, Evie in Paranormalcy, Sarah in Labyrinth, Sophie in Hex Hall, and countless other characters in so many other stories.
A girl falls in love with a boy who is not good for her before she finally meets The One. (Come on, that’s like, every romance novel ever.)
Someone discovers a secret world and then has to save it. That’s Charlie in Between, Sebastian in The Neverending Story, and Sookie in The Southern Vampire Mysteries, to name a few.
Speaking of The Southern Vampire Mysteries, let’s talk about all the “vampire books” out there. Aside from Sookie and then of course, Twilight, there’s also Chloe Neill’s Chicagoland vampires, and Molly Harper’s Jane Jameson books. All great, all popular, all different twists on the same tale.
When you’re brainstorming ideas, it’s so easy to say, “Oh I can’t do that one, it’s too much like this other one. That story has already been written. None of my ideas are good enough. I have zero original thoughts.”
Those are lies. If you want to write a book, it’s time to get suuuuuuuper honest with yourself about what’s holding you back.
If you are looking for a reason to quit, you’re going to find one. That’s the safest route, isn’t it? Even if you’re mad at yourself over it, even if you are giving up on something you’ve dreamed of doing for years—not doing The Thing is always easier than doing The Thing. Giving up means you don’t have to spend any time working on this, you can stop pushing yourself, and you don’t have to face the vulnerability of putting your heart into creating something that might not be completely beloved by everyone who reads it.
Let’s get a few things straight right now:
1. It doesn’t matter if your story has some similar characteristics with other stories that are already out there. Write it anyway. Here’s why: once you start writing and getting to know your characters, it may go in a completely different direction that you never could’ve foreseen before you started writing. Secondly, whatever your story is, it’s yours, impacted by your style and the way you see the world, shaped by your own individual experiences. Two writers could sit down and purposely try to write the exact same story, with the exact same characters, prompts, and settings, and they will write two very different books. I promise.
2. Your book will not be loved by everyone who reads it. That’s a hard pill to swallow. Our tastes are subjective. Your favorite book is on someone else’s “Did Not Finish” list, and in turn, your most hated book is the book that someone else constantly recommends to his/her friends. We have no way of knowing what people will love or hate, but we can be completely sure that nothing we write will please every single reader. Accept that now, and strike the “but I can’t write it unless it’s perfect” excuse from your head.
3. No one has time to write a book. You make time for the things that are important to you. I’m certain you can find 30 minutes in a day to devote to the thing you want to do. Get up earlier. Stay up later. Be patient, and keep going.
What are some other lies you tell yourself when it comes to writing your book?
I don’t know how to get it published. First off- let’s have a book to publish before you start worrying about how it will get published. Secondly- we live in a world where you can find the answer to any question you want on the internet. If you’re afraid of the internet, find a local writers group. If you’re afraid of local writers groups, email me.
I’m too old. Psh. And you’re only getting older the longer you put this off. (Age doesn’t matter. A good story is a good story.)
I don’t know how to write a book. You just do it. You sit down and you put words on the page. You can start at the beginning or you can start at the end or you can start anywhere in between. You can have all the pieces laid out before you start or you can figure them out as you go. You can use a three act structure or a Save the Cat! style beat sheet or just draft without a plan and take care of the pacing during the revising stage.
I might fail. Yes. You might. And what’s the worst thing that happens if you do? Think of it this way. You might also succeed. What happens then? Is the reward worth the risk? (Yes. It always is when you’re talking about going after your dreams. Life is short. Give yourself permission to fail, because then you’re really just giving yourself permission to TRY.)
Ok. Lay it on me. I want to hear every single one of your reasons for not doing The Thing. I’ll be right here to argue with you, and I’m ridiculously stubborn. Let’s do this.