Monday, 27 July 2015

How do you know if you're 'original enough'?

This weekend, I was able to spend a fair few hours editing Book1 so that now I just need to update the digital version of the manuscript and I am good to go! (Read: start actually writing the darned thing again.)

One of the reasons I have had to spend so much time reworking the first 40K words is because, as I mentioned in a previous post, I had some issues with a setting that seemed to too closely resemble a famous setting in a famous book about a famous boy with famous magical powers. Famous.

(Have I mentioned that it's famous?)

Because that setting is so famous, I was left with little choice but to change my setting. I adore the stories that feature that Famous Setting but Book1 isn't fanfic or even an homage.

This story has nothing to do with that Famous Boy or that Famous Setting. They're not even of the same world.

But I have to wonder... Where is the line?

At what point is an original work of fiction 'original enough'?

My Book1 has characters of a similar age to the ones in the Famous Setting stories. The protagonist in Book1 has issues with parent(s) not being available just as the protagonist in the Famous Setting stories does. My protagonist has friends who become like family, same as...

You get the idea.

It leaves me to wonder how a work is determined to be original... With all of the writers out there telling their stories in all their different ways, how can a single writer be sure that their story is, indeed, unique?

I understand that comparisons will be made between Book1 (if it's ever published) and other works of fiction. It's one of the most viable ways readers learn about new works. 'Hey! If you liked So-And-So, you'll love Such-And-Such!' And even what works they might want to avoid. 'For those who love the prose of Author M. Storywriter, stay well away from the ramblings of Faker D. Wannabe!'

I welcome such comparisons, though, positive and negative. There's a lot to be learned from both. (If I ever do read reviews! I'm well aware that that is a minefield many choose not to cross.)

In the meantime, however, am I the only writer who knows that their story hasn't been told before, but worries that it's 'original enough'?

(I also wonder at what point writers will simply run out of ways to string words together in any sort of unique way. But that's very philosophical for a Monday and I'm certainly hoping this doesn't occur in my lifetime, nor in the lifetimes of my children!)


  1. Hey Tanya!

    I just found your blog and I have to say, as a writer who is currently working with an agent on his novel, I have had all these worries before. I'm assuming the "Famous" novel you're talking about is HP? If so, you'd be right to change the setting. It is such an iconic setting and series that anyone trying to publish something like it is shot to pieces by the industry. HP is still a sensation and completely unmatched (JK and her partner Disney have certainly sued many in the past) so you need to come at it in an original way. What is your general plot/synopsis? You don't have to give too much away but a general idea would be great. I'd be happy to help!

    That said, Ursula Le Guin wrote the Wizard of Earthsea years before HP. Wizard of Earthsea is about a boy who grows up with normal people, he has a scar on his forehead, he discovers he is a wizard, and goes off to wizarding school. Teh plot is the same, yet the telling is completely different so they stand apart.

    There are really only seven basic plots (look them up on Wiki) and for thousands of years writers have just found new and exciting ways of telling them. The character's make all the difference. The Wizard of Earthsea is different in character than HP even though they go on the same journey. It's our job to look at things from different perspectives. It takes practise, but it's worth it in the end.

    Like I said, give me an idea of the plot and I'll help you out.

    Keep writing!


    1. Thank you, I.M.

      I know that I lack experience and, most tellingly, patience when it comes to my own writing. My pursuit of perfection can sometimes overwhelm me but I'm determined that it won't be my undoing.

      My true wish is that I had more hours in the day to get all of the things I need to do out of the way with enough time left to still enjoy decent writing time.

      Or a lottery win, a TARDIS, a Time Turner... Basically, I'm open to suggestions.

      Thanks again for the comment, I.M! Hope to see you around again.

      Best wishes,