Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Three years ago I hadn’t read much YA. I’d read a couple about vampires and werewolves, which I enjoyed, but when it came time to brainstorm my own book I tried to venture down a different paranormal path. I thought I was being so original. I mean, nobody sets out to be a copy cat, do they?

I hadn’t read any angel/demon books at that point. Little did I know there were many, many writers who had similar ideas at the same time as me, and before me. After I finished my first draft and thought about querying, I saw the cover for Hush, Hush on Amazon. I can’t believe I’m going to admit this, but…I cried. It was such an incredible freaking cover. And very clearly about fallen angels. Someone had beaten me to it. Since then I’ve lost count of the number of angel books, but I’ve also stopped beating myself up about it. Because while there are similarities in themes and motifs in many of those novels, the premises and outlooks on angels differ.

So, how do we writers make our stories stand out in a market with hundreds of thousands of books?  No, seriously, how?  I’d love to know.  :)  What about names? Well, we can make-up names to ensure originality, which often annoys people. I tried to use a standard name (Anna) and have since come across countless books with MCs named Anna. I thought my love interest’s name was unique (Kaidan) until I recently heard that the boy in Cinder is named Kai.
*kicks wall repeatedly*

Let’s face it. It’s hard to be original. Even in my creative writing classes we were taught that there are only so many story types and plots. (You can read more about that here.)

Just like stories, we as people have things in common, as well as ways we are different, but no two people or books are exactly the same. Have you ever met somebody who reminded you so much of someone else you knew? In physcial appearance or mannerisms? But those two people had never even met? We don’t stop liking somebody just because we see a similarity between them and someone else. We’re each individuals with distinct personalities and beliefs and writing styles.We tend to focus on what’s special about each other, and I think it should be the same for books.

All we can do is write the story that’s bursting from our heart. If we think too much about how other writers have done it or what readers will think of it, then it’s no longer “ours.” Glaring similarities can (and should) be tweaked when possible, but at the heart of it we writers must be true to ourselves. I’m willing to forgive similarities between plots of books if I can get lost in the emotion and realness of the characters. It needs to have heart, and that can't be forced. Nobody likes a fake, so don’t try too hard. Just be yourself.

Hugs, Wendy :)


  1. Love this post! Very thoughtful! :)

  2. I'm SO with you.
    You have to put yourself in there, or it won't read different.
    For me, a book is all about voice.
    I've said this a million times, but I'll read a book about nothing if it has a great writing voice over anything else.
    But when the two combine? A FAB plot line as well as stellar writing? That's a beautiful thing.

  3. There are only about 5 stories in the world, or so they say. So great writing is about telling one of them in a new, fresh and unique way...

  4. I don't actually think publishers care about originality. Any publisher but the one that did publish HUSH HUSH would love to have a book just like it, as long as it's not plagiarized. Now the fallen angel thing seems to be winding down, but it'll be back, along with high school vampires etc. I always say there are only THREE stories: Good vs Evil, Unrequited Love and The Quest.

  5. AWESOME post, Wendy! I totally needed to hear this about 6 months ago, but thankfully I figured out the same thing shortly after. :D

  6. You totally stole my March blog post idea =P

    I love this story, it's not about nook ideas, but it illustrates it will. My brother-in-law is in a band and they were trying to come up with band names. They settled on The Strange Few. They had some success on local circuits, then they googled themselves and discovered there was a band in Germany with the same name. So they had to change it.

    People can have ideas independent of each other, but be seen to be copying. The dystopian trend of Matched, Delerium and others could be seen as copying, but it's not.

    I will add, I've read stories and been upset at how similar they are. Not because they are, but because people will think I've copied even though I wrote the MS before reading the book.

  7. I remember when I found out there were so many books about teen dating violence and abusive relationships coming out within months of one another, and I felt my shoulder just completely slump over. This is such a good post to remind us that just because one story is out there, it doesn't mean there's no room for any others!

  8. I LOVE WENDY HIGGINS! That's all I have to say.