The Fear of Unoriginality

Posted May 3, 2019 by Amber in Memes, Writing / 8 Comments


Today I’m going to talk about my favorite WIP.

I’m one of those writers who loves first drafts, and basically never gets to a second draft.  I have two WIPs that have made it to draft two: this is one of them.  It’s my favorite story to write and has the most lively characters.  The world in my head is so expansive that I’ve started two spinoffs (last year’s Camp NaNo novel, Quest, is one of them).

The first story I ever wrote, the one I started drafting when I was twelve, is Fate.  I was heavily inspired by Tamora Pierce’s The Circle of Magic Quartet.  I loved the group of four friends who found one another at school and found out they had incredible magic.  As it turned out, I had three really close friends and I really wanted to be able to use magic.  It was perfect – I figured the only way I could make that happen was fiction.  I’d read plenty of books and written short stories, why not a novel?

Twelve year old me was adorable.

It became readily apparent that I was ill-equipped for this task when I was twelve.  Not that starting every chapter with something like “I, Princess Jessica, ran down the palace steps, eyes streaming down my cheeks” isn’t perfectly splendid, but I needed some writing classes.  Don’t worry – I’ve had them since then!  But the other thing I needed was a pinch of originality.  At best, what I was writing back then was fan fiction.  I had nothing real to offer the world, just an imaginary universe in words where I could be something more than I am.

Which is, again, adorable, but not very sensible.

I needed something different, something that the world has never seen before.

Every since I realized I was trying to re-write my favorite fantasy stories starring me and my friends, I’ve been afraid of writing something too familiar.  It’s hard, too.  Back in 2013, Nathan Bransford posted an article titled “When It Feels Like There’s Nothing Left to Be Written” that addresses this very issue.

I’ve managed to turn my story around so that this WIP is not a copy of Tamora Pierce’s work.  Really, I could never hope to be as brilliant as her anyway.  Never.  But I still live on the edge of fear of unoriginality.  As YA fantasy grows more and more popular, it seems like all the ideas are being gobbled up.  I often find myself in a place of doubt – that “why bother?” state.

Then beyond unoriginality, there’s plagiarism.  That is a scary word.  I see quite a few different instances of individuals wanting to sue because they feel a character in a book is based on them and either shows them in an unflattering light, or, more commonly, feeling a character has been based on them without permission.

Am I the only writer out there who finds herself Googling her character types and plot ideas to make sure I’m not accidentally copying anything else?

I do this all the time with Fate, because it’s my favorite story and I really don’t want to lose it.  I have other ideas that I kinda know are a little too derivative (I have a story about a girl who jumps in and out of movies… don’t think I can ever publish that) but I’m always afraid that someone else will write my story.

Anyone else?  Just me?


Today’s Book Blogger Hop asks:

Which book do you wish you’d written?


Short answer:  Definitely Inkheart.  Every time I read the book or watch the film, I’m positively enchanted by how clever it is.  I want to read characters in and out of books!


Have you ever found your idea in another book?

What books do you wish you had written?

Do you ever get discouraged from writing when you read books you think are brilliant?

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8 responses to “The Fear of Unoriginality

  1. This feeling is so REAL! I write contemporary fiction in various categories, but I definitely find myself worrying that I’m not original. I also have a bunch of first drafts of things that I can’t stand to look at anymore. And…I definitely base at least some aspects of characters on people I’ve known. I’m sure I’ll offend someone one day if I ever get published.

    • Amber

      Contemporary is especially difficult, because you have the struggle of choosing from human experience… and there are only so many instances of human experience to choose from! I also think it’s really difficult to *not* base certain things on the people around us… aspects of personality or events or something. 🙂 I like to think most people would take it as a compliment, but everyone is different.

  2. The first book I ever wrote I thought was a unique idea that hadn’t been done before. When I told my friend the plot, she said “I’ve read a book like that before!”. So I completely understand the worry about writing a story that you find out is similar to one already written!

    • Amber

      Oh no, that’s such a bummer! I feel like I always madly Google search key plot points in hopes that it is not a completely unoriginal idea… and too often someone has already done it.

  3. Oh oh oh this is something I feel so, so deeply. I’m not Googling my ideas to see if they actually exist, because I’m way to terrified to do it all, but somehow I feel like, everytime I write, my ideas aren’t that original or they have to have been already done before and better by someone else. It’s all very anxiety-inducing ahah.

    • Amber

      Yeah, sometimes not knowing is nice too. Even when I know I’m not being completely original, I tend to fall in love with my characters and their stories even n the plotting stage… it’s hard to know that it could never be published. 🙁 So. Much. Anxiety!

  4. As a writer, I feel this ALL THE TIME! I’m always scared my idea isn’t actually my own and I’m rewriting something else. I am currently in the process of editing my NaNo book from two years ago and sometimes I stop editing because I’m too scared that the idea will be a rip-off of someone else’s work.

    One day I hope to finish my book, and all the other stories I have in my head, but I have to get over this fear first. Hopefully, it will go away soon and the world of YA will open up with so many different stories for all readers to enjoy.

    • Amber

      That last sentiment there is <3 <3 <3. I hope not just YA but *all* genres will open up with more stories. The great variety, the better... even if it's just variety in nuance. Humanity comes in so many different hues and the colors of our stories can be just as bright and vibrant. But it's disheartening when you think that there's nothing new or original about your story, and it's harder to put it out there.

      I really, really hope to read your book someday. 😀