I recently encountered a young author who was in a state of great excitement over her Fantastic Idea. It was fresh and original and no one else had done it yet. If I’m honest I’m usually a tad sceptical of these sorts of claims as just about everything has been done before, but I thought I’d give the author the benefit of the doubt and ask what her Fantastic Idea was.
She told me she was going to write a book…about a mermaid. Yep. The conversation went something like this.
Me: A mermaid?
Her: Yes. It’s completely different to anything that anyone else is doing at the moment.
Her: Everyone else is writing about vampires and werewolves. No one’s writing about mermaids.
The young author in question genuinely believed that a mermaid book was a Fantastic Idea that had never, ever been done before.
Riiiiiiight. I kept waiting for her to tell me that no one had yet written books about angels or faeries.
This girl was completely unaware that there are already a lot of mermaid books out there – I can probably name ten just off the top of my head. Basically, she hadn’t done her research. Research isn’t just finding out technical details for your novel – how fencing works or how to fix a car, that sort of thing – it’s reading other books in your genre.The best way to find out what’s been done before is to read.
Read, read, read, and then read some more.
If you think that writing a mermaid book is a completely original idea then you’ll probably end up writing something that’s been done a million times before. When you’re tackling a concept that’s been done so many times, you might want to think outside the box. And one of the best ways to do that is to see what’s already been done. Know your market. Read widely in your chosen genre.
And this isn’t even the first time I’ve encountered something like this. Spending time on the Y!A forums means I’ve come across multiple young authors claiming they are writing a paranormal novel and wanting to know which supernatural creature is more popular – vampire, werewolf, angel, or faerie.
Again, the best way to find these things out is to read books. It’s so simple and yet so many seem to be unaware of it. Seriously guys, read. I can’t stress this enough. You might come up with your Fantastic Idea about angels and demons then read some books in this genre and realise your idea really isn’t that original. In fact, it’s downright derivative.
Don’t panic – it just means you might have to look at your story from a fresh angle.
You can’t do this if you’re not aware of which angel/mermaid/werewolf/insert supernatural creature here books have gone before you. The books in your chosen genres are trailblazers. You don’t have to follow the path they’ve left but you should at least be aware of it.