The last couple of weeks have looked a little like this: I’d wake up, I’d look up an agent or two, I’d read what they are into reading and query. This process has set me on a spree of writing new books and continuously trying to come up with a more original idea than the one I am trying to submit.
Why did I do this? Because almost every agent I had the chance of querying with claims that they are looking for new and fresh ideas. I saw someone wanted to be queried with a time-travel novel and I started writing one, just in case my book wouldn’t make it through the process. I wrote two chapters and then felt this sting in my chest telling me that this book was not a story of mine. It was a story which I forced out of myself just because I doubted my own capability and the quality of the novel I finished.
I, at the time, didn’t realise that and came up with a second idea. This idea came from another agent who said they would love to see an urban fantasy novel based in a city which wasn’t often used. They had seen London be used one too many times. I didn’t feel comfortable writing about an eastern city since my knowledge wasn’t and isn’t sufficient to do so. I then came to the conclusion that this time it would be better to stay closer to myself and write the urban fantasy novel about a city I know well and had not seen used in that context too often. Up until today I wrote that novel and just like last time, I didn’t want to finish it because the story didn’t come from me. This time I came to the conclusion that even though someone rather important to you wants to see something specific, you shouldn’t force it out of you.
This is my first time in the querying trenches and of all the things to occur, I hadn’t expected this to happen. I thought I would get rejected a bunch of times. I thought I would be told that my novel would need to undergo some major changes. I expected to be laughed at and mocked but I had not foreseen the fact that I would have such self-doubt before the first response even came through. I had not thought I would stray from the path which brought me joy in writing just to potentially please someone else.
What does this all have to do with originality? A lot. I dare to assume that I am not the only one who has felt that they need to change who and what they are as a writer when they are querying or even before they begin writing. I think a lot of us try to fit the moulds in which we will never comfortably sit and to all of us I would like to say: Don’t.
Do not try to change your writing style and genre just because it isn’t as popular as you wish it was. Do not change the gender or the colour of the skin of your main character because you fear the book will be judged for it. Do not change a thing about the way writing makes you happy because only from that happy place you will write your best writing.
If you were the one who made up your idea then there is no way your idea isn’t original, even if it has been done before.