You think you're original, but learn that you're not!!!

Okay, I realize that there’s nothing new under the sun, but today I was thrown a serious curve ball. Let me start by going back in time a couple of years. I’ve always liked writing - small stories about real events and even technical documents - I’ve written technical instructions that went on package inserts for medical diagnostic kits for hospitals!
But my real dream (like everyone else here) has been to write a book. Actually, I have three in my head but I’ve been lazy about getting started. So, two years ago, I started a blog. The goal was to field test ideas and practice writing fictional dialog. One particular blog post grew into a 13-part series with over 20,000 words. While writing that, I came up with some ideas for one of my books, and so, over Christmas this past year, I started to write ideas and develop the cast and setting. Then I bought Scrivener (best move I’ve made) and have been really picking up speed with the process.
I have the first three chapters in mostly-finished, rough draft form, but I’ve been tweaking things and have had some idea changes that have forced me to slow down while I hammer those out. But mostly, these chapters stand on their own and are readable. I’ve been reluctant to share them with anyone until today…
Today, I took and compiled just the first two chapters into ePub format and put it onto my tablet and let a friend read it. He liked it! And he’s a big-time reader of fiction. But here’s what threw me… He said, “Wow - this sounds like X,” and named a famous writer who has written a lot of books lately. Now it’s not the actual story or cast or anything like that, but my style that he thinks sounds A LOT like this writer. He asked me if I’d read any of his books, assuming that I had. But I’ve never read a single one of his books! And there have been no movies - I know absolutely nothing about this author and could not have copied his style. It’s purely coincidence…
So now I’m thinking that I should buy some of his books and read them before continuing, so that I don’t accidentally sound like him when I write. But I also realize that everybody sounds like somebody and if not this author, then maybe I’ll sound like someone else? I’m in a tizzy right now…
Has anyone here ever experienced this? Do you have any advice? Am I overreacting? Like I’ve said, my story is unique, but apparently, my style is VERY similar. I don’t really know - this is just what I’ve been told :frowning:

Reminds me of reading once that Paul McCartney was hesitant to release “Yesterday” because he was sure that he’d heard part of it somewhere and couldn’t remember where and was afraid of accidentally copying someone else’s work…


I think you’re over-worrying. What, after, all, is originality?

At one end of the spectrum, there are all those established authors and scriptwriters who’ll return fan-fiction unread for fear of accusations of idea-theft. (Probably wisely, given that we live in a world of mischief.)

At the other end, look at the Hollywood studios’ habit of dishing up clones - ‘Armageddon’ and ‘Deep Impact’, for example. In many cases, although of course critics make comparisons, both movies put bottoms on seats and turn a profit.

I’ve a friend, a popular author who, because he fears unconscious copying, refuses to read other people’s fiction whilst he’s actually writing - but, note, only whilst he’s actually writing. Are you really going to try to change your style because one reader thinks you sound like someone else? Be sensible, like my friend, but have courage, and press on.

Thanks for this much-needed thump on the head :smiley:

I really appreciate that you took the time to write me and put my fears to rest.

Have a wonderful day!



If you’d reminded your friend of unpublishable drivel, that would be a different story. Take the compliment and wear it like a badge of honor.

Now that would have been a different story for sure, and I’d be debating right now whether or not to just give up entirely! :blush:

Take care!!

Don’t read the author! Just keep working in your voice.

I like to think of the creative act more as discovery than invention.

After years of writing nonfiction, I decided to sabotage my carrier by turning to fiction. Of my first attempt, a few years back, my agent said it reads "like you started out to write Winesburg Cranford of the Pointed Firs, and ended up writing Model Railroading with Margaret Mead.

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Dude, you’re worrying way too much!!

Yes this happens to just about everyone…it’s a shock to discover it at first, though, I agree, but don’t worry at all. Honestly, your friend was probably just trying to compliment you in a way he thought you’d understand, like calling you “Jesus Christ” or something because you’re so nice to people, making water into wine for them and saving prostitutes from Muslims and Republicans! :mrgreen:

I sent a novel to a major publisher and got a reply that said I was the UK’s John Irving and that the novel was at least ten years ahead of its time.

I made sure that the next new novel was nothing like Irving’s work.

In the end, it is impossible not to be compared to someone else.

The next thing that is going to happen to you is that you will hear about a book or maybe a movie that strikes terror in your heart because it sounds to your ear somehow similar to your story. Then you will freak just like you were doing now, thinking “Oh no! Someone wrote my book before me!!” And maybe you will need a good friend or another trip to the forum before you calm down and realize what a silly thought that is. Someone else can write a book, but no one can write your book – except you, of course. Plus, it turns out whatever sounded to you just like your idea doesn’t really – that’s just your panicky, writerly covetuousness talking.*

A little prophylactic for you against that day.


  • I have a good writer friend who feels this way often – it is astounding to me what she think sounds “just like” whatever book idea she is working on.

Patrick Rothfuss wrote a review of “The Lies Of Locke Lamora”, where he finally came around to the compliment that had been given him when his own debut novel, “The Name of the Wind,” was published. He had been called “The next Scott Lynch,” which had been annoying to him at the time. In his own self-effacing way, he eventually decided that Lynch’s writing was superior to his own, but the point I hope you’ll draw from this is that similarities to other writers is inevitable, and can be meant as a compliment at the least. If it’s not, then perhaps the person drawing the comparison has an unrealistic expectation of uniquness in writing styles, plot, voice, or other aspects.

The review can be found here:

This reminds me of Harry Potter. There’s another book series out there, written for kids, about a magic boarding school called (I think) The Littlest (or Worst) Witch and it shares a lot of the same elements that Harry Potter has, although Rowling did in no way, shape, or form try to copy or steal those ideas directly from those books. The vast pool of hogwash that writers pull their story bits out of are accessible to all humankind. Originality comes into play not in what bits we save from the dredges of that mucky pool, but how we polish them up and present them to the world with our own unique vision and voice. So just hit it full speed ahead and darn those torpedoes. And most importantly, have fun.

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” – Albert Einstein

“Novels that last and please readers are written because the novelist is intoxicated by the delight and the endlessly renewable joy that comes from engaging with imaginary characters — with story; and that engagement always begins with reading; and if it catches you, it never lets go.” — Philip Pullman

“Write with abandon; write with glee. Kick all the rules and boundaries out of your way, dive in, and swim for broke. The more you love what you’re doing, the more your writing will shine.” — Julia London

I know this is a old conversation chain, but I’m actually afraid that my story reminds somebodys elses work. Or characters are too plain, too ordinary, even in my mind they are not that. But its hard to be ordinary when you have read much and every angle has been already written.

You are all that is, all that was, and all that can ever be.
You are an expression of infinite consciousness.
Just be yourself.
If that includes worrying about this and that all well and good.
Enjoy the experience.
If you want to break free from the negative loops of worry then choose that.
Some birds fly, some walk and some swim. All are amazing.

We all ride on the shoulders of giants.,