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What Constitutes Original Content?

I have said this before and I will say it again: everything that can be written has been written! I realize that may be a bit over the top, but you get the point.

Many authors and bloggers offer original perspectives on preexisting ideas, but very few come up with entirely original content. In this article, I will talk about the recent push for original content and what it really means.

Lately, publishers, agents, advertisers, and affiliates have been demanding original content. Here is what I have to say to them: “When YOU write some, let me know and I’ll read it!”

Whatever your genre, your story has probably already been written in some form or another. Romance: boy meets girl and they live happily ever after. Thriller: stuff happens and we are shocked by the outcome. Horror: a bad entity of some type wreaks havoc. Memoir: someone’s life was either a struggle or an inspiration and we empathize. The basic gist is the same; our job is to tell the story in a way that makes it new and fresh.

If total originality was the central concern in writing, imagine all the amazing books that wouldn’t exist because they were predated by a similar storyline. Just in the science-fiction arena, I can think of dozens off the top of my head.

As another example, consider blogging. Regardless of the topic, it has already been addressed by hundreds of others. Travel, cooking, writing blogs, and others are prolific. Google a blog post on how to self-publish and see how many hits you get. You will get the same result if you search for how to make a pot roast or the best places to travel.

Just because Philip K. Dick wrote about artificially intelligent clones in Blade Runner, does that mean others should never address the same concepts? Absolutely not! He wasn’t the first and he won’t be the last.

Just because one blogger posted her perspective on the best ways to self-publish, does that mean you can’t write about the topic in your own blog. No! Write on and give us something new to think about with your take.

Diversity is what keeps life interesting. We crave different interpretations and perspectives. The key is to make your perspective stand out from the others. What publishers, agents, advertisers, and affiliates should really be asking for is content that captures the attention of readers.

Here are some suggestions on how you can tread the waters of originality without going under:

1. Ignore those who say it has been done before!

Of course, it has been done before; what hasn’t been? What they are missing is the fact that you have done it better. Keep writing and don’t let the naysayers discourage your efforts.

2. Find your originality in your voice.

One thing I really love about my favorite authors is that I get to know what to expect from a story told in their voices. When I crack open a Dean Koontz novel, I know that I am going to experience a well-written and intriguing story. When I sit down with a Stephen King novel, I know that I am going to be on the receiving end of a well-told story. Establish your unique voice and inspire readers to want to hear it again and again.

3. Never plagiarize or be cliché.

It is perfectly fine to write about a concept that has already been written about, but it is not okay to write the same book through paraphrasing. Take the concept and run with it in your own direction. Resist the urge to use phrases or analogies that are already out there.

4. Highlight the components of your writing that make you unique.

If you are gifted at writing moving dialogue, then leave us with the conversations running through our minds. If you can describe a scene with the clarity of us actually being there to witness it, then take us on a glorious journey. Whatever your unique talent is, highlight it in your writing so we will continue to come back for more.

5. Reject rejection!

Publishers, agents, advertisers, and affiliates rarely receive a response after sending a rejection notion. Change that by firing back. Use your skill with words to let them know what a monumental mistake they made in writing you off. Out of curiosity alone, they will probably read it and, chances are, they will remember your name.

In doing this, I wouldn’t suggest being disrespectful, but there is no harm in saying something as simple as:

“I am sorry you feel that way. If you change your mind when you see my name on the best-seller list or while you’re watching my new movie, I will still be happy to consider an offer. I hold no grudges for errors in judgment as we all make mistakes.”

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One Comment

  • John Hazen

    I had an English professor in college who made the statement that there hasn’t been much in the way of original ideas since the twelfth century of so. What has been original is how these ideas are presented.

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