Have you ever had an idea for a story only to realize your story idea is a bad one? That happened to me the other day.
I was all excited about a new picture book idea I had only to realize it’d already been done before as I was doing my comp research. (This is why you want to do your research before you do any writing!) Here are the steps I took to find out I didn’t have a good story idea.
How to Know if Your Story Idea is a Bad One:
Like I said, before you start any story, you ALWAYS need to do your research. Not only will it save you a lot of time later if you end up not using your idea, but it will also help you write your query letter later.
Doing research may sound like a big undertaking, but it’s not. It’s simply an online search through sites like Google and Amazon about your topic of interest. Here’s what you’ll want to look for:
- What other books already exist about your topic?
- How similar are they to yours?
- What differences are there or holes in the marketplace that your story may be able to fill?
My theory is if you can’t find it online, then it wouldn’t have made that big of an impact to affect your story idea. 😉 Once you’ve done your research, here’s what you need to look at.
Two Signs that Your Story Idea’s a Bad One:
1 – NOTHING like it exists in the marketplace.
Sure, it’s great to be unique but you don’t want to be so unique that you can’t find a reader. If you really can’t find anything at all similar to your idea, you should ask yourself why?
Remember, it’s important to have comp books for your query letter and pitch later, so don’t be afraid to find some similarities to your story idea. So long as there’s enough difference between the two, then you’re fine.
2 – You found something ALMOST EXACTLY like your idea. 😬
This is the situation I found myself when I realized I had a bad story idea. Even if something’s published with a small publisher and you may not see it at your public library, if it’s been published recently there may be a problem.
Either, people aren’t buying that topic – which is why you’ve never heard of this story. Or people have read this story already and aren’t interested in another. No matter what, if your story is super close to another idea, you need to change it.
Remember the article about finding a good story idea? It’s ok to use story ideas that already exist so long as you have a unique, fun, or different way of looking at things!
I’m going to shelve my bad idea for now. But who knows, it could bloom into something great later. (That’s what happened with my picture book that comes out later in September this year!) So don’t worry if you haven’t found an idea that works for you yet. It will come.
And if you want some more help, read these articles:
- The Best Way to Brainstorm New Story Ideas
- How to Find Good Story Ideas
- The Importance of Knowing Your Comp Books