Haven’t I Read This Before …?

…Or am I just fooling myself? No I swear I have. Where though? Oh no. I know where. In my last novel!!!

My good friend Lua posed this question to me in her most recent post concerning the horrid Repetition. I’m picking up that phone, Lua! Her question: what do you, as a writer, do when you have (what you think is) a brilliant idea for a second novel or story – you flesh it out and come to love the characters – and realize it’s the same basic thing as the last story you wrote? Whatever is to be done!? Do you fall into the Pit of Despair? Do you burn the draft and outline, never to write again? Do you cry?

I’ll be honest, I do cry a little bit. The disappointment is hard to handle, especially if I’ve gotten really pumped about it. I don’t want my readers to get bored. Whenever I do get published, I want them to pick up my latest novel and whoop for joy about the new adventure on which they are about to embark with my brand spanking new characters. How can they do such a thing if they already read it in my last novel?

Once I get over myself and have a sliver or two of chocolate cake, I sit down and write it anyway. Sure it may be a little similar to the other one, but I’ve watched too many soap operas and far-fetched movies in my life to not be equipped to coming up with fresh plots and characters. The more I get into the second story, the more it shines through on its own. If it does continue to resemble its predecessor too much, then I can easily fix it in the editing process. Obviously I will make the connections between the two novels … I wrote them! I know them better than anyone else in the world!

And what’s so wrong with a little revisiting anyway? Basically all of Jodi Picoult’s novels end the same way, yet people (including myself) flock to buy the new ones when they are released. Jane Austen has some great plot-lines … but when we’re honest, they are only slightly different in the little details. The hero and the heroine will wind up together and live happily ever after in his extravagant manor.  It is all in the craft. What the Misses Austen and Picoult realized is that as long as you shape your story in an eloquent fashion, painting a brilliant portrait with your words and keeping readers on the edge of their seats at all times, it doesn’t matter if they know what’s going to happen. How many times have I re-read Pride and Prejudice? Countless times; I can probably quote a good deal of it to you. Have you ever watched a movie more than once? Aren’t TV show episodes all the same really?

And hello? Anyone ever read a romance novel? They are all identical! I don’t see a shortage of them anywhere. Let’s think of it this way (and do forgive a corny analogy): two novels by the same author are like sisters, inevitably similar, but not the same at all. The difference lies in the details.

But here is the real reason repetition doesn’t beat me down too far. Writers are readers. If readers can get bored, so do writers. Where is the excitement in writing the same story twice? Where is the spine tingling from the thrid appearance of the same villain? Where is the heart-twisting from seeing the same character die the same way four times? If it’s taking me too long to write, I’ve probably written it before and am just bored. Time for a new plot twist!

Don’t worry, Lua! You can kick that nasty biddie out!

Don’t forget my Dad’s Day Blogfest coming up at the end of this week!


About Miss Rosemary

is a recent college graduate from NY hoping to complete her novel of ten years. Stop by her blog, Miss Rosemary's Novel Ideas at http://missrosemary.net or contact her at MissRosemarysNovelIdeas@gmail.com with comments, questions and suggestions. She'd love to hear from you! View all posts by Miss Rosemary

26 responses to “Haven’t I Read This Before …?

  • thefallenmonkey

    Found your blog thanks to Lua’s shout-out and am appreciating this response to the predicament she just posted. I’m still working on my first manuscript, but I already see how in other stories I’ll write here and there that I definitely revisit themes, personalities, descriptions, etc. You raise a good point that the writer will most obviously see the connections between works he/she has pored over…and yeah, so what? There will always be something fresh and with new twists in a story’s next incarnation to keep the writer even wanting to write it. Thanks for this perspective 🙂

    • Miss Rosemary

      Any time! And thank you for stopping by 🙂
      Good luck with that first manuscript! There is no better feeling than completing your first one! It’s such an accomplishment 🙂

  • Lydia @ The Literary Lollipop

    When I unconsciously hit that repetition button, I’ve grown too close to the characters to write it off completely. Sometimes, I’ll re-vamp it, still maintaining the essence of the story I want to tell (even if it’s a little familiar) and keep going. Most of the time, the story/novel takes on a life of its own (one that I never intended), which is always a pleasant surprise.


  • slightlyignorant

    “But here is the real reason repetition doesn’t beat me down too far. Writers are readers. If readers can get bored, so do writers.”

    I think that’s so true – I mean, if you start realizing something you’re writing is almost exactly the same as that paragraph in the second chapter of your other novel, then you’ll stop yourself because you just won’t want to write it again. And if you DO, then maybe it means that it’s not so similar after all!

  • Corra McFeydon

    I agree! Just plunge through that first draft and let the repeats land where they may! You can always edit. It’s too easy to keep revising halfway through and never finish.

    … I know. (‘Nuff said.)

    – Corra

    The Victorian Heroine

  • brownpaperbaggirl

    Corra, you took those words right out of my mouth!

    Miss Rosemary, this post is glorious 🙂

  • Bethany

    Hey, Miss Rosemary – I have an award for you at my blog! 🙂 Stop on by for it.

  • krisceratops

    Here’s the thing with this whole repetition business, and it kind of goes back to your earlier post about writing what you know. As much as we might try to deny it, I think it is impossible to fully separate a writer from her story. There is always a part of us, it could be any part, big or small, that ends up (quite accidentally) in our stories.

    So, I like to think that what makes the stories seem familiar is because they all include different pieces of the same whole–namely, the author. The characters might seem recycled because they were likely inspired by someone we know, probably because we found them remarkable in some way (consciously or subconsciously). If the characters are reused in more than one story, it’s probably because we know that they are great characters! And in different stories, they will go through entirely different trials and develop in new ways. So I really don’t think it’s anything to be worried about. I’ve heard published writers say that even different drafts of their same book have been so different in revision that they are unrecognizable from each other… and that is using the exact same characters and plots!

    • Miss Rosemary

      Exactly! I don’t think repetition is too much of a problem. Obviously don’t overdo it, but writers should write whatever workd for them. If they did it before, who cares? It’s probably GOOD!

  • Ollin Morales

    Oh, Miss Rosemary! Did I just read Lua’s post about repetition and then come here to find that the same topic has been REPEATED! lol. You are too funny. 🙂

  • Lua

    Hands down- the best phone conversation I ever had! 🙂 Thank you so much for the respons Miss. Rosemary, I really do feel much better now- you wrote everything I feel about my second novel and explained why it’s okay to feel that way!
    And I loved the analogy; “two novels by the same author are like sisters, inevitably similar, but not the same at all. The difference lies in the details.”
    It’s true what you said about romance novels, including our dear Miss. Austen- they all have very similar plots, what makes them unique and enjoyable are the details…
    What I’m counting on right now is my excitement about this new story, I literally feel butterflies in my stomach and I’m hoping that excitement will show itself in the book 🙂
    So long you evil nasty sister- I’m off to a hot date with your handsome brother, Creativity 😉

    • Miss Rosemary

      If you’re that excited about your story then you have NOTHING to worry about 🙂 When the butterflies are stil there is the perfect time to write, write, write without stopping just b/c the story is DYING to be released. Just go for it, and if you need any help, call me again 🙂

  • Emily and Her Little Pink Notes

    I am not a writer but as a reader I can tell you that repetition or lack of surprise doesn’t bother me at all. What really bothers me is when I read a book (I am talking about romance or chick lit or romantic ya) and I can tell that the author is thinking about laundry & bills …it happens to the best of them and this is why I love debut novels.

    • Miss Rosemary

      Hahaha! I love that line “I can tell when the author is thinking about laundry and bills.” It’s so true though. If they author’s heart and energy aren’t in it, the reader can tell … and is usually disappointed.

  • junebugger

    You’re right, writers ARE readers. That’s why when I’m bored of writing a certain chapter I know there is something wrong with it. So I don’t move on and keep trying to improve it. When I’m at a dead end I have others read it to give me ideas on how to improve it.

    I guess the panic attack of completing a first story and moving onto the next is a universal suffering. We always end up doubting ourselves, asking: Can we do it THIS time?!?!?!!??!!?……But we learn that we can. And that’s how we grow as writers when we prove to ourselves once again our ability. It’s a priceless experience

    • Miss Rosemary

      Very well said. The best way to imporive is, as you say, giving it to others to read so they can point out precisely what is not working. After all, others will be reading your book after publication. Others are the key to good drafts 🙂

  • Hema P.

    Rosemary, love your dauntless spirit, and ‘go get it’ attitude. That’s what separates a “want-to-be” from a “will-be”. And loved your analogy of two novels by the same author. I didn’t think it was corny at all! 🙂

  • Hema P.

    And, oh, I really like the new colors and motif for you blog. Very fetching!

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