I didn't know a lot about writing when I first became serious about writing novels about six or seven years ago. I'd read a lot, sure, but always for pleasure. I didn't have a clue about plotting, character arcs, or any of that stuff. It never occurred to me that there were methods to creating these stories, processes involved. I just knew that liked what I liked. I didn't analyze why.
So, my first (and only, so far) attempt at a fantasy novel contained a unique idea where one character was dragged through a portal that took her from our regular 21st Century to another world entirely! Several years later, I learned that, um, this idea isn't so unique after all. In fact, some agents and editors have blogged about how they find portals to be the opposite of unique. Some even say they aren't interested in novels with a portal device at all because they don't find the concept fresh enough.
In my first completed manuscript -- a contemporary YA -- I thought it would be a unique twist to have the MC spend the book chasing after one boy, only to realize that her BFF is the really the guy for her! Now, having read hundreds of YA novels, I've realized that a great many other writers have used (and continue to use) that same scenario. And, most often, it works well. But it definitely isn't in any way unique like I'd originally thought.
Knowlege is power, right? (Please pardon the cliché.) Since I've read enough to know some of what's already out there, I can try different approaches, or at least put my own spin on what might be overused scenarios. Now, I'm not writing things that I think are super original only to find out otherwise. That's good, right?
But at the same time, ignorance truly was bliss. (Oooh. Another cliché!)
Currently, I'm working on a draft where my MC's life and perceptions are changed by something having to do with an act of which her brother might or might not have committed. I haven't seen this particular thing out there in YA (although, it very well could be), but I find myself thinking: Oh, no! I'd better hurry up and re-read THE EARTH, MY BUTT, AND OTHER BIG ROUND THINGS to make sure there aren't similarities between Coley's brother and Virginia's brother!
I am also trying hard to do a little something different with the dynamic between the MC and her Love Interest. But I worry: Is it possible that readers will compare Coley and Reece to Sophie and Robin in WHAT MY MOTHER DOESN'T KNOW? Or to Annabel and Owen in JUST LISTEN?
Like I didn't already have enough to get paranoid over, right? ;-)