The best idea is a unique one
There are many benefits to writing a unique story. You engage your reader, you surprise agents and editors with something intriguing. You remain engaged in your own story because it is something new. But something that I consider to be even more important is that, overdone ideas, the ones that aren't unique, usually won't land you an agent or a publishing deal.
And if you're thinking there are exceptions to unique being best my advice is to never consider yourself the exception. Additionally, the deals won't be as good for something that is overdone as they would for a unique idea.
So the aim is to be unique. Strive for it! But what's unique? To know that I advise you read in your genre, often. Stay up on what is big and what has already been done. Use resources such as Publishers Marketplace, Goodreads, and much more to ensure that your idea isn't something that's already been done to death, like Zombies (clever, I know).
When I am striving for something different these are some of the things I do or consider...
Ways to ensure your manuscript is unique:
- Stay away from cliches. Don't have your character waking up or glancing in a mirror to describe their looks. Come up with new openings and new situations for your characters to be a part of. There are other cliches to avoid too, and know what the cliches of your genre often are. Don't have the snarky character that many other books already have.
- Don't overuse words or phrases - when your writing is repetitive (overdone) then your ideas may also seem repetitive and overdone instead of unique.
- Use diversity! This one is huge, and it's really important. Follow those who believe that we need diverse books, and create a strong and diverse character.
- If you are having trouble coming up with a unique plot then try putting a few ideas together that may not normally go together. Use a setting that isn't often written about. Then put in a character that wouldn't normally be there. And put a few plot points or elements in your story together that are opposing or different. Make sure everything still works well, but sometimes mixing ideas can help come up with something totally new.
- Have more people read your early ideas or your plotting work. Sometime in the earliest stage you can get help from a critique partner to point out things that aren't unique enough.
If you are really struggling then look to agents, publishers, and editors on social media. They will reiterate time and time again that they want new and fresh ideas. They may be willing to talk about what they've seen too often or what they are looking for. One place to find these ideas is on the #MSWL hashtag on Twitter. It can help with inspiration to spend just a little more time and effort coming up with something brilliant and not done yet!
How have you come up with unique ideas? What have been some of your best unique ideas?