Is My Story Actually Good?

We’ve all hit that wall of self-doubt after starting a novel. Is this any good? Is it original? What if this idea has been done a thousand times? What if this idea isn’t even interesting?

Here's how to know for sure.

If you are glaring at your manuscript and wondering why you started writing the dumb thing in the first place, there’s still hope! I’ve compiled some advice for you by digging through other authors’ opinions on this topic, adding my own thoughts as well.

1. You Have a Unique Voice

You are the only you. This isn’t just a cheesy cliché; this is your personal guarantee that your story is one-of-a-kind. Stories like Robin Hood and Sherlock Holmes can be retold a zillion ways and still be approved for multi-million dollar movies every couple of years because everyone has a different way of telling the same story.

I’m not necessarily advising you to retell overdone stories. There is always a place for new ideas. But it there is more to a story than its subject.

You must believe that you have a fresh voice as an author. Nobody has your background, your way of looking at the world, your taste, your humor. Every single human is created to be unique, so it is your natural tendency to be original.

You must believe that you have a fresh voice as an author.

Granted, somebody, somewhere, has probably already told a similar story to the one you’re writing—and done it with great success—but don't let that deter you. Your idea still has marvelous potential, because you wrote it. Develop it, craft it into the most fascinating, thought-provoking, attractive yarn you can imagine. Make it so alluring that anybody who hears it will say, "Tell me more!"

So we’ve discussed writing stories that have been done before … but what if you really have come up with a revolutionary, groundbreaking idea that has never crossed the mind of any writer in history. How do you know if the idea is rotten or not?

2. Your Idea Is Not More Valuable Than Your Story

I’m sorry, but novels don’t succeed or fail based on their premise. I’ve made the mistake of judging a story by its premise before, only to be surprised by a memorable, engaging story that captured my heart and proved me wrong.

The best idea in the world will die alone if it is never planted and watered.

And the worst idea in the world can still become amazing in the hands of a masterful storyteller.

The worst idea in the world can still become amazing in the hands of a masterful storyteller.

So don’t judge a book by its premise. And don’t value your own story ideas more than good old-fashioned storytelling prowess. Some of the best novels ever written have simple ideas behind them, but in the hands of a skilled author, they turned into masterpieces.

So if your idea for a novel or story really excites you, than get going! You have to start writing to find out whether it works or not.

And if the idea isn’t any good, you won’t feel right about it. That leads me to the next point:

3. It’s Okay to Scrap an Idea

Many authors talk about having this experience. You get into a story, you start writing it, and something feels wrong. Not just a little off; the whole thing isn’t working. If you have gotten into the story and realized that you hate the whole idea, then don’t feel bad about trashing it.

It doesn’t mean you failed as an author. It means you were honest enough to acknowledge that this story isn’t yours to tell.

Don’t confuse this with writer’s block. Even at my worst moments as a writer, when I couldn’t type a single word that didn’t disgust me, I still liked my story at its core. I just didn’t like the way I was telling it.

If you like your story, but wish that a better author would tell it, don’t throw it away. Take a break from that story for a while.

Disliking yourself as an author is writer’s block; disliking your story and deciding to scrap it is writer’s wisdom.

Disliking yourself as an author is writer’s block; disliking your story and deciding to scrap it is writer’s wisdom.

So don’t waste your time writing a story that you hate. If you hate it, your readers will hate it. Just make sure that you’re not just being self-critical and need a break. There’s a big difference.

Next tip!

4. Don’t Accept Critique—at First

Now, constructive criticism is necessary to edit your novel. There are no two ways about it. Having fresh eyes on your story and getting honest feedback is like having money deposited in your bank account. Invaluable.

But baby novels need tender love and care and aren’t ready to face the world yet. Don’t go sharing your brand-new story idea with everybody right away.

Don’t go sharing your brand-new story idea with everybody right away.

If you like it—if it really excites you and you can’t believe nobody has written this story yet—write it. You don’t need somebody else to stop you from writing a story you don’t like.

Unfortunately, everyone’s curious and sooner or later somebody will ask you about your book. It’s okay to tell them your idea, but don’t expect them to fall over backward when you tell them. People usually don’t fall in love with a story until they’ve actually read it.

Your idea is still young—a ghost of a story, really—and probably won’t impress anybody but you at first. That’s okay—in fact, that’s normal—and it shouldn’t discourage you. Once your novel is three hundred pages long and has some flesh and bones, you can push it out of the nest to see if it really can fly. And if you’ve made it that far and still like the idea in your gut, chances are strong your readers will like it too.

Remember, none of this is a formula. There’s a point where you have to close your eyes and take the leap, and that’s okay. That’s what I did when I hit the wall with my current novel, and now I’ve doubled my progress and am still going strong. Is the idea super-original? Naw. Not really. But I am, and nobody has told this story the way that I am writing it, and that’s the whole point.

Writing is pioneering. Pioneers didn’t always have a crowd cheering them off as they headed for the prairie. You need grit to tell a story, and if you are a writer, that’s exactly what you have. Pull out that manuscript and start banging, and tell me when you’ve finished, ‘cause I want to read it.

Joshua Pior

I'm a twenty-something writer of several short stories and (bad) novels, an artist, board game enthusiast, and homeschool grad. God has used stories again and again to impact my life, which first inspired me to become a writer and to help other young adult authors write their best stories yet!

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