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March 6th, 2009
Over and Over

I’ve heard readers comment about authors who write a variation of the same book over and over again. Each new release is a rewrite of the same story. I know I’ve stopped reading a couple of authors because I felt their stories were pretty much identical. Maybe the characters were different, but the conflicts and plot were similar. It didn’t feel as if I was reading a different book.

I’ve written over thirty books now. I’ll admit I think about originality when I’m writing a new book. I like to think each story is distinctly different, but I’m also aware that an author’s upbringing colors their perceptions. Their books may contain the same theme. Many of my stories deal with finding a home and security. I hope my books are different enough that readers don’t think I’m a one-book wonder. It’s hard to judge your own work sometimes.

What do you think? Does an author tend to write the same story over and over?

21 comments to “Over and Over”

  1. While certain aspects of our writing are limited by our mental image of the world and time constraints and Agent pressures have certainly affected some popular writers, most of us try to experiment with each book.
    There are, however, a cadre of commercial writers(not only in romance) who change the names and location only, yet remain successful at a level that raises our envy (mine at least).
    A second manifestation of this is the series writer, unwilling to abandon familiar territory and characters–should they be castigated as well?
    Like you, I try not to write the same book twice, but I would be the last to deny the similarities that exist in all my published works. (unpublished ones as well).
    It’s what I like to write and writing without enjoyment would bore me–and I don’t have time to be bored.
    (a rambling discourse that suggests…maybe)

  2. I have stopped reading one big name author because I felt like all her stories were just the same story with different names. And I’ve noticed most authors who have series should stop after about five books because after that the ‘same old same old’ syndrome kicks in.

    What I’m fighting right now is how many stories are retelling other stories. Lately I’ve been reading books and thinking: “She’s just repackaged the scene in *bookA* where *character’s doing this that or the other*” or “that’s straight out of *MovieZ*”

    Trouble is, as an author I know it’s incredibly hard to come up with something original. In fact I wrote something and made up a word only to be told that it was already created by another big-name author who I’d never read.

  3. There are unfortunately no original plots.

    I worry sometimes my sex scenes are sounding the same, but then I try to remind myself there’s only so many ways to do the mambo. ;)

  4. First, congrats on the 30 books, Shelley!

    I agree there is repeating of storylines going on these days in books as well as an author getting on a kick and using the same story over and over.

    And to add to some of the comments– it’s odd how osmosis happens. I created a world which I thought was original, only to find out another writer maybe even several had done similar things. Another example, I recently wrote this interesting yet to be pubbed ‘book within a book’ that I thought was an original, title of the inner book and all– but here comes a movie starring Nicolas Cage called, Knowing. You guess it–same title and idea as in my inner book!~ It happpens, and it’s not fun for us when it does.

    Back to your question. I see it a lot in books now too and I think it’s unfair that some of these well known authors are getting away with it. But as we know– it’s all about who sells and how much in this industry, and not always about how good or original a book is.

  5. Some authors have a set formula that works and if you are like me you can often become a fan. I often think and participate in discussions about my favorite author changing things up. Then when the author drifts away from what you expect you are upset even though you know they use the same formula. I do like authors that keep things fresh and inject new life into thier storis

  6. Certain authors’ stories start sounding the same. The heroine is similar, the conflict is similar, etc. It just happens and sometimes I stop reading them or if it’s a fave author, I forgive them – for a while. LOL

    Now I’m worried if all of my stories sound the same! Ack!!!

  7. Hello Shelley,

    I have a question aren’t all romance novels similar in that they all end with basically the couple walking off into the sunset together. Isn’t it the journey that makes each book unique? I might be trying to simplify things too much. I just enjoy reading. I try not to get caught up in what the author has written before but focus all my attention on the book I’m reading at the present.

    Have a great day.

  8. Well as you know I read… a lot. So I’ve had those books where I feel the deja vu settle in and I go lokk but sure enough it’s just like their last book, or this other author’s last book.

    That being said how many different versions of the story Cinderella are there out there? The basic plot points are the same and the ending is the same but how you write the characters and tell that story is different for each author. I have several different versions that I love and will reread.

    You can write the same story again and again but also different each time, I guess the trick for you all is to figure out how. Best of luck with that, let me know because I’ll be eager to buy and read them when you’re done.

  9. Hi Amy G – long time, no hear. :grin: I totally agree about writing something I like and enjoy. That’s why I enjoy writing for epubs so much. I’m free to let my muse wander.

    Leah – that’s the problem. It is hard to be original and write something that hasn’t already been done. I read a lot. I watch a lot of movies, and it’s easy to absorb stuff and months later think oh, I could do such and such. Sometimes I don’t even realize I’m doing it.

    Amy – mambo. – that’s one way of putting it. :grin:

  10. Kaye – thank you. The osmosis thing happens with me. I know it does, but I like to think word choice and setting can help make my work different. We’re lucky that readers tend to like the same sort of stories and seek them out. For instance, I enjoy friends to lovers stories. Chances are if someone has written one, I’ll grab it to read.

    Voronda – that’s a good point. Sometimes we read authors because they do write in the same way, and they’re comfort reads.

  11. Karen – oops, I didn’t mean to scare you. I’m sure they’re not!!

    Amy W – I try hard to put in a twist at the end of my stories. It’s interesting the way two authors can take the same plot and make it different with characters, setting, word choice etc. Did you know I’m almost done with the next Middlemarch story? It’s going really well…

  12. If you remember Barbara Cartland she only had one story but rewrote it over one hundred times. I stopped reading after 10 or 11 books because every plot was identical. Though her career spanned decades I can only think some people liked the familiarity and new readers would pick up the most recent book.

    I agree most romance novels all have the same basic plot but what keeps it interesting is where the story starts and stops. Yes some stories are derivitive but it has always amazed me how much variety is achieved when starting with a man and a woman or a man and a man.

  13. All writers will have similar themes come up in their work. Every artist does this, no matter what the medium. But retelling each story makes the theme fresh. As long as the writer is trying to remain fresh. I suppose there are some writers who don’t even realize that they’re repeating themselves.

  14. That’s a valid question. I think every author tries for originality in each new work, but sometimes former ideas creep in.

  15. Yeah, but you being almost done is still a long way off from me getting to read it… you big tease!

  16. I’ve noticed a theme that are in a few of my books, but not nearly all. I tend to use disguises and I’m not sure why. Maybe there’s something hiding in my psyche.

    Actually, I’m more concerned that I write stories that are too different from one another, just the opposite problem.

  17. Hmm… I’m not sure–I do think that with some authors, that might be more of an issue, for whatever reasons (editing, creative block, ??) their work may start seeming oddly familiar in more than the “I just LOVE their voice” kind of way. On the whole though, I think that each author has stories to tell, and sometimes they’ll seem a bit more like variations on a theme and other times, they’ll have something totally different. If I tend to like a writer’s voice, I can read even a recycled plot and enjoy it.

    Uh, I think I just said a whole lot of nothing… congrats on 30 books, Shelley! Wow!

  18. Lindsey – ah, I remember reading Barbara Cartland books with her virgin heroines who stuttered a lot. They were very similar.

    Julia – yes, keeping our writing fresh is what we all aim for. I like to think changing times and keeping up with trends helps us keep our writing fresh and original.

  19. Amy W – you know what happens to stalkers? They get teased. :mrgreen:

    Ashley – I think a writer’s voice remains the same no matter how different the stories, so that’s the unifying thing. I definitely tend to run to the same theme, and I think this theme often comes from a persons background or upbringing. At least it does with me.

  20. Thanks, Fedora. I must admit I love writing, and I think I’ve found the perfect job!

  21. Agree with much of what was said above…

    and that’s why, when you find that amazing book that somehow puts a fresh spin on things, the reading experience is just magical. I live for those books!!