A friend had a great idea. She was going to walk round the coastline of Britain, raise money for charity as she went, and along the way write a book about her experience which would then get published to critical and commercial acclaim. It was a great idea - what could possibly go wrong?
It was a great idea. The only problem was someone else had already had it. It appeared that everybody had already walked the coastline of Britain, men, women, singles, couples, groups, people on crutches, people in wheelchairs, walkers with horses, dogs, donkeys - you name it, they'd already been there and done that and written books about it.
That's the problem with great ideas - they often aren't quite as great as when you first come up with them. I've had a great idea for a non-fiction book for ages, and finally got round to putting the proposal for it down on paper. My agent was cautiously encouraging, an editor made vaguely positive noises. My library buyer friend was more robust. 'Do it as fiction, and I'll buy 20 copies. As non-fiction, as it's you, probably 4, less if it's too academic.'
Hmm. Back to the drawing board. I'm having a re-think about my great idea and how I approach it. But just because my great idea has turned out to be not quite as great as I first thought, that's no reason not to write it. All ideas need a bit more thought and research than that lightbulb flash of inspiration might suggest. What you need is a bit of fine tuning to make them your great idea, not some more generic great idea.
After all, if you've got an idea for a romance, a thriller, a memoir, whatever, you can bet someone else has already been there and done that before. What they haven't done is your version of it. That's original. That's new. That's fresh. And that's why you are the one to write it.
And as for my friend, she did walk around the coastline, she did raise money for charity - over £25,000 - and she did write the book about it which she self-published. I'd call that a great achievement. Wouldn't you?