Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Novel, Interrupted

As an unpublished writer, I firmly believe that there will come a time when you happen across a novel which sounds so much like yours, the plot of Single White Female will flash before your eyes and you start going into panic mode. (Okay, so I just made this theory up because it's a great lead in for this post but let's not get bogged down in the specifics, I am having a freak out after all!)
        This very thing happened to me a few days ago. I was blog stalking and going through my dashboard looking for posts that looked interesting and then I came across This Book. It's called Genesis by John G. Hartness and it's so much like Iron Willed that I'm starting to have a conniption.  Sure the style and voice are different and the setting is across the globe but at the end of the day, 'a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,' right?? (You know things are bad when I start quoting Shakespeare).
        I know what you guys are thinking, no two novels will ever be the same because no two writers write the same way. But let's face it. As a writer, when you're squirreling away all those little words, you know you're secretly thinking that the story you're writing is 100% unique. So it comes as a shock when you find out that there are other people who have watched X-men, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and various anime who will most likely be thinking the same thing as you.
         So my question is: Have any of you guys ever found a book so closely matched with your own that you wonder if the other author has secretly found out about your idea and just written a story faster than you?  Have you ever given up on an idea because it seems as if the market is saturated with books like your own? Do you ever feel like you are running out of time to write because you want to be the first one with a great idea? Come on people. Freak out with me!


  1. Since I haven't written any books, I haven't quite had this problem. But I remember in college working really hard on this paper I thought was brilliant only to find that someone else picked the same topic . . . and did it better than I did. I was so annoyed. So I can only imagine that with a book and all the work that goes into writing it, it would be soooo frustrating to find out that someone has written a similar book.

    But I totally bet your's is better than the other book, Lan! Don't get discouraged!

  2. From one unpublished writer to another, I say freak out! You're entitled. As a writer, I think we've all been there. I call it the 'what if' game. What if I'd written faster? What if people think I ripped the idea off (I always feel for my favorite authors when I see this accusation in a review)? What if people are tired of werewolves, vampires, insert your own protagonist here?

    Unfortunately, it's bound to happen. While we all want to write something deeply original, we're also encouraged to write what sells which can be a little contradictory at times! I say, if you believe in your work, freak out and move on with confidence. I'm sure it's wonderfully written and will find the right audience despite any similarities to other published works. It's a big book world and the readers will choose!

  3. Have you read that book? Cause often the synopsis makes it sound like one thing and it's completely different. But, yeah, I know the feeling. My sister and I are just sure there's people listening in to all are ideas. We've seen several come out after we discussed them.

  4. I do know what you mean, Lan. I have an idea for an adult novel that sounds a lot like a James Patterson YA series that I didn't even know about until after I had my novel idea. But, they're just similar in only one way, and completely different in every other. So, I'm not worried about that.

    Unless you read the book you think sounds just like your own, then your idea is probably totally different from it. If anything, reading the book can help you make sure you don't do anything too similarly.

    I think what's shocking is when you come up with what you think is such a unique and brilliant idea only to find that someone else had the same idea, and already published the novel some time ago. That just takes the wind out of your sails, and makes you want to give up on it.

    But, be grateful Suzanne Collins didn't give into this way of thinking because she may have conceived of The Hunger Games before knowing anything at all about Battle Royale. Once she did, I'm sure it was off-putting, but you know what happened because she clearly didn't let that sway her from writing her novels.

  5. Yes and no. I have seen similar formulas, and similar situations. I have had someone tell me I need to change a character name because people might think I am hinting at some book I have never heard of, but best to leave all that white noise behind when you are doing the writing. Freak outs should be during the crazy, freaky draft, but I think when you are drafting you should sit and type. Usually when I am writing something out I think it is the best thing in the world, like I am doing humanity itself a favor. I DON'T feel that way when I look it over for edits, (instead I am shaking my head, and wondering what was wrong with me!) but it helps to get it all out. Then again I have learned that everyone has a different system.

    Then again I fell massively behind on NaNoWriMo.

    Beth ^_^

  6. Question 1: Yes! I have found that at least a couple of my story ideas have almost been done before. The one synopsis made me freak out and panic. So I decided, "I'm going to read it and see how close it is." I read it, and it's not remotely like my idea. A general theme, yes, the whole thing, no. I was going in a different direction with it.

    Question 2: I almost have. I recently discovered my one and only sci-fi story idea has been done. I'm planning on reading the book before I give up the idea though, because I love the idea.

    Question 3: I have read multiple times by other writers and authors that there is no way that you can come up with something completely unique. Almost everything you can come up with has been done before in one fashion or another. It's not a bad thing though! I mean, look at all the formulaic boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, stuff happens, then it's happily ever after stories. How many times has THAT been done before? And people keep reading new ones that are almost the same thing every time! It shouldn't discourage you from writing something that's close to your heart.

    So, my advice... check out this story yourself. See how close it really is to your story, because I'll bet you it's not as close as you think it is. Keep writing. Don't panic too much. ;)

  7. Awww, no freak outs missy. :) I'm not sure I can add to much because I think everyone has pretty much said what I feel as well. There are always going to be those that sound similar to what you write, but in the end it's your writing. Write what you want and don't be discouraged by others that seem like yours.

    I felt that way with the one that I'm procrastinating trying to write now. When I first started reading YA I noticed that there was one that sounded similar to mine and this was after I had come with my idea. I didn't even know these books existed. I have yet to read them (although I have them on my shelf) but I'm sure that even if they sound similar...they're probably very different.

    Huh..so maybe I did have something to add. If it makes you feel better I actually was re-reading what you sent me, and I loved it all over again. :)

  8. Deep, calming breaths Lan.

    It is freaky as all hell when you first make this kind of discovery, but then you have to remember that there really are a finite number of story types out there, it's how each author handles it that makes their book unique. Consider how many variations and adaptations of Romeo and Juliet there are out there. But if the writer has done their job, you don't mind. They need to bring their own flavour to the story and when they do their ideas shine.

    So don't panic too much (although a small amount is most definitely called for) - see if you can read some of the offending book and keep on with your dream!

    The Word Fiend

  9. Karen: I think the theory would relate to all artistic creations so I know exactly how you felt about your paper. Thanks for believing in me :)

    J.J: Yep, I've had my time to completely freak out and I'm feeling better about it. I just need to remember that there are no truly unique stories out there!

    Jenny: I've read the first chapter of the book and the theory is pretty much the same but the executions is hugely different. Thank goodness :)

    Cathy: For just the tiniest second, I was thinking maybe I would rework my book. Luckily, I read the first chapter of this one and found out how differnt our voices are! You make a great point about The Hunger Games. I've tried to read Battle Royal but it wasn't the same at all.

    Beth: I write the exact same way. When I'm in full writing mode, I completely think what I've written in genius. Until I start editing and there's just typos and plot holes everywhere! You're still doing well with NaNo. Don't give up!

    Jessica: I'm so lucky the story was written by a guy because the voice is so different. The downside is that he's done much more research than I have and the technical stuff is much tigher than mine which just glosses over it.

    Ash:I'm glad you still like my book. It's on the backburner with NaNo happening but I plan to get back to editing once that's done. I think I need to just try to find as many books as possible which sound similar to mine and just read them all. Sort of ripping off the bandaid if you will.

    Shelagh: I am trying to look on the bright side of things. Maybe if this one is popular, readers will want to read more and then my book will have a greater chance of being picked up!

  10. Freak out Lan, but not too long. LIke you said, no 2 authors are exactly the same, so your book will be different. I remember I have one idea for my book (still not the main one, but an alternate idea) and I loved it much more than the one I'm going to write. Then I read some synopses for various books and found out that someone already did it, and their idea was so much better than mine. It was horrible.

    Back when I was in middle school, there was an inventors contest or something and everyone had to come up with a product and create it and all that good stuff. I came up with the perfect project. It was specifically for short people like me and you (yea we're both like 5'1") and it was what's now called a grabber. I took tongs and attached them to sticks so that I could grab things on the top shelves. (it was a horrible model, but hey, i was 10) Then 2 years later someone came out with the real grabber - Gigantic tong looking things with suction cups on the end so that everything can be grabbed easily. I was PISSED. I knew for sure they stole my idea (though they probably didnt). Anyway, the point is that people are going to have your ideas at times. They'll see the same void and want to fill it in any way that they can. What matters is the way they fill it. No two people will do it the same. Look at all the vampire and werewolf books. No matter how many come out, people read it because they want to see how this person interpreted it. How they made things different. Thats whats important. People will read your novel no matter how similar it is to another person mainly because it's still different. Besides, real readers read EVERYTHING!

  11. I know exactly, EXACTLY how you feel! After I wrote my first novel, which took me about 2 yrs, I found a book similar in theme, with a girl with the same basic power, and the same freaking MC name!! I was like WTH?!? But I think the main thing is not to let that stop you. You can't have any idea of what all everyone else is writing. You've just gotta do you, and tell your story.
    Hope you have a great one,
    Ninja Girl

  12. "There is nothing new under the sun..."

    Don't let the freak-out slow you down! At the end of the day, your story is yours alone. Besides, look at the THOUSANDS of vampire romances out there...are they really all that unique? Heck no! But people who love them, LOVE them, and will read them by the dozen.

    (Now...sage words done...I had a remarkably similar experience; read the synopsis of a book and though OMG that's *my* story. I'm reading it now, and it's wonderful, and completely NOT like my book. *relief* I bet the similarities are not as great as you think.)

  13. Oh my gosh, I TOTALLY know what you mean, Lan!!! One of the first novel ideas that I really got serious about was based in a school for spies, but then I read the Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter and I dropped it almost instantly. Because there was NO WAY I was competing with an author who made my favourites list LOL! x)

    And it's not only that, but using names that are similar to ones in popular books too. Like the name Jace -- every time I see that name anywhere, I automatically think about the Mortal Instruments series! And whenever I read books with characters that have the same name or nickname (especially if it's uncommon or unique), I can't help but compare them in my mind.

    But you're definitely right! No two authors are exactly the same, and I'll bet your book and Genesis aren't as similar as you think! But if it counts for anything, I'm not going to read John's book -- I'm going to read yours for sure! :)

    Another awesome post, Lan! You always talk about topics that I can really relate to!

  14. This is one of my biggest fears! I've had a book idea floating around in my head for a couple of years now but I'm not planning on starting it until I finish my Masters in August...so between now and then I am always worried that someone is going to write a book similar to my idea (although I don't think anyone has come very close so far)....but it is still really stressful for sure!

  15. Oh, absolutely, Lan. While I was trying to get Blood Passage published, Fox TV came out with a new series called Past Lives in the spring of 2010 which had a very similar premise to my novel. I almost had a heart attack.

    At the moment, while I'm readying Marcie's Murder for publication, the second novel in the series, CBS TV has come out with Unforgettable, featuring a central character with the same perfect memory as one of my characters in this novel. It's incredibly nerve-wracking.

    In both cases I've just ploughed ahead and not worried about the similarities. There's no plagiarism on my part and no sense in being paranoid, so the heck with it. Hopefully readers will dig my stuff, regardless.

  16. Lan, don't stress and please, please don't stop writing your wonderful book. If you're waiting to have a completely original idea, you'll be waiting a long time. And, let's face it, as a fellow YA fiction lover, you'll know how many novels have similar themes! ;-)

    Jenny is right: without reading the other book, you can't be sure it has more than a passing similarity to yours. And I suggest you don't read it till after you finish your project; a friend of mine wrote a novel called Grinders; soon after that, someone else wrote a novel so like it. it was uncanny, but the man said he'd never read Grinders and I believed him.

    My own experience is with a short story called "Of Loaves, Fishes and Mars Bars" published in Andromeda Spaceways. I heard about a stpry by Neil Gaiman, on a similar theme, and panicked - until I read it. And heaved a sigh of relief. :-)

  17. Go ahead and freak out. :) And then get back to work. Even if two people were given the same idea or even the same book outline, the books would be very different from one another. It'll all be okay.


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