D.V. Sheppard

The web-log of a duck-herding author.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I'm Innocent! I Swear! (IWSG)

On behalf of the "Insecure Writers Support Group" Web-logging-Wednesday - I thought I'd share a writing dilemma that I hope I am not the only person to have had. If I am, well... that would be embarrassing. So, even if you haven't, consider saying you did to prove your angelic nature.

Have you ever enjoyed a season of being wrapped up in your writing? You've been working, and brainstorming and getting excited about the fruits of your labor. Then, you pause briefly to step back and breathe in the finished work, only to choke slightly because you realize that something brilliant you've added to your book resembles an element of someone else's book. Egads! What do you do now? I mean, it's not like the story is a carbon copy. In fact, the point of what you've written is to get across a very different story! There are plenty of differences! It wasn't on purpose! In fact, if you think about it- you came up with it before you ever read that other book!

Aside from this being somewhat discomfiting, the real trouble comes as you begin to wonder, "what do I do now?" Does it need to be changed? Do you twist it into something different? If you don't will you be passed over by agents? Or worse! - what if it isn't passed over by agents, but the scathing reviews fill Amazon and Goodreads (etc.,) about how the book is just a poor rendition of "Awesome Book That Now Holds the Rights to All Things Cool Therefore Negating Anything Cool and Original in Your Book". Admit it, you've all seen those reviews - maybe you've even written one yourself (no, judging, I promise).

While the solution is rarely simple, it eventually has to be made, and the writing moves on. But, now the question of truth - anyone else faced that sinking feeling of worry upon such a discovery? If so, did you end up keeping the "familiar element", alter it into unique-ness, or nix it right off?


This happened to me last year. A friend of mine suggested I read a book she enjoyed. I put it off for a few months, excited that I was almost finished with the ending of my own book. Finally, I picked up suggested book and the similarities with what I had written were staggering. Specific places, even names were the same. I felt as if I had to scrap my ending and I did. Five months later, I'm still not finished rewriting but close. The positive side to all this is it stretched my imagination and I feel my book is better then before. Books in the same genre are bound to have a familiar feel. You'll just have to judge how "familiar" you want yours to be. Not sure if this helped but I wish you luck and a great A-Z!
It's growing tougher and tougher to be truly original these days. It seems like everything has been done!

In fact, one of the things I love about writing speculative fiction is that it's accepted to a certain extent that there will be familiar themes and settings here and there. This allows you to worry about being original in places where it really matters, like characterization and conflict.

I agree, being truly original is impossible. I was told once by a creative writing professor that there are in fact only four stories in the whole world, and every other story is an adaption of those. As long as your writing is good, your message strong and your action different, I can't see it mattering. After all, it didn't seem to stop Cassandra Claire, did it?
There are only so many original ideas in the world. The storyline for my first book wasn't anything groundbreaking, but a publisher still said yes. Wouldn't stress about it too much.
Thanks for participating in my IWSG! Be sure to grab the badge for it next time you visit.
"Egads!" *snort* So funny! That might be my new favorite word of the week!!

I wouldn't worry about it. Seriously? There's this little thing called "independent creation" and if you HAPPEN to write a similar story to someone else's, I say "Who cares?!" Your book will still be your baby! It might be a little harder to pitch to an agent, but if its well written, you shouldn't worry. Don't change yourself (or your story) to fit what's supposed to be "right."

Good luck!
Glad to be a part of it - and thanks for the reminder. Will do.
Hello DV, I'm a new follower via the IWSG.

There are a limited number of plots out there, a finite number of tropes to be worked over and over. What makes each story different is how YOU attack it, how you let it play out. We all write differently in style and voice, so even if your story shares similarities with another well-known book, your own flair will make it unique.
I once told a friend about this exciting new plot line I'd developed for my WIP and I went through the whole thing. And when I was done, she looked at me and said, "isn't that the premise of season five of Buffy the Vampire Slayer?"

Which it totally was. Needless to say, I made some changes.

But you know what they say... good writers borrow. Great writers steal.

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