Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Been Done Before?...

What should a writer do when they find published books a bit too much like their WIP? (=work in progress)
And then on a kid-lit chat board they find others whose WIP sounds eerily similar?

A writer has three choices. Probably more, but this is what occurs to my still shocked pea-brain.

The first is to surmise that others have a portal into writer’s brain, and are borrowing (polite for stealing) freely from said brain.

The second is to conclude that one’s brain is too limited to call itself a writer’s brain, only capable of derivative thinking and subliminal channeling of others. Quit now, before you do more damage.

The third is to soldier on and tell the story only this writer can tell. Because similar in some ways is not = the same. Because all stories have been told, but not in all ways. Because, dagnabbit, only you can do what you do the way you do it.
I’d opt for reason #3 every time.

When I worked with antique textiles, collectors valued and paid a premium for examples that, while following the norm for their type, had something unique about them. The use of an uncommon dye or insertion of an unusual design element made the example fetch many times the price of the more typical.
{Which is the rare one? White ground Yomud Asmalyks are less common}

This is how to think of creating stories: they have many things in common. It is our job to think of the few twists and turns that haven’t been set to print before. Just enough not to betray the classics, but to open other entrances to their domains.


  1. It's the writer's job to tell the story in a different way, to put a unique twist on the story that only he/she can.

  2. Mirka, I am so sorry you have been blindsided by this--I know how it feels, and how quickly the doubts can come swooping in. I have heard over and over again that there are no new stories, only new ways of telling them. Sometimes this takes awhile to sink in, though... Option #3 is definitely the way to go!

  3. That's right. NO new stories, just new perspectives and voices. So glad you soldier on, Mirka.

  4. I understand your initial disappointment, but you're absolutely right, even similar stories will be unique according to who is writing them. Carry on, Mirka. I look forward to reading the story, one day, as only you can tell it.

  5. I've so been here! Maybe if we wear hats made out of aluminum foil while writing, our thoughts won't 'leak' out. ;)

  6. It's such a hard decision (and even worse realization), but I'm so glad you've decided to write your way through it.

    1. Further reflection and reading reveal my WIP is unique, in its only-I-am-me (the story's speaking...) way. So I am less flabbergasted and more confident again. But I still wonder what's in the water...

  7. You are right in soldiering on, Mirka. Only we can write our stories our way. I suppose there will always be similar plots and backstories, but voice and character will always be unique. :) Have no fear.

  8. I'd choose #3...usually. Sometimes, the similarities are too close for comfort and too eerie for words. I wouldn't be surprised if there really is something like "thoughts/ideas/concepts" floating around out there that several writers at once catch.

  9. Thanks for the comment:)I'm not a writer but I liked the post:)

  10. Plot is only one element of a story. It's the language, the cadence, the personality of the author that shines through. I'm sure your book will be absolutely unique (as you are) when it's finished.

  11. Excellent advice. I think it's so important to find what is unique in your story and go from there.