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Friday, September 2, 2011

These Shoes Are So Familiar


They're just another pair of flip flops. Sure, they're pink and all, but I've seen a million pair exactly the same. Doesn't mean I don't like them, but it does mean I'm not going to rush out and buy them. And, I'm certainly not going to call all of my friends and tell them they MUST. BUY. THESE. SHOES.

So, I was reading this published book last night, and the strangest thing happened. I started having deja-vu. I mean in a bad way. It kept going and going and going...(you get the point). Finally, I realized what the problem was. It wasn't deja-vu at all. I had written the exact same scenario three months ago. My first thought was that this author had stolen my premise. Then, I came to my senses. There's no way she could have stolen my material. After all, this book was published three years ago. I finally accepted the fact that my "never-been-done-before" premise had, in fact, been done before.

I reacted the exact same way any self-respecting author would react. I ranted and raved, throwing a hissy fit like no other, and then collapsed in a bath of pity tears.

Then, I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and had a burning of the "never-been-done-before" premise party. I watched three months of work (thank God above it wasn't more than that) go up in flames. All I can say is, as painful as it was to throw a beloved project to the wayside, it was far less painful than actually finishing the project, submitting it, and then being told it had been done before.

This, my friends, is why we should read! Especially in our genre. You never know, your next brilliant idea just might have been done before.

So, has this ever happened to you? It stinks, doesn't it?

26 comments:

Wendy Paine Miller said...

This hasn't happened with a premise, but it does happen with descriptions somewhat frequently.

I'll be certain I've come up with *the most creative description in the world* (hear echo) and then slam bam, there it is in the book I'm reading.

I've decided this means one of two things, either all my ideas are already used up or writers tend to think alike and try out similar experiments.

~ Wendy

The Book Nut said...

I had an idea I was tossing around for a story that I thought was going to be original but before I got around to putting it on paper (fortunately) I discovered a book with that same premise! I think I felt a little bit of what you described but since it had never advanced beyond the idea stage it wasn't near as hard on me!

I'm reminded of Ecclesiastes 1:9:

"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun."

I guess that's a morbid way for a writer to think though isn't it? :)

Tere Kirkland said...

Oh, yeah, I'm always whipping out the "nothing new under the sun" quote. Even in the Roman Age tropes had been done to death. Shakespeare went and reinvented them all in the Elizabethan Age, and we've been rehashing them ever since.

While I do think it's possible to be original, I think as a writer, it's more important to write engagingly and tell a story people want to read. And a part of that is reading widely, not just in your genre, but across the board.

Sorry to hear about your bonfire, Susan. Did you at least roast marshmallows? :)

Kathryn Magendie said...

Yup- sure has - The Lovely Bones - our first paragraphs were so identical, I was stunned. Our premises were similar, etc ... there were many differences, but not enough for me to continue with the story, for it would have just looked like I was "copy catting" so I put aside the work. Later, I re-fashioned it but it remained a short story and I never did anything with it.

Bethany Mattingly said...

So sorry to hear about that. It happened to a friend of mine. So awful to realize what you've been working so hard on is something you have to give up. Good luck with what you begin next!

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

So sad! I've had this happen before. :( Good thing you could still write a similar plot and still have it be a completely different book. :)

I've learned by doing my fairy tale themed novellas for BONDED that no story or premise gets old. It's all in how it is told and nobody can tell it quite like you. :)

MG Higgins said...

This hasn't happened to me exactly, but I know it often does happen. And I agree about how important it is to read in your genre (and keep track of publishing news) to know what's happening out there. Glad you caught it early!

Carolyn V said...

Oh no!!!! I read for a friend of mine whose story started like a book I had just finished. I had to tell her. It was sad.

Glynis said...

I had a similar thing happen. I was watching a BBC Victorian drama series and was suddenly struck with a scene from my novel. I was horrified.

I too removed it asap.

Nancy said...

My friend wrote a great fantasy for children and found her hero's odd name in a published book. She just chose something similar.

I was reading a mystery and was in chapter three or four before I realized that I had already read it. It must not have been very menorable. That hasn't happened before. I usually can tell in the first couple of paragraphs if I have read the book before.

Dawn Simon said...

It has happened to me, too, but in different ways. Sorry--it's so disappointing.

A belated happy birthday to you! :)

Christauna Asay said...

Never happened to the extent of needing to burn a manuscript but it never fails, anytime I'm writing I see ghosts of a similar theme or element in nearly every book I read or movie I watch. I guess it's true what they say about there being no original ideas, only original presentations. Sorry for the 3 month loss.

Jennifer Shirk said...

YES, it stinks!
Although it never happened with premise, there have been times where I thought I wrote a really cute scene and then I read something very similar. Grrr...

Carol Riggs said...

Argh, are you kidding? How torturous. But you're right--at least it wasn't any more than 3 months' of work. :( I wish there was a good way to research movies and books to see if something hasn't been done before. I mean, you can do searches on Amazon, which helps, and ask your friends, but there are limits. Are you sure you can't add a twist and make it your very own? Meld another genre to it, make it more unique? Hmmm....

Diane said...

Bummer in a big way! Something better will pop into your brain, I just know it. :O)

Elana Johnson said...

I haven't had it happen exactly like this, and not in a published book, but it really does stink when you realize that you're not as awesome as you once thought...

Sorry about your 3 months. :(

Laura Pauling said...

I hate it when that happens. usually it's when i'm about to query and then I see a title or a premise that looks similar. Thankfully, the stories ended up being very different.

Karen Peterson said...

This happens to me a lot with movies. I'll think of a killer plot, and then a few months later, I see a trailer for the exact (or nearly exact) movie I was thinking of. I swear someone in Hollywood has a direct connection to my brain.

Barrie said...

I'm sure your next writing idea will be your most unique and brilliant. And you'll look back on the 3-month-now-ditched project and be glad you stopped. At least, I hope that's how it happens. xo

Name: Holly Bowne said...

YES!!! My mother and I co-wrote the first book in a children's series we had dreamt up. Our idea was unique and totally cool. Or so we thought. I'd done research to identify our competition. Or so I thought. Then when visiting the library with my kids one day. There it was! I freaked out!! (Much like you.)

But let's look at the bright side. Obviously, we have the ability to come up with good, saleable ideas, right? And before completely tossing yours aside, Susan, are you certain there isn't a competing publisher who might be interested in your version of the idea? (Just remember what your reader Michelle Davidson Argyle said above!)

Creepy Query Girl said...

awe- I'm so sorry! Whenever I have an idea I always google the premise and look up book lists on amazon before i get started, just in case. Here's hoping you get back on the horse! Nice to 'meet' you! New follower here:)

Ron Smith said...

Wow, that is such a bummer! There was no way you could save your project? The novel you were reading was that similar?

Jeez. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before. I'm so paranoid about my just-completed YA that the only people who know what it's about are a few crit partners and the agents I've sent to.

I hope that your Muse is feeling generous, and you can find something else you are psyched about to take your mind off this unfortunate incident.

Mark Noce said...

You hit the nail on the head....read, read, and read some more. It's the only way to know what's already out there and what direction your genre is taking. Sorry about the "deja vu," but hopefully the next time you have it you'll be reading your own stuff in print:)

Michelle Teacress said...

Yes, it has - but thankfully I only got as far as the idea and a little outlining before I made the discovery.

Suzanne Casamento said...

Most basic premises have been done before. But it's your VOICE that makes the story yours and different. Are you sure it had to burned?!

Texas Playwright Chick said...

Oy!