Sunday, 12 June 2011

Do Your Homework

I don't often give writing tips on this blog. There are plenty of fantastic folks around the blogospere who'll cheerfully do a better job than me. Also, I try to keep this place accessible to my readership and audience so I keep pearls of wisdom to a minimum! But for once, I'm going to make an exception because you see, I'm absolutely gutted!

Backtrack to the week before last. I went to Birmingham for a Young Readers day of events. I was well looked-after by the librarians there and as I travelled around, I had this brilliant idea for a story. Fast forward to yesterday. In little less than a week and a half, I'd written 15,000 words, fallen in love with my characters, developed a twisty plot. Everything was going great.

And then it all went... wrong.

Whilst browsing a few websites, looking for nothing in particular I came across reference to a series of books on the same theme as mine, using very similar characters, very similar creatures even. My heart sank.

Now I know that if you're writing a vampire book (I wasn't by the way) you can look on Amazon and find thousands of them but yours might have different terms of reference, another slant. The guy who wrote this series had stolen my idea, gone back in time and written MY story before me! It was the only explanation. Well either that or he's got a good imagination and beat me to it.

I always do my homework. I check titles, I read around the genre. I try my very best to make sure what I'm writing is as original as possible but this time I failed. And if you want the honest truth, I'm grieving a little for my characters who I'd just got to know so well and so quickly. I know they'll crop up somewhere else but at the moment, I'm a bit glum!

So my advice is: Check your idea is original and then do a little lateral thinking. What alternative titles might your story go under? Check them out too!

Tell me how you make sure your story is original!


Keren David said...

I feel for you...I had a brilliant idea recently, for a fantasy series, very unusually for me. It was all about someone who has to train a dragon. Whoops.

Gill James said...

But Jon, the same stories repeat and repeat and repeat. There are possibly only seven (Booker) or 39 dramatic situations, or just one (Campbell, Propp, Vogler, McKee). Chances are, any story you think of is already in the Bible, in the copora of folk storeis, myths and fairy tales and if not there, our good freind Bill S. did a version of it: what you bring to each story is your own take, with your own voice and your own orchestration.
Titles don't matter too much. They're often repeated,
Personally, I never find the true title until about edit 20. Names, on the other hand, come firmly attached to their characters for me
Go with your version of the universal story.

Jon M said...

Thanks Keren, I once had an idea about a school for wizards...
I know what you mean Gill but it could well be in the school for wizards league!!!

dragonrider said...

That must be a really horrible situation to find yourself in! Much Sympathy.

Michele Helene (Verilion) said...

Uh... I don't (gulp). I hope like hell that mine has that 'so' original slant that the agent will just swallow it up. That's why I'm ploughing on with the revision and saving the 'like' books until after I've done it. But in the meantime I've been reading around generally so I know I won't be writing any books about long lost brothers and sisters and people coming back from the dead, or funny little men who collect demons ;)