When Someone Else Publishes Your Idea

No, I don’t mean literally YOUR manuscript. I mean when you are steadily working along on that WIP that is going to be your ticket into the publishing world, the idea that your new-found agent is going to swoon over for years. The “THIS IS THE ONE” one!

And then…you see a new book come out and you start to read the description and you think, hey wait a minute, that sounds awfully familiar!

This has happened to me twice now! I have another idea for a series crawling around in my head and I am afraid to even mention a peep about it in fear that it will doom it to be the next big thing by someone else.


I know I am being a little dramatic in that the stories aren’t EXACTLY the same but there are sure a lot of similar elements between the two. Also, this other book which shall not be mentioned – it’s good. Like really good. (Of course I had to buy it and check out the competition!) So now I am feeling über depressed and utterly unoriginal. On top of that, I catch myself reading this similar story and thinking “how can I make the opening of my book similar to this” and it needs to stop! The whole reason I am reading it is to see where this author takes the story so we don’t step on each other’s toes, not to make them more ALIKE. Ah, I’m screwed.

There is a silver lining to this pity fest though, I promise.

I think the two stories can stand in their own separate lime lights, I really do. I just have to be careful to make my differences really different. And it is not like me and this other author both wrote The Hunger Games and now I’m trying to pull off calling mine The Starving Games and Peeta is now Pico (de Gallo) the Mexican taco maker instead of the bread boy.

What I can use this book for is a study guide.

Since I am a new author, I am always in need of some tips. Now I have a book that is quite similar, so shouldn’t I look at this like the perfectly crafted cheat sheet that it is? I do not want to steal ideas or plot points but there are so many other things ripe for the taking that should be transparent if I transfer them to my current book. Things like pacing or timeline.

I was just worrying over this the other day, charting out how many days are going by in my story so far and realizing times where I forget to throw in the weekend, like somehow my story lives in a vortex of reality that doesn’t include Saturday and Sunday. I can read any good book and try to see how they accomplished this but why not do it with a book that is similar in plot and elements?

And what about mood? Oh, mood is such a tricky little goblin. Already in reading the opening pages, the mood is so utterly visible that it is almost like an actual blanket over the words. What makes it feel that way? How do I get my book to feel the mood like that? Reveal your secrets my personalized cheat sheet! I have read the opening chapter of this other book about eleven hundred times now and I think my novel will actually be BETTER for it.

I sometimes need a reality check on my writing skills. I really do believe I am pretty good, but sometimes when I get in this phase of writing and re-reading my stuff and getting obsessed with certain scenes I have crafted, something very bad happens. I start to get a big fat balloon head because I think they are utterly AMAZING, mostly since I haven’t really let anyone alse read them and tear them apart yet. When I started in on this similar novel, I kind of was deflated…but in a good way. Is that possible? I think we all need it sometimes – to be brought back down to a reality level and know that this is a craft that needs refined with time and practice and more time and more practice and some tears and then more practice. I am not perfect and I’m probably not at the level that this other author is at…but at one point in time she was writing at the level I am now and so the only way to go is up…reflate me please!

Anyone else with a similar story? How did you trudge on from seeing a similar story to yours already out and in print by someone else?

7 thoughts on “When Someone Else Publishes Your Idea

  1. I’m reading and nodding and agreeing the whole way through. I don’t *think* there is another similar story to mine but I get it. Completely understand where you are coming from and if you figure out how to make us feel the mood, share! (so I can steal it lol)

    • Thanks for the video! I watched it and it does totally make sense. I guess when it comes to books though if I go to query my book I just don’t want agents to say “Love the writing but there is already a book out with this same premise” 😦 ….So I will just work to make sure mine is unique enough to stand on its own. I don’t claim ownership really to the idea but it is just frustrating to think it could be a roadblock in getting my “version” out there. He makes some good points though!

  2. I’ve had this happen to me before. Generally, I think “Well that sucks,” but then I remember that my story is unique (no one can tell it just like I will) and I’m writing for fun (sure I’d like to become rich/famous for it too) but I try and take the opportunity to how people are receiving that story before I continue writing my own (for commercial purposes).

    • Good attitude to have! It is disheartening at first but I don’t let it get to me for too long. Great minds think alike so if this one was published surely mine (or another one I have) will be worthy 🙂

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