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Old 02-03-2013, 08:36 PM   #1
Benedetto Youssef
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Finish before someone takes your idea!

I've known people who have seen a new movie or read a new book and then cursed their luck saying something like: "Oh I had that same idea why didn't I come out with it first.."

Now I know there are only a few actual original stories all based on the same general concepts or ideas, but does anyone ever feel this?

Sometimes I feel that if I don't hurry up and finish my book Hollywood or a more successful writer is going to think of a similar idea before I can come out with my own. Maybe it's silly of me to think so but I find I often think about it.
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Old 02-03-2013, 08:38 PM   #2
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It's happened to me but then I remember that I wouldn't written it anyway because I was lazy and then I get over it.

That's a good motivator though. If nothing else, finish your story before someone else beats you to the punch.
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Old 02-03-2013, 08:42 PM   #3
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There is nothing new under the sun.

Get to writing, but don't force yourself. No matter what idea/concept you have for the story, there's already a story out there matching it perfectly. Stop worrying about it. Focus on writing a good story and nothing else.
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Old 02-03-2013, 08:46 PM   #4
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That's a good motivator though. If nothing else, finish your story before someone else beats you to the punch.
Seconding this.

As you say, Benedetto, there is a finite number of basic stories. And as Ambrose Bierce says: 'There is nothing new under the sun but there are lots of old things we don't know.'

So essentially: don't stress yourself out too much about whether other people are producing similar ideas. But use it as a motivator if that works for you.
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Old 02-03-2013, 08:46 PM   #5
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Old 02-03-2013, 08:48 PM   #6
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Do you honestly think someone else has written exactly the same story in exactly the same manner, with the same characters, situation, scenery, dialogue, subplots.....

Write what you are writing to the best of your ability- that's all you can do.

Nobody is interested in your idea.

ETA -re reminders below. Thanks guys.

O
ooooops - my mistake, and yes, I meant nobody was interested in 'stealing' your idea.

Please don't think nobody is interested in your idea - I'd hate to see a grown man cry.
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Old 02-03-2013, 08:56 PM   #7
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Nobody is interested in your idea.
Just to clarify, but do you mean specifically 'Nobody is interested in taking your idea'?

As opposed to 'Nobody will be interested in buying your book because of the idea behind it' or 'Nobody happens to be interested in the same idea that you have had, independently'?

Because as I understood it, the OP isn't worried about people stealing his ideas, just about someone else having the same idea quite by chance, and getting it out first.

Hope I've not misunderstood!
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Old 02-03-2013, 08:58 PM   #8
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Nobody is interested in your idea.


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Originally Posted by Benedetto Youssef View Post
Sometimes I feel that if I don't hurry up and finish my book Hollywood or a more successful writer is going to think of a similar idea before I can come out with my own. Maybe it's silly of me to think so but I find I often think about it.
Me too, Benedetto. Me too. Doesn't matter if it's an irrational fear. I know it is. I still have it from time to time.
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Old 02-03-2013, 09:00 PM   #9
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I write two short mystery series. One features a twelve-year old boy who discovers a dead body in a marsh. Whoops! Should I have done that? A boy detective? A boy who helps the police, though the police tend to underestimate his abilities, send him off, tell him to go home and play with this toys, etc etc. Hasn't this been done a million times before? Well, I've sold 20+ stories featuring this boy.

Got another series, 'reformed' drug dealer now helping the cops and running from the syndicate she once belonged to. Whoops! Already done a million times! Bad guy (girl) gone good, helping the authorities.

Your take on whatever it is you're writing will always be unique to you, and unless you copy someone else word-for-word, details, locale, dialgoue, location, plot, etc., you're okay. You're good.

Write your story.
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Old 02-03-2013, 09:02 PM   #10
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No matter what your idea is, you can bet your ass it's been done in one form or another countless times. Ideas don't sell stories anyway, execution does. To use a cooking metaphor, you shouldn't worry about someone using the same ingredients as you, you should concentrate on making the best dish you can make of those same ingredients.
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Old 02-03-2013, 09:02 PM   #11
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Just to clarify, but do you mean specifically 'Nobody is interested in taking your idea'?

As opposed to 'Nobody will be interested in buying your book because of the idea behind it' or 'Nobody happens to be interested in the same idea that you have had, independently'?

Because as I understood it, the OP isn't worried about people stealing his ideas, just about someone else having the same idea quite by chance, and getting it out first.

Hope I've not misunderstood!
Ideas are easy. Coming up with decent plots and characters that people care about - that's hard.

A good writer can make a good story out of an ordinary idea. Even the best idea in the world won't make a great story happen just by itself.
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Old 02-03-2013, 09:05 PM   #12
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I think this is an almost universal misunderstanding. It isn't the fact that someone takes your idea, rather the question is will you persevere through drafts, revisions, editing, and querying, until you see your work published? Probably even more important is, will you ignore all those reasonable arguments your subconscious will offer as to why you should stop writing and do something more sensible.
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Old 02-03-2013, 09:07 PM   #13
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I'm a musician. I've often wondered at the fact that if a song is written in a major key, there are only seven essential sounds: do, re, mi, fa, so, la, and ti. The second 'do' is an octave so I'm not including it. Octaves are simply square of the previous frequency of the same letter name.

Likely 70% (made it up) of all western (not country) music is derived from that scale. Even the minor scales derive directly from the major scale pattern. (You can read about modes if you're really interested.)

Melodies, chords, arpeggios—everything tonal used in the song is taken from that scale. When you realize that, your question disappears. It's not the scale, it's not the words, it's not even the story—it's the way it's put together. In otherwords, it's the creativity of the individual behind it that makes it unique.

Have a listen to Louis Armstrong singing Ain't Misbehavin'. Then have a listen to Candy by Paolo Nutini or Danse Russe by Hurt.

I'm sure glad they didn't say, "Damn! Someone already wrote a love song."

Dude! It's about you! It's about your creativity and the way you would say it.
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Old 02-03-2013, 09:10 PM   #14
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Yes, we all know that each variation on a theme is different, and all that. But I've wondered if, since most of us are exposed to more-or-less the same influences (current events, blockbuster films, shared societal experiences), good ideas tend to be thought of by many people at once. What inspires one person will inspire several others in the same way.

Rather then worry about plagiarism or people stealing my idea, is it more realistic that the market will suddenly get flooded by 12 year old detectives or reformed drug dealers? That's what runs through my mind whenever a story reminds me of one of mine. I don't want to be seen as a bandwagoner.
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Old 02-03-2013, 09:22 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Benedetto Youssef View Post
I've known people who have seen a new movie or read a new book and then cursed their luck saying something like: "Oh I had that same idea why didn't I come out with it first.."

Now I know there are only a few actual original stories all based on the same general concepts or ideas, but does anyone ever feel this?
No, because it's not the idea that matters but the execution of the idea.
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Old 02-03-2013, 10:17 PM   #16
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Well, it's certainly disheartening when you tell someone about what you're writing/you've written and that someone says 'oh, that's just like [insert movie/book/song]'.

Just like

Technically, no it most likely won't be, but many people, when reading or listening or watching something, have a tendency to start drawing comparisons. "Oh, it's just like [insert here]. That's so overdone."

It does tend to suck the wind from your sails until you can get back on your feet again and keep moving forward (hopefully) confident that it may sound like it is similar, but in most probability, it isn't anything like it.
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The first draft is a huge pile of clay that you've laboriously heaped on your table, patting it into a rough shape as you go along. From the second draft onward, you'll cut away chunks, add bits, pat and punch and pinch, until you finally have a gorgeous figure of, oh, Marcus Aurelius. Or a duck. But a damn fine duck.
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Old 02-03-2013, 10:24 PM   #17
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My bigger worry is that I'm writing something that has already been done. Of course it's never been done my way but if something else is similar enough to the idea, it's likely to piss me off and put me off the project anyway...

Yes. I'm like that.

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Well, it's certainly disheartening when you tell someone about what you're writing/you've written and that someone says 'oh, that's just like [insert movie/book/song]'.

Just like

Technically, no it most likely won't be, but many people, when reading or listening or watching something, have a tendency to start drawing comparisons. "Oh, it's just like [insert here]. That's so overdone."

It does tend to suck the wind from your sails until you can get back on your feet again and keep moving forward (hopefully) confident that it may sound like it is similar, but in most probability, it isn't anything like it.
...er, this. I guess. (I haven't gotten to the "moving forward" bit yet...we'll see.)

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Old 02-03-2013, 10:43 PM   #18
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*snipped*
Sometimes I feel that if I don't hurry up and finish my book Hollywood or a more successful writer is going to think of a similar idea before I can come out with my own. Maybe it's silly of me to think so but I find I often think about it.
I do sometimes feel this way. The book I'm currently shopping to agents has a different twist on your average ghost story. I'm not saying it's an amazing twist, or than no one else has ever thought of it, but it's not something I've come across before. Sometimes I do worry that someone will beat me to it.

Then I try to shake my headand get over it. After all, even if someone does, no one else will write that story quite like you. My book might not be the next great American novel, but it's good. No one else will write that twist like I have.

Consider also the miriad of books written on a common theme, such as "star-crossed" lovers. Just because that theme exists, it doesn't mean that it can't be done, or that it can't be done brilliantly. Common themes are common because people enjoy them, after all.
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Old 02-03-2013, 10:47 PM   #19
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If two authors, in isolation, write a book based on exactly the same concept, they will have created two very different books.

This is why copyright law protects only the finished art--the thing that can be put on a shelf and sold. Ideas aren't saleable. They don't have "worth".

Think of all the people who said "I came up with that idea a while ago."

How many of them could have--right now--executed a Hollywood-quality movie or a publishable book? How many of them have that much skill?

The idea is nothing. The brilliant execution of that idea is what the audience is paying for.
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Old 02-03-2013, 11:04 PM   #20
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I've often wondered at the fact that if a song is written in a major key, there are only seven essential sounds: do, re, mi, fa, so, la, and ti. The second 'do' is an octave so I'm not including it.
There are twelve tones.
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Octaves are simply square of the previous frequency of the same letter name.
An octave above is twice the frequency of the current note, not its square.
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Old 02-04-2013, 01:36 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Benedetto Youssef View Post
I've known people who have seen a new movie or read a new book and then cursed their luck saying something like: "Oh I had that same idea why didn't I come out with it first.."

Now I know there are only a few actual original stories all based on the same general concepts or ideas, but does anyone ever feel this?

Sometimes I feel that if I don't hurry up and finish my book Hollywood or a more successful writer is going to think of a similar idea before I can come out with my own. Maybe it's silly of me to think so but I find I often think about it.
Someone's already taken your idea, or at least some aspects of it, many, many times. Since I've been writing my own novel, I've run across some similar things in different novels I've been reading. At some point, I think you just have to write your heart out and realize that there's nothing completely new under the sun.
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Old 02-04-2013, 03:10 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WillSauger View Post
There is nothing new under the sun.

Get to writing, but don't force yourself. No matter what idea/concept you have for the story, there's already a story out there matching it perfectly. Stop worrying about it. Focus on writing a good story and nothing else.


Exactly.
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Old 02-04-2013, 05:35 AM   #23
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I guess you guys are right, but I mean there are some ideas that are truly original even though they bother from some things such as mythology.

Harry Potter in my opinion was completely original...even though its good vs evil and everything the idea was just so fresh and so different.
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Old 02-04-2013, 06:30 AM   #24
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I think I understand what you mean, OP, in that perhaps you are working on some 'concept' or premise and all of a sudden that same concept is The Bit Hit.
Like you had been working on a masterpiece romance between a normal high school girl and a vampire and then Twilight burst onto the scene and you're wondering who on earth would even care for it now.

Now I haven't done much research on novel pitches, but in the film world, every producer is looking for The Next ________ and queries often have things like One Huge Hit meets Other Huge Hit.

So you can see it as either your story is harder to sell, or it makes the pitch easier. After all, if something is a hit, it shows there's an audience for it, and after they've read/seen that, they probably want more.
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Old 02-04-2013, 08:10 AM   #25
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Don't waste time worrying about it. Just write it and do the best you can. It's really the only thing you can do except give up.

I understand though. I never followed through on an R&R with an agent (I didn't want to, but that's besides the point). A few years later a similar book came out and then blew up crazy big a couple years after that. I never regretted my decision to move on from that story, but it was still kind of hard to deal with. The agent has said wonderful things about my story so I couldn't help but feel like I missed that boat entirely.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wilde_at_heart View Post
I think I understand what you mean, OP, in that perhaps you are working on some 'concept' or premise and all of a sudden that same concept is The Bit Hit.
Like you had been working on a masterpiece romance between a normal high school girl and a vampire and then Twilight burst onto the scene and you're wondering who on earth would even care for it now.

Now I haven't done much research on novel pitches, but in the film world, every producer is looking for The Next ________ and queries often have things like One Huge Hit meets Other Huge Hit.

So you can see it as either your story is harder to sell, or it makes the pitch easier. After all, if something is a hit, it shows there's an audience for it, and after they've read/seen that, they probably want more.
The thing about vampires though is that if you compare it to Twilight, the agent is immediately going to dismiss it. I didn't mention movies with my last query, but I had 3 agents tell me that the reason they rejected it was because vampires are too hard for them sell right now. One was an agent that said in her blog she wouldn't auto-reject a vampire story, but apparently, she does. I appreciate her telling me though.

That said, I know a writer who wrote a vampire book and got an agent about one month before I started shipping my last story around, but now no editors will pick it up.
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