It’s often said that we all have a book inside us and although we often think the opposite, most of us could probably commit to writing it if we really tried and gave ourselves the time, but what happens if you wait for so long to write your story that one day you see someone else has published it? What happens when your book idea seems to have been used or ‘stolen’ by someone else?
An idea forms…
For many years I’ve had ideas for books, mostly fiction but when I come up with an idea it’s been very magical, heading into the realm of fantasy and very deep and emotional with both a good plot and a lot of character development. Many years ago a book idea came to my head (ironically sparked from a fantasy videogame I got obsessed with, but it soon became its own very seperate and different story), a particular and very elaborate fantasy story, but I did little about it other than dream. In my waking day I’d think about the idea, developing the chracters in my head, and when I’d sleep I’d actually dream odd parts of the story, bringing certain items and elements to life in my mind. For many days, when my mind wasn’t focused on other things my head would be in a dream fantasy world of my invention, but I didn’t do much apart from thinking about this idea.
As the idea developed more and more it began to solidify and I knew this was a story that I had to write down, one I really wanted to share one day with the world. It was becoming a story that was so long and detailed too that I could easily see it expanding into multiple books, prequels even sequels…at least the fantasy world in my head was so elaborate that I could spend my entire life in that world and I could see every character and place come to life with its own storylines and ever growing elements that could infuse the main plot or become their own spin-offs.
Getting it down
From time to time I’d write bits down, even try to write scenes in my head, but my own self-confidence in writing ficiton held me back. For years and years I’d felt like I was terrible at writing fiction, something which only began towards the end of my school days. I’d had a severe shock to my self-esteem and particularly my own ability to write anything with the harsh results I’d had from some English exams at school. That and dealing with chronic health problems made writing extra difficult, and as I struggled to meet deadlines for coursework towards the end of my GCSEs my own writing seemed to fail me and I got stuck not only scared to write but scared to even try.
Even after leaving school, years later, the only fiction I dared write was something I knew sounded terrible and then I’d give up shortly after trying, vowing not to try again until I felt more confident. Of course the longer you leave something, the harder it is to try again and so many years later I was still suffering from the fear of writing my story idea. So I kept most of it in my head. A scene or two, or notes would be written down…I’d even (and I know this sounds silly) but I’d act out conversations between the different characters, when I knew I was alone. In fact conversations was the only thing I felt confident at writing…maybe because I’ve always been into amateur film-making it came easier? Needless to say, the writing never took off and the story, though now more detailed than ever, stayed firmly in my mind.
A couple of years ago, boosted by some positivity I’d experienced while blogging, I decided to try and write my story or at least begin writing it. I even blogged about my return to fiction writing after so long. I even took the plunge and wrote a short story, but it didn’t really take off the way I had planned and my own self-confidence, or lack of, firmly made me stop writing and feel like everything I was doing wasn’t good enough. Something just wouldn’t give and every time I hoped to write, I just gave up, before I’d even started.
The ‘other’ book
One day, some time ago, I was given the opportunity of reading a fantasy book, the first of a series, which I was excited to read as the blurb from the publisher sounded super exciting. The book itself was quite good, not the best but it was still very good, but there was something about it that felt strange. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was though, as I had settled in to reading it. As the story progressed and the characters went through an increasingly exciting adventure, I noticed something eerie. The idea had similarities with the fantasy videogame that had sparked my own story idea years earlier. The story was very different from the original videogame tale, also like mine, but the similarity of a certain image in the book was uncanny.
The further I read on, the more and more strange I felt reading it. The story was getting good, it had a really good, and scary, antagonist and the plot was good and kept the excitement of the adventure moving forward, but there was a feeling I was getting, like there was something so ‘off’ about the story for me, and it didn’t take me long before I felt a chill as I read more and more scenes between the different characters. Certain key elements of the plot, not the characters themselves, but the plot, things about it were so similar to the one I’d dreamt up in my head. It wasn’t the exact same plot, my idea was different, and yet there were such similar things, like the consequences of certain magical actions (quite unique ones) were similar to my own, but in this book they were more brutal. Another of the many eerie similarities was that my own story idea had a certain character who faced petrification (turning into stone) in a certain way, this book I was reading had the same thing happening, although the reasons for it, when and what happened were a bit different. These are just a couple of the less obvious similarities, but there are ones that are far more specific and closer to my own story.
As I read the final chapter and finished the book I felt both happy and a little creeped out. The book was a good one, mostly, and I gave it a good review as I did genuinely like the story, for the most part, and the author’s take on all the different key elements, despite not being as elaborate as most fantasy novels these days. But wow, was it eerie to read my own ideas, albeit altered, in the book! It felt as if someone had taken all of my ideas, mixed them up in a blender, added some other stuff and kept mixing until they didn’t really resemble my story anymore but still had the key very detailed elements in there but in a mish-mash of what I had imagined. It’s almost as if someone had taken the idea out of my head, changed it around a little and then published it!
A stolen idea?
Sometimes we feel as if someone has stolen our idea, especially if we aren’t the first to get it written down or published. But the reality is that there is no way my idea could have been stolen. I had never shared it with anyone and the author lives a whole continent away from me so there is no way we could have ever met and shared this idea. And yet, sometimes people come up with very similar ideas and then argue about who had it first.
If you want to believe in more esoteric ideas, people suggest that are thoughts are real physical things (that we can’t see), that our thoughts then go to some big library (the akashic records) and that’s how we sometimes access the same thoughts at the same time. However on a less esoteric note, the fact is that we all have things that can trigger the same thoughts. Sometimes coincidences can and do happen. We may see the same image somewhere, have the same thoughts as someone else and it just happens. It’s certainly what seems to have happened here. Who knows, maybe that author’s played the same fantasy videogame I did (the major image in certain locations is uncannily similar)
The fact is, I’ve had an idea for a novel/series for nearly a decade now and did nothing about it. This author had her own idea for a novel/series for who knows how long and she did do something about it. She wrote her idea down, kept on writing and writing her book until it became a publishable novel. And then she got published.
This eerie coincidence has had a positive effect on me though. Rather than dishearten, discourage me or make me feel like it’s too late, it has spurred me into action instead. The book I read wasn’t my idea, I feel like this was a strange mixed up version of lots of ideas I’ve had in the last few years, but it’s nowhere near what I have imagined as my series. But rather than letting someone else take my story idea away from me and publish exactly what I’ve thought of (you never know, someone might actually have my exact idea in their head right now 😮 ) it’s made me begin writing seriously and not caring how my awful my writing feels (at least until I come to editing). If there was ever going to be a good reason to push me into action it was reading this book. The author’s book was good, but I still think my idea is so much more elaborate, dramatic (and dare I say it?…better?) and should be shared with everyone who loves an interesting and different fantasy series which is about the characters (and which I hope has deeper meaning than you first think).
Will I manage to get my book written and published? Well, that’s a question I can’t answer but I can live in hope. Will I write my story? I’m definitely trying to. Will it get published? I hope so. Will anyone want to read it? I have no idea. But I do know one thing…I’m not going to sit around anymore and simply dream it. I’m not going to give up without doing as much as possible (and then some!). I just hope in the meantime that my idea stays firmly with me and doesn’t float off to someone else’s head while I’m still in writing mode! 😮
Dont’t wait! (advice to all writers)
If you’re an author, amateur writer or just someone hoping to get the confidence to write something, don’t wait until the right time. Don’t wait until you feel more confident or when your story is completely solid in your mind. Don’t wait to start writing, because if you wait long enough, you might just find someone else publishing something eerily similar to your own idea, like I did!
We all have confidence issues in our own writing, especailly when it comes to creative writing. I don’t think there’s a writer out there who truly feels super confident when publishing their work. It’s something all creative people struggle with and is ultimately a good sign because it means we’re also open to learning and improving our own writing through feedback, but writing is something that so many of us are scared of even starting and we shouldn’t, because by writing a comment on a blog, by writing a blog post, we are already writing. So why not even start with a sentence a day of that story that’s been floating in your head for such a long time. As long as you write something, it will eventually become your novel. And, like me, we’ll hopefully have something that others want to read too 🙂
Do you have a book idea in your head that you’d ideally love to write? Have you ever felt your work was ‘stolen’ by someone else? Have you felt like low-confidence has held your writing back? (& in the hopes of boosting my own self-esteem: would you ever consider reading a fantasy novel written by this blogger?) Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂