You have an amazing new idea for a book.
It wakes you up in the small hours. Your excitement bubbles over. You frantically haul yourself up into a sitting position, gulp down a glass of water and start to tell your unconscious loved one all about your idea, speaking very fast and not taking a breath.
They don’t share your enthusiasm and mutter some stuff about your mental state, yesterday’s sugar consumption and that half bottle of red you consumed in Writing Corner.
Every time you think of your idea you get a delicious rush of literary happiness and struggle to stop using tweet hashtags such as #amazingnewbookidea and #neverbeendonebefore
It’s great to think that you came up with such a powerful and totally unique idea.
You throw yourself into your story and set to work writing this literary masterpiece. Days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months.
Then, on one Monday afternoon, you are stood in your bookshop of choice, wearing a fancy dress (a brilliant new story idea can play havoc with our wardrobe choices) and sporting a new hairstyle (new story ideas can result in adventurous hairstyles) gazing longingly at book shelves. Above your shoulders it feels like there is an imaginary sun which is shining brightly. Your new story idea has lit up your world.
You pick out a book at RANDOM and as you read the blurb you let out a piercing scream. THIS BOOK IS SIMILAR TO YOUR STORY IDEA. Your heart stops beating and time grinds to a halt. Some pesky successful author has written your idea!
You cry out ‘but….but….I was going to write something like that!’
Cue freak out moment (someone out there has had the same idea as you), quickly followed by loud hysterical sobs and a worried look from a book assistant.
You shuffle away, wearing a glum expression, your fancy dress and your radical hairstyle.
You head home with a little imaginary rain cloud above your head. To me the image for this blog post was perfect for describing ‘literary disappointment.’
When you get home your laptop mouse lingers over the ‘delete’ button. Why should you carry on writing your story if it’s been written by a pesky successful author? Wouldn’t it be better to delete, forget and move on?
The fancy dress is stuffed at the back of your wardrobe as it’s a cruel reminder of your terrible discovery. The hairstyle is chopped out at your next salon appointment and the imaginary rain continues for days, sometimes even months.
This situation is a tough one to accept, especially if you are 55,000 words into a draft.
I have experienced this. It was a dark day when I discovered the best-selling novel ‘P.S. I Love You’ by Cecelia Ahern. This was after I had spent a YEAR writing a story about a young wife who finds some letters from her late husband, telling her how to fall in love again.
Readers, I crumpled in Waterstones and had to be helped back to my feet by a book store assistant with a comforting face. “Why did this unfortunate writing event have to happen to me?” I sobbed.
As I shuffled home, in my fancy dress, I had one big imaginary rain cloud above my head. I didn’t delete my draft. I gave myself some breathing space, in which I ate a lot of sugar, drank wine and binge watched romcom films. Then I went hunting for a different angle.
So, how do you survive this shocking discovery?
Remind yourself you can still write your story and make it your own. We all view the world differently so even though it’s a similar premise, you will still end up with a different story.
Write it anyway. If we all quit because someone beat us to a similar concept, then nothing would be created.
You need to work on what makes your story different and focus on the quality to make it stand out.
Make sure you finish your draft. At least get some enjoyment from finishing something.
Talk about it as much as possible. Let it out. Bore loved ones and friends silly with your tale of the book you were going to write until some pesky successful author beat you to it!
Read Elizabeth’s book ‘Big Magic’ – there’s a wonderful story in there about her own experience with this situation.
To all those who start to dress differently when they are caught up in new story idea euphoria – you all rock!