Friday, February 18, 2011

A Benefit of Being a Mystery Writer

I had a blog all set to automatically post in a minute from now, but now I'm furiously typing up something new.

See, there's this manuscript I was writing before my daughter was born. I didn't get too terribly far into it before I went into labor 6 weeks early, but I was enjoying it. Of course, I then went on an extended maternity leave from writing, and by the time I returned, I'd changed gears and decided to work on something entirely new.

That didn't mean I would never return to it. Maybe someday I would. Some time down the road. Eventually.

But now I can't.

See, while I was browsing the "coming soon" titles on some book blogs, I came across a blurb that sounded suspiciously similar to my story. Like THE EXACT SAME plot-point-by-plot-point, and was even a remake of the EXACT SAME literary classic in the EXACT SAME way, using the EXACT SAME twists and resolution.

Now before you say "oh, but ideas can't be protected by copyright"...yes, I am fully aware. There is some debate as to whether plot can be protected and the general consensus is that where expression becomes so intertwined with plot that it becomes the expression itself, then yes, plot can be protected.

Without naming names or titles, I'd say that this is that type of plot. It was very unique. It's not one of those "oh, but everything idea under the sun has already been written" types of things. It wasn't a trope.

But my bad...all I had was the opening 20 pages or so, and a detailed synopsis. Of course, I'd spent countless hours brainstorming it in a semi-protected Think Tank thread in a popular writer's forum. But the writing world is a small community -- nobody would steal it, right?


I happen to know for a fact that this author had visited the writer's forum during the exact same week in question that I was stupidly brainstorming.

Despite what my husband thinks, I honestly don't think the author consciously intended to steal the idea. Rather, I think she might have read it, thought it was cute, and then forgot all about it until it came time to submit a new YA book proposal. At that time, she probably remembered it, but had no idea where it came from, so assumed it was her idea in the first place. And since there are no books out there with this idea (yet!), she decided it must have been her idea.

I honestly don't think it was deliberate. But that doesn't make me feel any better about it.

Anyway, since in my case it was an idea rather than complete expression, there's really nothing I can do about it. Oh, sure, I could push the issue if I wanted, but it would be me against her big publishing house and it's just not worth it.

I truly believe in karma and know that what goes around comes around.

Of course, now that I write mysteries, I can always name a character after her and let her die a really horrible death.

This could be fun...


Vanessa Barneveld said...

I really feel for you, Amanda. It's horrible to learn another author might have lifted your idea. So with you on letting karma deal with this person. I'm not sure what recourse you have in this situation. Your experience is making me think twice about talking about my plots online.

Misha said...

Oh Amanda that is terrible!

Vanessa: NEVER put an extended plot out in public.

You can't control who reads it and therefore have no way of knowing if someone stole your idea.

This sucks.

Amanda Brice said...

Yeah, I'm upset, but there's really nothing I can do. It was my own damn fault, honestly.

The thing is, I am generally VERY cautious about guarding plot. I'm usually extremely vague when answering "what are you working on?"

But I was really excited about the idea and stuck on a plot point, and decided I needed ideas beyond my critique partners.

It was stupid. I admit it. And there are plenty of people who remember my discussions of this plot. But like I said, there's nothing I can do about it except just hope her book tanks.


TerriOsburn said...

As long as you're taking the high road. LOL!

I had this experience last week, not exactly the same but similar, when a friend sent me a link to a new release. Not only was it very close to my just finished and revised MS (my first, mind you) but it even had the same title.

That is the worst feeling. I started this MS back in 2009 and I can't help but think, if I'd written a little faster, gotten it out there a little sooner...


Amanda Brice said...

Honestly, I was probably never going to get back to this idea, since I've since gone in a completely different idea. It just sucks, is all.

Just another reminder that you should keep your plots to yourself and just a very small circle of trusted friends.

Terri, i'm so sorry. That has to hurt. At least in my case, I only had the opening written. I couldn't imagine discovering a book similar to mine after I'd written the entire thing. Hugs!

Elisa said...

Oh, that's just so awful!!!!

I can only hope that if it was AT ALL conscious on her part, that her *execution* of the idea lacked even an ounce of additional creative inspiration, and the book came off dry as a stick.

Anyhow if her well has run dry, and she keeps trying to steal, it's going to bite her hard, and soon.

Chin up, Amanda!! I admire your attitude!

Gemma Halliday said...

Oh, that just sucks! See, that would totally happen to me. I'm way too open about my ideas. I figure no one would ever steal them. This is a good lesson for me, too!


Amanda Brice said...

I guess the silver lining is when I see all these book bloggers talking about how excited they are to read this new book, I can feel validated that at least I had a clever idea.


Lesson learned.

Jana DeLeon said...

That blows, Amanda. I am super protective of my ideas/plots. I only talk ideas with my critique partners and even them, I don't tell everything because I want a fresh read when they read the rough draft. I never, ever tell anyone else and never give away much of anything on forums. I do the cryptic "working on a new project."

I know someone else that this happened to, except it was a critique partner that lifted her work. When she approached the person, they got attitude and basically said "I'm published and you're not so it doesn't really matter."

I agree that these things always come back on someone. Karma is a bitch.

Bridget said...

:( I'm so sorry, Amanda. Even if it wasn't intentional, it's still disheartening when something you're passionate about is taken.