Hands off that Idea! It's Mine! Oh, Bummer...it's Not.

This week's YA Highway Road Trip Wednesday prompt asks:  

What SNI were you psyched to work on, but discovered it was too close to something already done?

Theme song for this post: It's All Been Done by the Barenaked Ladies

What a bummer that would be, to be super excited about a new project, to give yourself to the thrill of the magic you'll create with your words, the beautiful scenes you imagine and just can't wait to get down on paper (or computer)--only to have your hopes completely dashed as you discover your shiny idea is just too similar to another story out there.  My heart goes out to anyone who has had to decide not to go forward with a project for that reason.  We have to come up with something fresh, something original, right? And we don't want to do something that a million others have done.  

But, when do you know that moving on is the best choice, rather than coming up with a new and exciting twist on something familiar?

I have no idea. I've never wrestled with this before. I probably should, though. Maybe elements of The Mirrormasters are too similar to what's already out there--the quest to stop an apocalypse, using mirrors to travel to another world, a love triangle of sorts that just sort of happened without my planning or say-so.  It's not going to deter me from finishing up the edits, but hopefully I'll find enough that's unique and cool that it won't matter how similar some elements are to other fantasy.

What about you? Have you had to shelve a project you were excited about because it was too similar to an idea that's already been done?  When do you think a story should be shelved rather than staying with it and making a special effort to create a unique twist on a familiar idea?    


  1. There are so many books I haven't read that I could get really paranoid about this. Let's face it, if I'd read enough books in my genre to be sure there was nothing published like my story, 1) I would have no time to write, and 2) I'd be a literary agent, not a writer. Which brings up an interesting point: most good literary agents *are* that well read. If the agent agrees to represent your work, there's a good chance s/he knows it's unique, or that it's sufficiently dissimilar from everything else that it's worth publishing.

    So, I try to be aware when I'm venturing onto already well-trodden ground, but if it's right for the story, and it still sounds like *my* work, I don't worry about it too much.

  2. Thankfully, I haven't run into this problem. I read stories all the time that I wish had been my idea, but so far -- not a problem. I'm sure it will happen at some point. This is part of what makes me panic when I'm dawdling on my current WiP. What if someone comes out with the same-ish story before mine is finished??? You get the idea.

  3. I personally think that pretty much all the stories have been told. You just have to tell it your way and that is what distinguishes it.

    There was a long period of time where I was terribly bored at the movie theatre because I knew what would happen at any given moment. I'd seen so many movies, read so many books that the formula had kind of ruined my life.

  4. Fantasy seems to often be about new twists on old lore...diehard Fantasy fans would be disappointed if it wasn't. Your book seems totally safe and unique in that way.

  5. I know what you mean and my story also has aspects which I´ve seen before but I hope that my twists and plot and characters will make it jump out of the pack :D

  6. I think that all books will probably have aspects that have been done before, but you can pretty much twist any idea to make it your own if you really want to. Some basic similarity is sometimes a requirement in certain genres, like Jennifer points out about fantasy.

  7. Even though Neil Gaiman and I both have a thing for bushy-haired pale-skinned brunettes with phenomenal powers, I think I can still use the concept I had sometime in the future. So, while it's a little unsettling to discover something you love has been done, or is VERY close to something you've done, I don't think you should lose hope.

    If you do run into this in the future, it's more about the WAY you write something, than the concept itself.

  8. I think rather than scrap an idea, it's better to see what kind of twist you can put on the parts that you really like. Hopefully, the twist would be strong enough to set it apart!

  9. I think that all stories are eventually going to be similar to SOMETHING. You just have to find that standout difference that makes your story unique and go with it.

    What a fun roadtrip! I'll try to get back into them next week.

  10. It's hard to know. But if it's a truly different story, I would say go for it...if you can wait a few years to query. You can always tell what agents are inundated with *cough*vampires*cough*. But if a story is too beautiful not to tell, then write it and wait for the right time to put it out there.

  11. Wow...it's been such a busy week. I can't believe I didn't get around to leaving comments for you all, though. You all had AWESOME input! The theme really came through that it's about putting your own unique twist on the familiar, making your story stand out as distinct from other typical stories in its genre. Totally agree with that!


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