Do you ever read someone else’s stuff and think “oh Kate would have done it this way” or then think “I could have done that better?” – then fight yourself not to use the idea? I never want to borrow someone else’s idea but sometimes what is in a story is similar to what I was thinking.
Ideas can’t be copyrighted. Only words can be copyrighted. Given the same idea, 10 writers will write 10 different books.
There is a difference between writing fanfiction, a direct rip off, and developing your own story based on a previous used premise.
Fanfiction plays in the world of another author. It is done for the love. No money exchanges hands, although fanfic writers often go on to have successful careers, because it’s a good way to hone your skills.
A direct rip-off is someone who take another writer’s idea and writes a very similar, often an inferior work. It’s basically bad fanfic with names changed and written for profit. We’ve had a couple of instances of people doing it to us. In both cases, their books sucked. Deep inside they know it’s not their world. It didn’t come from their influences and experiences and so the end product is a clumsy, pale imitation.
An original work developed on familiar ideas is transformative by nature. It’s an author’s interpretation of a theme. These books can be wildly successful. For example, Eragon. If you are older than 15, you can literally pick out where the ideas in it came from. It isn’t doing anything new, but it does what it does in an engaging way and kids who are new to heroic fantasy love it.
Without imitation, we would never have D&D (Tolkien,) Green Arrow (Robin Hood,) Batman (Zorro,) and Star Wars (Seven Samurai.) Zorro isn’t diminished by Batman’s existence and you shouldn’t be afraid to draw inspiration. If you think you can do something better, do it. But do it through the prism of your own influences and experiences. Make it your own.
Does it ever worry you when other writers say negative things about your work? … I’m scared that someone I admire will hate my book.
There is a certain etiquette among writers. You don’t generally trash a book written by a peer simply because the world is trashing everyone’s work already and it’s polite not to add to it unless some egregious wrong has occurred in the book and you just can’t help yourself.
Not all writers adhere to this established behavior. For example, there is a writer on Twitter who sits there and retweets a negative review of one of our books. Over and over and over. Sometimes twice a day. She isn’t doing it because she hated it. She is doing it because she has nothing original to say, so her entire feed consists of retweets. Someone must’ve told her at some point that she has to maintain social media presence, so she is heroically maintaining it.
So it does happen occasionally. But the more prominent is the writer, the less likely they are to trash anyone’s book. Look at it this way: between all the social media accounts, blog, newsletter, etc, we are reaching roughly 50,000 people a day. If I pick a book at random and say, “I hated this book,” a bunch of people will run over and look at it. Some people will buy it. This is simply statistics at this point. If I dislike a book, I will never mention it because I don’t believe it deserves that boost. So I don’t think you have to worry about reading someone you admire criticizing your work.
But let’s say the worst has occurred, and your peer rips your book to pieces. You have to remember that reviews are subjective and writers are no better at being objective than anyone else. Often, if they choose to review, they do it for their own reasons and at the end, it doesn’t really matter. Did you write the book you wanted to write? Did it make you happy? Well, then all is good.
It’s hard but try to stop worrying about it. Write for yourself. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.
Hi, I’d like to know how you both got feedback as a beginning writer. Two years ago I finished my first novel, and wanted to get feedback to do edits, etc. I asked all my friends and family. Even some strangers. Only one person read a significant portion. I’ve honestly been writing much less since then because it was so disheartening when even the people closest to me didn’t have the time or interest. While I was thankful to that person, and their input was helpful, I would have liked more direction. Is that a realistic goal, or do I need to accept I’m my own editor until I write something interesting enough to score an agent’s attention?
I have a link for you: Online Workshop for SF, F, and Horror. It really helped Gordon and me when started out. The way it worked back then is that you would have 3 crit points when you joined. Three points allowed you to post a chapter of your work. To get more points, you had to critique 3 chapters by someone else.
I haven’t been a member in years and I’m not affiliated with it in any way, but it was very beneficial. It is a trial by fire though, because complete strangers will rip your fiction to shreds trying to be helpful and you have to be ok with that.
Try it out. Might be just what the doctor ordered.