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Author Topic: Protecting an Immature Novel
Member # 7974

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Fellow Hatrackers, I've wondered about how some of you post the names of your developing stories on forums or on blogs. You talk about your characters--using their names and describing their appearances--and about plot details. At times, I want to do this but worry about the more unique names or concepts showing up in someone else's story before I finish mine. This is particularly a concern with novels.

Am I paranoid? What are the advantages and disadvantages of talking openly about a novel that isn't yet ready for publishers?

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Member # 3233

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If twenty people wrote stories from the same information, one would have twenty different stories. I base the posting of my story ideas on that.

From where I am looking, the only real problem is if a publisher got several stories with a similar plot, yours might not be accepted. The original author has a head start on the story. The one stealing the story would only have an advantage if they can write a whole lot faster than the original author.

If it went to the legal route, over who stole what, there is the fact that the author has the on line record of what he was working on over time. the other person would have to show some proof that they had never seen the posts, or that they were working on it ahead of time.

Others will tell you the real low down on this, but this is how I see it.

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Member # 9183

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I've just been going through the writing excuses podcasts again to and from work. A couple of points were made.
- Brandon mentioned that if you leave details about a wip, it leaves the reading audience in suspense for too long of a time that they may lose interest.
- In another episode, someone responded to a question that JK Rowling, Dan Brown, and Stephanie Meyer ripped their stories off of someone else. The comment was of course they didn't and that most professional writers have more ideas than they know what to do.

I've posted some of my ideas, but for me- I can't call myself more than a dabbler until I finish this first novel. I don't see any advantage to posting details, but at the same time, I am not fearful of having my idea taken. By the time I'm done with the story, it will likely be significantly changed anyway.

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Member # 9072

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I think the thing you don't want stolen is the gimmick- the part that doesn't really matter but makes it unique. For example, I wouldn't be too concerned about doing a vampire story, but I would certainly not do a glittery vampire story (ok, I would never do a glittery vampire story even if it had never been done, but that is beside the point).
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Member # 2651

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Plagiarism occurs but is extremely rare.

It really isn't worth worrying about unless you genuinely think you have THE best killer no-one-in-the history-of-writing-thought-of-this-before idea.

Which the vast majority of writers, frankly, don't.

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Member # 9314

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Worrying that someone will steal your idea is pretty silly, no offense. Anyone who would bother trying is probably such an n00b that they wouldn't have a chance at getting published anyway. And as was already pointed out, 50 of us could write a story about a sentient walrus named Norma who has to overcome the evil walrus overlord, and we'd all end up with different stories.

No one is going to take your idea, in other words, because we all have our own.

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Member # 7974

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It's not copyright issues that concern me. Part of what makes fiction writing interesting is that writers share ideas and influence each others' stories. Anyway, a good number of people who would help me against a true thief, the kind that steals another person's work.

But what are the effects of discussing story specifics on future marketing, for example?

Let's say I am writing a novel about a human-walrus chimera who was allowed to develop into a woman named Norma. She must overcome her brother, another chimera using public fear and curiosity to suit his evil purposes, before he or another group can turn her into a martyr.

To non-writers, this idea might look ridiculous until they can read passages of the story and judge the writing style. As an unpublished writer, would I put them off by talking about the story before it's finished?

Would editors doubt my professionalism? Most full-time professionals keep details within their inner circles until the novel sells. Why is that?

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Member # 5512

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It's usually harder to develop someone else's idea than to develop your own.

Also, ideas are easy. It's putting them into something more that's the hard part.

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Member # 9314

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Um, wait, so you're worried about non-writers coming on a writing board and reading about an idea for a book you haven't sold and then being put off so that if later you sell the book they won't buy it? Did I read that correctly? Because hopefully the silliness of that notion comes out in my paraphrasing.

Look, you don't "ruin" or "waste" an idea by talking about it. You can't even do that by writing it. Or even selling it. If I want to write stories and novels about the same idea in 50 different ways, I can. The idea is just an idea, all that counts in the end is the execution. No one cares about the idea, not readers, not editors, not other writers. So don't worry about it

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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aspirit, there are lots of reasons why people don't like to talk about their works in progress. Fear of plagiarism is one, but it's not the only one.

Some authors (those with followings, mainly) actually do talk up what they're working on, to get a "buzz" going. But they do that because they already have fans and they can encourage them to stay fans by getting them excited about what is in the works.

I don't think talking about your stuff will affect marketing in any other ways. This just isn't that big a forum, and I just don't think such things are that searchable (or findable, even).

Talking about what you're working on here is not very likely to affect future marketing of the story. Really. I'd be very surprised if editors had time (much less inclination) to go looking for what you've said about your work.

And readers are going to read and decide when they read the finished product. Reading 13 lines and the feedback on them is not going to make a lot of difference to readers one way or another.

I hope this helps.

By the way, another reason some writers don't talk about what they are working on is because of the risk of their subconsciouses deciding that their stories have been told (in the telling about them), and so they don't need to be worked on any more. If their stories aren't already down on paper, writers worry that they've lost them by talking about them. Does that make sense?

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Member # 8082

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One, I think sharing ideas creates synergy. I hear a good idea from someone which then becomes something else in my mind and they hear something they like from me and we both shape the ideas to fit our unique vision.

Two, in David Farland's Daily kick he talks alot about resonance. Which is readers finding things that are similar to other things they know and already like. Most readers don't take the risk and reach for a completely orginal (or in other words strange) story. They want more of what they love just put in different clothes. He said that Hunger games resonated a lot with Twilight lovers.

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Member # 7974

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kdw, your last remark does make sense. Perhaps I'm one of those writers who is protecting her stories from herself. This discussion helped me see that I will worry regardless of what is said.
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Member # 9151

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I can see it would be easy not to finish a story if you put the idea out early and people said it was a dumb idea. It's a massive bucket of cold water over the head, but I've learned you just have to push through. After it's published you can always go back and ask if they're sure they don't want to read the whole story.

As for unique ideas - how would anyone know - If I had been sitting next to jk rowling on the train the day she came up with harry potter and I asked her what she was working on and she said a boy wizard that goes to a magic school called hogwarts and there's an evil wizard and a good wizard - the boy has a scar and two best friends. and there's a sorcerer stone and they all have wands. I still would have had no clue that this would such a big hit. I would have shaken my head and said sound interesting, and went about my business. Even if she went into more detail I still would not have known if it's a successful idea or not. No one can know that till it happens. Writings to complex. It's not the same as stealing a market concept or invention, but again who would have guessed a smily button or elmo doll or cabbage patch doll or beany baby would become so popular.

Just my 2cents,


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