Alex Cavanaugh, the guy who happens to be everywhere, has recently started the Insecure Writer's Support Group. It's a group created for folks just like me, that is, folks who are a wee bit insecure about what they're doing with this whole 'writing' thing. So far, I think something like a million people have signed up. Please follow the link above to read stories from all the fragile writer's out there.
Sigh. So many writers, and I count myself among them, have this fragile confidence about what they are doing and how they are doing it. And what the final product looks like. In fact, if I were to use myself as a guide, I'd say that the internal debate I have is often whether or not I should just quit.
But I'll be thinking that while I'm writing away. So I'm not sure it matters.
Imagine you spend months, er, years, working on a single book, having it finished, then scrapping it, starting over, finishing it, then editing it half a dozen times, realizing that there is a major plot hole, rewriting again. And again. And again. Well, I did all of those things, partially because the novel I'm discussing was my first novel I ever wrote, and it needed a bunch of work to make it readable.
Now, what happens when you, after the better part of a decade of constant reworking your manuscript, pick up a book and find out it is so similar to yours that it might make yours deemed a rip off should it ever see the light of day?
Cause I read a book last week that was sorta that way for me. It, well, it gave me a bit of weird feeling. I kinda reviewed it here and didn't get into any of why it gave me a such an icky feeling. Mostly because that feeling I got had nothing to do with the book itself, but instead of what it reminded me of.
It reminded me of my unpublished novel... a lot. After reading it I got this sinking feeling that if my book ever gets published folks who have read them both might think I was copying plot elements straight over. I figured I could do a quick checklist to see if I'm right.
Present/near future? Check
NASA centric? Check
Hastily thrown together mission to NEO (near earth object)? Check
NEO is Alien artifact? Check.
Astronauts explore artifact? Check
Misguided Astronauts sabotage mission? Check
Folks get stranded on NEO? Check
I could keep going here. There are other similarities that are apparent to me, but those get deeper into the plot twists area that I'd rather not get into now. Now, there are differences, the book I read was a multi-veiwpoint thrid person and mine is a first person narrative. There's is a pretty big difference in main characters. In fact, lots of that sort of stuff is very different. In fact, when I look at character arcs, the stories aren't alike at all.
But it got me thinking about how many similarities two works can have before people start crying foul. I'm reading a book now that is clearly a retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo, I read a book last year that was clearly a retelling of Shakespeare's, Hamlet. Folks generally think doing that is brilliant. But there the characters are essentially the same and the settings are changed. What my story has is the same setting, but with different characters.
Is there a difference? Is one more acceptable than the other? I don't know. I do know that science fiction is a genre that has lots and lots of stories that are similar to one another.
All I can do, I guess, in the end, is to let other people tell me if I'm ripping someone else off.
But that won't stop me from worrying about it.