Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Intellectual Property in the Air

Seven years ago, I shot straight up in bed. I had a fabulous idea for a book. It was going to be hilarious. I laughed just thinking about it, though tried to keep it quiet since the husband was sleeping next to me. I tiptoed out to my kitchen and penned the outline in the fever of maniacal giggling. I knew I had a bestseller flying from my pen to the paper. (this was back when I wrote all my novels in spiral notebooks and had no clue how to send an email.)

The entire book idea stemmed from a play on words from another bestseller. My book was going to be called How to Lose Friends and Alienate People. It was going to be a gag gift for all those positive thinking people that irritate us. It was going to be awesome.

That was seven years ago.

The book remains on my hard-drive--never submitted, though occasionally thought about.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the movies and saw a trailer for a movie that looked so lame, I determined I would never go see it. Guess what the title was.

Go ahead. Guess.

Yep: How to Lose Friends and Alienate People.

&%$%#@*$@!!!!!!!!! What are the chances????????????? (All those exclamation marks and questions marks are the representation of me stomping my feet and screaming while tearing out my hair.)

This comes two months after I read the backliner of Stephenie Meyer's The Host and realized the whole premise of her book is about two souls living in one body. Guess what.

Go ahead. Guess.

Yep. Two years ago, I wrote a book that has a bi-soul as one of the characters. The bi-soul is seriously awesome. It's schizophrenia at its finest. Though this character is a minor character, I don't want to edit her out. She's funny. She's interesting. Her history and the history of the planet she comes from intrigue me and fill me with joy that I wrote something so cool. I love my character. The book hasn't found a publisher yet, but I am not editing out my bi-soul.

I am never EVER going to read Stephenie's book (no offense Stephenie, but I wrote my bi-soul before you wrote yours). At least that way, no one can ever claim I copied.

Seriously. How is this possible? What are the chances? I really do believe that ideas are in the air like pollen riding the wind. They are waiting to be plucked and put to use. Why do I always pluck and then come late to the putting to use part? Argh!

The moral of this story is
  • Tearing out your hair is painful. I don't suggest it to anyone.
  • The cosmos feel it unfair for them to hand you a cool idea when you're going to hide it on your computer for all eternity.
  • The cosmos have a wicked sense of humor and figure if you don't use your idea, someone else ought to get a crack at it.
  • If you have an idea for something, get it written and SUBMITTED.

I'm serious. What's holding you back from submitting? I will be honest and raise my hand and be the first person to admit it was naked fear. Sometimes I get so afraid of the rejection time and time again that I hang onto my ideas with jealous fervor. But hanging too tight to your manuscripts is like trying to hang onto that slime stuff kids play with. The tighter the hold, the more slime eeks out between your fingers until you're holding nothing at all.

So do yourself a favor and submit your manuscripts. After all, you never know when someone is going to take your idea and make a lame movie out of it before you have a chance to be brilliant.


Amanda said...

Wow, this post really hits home. I love the pollen metaphor. When I was younger, I used to say that I pulled my ideas out of the air, that ideas were floating around everywhere for anyone to grab, and I'd made my claim on these. Later, my metaphor modified into more of a mass of writing ideas akin to Jung's Collective Unconscious. It's always amazing to find other writers who think in relatively the same terms.

The Golfing Librarian said...

I had a similar experience (just like, only different) One saturday night I had a brilliant idea as well, jumped up and outlined it and went back to bed. The next morning I was sitting in church tapping another idea or two into my PDA when one of my Deacons asked what I was doing. I told him I was outlining what I hoped would be a highly successful novel and told him how i envisioned it. The deacon looked dead in the eye and said " Are going to title your book "Hatchet" too? Because you just described the book to a tee."

Kimberly said...

I've had this experience already, and I'm pretty new to this writing gig. Of course, the idea was one I had about twelve years ago...

Also, I just had a brilliant idea, only to realize there were some eerie similarities to a book I'd read recently. Dang it. That was a wee bit of a let down.

Stephanie Humphreys said...

Oh, that happens to me all the time. Guess we all have to hope that our take on an idea is different enough to make it work. And thanks for the advice about pulling hair out. I threaten this to my kids on a daily basis when they are trying to push me over the edge.

Heather B. Moore said...

So very true! I have a few books on the shelf. Maybe I should dust them off before someone famous writes the same thing :) Julie, your bi-soul book sounds WAY cool! I think you should finish it or whatever it needs and get it out there.

Satima Flavell said...

You're right, Julie - the zeitgeist flitters around scattering that pollen willy-nilly and various writers inhale it. They breathe it out as stories, each believing their particular opus is unique!

A good example is the number of fantasy novels set in the Middle or Far East in recent years. (Before the millenium, fantasy settings were almost exclusively European.) We've had Lian Hearn's Ortori books, Glenda Larke's The Mirage Makers trilogy; Karen Miller's Godspeaker series, Fiona McIntosh's Percheron trilogy, Juliet Marillier's Cybele's Secret and Alison Goodman's The Two Pearls of Wisdom. All these books must have been in preparation at the same time, so there is no suggestion of plagiarism or even unintentional borrowing. Several of them feature an archetypal character - that of a woman who rises from lowly origins to become the ruler of a country or even an empire.

Yup, that Zeitgeist has a lot to answer for!:-)

Josi said...

That is seriously such a cool title--I'm totally ticked that the pollen mongers stole it from you. So sad

Wendy Toliver said...

Great post! I can feel your frustration.

Jennifer said...

Vanilla Ice learned this lesson the hard way. :D Thanks for spelling it out for us so we won't all fall into /that/ trap. :)

Curtis said...

I actually came up with the Harry Potter and Twilight ideas long before those whatstheirnames wrote them. Also, The Dark Knight? My idea. It's an epidemic!