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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

What if my idea is like someone else's?

Hi Liana,

I am not sure what to do when I have an idea and it is really, really similar to other books I have read. I don’t know how if it would be ok to actually publish a book like that (not that I am even close to finishing it yet). I know that some books are like that, but my ideas are really close to other books. Would it be ok to have a book similar to another book?

- A Young Author

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Dear Young Author,

   The not-so-well-kept secret of publishing is that all books are like other books. Harry Potter and Star Wars? Same story! Pride and Prejudice and Midsummer Nights Dream? Same story! We reuse the same plots and ideas time and again. The plucky young farm lad with a destiny he never guessed has been the framework of epic fantasy for centuries, if not longer.

   The difference between these books isn't the plot, it's the Voice of the author.

    Most writers start with fanfic or a variation of fanfic. They learn to write by retelling their favorite stories. Eventually, during the retelling, the story changes to something unique. The more you write, the more you pick up a unique cadence and style that becomes your Voice.

    Keep writing. Keep exploring new ideas. Keep trying new things.

   And don't stress about whether a book can be published until you have written it, edited it, polished it, and are ready to query agents or editors. Most stories won't make it past the Written and Edited stage of life. I average one in ten stories making it from Idea to Finished Manuscript. And only one of those ten survives editing to go on to be queried for publication. That's the nature of books. They don't all survive to publication.

   Sometimes the story isn't right. Sometimes you just lose passion for the project, and if you aren't willing to reread your book 100 times, you won't want to edit it. Don't be afraid to put a story down if it isn't working for you. There will be stories you can come back to, and others you'll wind up tearing up for parts. Stealing a character or a setting for a new book. That's fine.

   Storytelling is an art form. It is meant to change, to grow, to be destroyed, and to be reformed from the ashes.

   Keep writing. Find your Voice. Keep chasing the stories you love.

- Liana

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