Recently I had the strangest experience while reading a book.
I was reading an ARC (advance reading copy) of a book scheduled to be published later this year and I couldn’t shake the sneaking suspicion that I had read it before. Not only couldn’t I shake the feeling, but I knew when I had read it, the title, and what had happened. It was a manuscript I had requested and was looking forward to reading but eventually rejected because I thought it still needed a lot of work.
While I’m positive this is not the same author or the same book in a new package, I was amazed at how much the ideas matched. The settings were similar, the hero’s background was almost identical, his profession was the same, and I even wondered, but couldn’t remember, if the hero’s name was the same. The truth though is that there were enough differences, enough things that I doubt the author would have changed in a rewrite, to make the books different. I know the heroine’s profession had changed, as well as her personality. I also know that there were more characters in this book and some of the back story of each of the protagonists had been altered enough that I knew it couldn’t be the same author. And more important, the execution of each book was completely different.
No, I don’t think anyone plagiarized or stole an idea. What I think is that there are very few amazing and original ideas out there. The truth is that most of you are writing from a box of ideas, and what really matters when writing your book is the execution. I’ve seen a thousand different cozy mysteries and hundreds of vampire submissions. None of these are really new ideas. What makes a book dance for me (and for editors) is the execution. Sure we’re intrigued and initially pick up the book based on an idea, but in the end, when we offer representation or buy the book for the publisher, we’re making that decision based on how well you executed the idea and how much you made it your own at that time.
So when you hear that someone else is writing your idea, don’t sweat it, just make your execution that much stronger.