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Anne R. Allen's Blog


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Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Hey, James Patterson Stole my Plot!

Plot theft. It tends to be on the minds of a lot of new writers.

You were planning to write that book some day. You had this brilliant plot. Now that *#%! Patterson/Nora Roberts/Stephen King has written a bestseller with the exact same premise.

Or the story is eerily similar to the one you pitched to an agent at a writer’s conference.

Or you're sure your plot will be stolen if you talk about your book online or in critique groups.

What should you do?


Writers have a lot to be wary of these days—bogus agents, inexperienced editors, overpriced coders/designers, scam publishers, draconian contracts, trollish critiquers—but plot-purloiners should not be high on the list.

Consider the old saying: “There are no new stories, just new ways of telling them.”

Experts don’t agree on the exact number of narrative plots, but there aren’t many:

The number seems to be shrinking, but everybody agrees it is finite.

So—no matter how original your story feels to you, somebody has probably told it before.

Maybe a bestselling novelist like James Patterson.

They didn’t steal it. They thought it up just the way you did.

It’s amazing how often an idea that sprouts in your brain from the seeds of your own imagination can take root in other people’s brains at the same time. Human minds often respond in similar ways to prevailing news stories, music, weather patterns or whatever—and end up generating similar thoughts.

Evolutionary biologists call this phenomenon a “meme.” The term—from the Greek mimema—meaning something imitated—was coined by biologist Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book, The Selfish Gene. He observed that certain stories, melodies, catch phrases and fashions can flash through a whole culture in a short amount of time, changing and mutating as they go. Darwin and Wallace simultaneously came up with the theory of evolution while on different sides of the world. Newton and Liebnitz simultaneously invented calculus.

This explains why we can’t copyright ideas. Everybody has them. Very often the same ones at the same time.

Unfortunately, new writers don’t always realize this, and we can embarrass ourselves with plot-theft paranoia. That’s why you never want to mention copyright in a query letter. It red-flags you as an amateur.

Of course, if you’re having severe anxiety about it, you can indeed copyright your magnum opus, although it’s not necessary under current copyright laws. And if you’re really sure nobody ever thought of mixing classic 19th century fiction with B-movie paranormal creatures, you can even copyright that logline for “Silas Marner meets Gremlins.”

 Just don’t mention this to industry professionals.

This is because delusions about the uniqueness of story ideas can get pretty off-the-wall.
Victoria Strauss at WriterBeware wrote last year about some guy who was trying to sell his plot idea on eBay for ten million dollars. He said, “It can be compared to stories like Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Matrix, Indiana Jones…and will bring in endless fame and money to anyone who takes it.”

And he’s not the only starry-eyed doofus who’s combined delusions of grandeur with total cluelessness about the effort required to actually write a novel or screenplay.

In the thread of the same post at Writer Beware, children’s author Kathleen Duey said, “I have been approached so many times by people who want me to buy a story, or who are willing to share half the proceeds if I will just do the writing. I never know what to say. I am not rude, but...really? Try that split on any other kind of business person. ‘I think that a colony on Mars would be awesome and I am willing to give a 50% share of all eventual proceeds to anyone who can make it happen.’ I am always careful to walk away, if that's what it takes, to keep anyone from telling me the idea…just in case I ever write something similar by accident.”

I’ll bet a lot of writers have been approached in a similar way. I sure have.

I have a feeling this delusion is as old as writing itself. I imagine Virgil probably met a guy at the Emperor Augustus’s orgy who said, “You’re a writer? Hey, I’ve got this idea for a book about a guy who sails around the Mediterranean. Meets up with big storms. Monsters. Some hot nookie. You can write it down and we’ll split the proceeds 50-50.”

I hope Virgil had a good lawyer.

Kathleen Duey’s instinct to run is a good one. These people can get scary. (They’re more likely to resort to lawsuits than murder, but I used it as a plot device in my comic mystery set at a small publishing house: SHERWOOD, LTD.)

When somebody approaches me with this “proposition,” I say, “the going rate for ghostwriters is $50-$100 an hour. I don’t provide that service, but I can get you a referral.”

Thing is--most writers have plenty of story ideas of our own. Our biggest fear is not living long enough to write them all.

But what do you do when somebody big like Patterson does publish a book that’s similar to yours? Even if they didn’t literally “steal” it, you can feel kind of ripped off.

Don’t despair. Memes can work in your favor. If you’re writing the final draft of your version of your Silas Marner/Gremlins mash-up, and somebody else comes out with a Silas Marner/Poltergeist  mash-up, you’re now part of a trend.

Readers tend to be sheep. If the first book is popular, they’ll want another. And if yours is better, you’re way ahead. It’s not about being first.

You can be pretty sure you’re not.

I’ll bet some guy told Virgil when he first pitched the Aeneid, “a lost dude sails around the Mediterranean after the Trojan War having adventures? Sorry, that’s been done. Haven’t you heard of that Homer guy’s story, the Odyssey?”

Hey, Virgil stole Homer’s plot!

I suppose he did--in a way. But it doesn’t seem to have hurt sales for either of them for the last couple of millennia.

It’s the telling that makes each story unique. And that’s going to be true of your story, too. It’s not about the plot. It’s about the writing. Nobody can steal that.

You should be more worried that your plot has been overdone.

Unfortunately, memes have short life spans. So it's important to keep up with what's selling in your genre. You need to know when the reader-sheep have moved on to greener pastures..

I'm not telling anybody to abandon a WIP with an well-used plotline. But be aware you're going to have to work a little harder to make it stand out. I thought I'd never want to see another vampire movie, and then Dark Shadows came out. And I laughed my head off watching Vampires Suck last night. You can always take something tired and make it fresh with humor. Or Johnny Depp.

Here are some overdone plots I see agents and readers complain about:

1) The thinly disguised memoir/rant

  • The Health-Crisis Survivor: The protagonist has cancer, lost a loved one, or has a disabled child—and after much agony, learns what’s important about life. Heart-wrenching, but misery won’t sell books unless you’re Joyce Carol Oates.

  • My Terrible Childhood: Child abuse is tragic stuff, but after somebody has seen 1000 versions Bastard Out Of Carolina, she gets calluses on her eyeballs.

  • Days of Wine and Roses: Too many addicts have twelve-stepped before you. It’s hard to make a story of  “I was soooo f***ed up” sound fresh. Journal about it, and use your insights in other work.

  • The Government Sux: Most of what you’re ranting about will probably be old news by launch date, even if you self-publish. This is why we have blogs.

2) The wish-fulfillment road-trip fantasy

  • Me and Bobby McGee: Unappreciated husband leaves soul-stifling life for the freedom of the road. He picks up a sexy hitchhiker who teaches him what’s important about life and some nifty things to do in bed. Been there, read that.

  • Thelma and Louise: Unappreciated housewives leave soul-stifling lives for the freedom of the road. Sounds fun, but we all know how it ends.

  • Zen and the Art of… Same story, with motorcycle/sailboat/classic Corvette.

3) Obvious or copy-cat plot devices

  • Grail Quests: J. R. R. Tolkien provides some pretty stiff competition in the “searching for a magical object” category. If you saddle this old warhorse, make sure it takes you somewhere wildly original and/or funny.

  • Wardrobing to Narnia: I’ve seen a lot of agents kvetch about the proliferation of “portals” in SciFi/Fantasy queries. Pop your characters to fantasy worlds by magic toaster or something.

  • The Chosen Hero: the ordinary Harry Potter-type kid who doesn’t know he’s the anointed hero destined to fight the Evil One and save the school/civilization/planet. Old when young Arthur pulled the sword out of that stone. 

  • Improbable high school love fantasies: Dorky new kid in school attracts the most popular kid of opposite sex. Been done. With sparkles. Just once, we’d like to see dork meets dork.

  • Creatures of the Night: The curtain has fallen on werewolves and vampires.

  • The Da Vinci Homage: If your hero has found a secret code or artifact that holds the key to a shocking revision of ecclesiastical history, you’d better set it on Mars or reveal the fetid meatballs at the Pastafarian heart of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or you’re going to have a hard time.

  • A writer writing a novel: We’re told to write what we know, which is probably why most writers try this one. But you’ll do better with a story about your day job at the laundromat.

On the other hand, oldies can be goodies in the right hands. Nothing was more tired than the English boarding school melodrama before J. K. Rowling put her spin on it.

The way to avoid this is to read books in your genre before you start. It’s essential to know what’s out there. You may think you’re the first person ever to think of mashing up B-movies with classics, and unless you look at your local bookstore shelves and see Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, you won’t know it’s been done, and you’ll think “Seth Grahame-Smith stole my plot!”

What about you, scriveners? Have you ever had your brilliant plot show up in somebody else’s book? Have you had somebody try to sell you a plot or use their plot and split the proceeds 50-50? What did you do? Have you tried to write a book with one of the overdone plots? (I sure have: writer writing a novel—still have it in a drawer.)

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Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Anne—this post is a thing of beauty. I especially love: "I've got a great idea. All you have to do is write it down—"

How many times have we heard that?

Let us count the ways. lmao

June 10, 2012 at 10:54 AM  
Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

There are only so many ideas. It's all in how we tell them.
Really glad none of mine are on that list though!
Excellent post!!

June 10, 2012 at 11:24 AM  
Anonymous Gemma Buxton said...

Great post as always! Dork meets dork you say...

June 10, 2012 at 11:42 AM  
Blogger Callie Leuck said...

Ha! This is great. And yes, a lot of new writers tend to think that, not understanding how ideas work. One of my favorite writers even has a page explaining why she won't read your story.

I used to never share information about my stories, but I do now. Not a lot, but it's there. I think, even if someone "stole my plot" they'd not know enough about the characters or the world to write the same story. It would still be very different.

I especially love your breakdown of different plots, and how you ended it by noting "On the other hand, oldies can be goodies in the right hands." And with the right twist.

Like Alex, I was also relieved to not see any plot I'm working with on this list. They might still be tired/overused, but if so at least they're not ones that pop straight to mind! :)

June 10, 2012 at 11:46 AM  
OpenID robertatrahan said...

Well said, Anne! Good grief - if I had a nickel for every time someone tried to pitch me an idea...

A few years back, Mercedes Lackey released a book set in the same obscure location as my WIP. Shortly thereafter another best-selling fantasy author released a book with the same title. At first I felt completely undone. Then I realized that I could choose to see myself as being in good company.

My book is due out in September -- same setting and same title -- but in my voice. Originality lies in the point of view, not the story concept.

June 10, 2012 at 11:55 AM  
Blogger Vera Soroka said...

I get ideas from other authors all the time. It's usually a word in the title or a picture of the cover that sparks something. Even an idea that has been done before can be creativly told in your own twisted way.

June 10, 2012 at 12:47 PM  
Blogger Charley Robson said...

Haha, fantastic post Anne! And now you've given me the urge to write a story where a pair of dorky teenagers get transported to the realm of the Flying Spaghetti Monster by a rancid meatball portal and must track down the Magical Macguffin of doom before everyone is devolved into tagliatelle by the sexy hitchiker that they picked up on the way ....

You have officially broken my imagination xD

June 10, 2012 at 1:38 PM  
Blogger Anne Gallagher said...

Oh yes. After spending a lifetime reading historical romance, I've seen every single plot line imaginable. But as you say, it's all in the telling. Other people might take your idea (which wasn't really "yours" to begin with -- universal mind and all that) but it's what you do with it that makes it different from everything else.

"reader sheep" snorted soda on that one.

June 10, 2012 at 1:52 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ruth—Non-writers don’t seem to have a clue what a tough job it is to “just write down the words”. TV shows like “Castle” don’t help. Have you ever seen that guy actually writing his books?

Alex—You’re right. There are only so many ideas.

Gemma—Yeah. I might have to write that dork meets dork story…

Callie—Thanks for the link to Clare Dunkle’s post. I think a lot of well-known writers have that policy. Like Kathleen Duey, they have to protect themselves.

Roberta—Best of luck with your launch. Since you’re officially now part of a meme, I predict good sales. :-)

Vera—I love taking a tried and true plot and getting twisted with it!

Charley—I am definitely reading that book!

Anne—Romance is a great example (especially popular subgenres like Regency) Some people would say they’re all the same: Girl meets boy. Girl hates boy. Boy hates girl. Girl discovers boy isn’t so bad after all. Ditto Boy. They get married. But readers never get tired of it.

June 10, 2012 at 2:13 PM  
Anonymous mark williams international said...

Shakespeare is of course one of the greatest examples of plot-borrowing in literary history. And a reminder that, however many original plots there actually are, they were old long before young William was a twinkle in Mr. and Mrs. Shakespeare's eyes.

What matters is the delivery. The USP. The twist. The new angle.

Combine that with some good writing, aimed at your target niche audience (yes, even Rowling and King write for niche audiences) and you're in with a chance.

June 10, 2012 at 8:26 PM  
Blogger Jessica R. Patch said...

Such a great post! I don't think I've ever scrolled as slow as I did when you talked about what not to write. LOL Mine is not there. Phew! :)

June 11, 2012 at 5:21 AM  
Blogger Churadogs said...

Hahahahah. Wonderful post. Yeah, all you have to do is just write it down. Like Michelangelo to bystander: "See, all I do is just chisel away anything that isn't David. It's easy. Anybody can do it. " Right.

June 11, 2012 at 6:02 AM  
Blogger Christine Monson said...

Anne- Your post is right on the money. There are a lot of terrific story ideas out there as well as plots that are recycled over and over again. It's the writers job to bring them to life and give them a new twist and different perspective. Writing a story is the hard part, not coming up with the idea. I have a whole file cabinet of ideas; I don't need anyone's help there which is most likely true for all writers and authors. A great referance book on the same subject is Thomas C. Foster's "How to Read Literature Like A Professor." By the way, I had the same concept as Harry Potter back in 1992. Rowling beat me to it and I am extremely confident in saying this, "hers was much better and I'm glad she wrote it!"

June 11, 2012 at 6:21 AM  
Blogger Delaney Diamond said...

I hear people talking about copyright infringement all the time because one person tells a story with similar elements to another story. A lot of people don't understand that ideas can't be copyrighted.

As for getting pitched ideas, it hasn't happened to me often, but it does happen.

You said: "Thing is--most writers have plenty of story ideas of our own. Our biggest fear is not living long enough to write them all." Yes! I have to get mine down first before I can entertain any others. Lol.

June 11, 2012 at 7:20 AM  
Blogger christine A said...

What? My idea is not original? It came to me out of nowhere. Or was it a dream? I actually like the idea that there are only so many stories to be told. It makes us all seem more connected. Less like strangers to each others souls. Feeling a bit esoteric this AM I guess!

June 11, 2012 at 9:13 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Mark--You're so right. Nobody stole like the Bard. I don't think one of his stories was original. Doesn't seem to have hurt his sales. :-)

Jessica--I started collecting that list of overused plots a while ago, and I have to admit that I'd started stories with a lot of them. Luckily they bored me as fast as they bore most readers.

Chura--Right "just chip away everything that isn't David" is like "just write down the words." Soooo easy. Right.

Christine--I'll have to check out Foster's book. So you didn't sue JK Rowling for stealing your Parry Hotter idea?

Delaney--Isn't it amazing that people think we can't come up with our own ideas? They don't realize that those ideas are what keep us writing. Writing somebody else's idea would be nothing but a slog.

Christine--What a great way of looking at it. Jung said the human race has a "collective unconscious" and you're right--that keeps us connected.

June 11, 2012 at 9:27 AM  
Blogger Judith Mercado said...

I am reminded that human beings have existed for millennia with pretty much the same anatomy and, yet, billions of tries later, still manage to emerge as unique beings. Could it be that they all have unique stories to tell as well?

June 11, 2012 at 10:46 AM  
Blogger Cathryn Leigh said...

Ha H I think my current WIP is something between Wardrobing to Narnia and the Chosen Hero – Lets hope my characters, setting and narrative voice work out well for me.

(And Charley I’ll help you write that book if you like! *giggles* - Your imagination is so far past broke, it’s a beautiful mosaic! *grins*)

Oh and thank you for stating what I think I already believed. I’m not nearly as paranoid as my husband would like me to be (okay he does computer security for a living). Stealing plots is one of the few things I worry about – after all if they get it out there before me and become a best seller... well then maybe I wouldn’t have.

After all it’s about putting your best foot forwards and a dash of luck right? *grins*

June 11, 2012 at 12:54 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Judith--Or we all have the same story and a different way of telling it...

Cathryn--If somebody has the same idea as yours and writes a bestseller, then you're on the cutting edge of a trend. Nothing like being trendy!

June 11, 2012 at 6:45 PM  
Blogger Hayley N. Jones said...

I always find it hard to keep a straight face when someone says 'I have an idea for a novel' as if it's something rare and marvellous. Yeah, you and everyone else! Great post.

June 12, 2012 at 3:54 AM  
Blogger Tina Haapala said...

Years ago, I was sure my dating experiences would make great chick-lit fodder-- I was even living the life while writing the first draft "in my head". Basically, I decided to make all the mistakes with one guy, because we were doomed anyway. A year later "How to lose a guy in 10 days" premiered, and I was like-- HOW DID THEY KNOW? Although my guy was certainly not Matthew McConeghey (no, I don't know how to spell that).

June 12, 2012 at 6:36 AM  
Anonymous Sue McGinty said...

New, and experienced, writers have so much to think about they needn't worry about their plots being stolen. That needed to be said (and resaid) so thanks Anne.

June 12, 2012 at 8:41 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Hayley--It is indeed. I always try to be kind, because most people are sincere and are bringing up their story idea to try to establish something you have in common. But it's hard when they're so clueless about the effort involved with "just writing down the words" of a novel.

Tina--OK, I had to look it up. It's McConaughey. In the old days they would have made him change his name to Mick Matthews or something easier.

Oh, the chick lit plots we've lived! But the "love springs when you set out to be the world's worst companion" plot has worked pretty well for a lot of years. Shakespeare used it in Taming of the Shrew. So if you wanted to use it, I don't think you'd have to worry that movie said everything there is to say on the subject. I'd read that book!

Sue--You're right that it needs to be said and said often. More clueless people out there than savvy ones.

June 12, 2012 at 9:43 AM  
Blogger Sierra Godfrey said...

Anne, your recommendation on combating such propositions by saying "I say, 'the going rate for ghostwriters is $50-$100 an hour. I don’t provide that service, but I can get you a referral.' is an excellent one.

But I did have a question with one thing you said:

"Writers have a lot to be wary of these days—bogus agents, inexperienced editors, overpriced coders/designers, scam publishers, draconian contracts, trollish critiquers—but plot-purloiners should not be high on the list."

I'm curious about the overpriced coders/designers. As a graphic design who often does web design, my prices are based on an hourly rate, and I never price jobs to take advantage of people--especially authors who may not have much capital but who need a professional website. My concern with the comment is: what is overpriced and what's that based on? Obviously, someone who tells you a project is thousands of dollars is kidding themselves and you, but who does that? And how are those people even getting jobs by being so silly?

Design is sometimes seen as a throwaway expense. Best thing to do is find out what the going hourly rate is for designers (and any other discipline/service) and weigh that with the person's experience. Otherwise, anything can be seen as overpriced.

June 13, 2012 at 9:21 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sierra--Thanks for stopping by! When I talk about overpriced coders and book designers I'm not talking about experienced professionals like you.

I'm talking about set-ups designed especially for newbie self-pubbers that sometimes can take advantage, providing sloppy combinations of stock images at inflated prices, or sloppy coding and book design that isn't much better than what the author could do herself.

There are of course standard price guides for services and I suggest people do research into standard pricing before hiring anybody.

Ditto editing. These services can be legitimately very pricey, so people should do their homework--and decide what services they want to pay for--before they hire anybody. And beware of anybody who promises miracles in exchange for big bux.

June 13, 2012 at 9:54 AM  
Blogger Laura Pauling said...

I know of several YA spy novels coming out in the next 6 months and another author that is writing one. I said, "Yay!" I'll be on board if it becomes a trend. Their sales will only help mine. And I can't wait to read them. :)

June 13, 2012 at 7:04 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Laura--Hooray! You're part of a meme! That's seriously good news.

June 13, 2012 at 7:48 PM  
Anonymous Dale Kathryn Grove said...

Hi Anne,
Really enjoyed reading your post. It made me laugh because of the paranoia people have about someone stealing their ideas... and years later, one of my friend`s money making story has yet to be written...by her at least. :) Love reading your blog!

June 14, 2012 at 12:57 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Dale--LOL. I think we all have friends with that "money-making idea"...the one they can never seem to "write down". That's because money can't be your only motive for writing. You have to be in love with the writing process or you'll never do it. Writing is harder work than any non-writer knows. It's frustrating trying to explain that, isn't it?

June 14, 2012 at 9:53 AM  
Anonymous Phyllis Humphrey said...

Great blog. Yes I've had the "I'll give you the idea and you write the book for half" offer. I always answer with what you indicated: "I won't live long enough to use all the ideas in my head." True story: a friend of mine had a "clone Jesus" plot 20 or 30 years ago, wrote his book and his agent said, "I've received seven more just like that."

June 14, 2012 at 7:23 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Phyllis--I met somebody with that "clone Jesus" plot too! I didn't know it was so common. Funny none of the books have made it into the bestsellers. Maybe because the authors thought the logline was so spectacular they didn't bother to learn to write well. Those 50/50 people with the "great ideas" can be kind of scary. I used one for the villain in Sherwood, Ltd.

June 15, 2012 at 9:52 AM  
Blogger James Piper said...

"calluses on her eyeballs" Interesting phrase.

June 16, 2012 at 11:26 AM  
Anonymous courses in social media said...


June 17, 2012 at 5:59 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

James--That was a fun one to come up with. :-)

Courses--I'm not sure if you're a spammer or just not feeling very creative, so I'll leave it up for now.

June 18, 2012 at 4:39 PM  
Anonymous Cole Carroll said...

This is a touching post, Anne. I have also had bouts with depressive thoughts. For a time, I was reading lots of books on government corruption and animal abuse and other extremely depressing topics. My 'enlightenment' took me down a very dark road. I started to believe the world was inherently cruel and could only see all the horrible things going on around us. It culminated in a flight back to Colorado from Vegas where I was tortured by these horrible thoughts of the plane exploding. Awful stuff.

I pulled myself out of it by cutting out reading about anything negative or 'news' related, because it is 99% negative anyway. I also started spending more time around the people in my life who tended to be in a good mood, and conversely cut out all the negative influences.

For a while, I was writing thriller type books. But the subject matter that tortured my mind seemed to constantly bleed over into my plots and characters and it soon became a dreadful thing to work on the book because it reminded me of all the things that depress me in the first place.

I read a David Mitchell quote that said something like, 'Every great author has a central theme that their writing revolves around.'

So I don't think you can just shut out the feelings you have from your writing, but you can't entirely submerge yourself in them either or you'll go crazy.

I've found a happy medium where I can explore some of those topics that challenge me in life, yet create science fiction stories that are removed from our actual world, and it becomes less stressful because I'm not stuck on things as they are, but perhaps as they could be with a strong hero to overcome obstacles. I'm able to detach myself from the stories and they become fun to create again.

Sometimes, I think the more you read and learn about life, the more prone you can be to depression. I've found it helpful simply to socialize more, joke around, and try not to think about things you can't control so much. Also, I try and read 10 minutes of a happy or inspiring book each morning to get my mind on the right track immediately and stay off twitter for the first half of the day, because there's usually someone posting some negative news about something going wrong in the world.

Glad to know I'm not alone with the struggle to be happy. I think most authors are very introspective and thoughtful people, but that depth can be a doubled-edged sword.

June 18, 2012 at 9:50 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Cole--Thanks much for the thoughtful comment. (Which I know you meant to put in the depression thread, not the plot theft thread. Scrolling too far is an easy mistake I've made many times myself.) Lots of wisdom here. I do agree that one of the best antidotes to depression is turning off the news-noise. The 24 hour news cycle is a terrible thing. They have to invent conflict in order to feed it. And that's just creating unnecessary anxiety.

I love the idea of starting every day reading an uplifting book instead of the downers in the newspaper. I personally read the comics first. :-) I have since childhood.

Thanks for this great comment!

June 19, 2012 at 11:54 AM  
Blogger LK Watts said...

Hi Anne,

Some seriously good points here. My plot line for my third book came to me while reading a Sophie Kinsella novel. Although her book has a completely different theme, it's funny how inspiration can strike you like this. I know some writers who take twists on certain themes from several different books and come up with their stories in that sense.

June 20, 2012 at 4:48 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

LK--Sophie Kinsella is great inspiration :-) Actually I think the best literature does exactly that: takes archetypal characters and storylines from several different sources and puts them together in a way that feels universal. That's certainly what Shakespeare did. I realized that watching all of "Firefly" over the last several weeks. It's a mash-up of Robin Hood and Star Trek and Gunsmoke with Buffy humor. A brilliant show way before its time. Yes,I realize I compared Joss Whedon to Shakespeare in that paragraph, and I stand by it.

June 20, 2012 at 8:55 AM  
Blogger Cathryn Leigh said...

Anne - *grins* I'll stand by you with your annalogy of Joss Whedon to Shakespeare. I've always thought of Firefly as a space western - but your analogy might be more accurate. *giggles*

June 20, 2012 at 10:40 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Cathryn--Thanks. I didn't realize I thought that until it was written down. Then I said--yeah. He deserves it. Shakespeare was a pop writer too. Firefly is definitely a space western, but Capt. Mal is such a Robin Hood guy. And Jayne is Little John, and the Shepherd is Friar Tuck. They live in their own private world, where they're always in danger from the authorities. Sherwood in space. :-)

BTW, I'm so glad you're liking Ghostwriters in the Sky! I hope you like Sherwood, Ltd., too.

June 20, 2012 at 10:51 AM  
OpenID ninabadzin.com said...

This post is so excellent I don't even know where to start. "Just once we'd like to see dork meets dork." That's perfection. Also loved "delusions about the uniqueness of story"

Informative AND funny. Loved it.

June 20, 2012 at 3:20 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Nina--Thanks much. And thanks for the RT. I'm so glad you liked the post. I think a lot of writers have had to deal with the delusional types. It gets a little scary.

June 21, 2012 at 10:43 AM  
Blogger Fiona Ingram said...

When I approached British agents (seems like forever ago) among all the standard no thanks letters, one replied that she loved my idea BUT someone else had pitched her a similar story (also set in Egypt) and it was not Rick O'Riordan in case you're wondering. WHAT??? was my immediate reaction. The agent decided to go with the other writer. I have never seen anything similar to my own story (although there are possibly gazillions of permutations)and yet I still look out for it. My MG novel is called The Secret of the Sacred Scarab so it's not hard to get Google alerts around Egypt/quest etc. I often wonder what would have happened had she chosen my story...

June 22, 2012 at 11:35 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Fiona--What editors abd agents consider "similar" can often simply mean that it's in the same genre--as in "we already have a historical mystery set in the British Isles. We're only looking for Aussie zombie-pocolypses." So you probably wouldn't recognize the book that they thought was "too similar". Ruth Harris is going to be talking about those arbitrary rejections on the blog tomorrow. Mostly they don't mean much except that you should keep submitting. You may have dodged a bullet.

June 23, 2012 at 9:15 AM  

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