Monday, November 24, 2008

The Paranoid Writer

Say the word ‘writer’ and the first words that come to mind are creative, solitary, and maybe even eccentric. But how about paranoid? Ask any writer and most will admit to experiencing paranoia concerning their writing at some point in their career. Sometimes it never goes away. Most cases of writer paranoia are related to either someone stealing their work or their ideas. While written work is automatically copyrighted the moment it’s put down on paper, ideas can’t be copyrighted. They’re out there for the taking and a writer can’t do a thing about it. In our creative paranoid minds, how does this happen? I’ve made a list of several types of writer-related paranoia we all might be familiar with:

Web Site Paranoia - the fear of putting first chapters on your web site and someone steals your idea from there.

Critique Partner Paranoia - the fear that one of your critique partners will trash your idea, then turn around and write a book using the very same idea.

Contest Paranoia - the fear that a judge reading your entry will steal your idea and write a similar story.

Submission Paranoia - the fear that an editor will read your submission, like your idea, but want one of her established authors to write the book instead and she gives the idea to them. (I doubt this happens but I’ve talked to several authors who genuinely have this fear. Some have it so bad, it keeps them from submitting their work.)

Synchronicity Paranoia - the fear that another writer will come up with the same idea at the same time out of pure coincidence.

Synchronicity is the paranoia I deal with at least once a month. I must confess that as I peruse the paranormal romance reviews in the latest issue of Romantic Times Magazine, I’m not looking for more books to add to my TBR pile (found a few anyway, not that the pile needed to get any higher). No, I’m looking to see if any books coming out are similar to the one I’m working on now. Each time the new releases are listed, I panic that some other author will have come up with the same idea. I worry that the book I have slaved over for two years will be worthless because some one else has beat me to the publishing punch. Are my fears justified? By the laws (or is it rules?) of synchronicity, they might very well be.

My current story has a dragon shapeshifter in it. “But that idea has been done before,” you say. Yes, but not quite the way I’ve done it (and no, I’m not going to tell you the twist). As far as I can tell, my take on the dragon shapeshifter story idea is different and unique. But it’s only going to be unique until somebody else thinks of it. So what’s a writer to do? The only thing I can do--finish polishing the book and get it out to editors and agents as fast as I can. I can’t control whether it gets published or not but if I don’t put it out there, it most certainly won’t be and someone--maybe next month, maybe next year-- will come up with the same brilliant idea and beat me to it. I don’t want that to happen. In the game of synchronicity, I want to be the one who beats somebody else to the idea first.


  1. So far I haven't seen any books with villainous gnomes in romance, but I hear you on fear of synchronicity!

    Jody W.

  2. Gah! MY current wip has dragon shapeshifters! :) I'm sure it's not like yours.

    Synchronicity is a fear (how many chicklit-shapeshifter-vampire-roguish rakes can fit on the shelves?) but it's all in the execution.

    Good luck with your dragons!

  3. I don't worry about Synchronicity because I believe everyone has a unique story to tell.

    By the way, I'd be willing to read quite a few books on dragon shape-shifters.

  4. We ALL fear synchronicity. That's why I actually limit my exposure to other ideas. I don't want that too much other info and I would be heartbroken to find another person taking my twist.

    I try to remember we all write different worlds since my NEW Wip is...wait for it...a dragon shifter. And yes he is unique.


    Talia (who believes great minds think alike...just not EXACTLY alike)

  5. See what I mean. 2 writers doing dragon shifters just in the comments alone. Argh!!! (Just kidding). At least mine's not a brotherhood of them -- in my series, he's the only one.

  6. I understand your worry about synchronicity. How can I not? I write about wolf shapeshifters-can you say "a cast of thousands"? But I think my take is unusual and my voice is my own. So as I sell, I just need to figure out how to market me and my book. It will be an adventure, for sure.