How To Deal With An Author Publishing A Novel Similar to Yours

There I was beavering away on book three when I discovered that a well-known author might be about to publish a novel with the same central concept as mine. I had logged onto the early reviews and a reader had mentioned the words, ‘a mother with a secret.’ Oh, Christ, I thought, and so began my two-day long endurance until the book came out.

I bought it and read in a frenzy that ripped the pages and wrecked the spine. Huh – take that, stupid book! Reader, it was all I could do not to stamp on the thing, because what stared up at me was virtually the same book as mine. It even had an almost identical opening scene.

It felt as if there was a brick in my stomach. I was 50,000 words into my first draft, for goodness sake. It was possibly one of the worst first drafts I’d ever written, but still. . .

I’ve got the last three chapters of the published-by-another-author book to go, but in truth I can’t bear to read anymore.

Are there any truly original ideas anymore anyway? Isn’t everything just a pastiche of what’s gone before? I continued on this spiral of unanswerable questions that might have been snatched from my three pretentious years as an English Literature undergraduate. And then, I rallied.

It wasn’t as if I was writing a psychological thriller like this author had, after all. And my second half was truly different. Mine was funny in places, well, ahem – it would be eventually.

My writer friends helped persuade me that all would be okay. ‘You’re writing up-lit though,’ one said.

I plonked myself in front of the computer, determined to carry on. But all that fretting had provided a pause, and into it had fallen a chunky great question mark. Did I actually like this idea anymore? Did I really want to go on with it? I started doing some research – daring myself to come up with a new idea. I wasn’t sure I could. I read news pieces, features, true life stories. There was something brewing, I just didn’t know what yet.

A day later, I was in the middle of hoovering the stairs when an idea landed, and then another. Dots started to join in my head.

I wrote an outline and when I compared it to the already-done idea, I decided I liked my new one better.

Perhaps I’ll go back to my old idea one day (I especially liked my peripheral characters – sigh), but for now I’m moving on. I may not have 50,000 words anymore, but what I do have is a scruffy outline, a new story that I keep daydreaming about, oh and 1,600 words so far. I’m going to see where this new story takes me and hope very hard that nobody else gets there before I do, but you know what, even if they do, all will be well.

Click here for a survival guide to discovering your story idea has already been done. It helped me.


Holding Image by Ross Findon on Unsplash

15 thoughts on “How To Deal With An Author Publishing A Novel Similar to Yours

  1. This is a really interesting post, thank you for sharing your thoughts with such honesty. I have had similar worries about previous ideas of mine before, where I’ve read a novel blurb and panicked that the story was eerily similar to mine. Luckily, upon reading, the stories were extremely different. I suppose it’s hard, because so many ideas have already been done it can be hard to be unique. Yet at the same time, every story is different.

    For example, I’ve read loads of thrillers recently about sisters – they’re everywhere! Especially novels about twins. Yet I’ve not found any to be particularly similar outside of that. I’m glad you’ve been able to come to terms with this story and the similarities it has to yours. But as you’ve pointed out, there are still many differences, setting your story apart and keeping it unique to you. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Reblogged this on Stevie Turner and commented:
    Nothing was worse than finding out Emma Donoghue had written ‘Room’ when I was sending ‘A House Without Windows’ around to agents and publishers. She had written it 3 years’ before and I never knew it until one of the agents told me. Grr!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This happens to me with increasing frequency now that self-publishers are cranking out so many books so quickly. With the sheer volume of books out there, it’s nearly impossible to have a good idea without discovering, after months or years of work, that one or more people have beaten you to the market–often with terrible books that are “wasting” the great idea. I just don’t worry about it anymore, and concentrate on making sure my book will be better-executed and more compelling than any similar one.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. That must’ve been traumatizing. A writing buddy of mine wrote a female bounty hunter. She signed a contract, got the advance, quit the day-gig–and Janet Evanovich beat her to market by 8 months. She was a good minute coming back from that. Thanks for sharing.


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