I just received word from a friend that a filmmaker and a terrific actor will be teaming up on a project that sounds tremendous. It should be mind-bending, genre-blurring, heart-pounding and just all around awesome. My immediate reaction was to say, “May they burn in Hell.” Odd reaction, under normal circumstances, but this situation ain’t normal.
The plot is very close to the plot of my current work-in-progress.
This is the nightmare of every writer: spend weeks, months, years crafting something only to have someone else apparently trip-head-over-ass-backward across the finish line ahead of you with the same idea. Worse, work for weeks, months, years only to discover that your “holy cow, how did no one ever think of that” idea was actually thought of years, perhaps even decades earlier, that your idea is in fact a forgotten classic.
The response to this is visceral and immediate. I hate these people, and I hate their project. I hate that elements of it so close to mine are paired with elements so much better than mine. I hate that when it comes time to release my work into the wild there will be those who don’t understand the pace of writing a novel, those to whom it will be obvious that I “stole” the idea after seeing the movie, or if they don’t go so far as to say “stole” then they go with the less accusatory but more infuriating, “Oh, like that movie that just came out.”
So where does that leave me, and where does that leave this project?
I hope to get a seat on the train tomorrow morning so that I can continue to work on edits. I hope that I can keep to the pace I’ve been on because if I can I may finish this run-through well ahead of schedule. I hope that the next readings by betas and agent will be positive and provide me with more constructive feedback. I get here by reminding myself that these filmmakers have some elements that are similar to mine, but they lack one critical component.
They are not me.
I don’t mean this arrogantly. I mean simply that I look at the world from my unique perspective, and they view it from theirs. The chances that those views would be close enough that theme, events and characters would be identical are remote; the idea that they’ll tell my story more so. Is there a chance their story and mine could be very close? Yes. Should I worry over that? No. Every story has been told. At root my current project is a man’s struggle against his own weakness. It is the struggle against fear, isolation and emotional entropy. Is that really so unique? Has there never been anything like that written before? If I thought so it would be the height of both arrogance and ignorance. No, my story has been told before, and it may have been told better by others, and probably will be again, but it hasn’t yet been told by me.
So, I hope to get a good seat on the train so that I can get back to these edits. I’m planning on taking this story-told-a-thousand times, and making it my own.

14 thoughts on “Dibs.

  1. Let me know if you want me to come and clear the train car for you.
    I have an entire repertoire of songs and sermons (and scents) that will do just that.
    Also, I’ve read your book. Nobody comes close to your staggering genius. Which reminds me…aren’t we due for a drink with your fan club soon?

  2. You hit it on the nail. In the end that’s what all of us writers must do – tell the story from our own unique perspective. You dear friend are a well spring of ‘nobody does it like me’. (Hugs)Indigo

  3. Dude, I felt this way about Brains, which I started writing in 2005! When there was a dearth, an absolute desert, of zombie lit. And now? Well, I’m jumping on the bandwagon, obviously.
    Of course, that kind of thing can work both ways–it can also help selling it, if it’s the new thing, on the first wave.
    Also, what’s your idea? I’m looking for a topic for an epic poem…

  4. You are so right — and it takes all the discipline in the world to remember that you AREN’T them. Stick with it. You’re too great a writer for it not to work out!

  5. I’ll e-mail you the topic of my WIP later. Right now I don’t have time. I’ll expect to appear in the poem in a fur loin cloth. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. “Again with the fur loin cloth?!”

  6. You definitely hear stuff like this all the time, but I’m going to say it anyway:
    After reading my eyes out at work with the 150 queries in the inbox and 40 in snail mail, you’d think I’d just want to pop open a few beers and never read again, but instead, I got on the LIRR *EAGER* to get back into the pages of Numb. Your book is my treat at the beginning and end of the day on the train! Instead of reading client mss, I am secretly reading your stuff hehehe shhhh do not tell anyone.
    I bet the movie blows. It might never even come out. Your ms is pure pwnage though, duh.

  7. And what is this fan club Janet speaks of? Are they still accepting members? Because I will gladly pay the membership dues and join. Can I run for secretary?

  8. I feel your pain. I just saw a movie with a very similar plot to one my WIPs. There were a few key differences, though. I think if I play up those differences no one will notice the similarities. That’s what I keep telling myself anyway.
    Can’t wait to read your book!

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