Cursing the Heavens: The Trials and Tribulations of a Big Idea
So, you know what’s awesome?
The book I’ve been writing, the secretively-titled “Book of M” is basically getting published.
You know what’s not awesome?
The person who wrote the aforementioned book getting published wasn’t me.
Okay, in all seriousness, no, “Book of M” is not getting published. But it just so happens that the debut novel of author Meagan Spooner, called Skylark, has a premise that is startlingly similar to the premise of my own W-I-P, “Book of M”.
We’re talking, if you read the description of the book in the “Big Idea” post I just linked to, you would find a roughly 75% overlap in the world-building and ideas behind the two stories.
There are differences, of course. The two protagonists have very little overlap. There are several important aspects of my worldbuilding that don’t show up in the short description. And the magic system described in Skylark has very little in common with the magic system I’ve described in my world. And since my magical apocalypse is pretty closely tied in to the nature of the magic in my world, that means some important background details will be different. And Skylark appears to be a Middle Grade or Young Adult targeted novel, whereas I’ve conceived of my book as being targeted as an adult novel (albeit that distinction doesn’t mean much in the post-Harry Potter, post-Hunger Games world).
It was ironic, to me, that earlier last week author David B. Coe was talking about the fears we have about our ideas on the Magical Words blog. I responded in a comment about my two greatest fears related to my own ideas, one of which is this exactly: that however great the idea I have for my book is, someone else is writing it right now, and is better positioned to take advantage of the good idea. Of course, David’s advice was that sure the ideas may be similar, but don’t worry about it, because your own take on it will be thoroughly and unmistakably yours.
Except, yeah, it’s easy to say that. It’s tough to embrace that notion when someone else’s book has so many similarities to the one you’re working on now. So many that it’s positively uncanny.
So, I’m pretty anxious about it all right now. Given the high degree of similarity between the ideas behind these two books, what are the chances any editor will ever express any interest in a book that would, at first blush, look derivative. Would my book be more interesting to editors and readers if this other book does well, or will my book seem even more derivative. And what do I do now? Do I keep on writing, or, well, just give up? It’s likely I’ll want to read Skylark at some point, but should I avoid it until I’ve finished writing my book, out of fear that reading it will taint my own creative process, or read it sooner rather than later in order to make sure I avoid being too similar?
What would you do, in this situation?