Sunday, February 28, 2010

Idea scoopage: How not to rewrite someone else's book

Now that my recent work in progress is working in that mysterious place called Queryland, I am thinking about my next WIP. The good thing is, I have a bunch of ideas. That bad thing is, I keep getting crippled with the "What if this has already been done before?" problem.

So here's how I've been trying to make sure I'm not rewriting someone else's book. Or at least, making sure my idea is unique enough to stand on its own.

It basically comes down to searching for similar books. If you're an avid reader of the particular subgenre your'e interested in, then you're already way ahead. Still, it's good to know what else is out there.

Some places to look are:

1) Put in search terms including your genre and the subject matter. Get creative with your search terms. Use a thesaurus if necessary! If your subject is a girl who's a witch, you'll want to look at witch, sorcery, magic, spells, etc. You get the idea.

After finding any books that vaguely resemble your subject matter, scroll down to the related books ("People who bought this book also bought...")

2) Check out the Listmania option for searching on Amazon. I found this:
New YA fiction for 2010.
You don't want to rewrite the book that's about to come out!

3) Google. Duh.

4) Wikipedia has a surprising number of topics in the vein of "Witches in Literature." There are huge lists there of books and when they came out. Sometimes in Google and Amazon some older books won't show up from the 1980's or 1990's.

5) Ask the experts. Do you have friends that write or read voraciously in this subgenre? Or better, agent-friends? They may be able to tell you if your topic has already been done, or suggest other books you may have missed.

6) Take a look at the deal pages on Publishers Weekly or Publishers Marketplace. The latter needs a subscription, unfortunately.

On a final note, I have to say that this searching is kind of a lonely business. With the birth of a new idea comes a lot of propietary, secretive behavior. Nobody wants their idea scooped. It's a terrible feeling to put your blood, sweat and tears into a manuscript only to have a similar looking thing show up on the deal pages of Publisher's Weekly. Unfortunately, you can't anticipate what's out there being shopped around by other writers.

So...does anyone else have other ideas of researching your ideas to prevent Scoopage?


oliverzilla said...

Great blog, keep going ... there are no new ideas .. just ideas rediscovered and given fresh perspective! -- Cheers, Guy.

Lydia Kang said...

Very true! It's not about reinventing the wheel. Just making sure your wheel is unique in its own way.

Marva said...

Excellent suggestions. I kind of prefer the method of holding my hands over my ears and singing, "Wah wah wha, I can't hear you!"

Mostly, just write your story and use unique elements to set it apart. For example, I dig up very obscure mythological creatures to use in a standard quest tale.

It's still a standard quest, but just enough different (I hope) to set it apart.

Lydia Kang said...

These methods are also good for finding comparable novels in your genre...for your query, for instance.

Deb Salisbury said...

Great ideas! I'm linking back to you. :-)

Deb Salisbury said...

Woot!!! I just figured out you are on RallyStorm! Hi from a Magic Seeker. :D

Lydia Kang said...

Hi Deb! Welcome!

Another thing...this whole researching thing may not be as useful in many genres. I think it works better in certain markets like YA, fantasy, sci-fi, etc.