Mar 2, 2012

why you shouldn't worry about idea thieves

A few days ago, Elana Johnson blogged about idea envy, or what happens when creative-mind/author types go lusting after each other's story concepts. It happens all the time, sometimes more often than we choose to admit.

But I'm not going to talk about the jealousy aspect of this issue to much as its possible ramifications. Before I found my agent and publisher, I was very careful about guarding my ideas. They were like Cadbury chocolate (Mine!!! All Mine!!!), precious and protected.

The answer is yes. If I could, I would eat all of these Cadbury Crunchie bars.

I was so cautious about this, that I actually avoided sharing my query on public forums, which ended up being to my detriment because it needed critiquing!! And then I read a post that made me realize why this wasn't necessary.

See, I was afraid of people stealing my novel. Not my ideas. A single idea can become many, many different things. No one can write the exact same way you do. Rarely, very rarely, is any idea truly unique. In fact, Ecclesiates 1:9 says so: What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

That's right folks. You heard it here. Nothing new. Under the entire sun.

So, if we follow this logic, there are no new ideas. Just the same ideas under different veils.

No one else can write your book. Not the way you're going to write it. If I decided to write a book about a boy attending a wizarding school, it would be decidedly different than Harry Potter. Same with a vampire love story. What I wrote would not be Twilight. For better or worse, it would be a creation of its own.

So don't worry so much about people stealing your ideas. And don't worry about people having "better" ideas than you. It's the execution of the story and the writing that truly matters. And that's something only you can carry out! Your voice, your style, your perspective... all of it is unique. No one can steal them, no matter how hard they try.

PS. I feel like it would be a fascinating experiment to give 10 authors a book synopsis and tell each of them to write it, then see how much they vary in the end. (My guess is much!)


  1. Thanks for the post! This is something I've thought a lot about recently. I've realized that just because a writer likes another writer's idea, he's not necessarily going to "steal" it. I mean, every author is working on his or her own ideas and isn't going to drop everything to chase something else.

    1. Yes! I wouldn't go screaming every intimate plot detail of my novel to the world, but you shouldn't be paranoid about tell people your ideas. Especially when you're looking for constructive criticism (ie. query critiquing).

  2. I love this post! Same goes if you already see a book out there that has similar ideas to yours--yours will still sound different. Thanks, Ryan!

    1. Definitely! Don't be discouraged to try your own take on a story (as long as there's no plagiarism involved. That's nasty business.