I do, however, often share pitches, queries and blurbs for my full manuscripts. Because, what are the chances that someone takes that information and writes a whole new book using the same premise? Or actually pitches that book? And gets an agent with that book before I do? Or an actual BOOK DEAL before I do, using that premise? After all, I’ve got a head start and have put my blood, sweat and tears into that book. No way could someone just come along and write a book from scratch using my premise and get to the finish line before me. Right?
I didn’t think the chances were that high. But apparently, it can happen!
I read this post over the weekend that had many writing bloggers shocked and appalled at a situation that arose when the author discussed a premise, outline, and partial manuscript with an online friend. The friend then cut off contact for awhile and when she re-appeared, it was with an agent and book deal in hand...using the original author’s premise and pitch!
I mean, of course I’ve experienced idea envy. There were a few queries up for WriteOnCon that had me salivating at their premise, thinking ‘OH! Why couldn’t I have thought of that!’. But to then go on and write a whole new book using their premise and pitch it to agents would be theft, really.
In the situation above, it wasn’t a full manuscript in question but a pitch, unfinished partial, and discussion of the premise. Writers will write, and sometimes, especially if you’ve been in a rut, it can be tempting to jump on someone else’s idea if it finally gets you writing again. I think, though, if you find yourself really really really inspired by someone else’s idea (like, it keeps you up at night and has characters talking to each other in your head) then you should, at least, approach the original author.
There’s no shame in asking. Or just letting the author know with a ‘Hey! Your book idea really has my creative juices flowing and is keeping me up at night and is basically writing itself in my mind beyond all control. I may or may not write a book using the same idea, but in any case- I just wanted to be honest and let you know.’
‘If you ever decide not to go through with writing the book about _____, or are moving on with something else, or putting it on the back burner, please let me know because the idea has really taken hold in my mind and I’d like to write about it.’
There’s no need to put on your sneaky, devious, guilty pants and go behind a fellow author’s back. We are all in the same boat and struggling with the same things. This community is about support and even though we all want to climb out of the pit and into the light, stepping on a fellow writer in order to get closer to the top isn’t the way to do it.
What would you do if you found yourself with an all-consuming desire to write using someone else’s premise? Ignore the impulses and try to move on? Write the book as long as the creativity lasts but never pitch it? Would you tell the original author or just keep it to yourself? Are you guys wary of sharing your book ideas on the internet before they’re written? What about after you have a full manuscript in hand?