Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Starting over

Someone else has written my novel.

This is not the blog post I had planned to write but the discovery at the weekend that someone had beaten me into print with my fantastic idea, was such a shock that I am compelled to share this experience with you.

I am always interested in what is being published, both as a reader and writer. A couple of days ago, I accidentally hit on a recent new title and read the blurb with something akin to horror. The novel is virtually identical to the one I have been penning these last weeks and months.

I feel as if I already know the main protagonist in this new book as she is the twin of the main character in my own unfinished tome. Not only that; the themes, subsidiary characters and storyline appear to be almost identical.

How can this have happened? Did I accidentally leave the synopsis on the train, divulge the details of the plot at a writing group or maybe the author hacked into my computer?

The truth is that simply that the author got there before me. There is no copyright on ideas and someone else has had the same thought processes as myself. The fact that this other writer also believed that this book was worth writing, makes me feel that the premise was a good one. It has to be said that if I had got on and penned the book when I first had the idea, I might well have been the first one into print.

I should also mention that the aforementioned book has been self published and without reading it, I have no idea if it is any good. It was suggested by a friend that I should carry on with my original project and look for a mainstream publisher but, for me, the damage has been done. The book is no longer my own and I have to start over.

Frustrating and disappointing as this setback is, there are some positives. Over the past few months I have developed the habit of writing every day (well nearly every day) and my fledgling novel has grown. If I can do it once, I can do it again. The prospect is not quite as daunting as it once would have been.

So, my existing 35,000 words are being set aside for the time being and I am developing a new idea. I may retain one or two of the original elements but in essence, it will be a completely different book.

So what have I learnt from this experience?  

Simply to get on and do it – before someone else does!

Monday, 14 March 2011

Little Black Book

I am the proud owner of a little black book (LBB). In fact every writer, aspiring or otherwise, should have one. I actually own several such books and they are not all black. I have notebooks in all colours, shapes and sizes, some expensively bound, some cheap notebooks and a whole host of gimmicky ones that have caught my eye when on my travels.

My LBB  does not contain telephone numbers, nor does it dish the dirt on past acquaintances, but to me it contains far more important information - the contents of my mind. Wherever I go, I am never without a notebook and pen so that I can jot down ideas as they occur to me. If I don’t do this, that great new idea will fly out of my head as quickly as it landed there. I know this to be true because it has happened several times in the past. I will have an idea for a character or a twist in the plot but by the time I sit at my computer to write, it will have gone.

When ideas are flowing, I have whole scenes and lines of dialogue swirling around in my head and I have to get them out on paper – fast. Editing and polishing comes later but those initial words and phrases have to be caught and harnessed as they come tumbling out. If I am nowhere near my desk, I reach for my notebook and record my ideas, ready for when I have the opportunity to write them up.

I always have a notebook by my bed so that if something comes to me in the middle of the night, I can just write it down. Recent bouts of insomnia have led to some very creative output in my LBB.

A few years ago, I had a brief flirtation with a dictaphone and I would switch it on and voice record anything that occurred to me during the day. I can’t explain why but this just didn’t work for me and I didn’t get nearly as much satisfaction as I do from scribbling in a notebook. Maybe it has something to do with hand-eye co-ordination, I can’t say for sure, but I quickly went back to my beloved notebooks.

If ever I am stuck for something to write about, I can revisit past books and breathe new life into old ideas but more importantly to me, the notebooks are a record of my literary journey and a reminder of how far I have come (and how far I still have to go!).

Consequently, I now have a large collection of notebooks. Some are full, others contain just a few scribbled notes, but I would never part with any of them.

In common with all writers, I need very few essential things in order to continue with my craft; a computer, a quiet space and time to write just about cover the basics but, for me, the most essential piece of kit will always be my little black book.