Hey, that was MY idea!

Okay, raise your hand if you know a writer who believes her work will be stolen if she shares it with anyone. Someone who laboriously puts a copyright symbol on every page or, worse, registers the copyright by paying the $30 (or whatever it is now). Found this post today over at Edward Champion's blog, which made me nod and say “Amen!”

The point of all this is that if you’re a writer clinging to the stubborn notion that someone is out there to “steal” your work, and if you are letting this get in the way of writing, submitting, or pitching, then I ask you for the good of humanity to step out of the way. Take up something else. All good writers are idea machines. All good writers have distinct and original voices in which an “idea” is just one component of an equation as intricate and inexplicable as love.

Perhaps this fundamental misunderstanding of the writing process is what causes so many people to ask the question, “Where do you get your ideas from?” Would these same people ask a bookkeeper, “How do you keep focus when you’re inundated with so many numbers?” It’s just the way writers are wired. For a writer, ideas flow through the noggin like a barely controllable fire and trying to manage all this is a bit like a good head rush during a run. There’s really nothing writers can do about this other than set it down on paper and do the best they can to convey this frenzy in coherent terms. If they’re lucky, they can make a living at this.

Afraid someone's going to steal my ideas? Nope. However, there IS something to be said for not talking about uncontracted work in detail on a public forum such as this blog. Suppose I outline my plot for you right here, in all its glory (snort), and you write up a proposal and sell it to your editor. Your work won't BE my work, but you may be cutting into my chances of selling a similar storyline because you already did so. If you think that's crazy, Alison Kent talked about that very thing on her blog a while back. (I linked to the post at the time, but can't find it now of course.) And Diana Peterfreund talks about the same thing in her post today.

When I said “keep that stuff off the internet,” I was talking about writers who blog at length about their uncontracted ideas. Call me superstitious, but I don't do it.

Sounds like good advice to me. And that is totally different than the person in your critique group who won't let anyone take a chapter home to read and comment on at leisure because he's afraid that you, dear writer, may take his brilliant idea and write it yourself. Gimme a break!

Yesterday, in fact, someone sent me a link to a blog that was criticizing (okay, ripping to shreds) that Left Behind series of books about the apocalypse. And I realized, as I read the post, that OHMYGOD, I once wrote a story in 8th grade English class about — gasp — the people left behind after the Rapture! Those thieves! They somehow got a hold of my story! They took my idea! They made millions! I'm going to sue!

Okay, okay, I'm not really that insane, and I realize that me writing about the people left behind (I called the story “Alpha and Omega”) came from a really warped church experience with a group of people I won't name but who are pretty common in the American South. They scared the everlovin' shit out of me, and so the second coming was on my mind quite a lot at the time. Maybe those two dudes went to the same church, or maybe writing about what happens to those who don't get sucked up to Heaven with Jesus is a pretty common idea since, oh, every New Testament contains the story about the second coming and no one who's read it or had it preached to them wants to be left standing on the Earth after Jesus picks up his friends and boogies.


But sometimes ideas really do run in common threads. And what you think is unique, brilliant, never before been done, may exist in many incarnations in many writers' heads. All you can do is write your story your way, and then market it to agents and editors in the hopes of seeing YOUR vision be the one on the shelves.

Steal your ideas? Puh-leeze. I've got too many of my own.

Now tell me about a time when you saw your plot or your idea or your character's name in a published book. I just told you about my left behind story, but I have another one. Once I named a horse in my WIP Sirocco. I loved it, and it's the name of that wind that blows from Africa up the Med and into Europe. Loved it. Imagine my surprise when I read, after I'd finished the book, Laura Kinsale's Prince of Midnight and she had named a horse, you guessed it, Sirocco. Damn it.

Saturday’s Writing

A tiny bit. Went to Haleiwa on the North Shore and took the AlphaSmart. I wrote a few paragraphs while sitting at the beach. Mostly, I didn't get much done because I'm at the point where I need the manuscript on the screen in front of me because I have a lot of revising to do on upcoming scenes. This is what happens when you write the first half in a white heat, and then realize maybe your characters' goals aren't strong enough. Darn Debra Dixon. (grin)

I love Goal, Motivation, and Conflict, DD's book. Wow, if I can't figure out how to write a cranking plot now, I need to find something else to do. Everything is explained so well, and when I charted out the characters' GMCs, I learned that the heroine's goal wasn't strong enough. She needed the possibility of a dream come true and a limited timetable to do it in. So, hence the rewrite. It was just some weaving in the beginning, but now I've had to cut a couple of scenes. Some scenes need extensive rewriting. I love being a writer, though I sometimes hate the pressure of staring at the screen and having NO idea what comes next or if I can even pull off the idea I began with. I've written four complete novels and I'm working on a fifth. I don't think it gets easier, though you do have a better idea with each successive book on how to go about telling the story.

First novels are almost uniformly bad, though there are exceptions. And I mean first novels one writes, not first novels one publishes. Those usually aren't the same, though in rare cases it happens. Not to me, thank heavens, because I would be embarassed to know that clunker was out there.

Hubby is working on a paper for his law class, so I hope to get a little bit of writing done tonight. We'll see. I tinkered with the website this morning, then we went down to Honolulu's Chinatown for lunch, then back to the store for cat food. I have no excuse not to work on the book tonight……..

Today’s Writing Accomplishments

Not nearly enough. I have been too fascinated with this whole website/blog thing. I've changed my webpage a zillion times today, moving things around, adding things, etc. It's an addiction! And then I sent the address to a few select friends, which increased the pressure to have the site look good. I can see them now: “Where on earth did she get this crap? I hope she didn't pay anyone!” No, I did not pay anyone, and I got that crap from Yahoo Sitebuilder (I don't happen to think it's crap, btw). I have Frontpage and Publisher, and yeah, I prefer Yahoo's freebie program. So I'm not a techno dweeb, sue me. Though, proud moment, I did not use a template. I designed it myself.

Okay, so what did I accomplish on the writing front? I edited my webpage. Uh, that's not what we mean, is it? All right, I did work on the WIP just a tad. I probably cut 50 words and typed 10 new ones. It wasn't much.

This week has been a wasted writing week! Monday, I rock and rolled. I wrote pages of the WIP, got an idea for two more books, wrote 7 pages of a new book, and basically had trouble shutting my brain off to go to bed. Tuesday, I had to take a Hawaii newcomer shopping. Stopped my flow dead. I had a blast with this lady, though, and I wasn't sure I would. We giggled like schoolgirls and we're definitely going shopping together again. Wednesday, I think I was recovering from the shopping. Wednesday night was critique. Thursday, I got this bright idea to finally complete and publish that webpage–cuz God only knows when I might need it–and then today I couldn't stop tinkering, even when I tried so hard to work on the WIP (okay, probably not hard enough).

I borrowed an Alphasmart from someone so I could see if I liked it. Oh yeah, baby. I definitely plan to buy one. If I'd gotten off my butt and taken that thing somewhere, the temptation to toy with the Internet would have been gone. *sigh* I should have gone to the beach with the darned thing (the clouds did clear up, just like I said). I'd have gotten more done by sitting in a chair on the sand than I did in a whole day with two computers.

My God, we are so spoiled as a nation. Watched a Tsunami program tonight, and then a program about teenagers whose parents paid for them to get boob jobs. Where are our priorities? People lost entire families, their homes, and we have a tiny boob epidemic. Oh the humanity! And here I'm whining about writing and going to the beach to accomplish something and ohmigosh, am I an ungrateful idiot or what?

Tomorrow, I don't know if I'll get anything done. Husband is home, and though he has school work for his MBA classes, he's sure to interrupt my flow at some point. I never get much done when he's home, even when he leaves me completely alone. If I've got to be bothered, I'd rather go to the beach. At least the scenery is gorgeous.

All right, I've wasted another day goofing when I could have (should have) been writing. I won't make promises for the weekend, but Monday is a new day dawning. If I get something done over the weekend, even better.