20. “That Was My Idea!” – What If Hollywood Steals Your Story?

You’ve got a brilliant story idea that you’ve been working on for ages. You can’t wait to publish it. Then, one day, you’re at the movies or you turn on your favorite streaming service and… A trailer shows up. And the concept is like, the same thing you’re working on. What do you do? Stop writing your book now that the idea has already been done? Change your whole story? Sue someone for stealing your idea?

Answer: None of the above. In fact, your response should be the opposite of panicking and despairing! You should be excited. Here’s why.

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A successful book or movie creates a bandwagon for its subgenre.

A lot of writers live in fear that their idea will be stolen, or a series will come out that’s so similar to theirs that it renders their idea useless. This is based on the incorrect notion that there is only allowed to be one story per subgenre.

Think about it: Twilight’s success didn’t hinder the success of The Vampire Diaries. In fact, it did quite the opposite. Two similar stories worked together to get that vampire romance train rolling full steam ahead.

The same applies to your manuscript. Are you writing a Middle Grade book about unicorn-dragons and are devastated to see the latest Netflix show about unicorn-dragons? Don't be! You should be excited to see that show and praying that it becomes popular. Its fans will want more unicorn-dragon content, and what’ll they do? They’ll find your book.

Trust me, I’ve experienced this effect first-hand. My YA Fantasy series is about killer mermaids, and at the time that I wrote it, few-to-no stories existed about killer mermaids. Since then, several have popped up – including a TV show that bears a lot of similarities to my series. My initial reaction was to be angry and defensive. But as it turns out, the audience for that TV show wanted more killer mermaid content, and where did they turn? To my books! I learned a valuable lesson about bandwagons, and I’m grateful those stories exist and will continue to support their success.

This brings me to my second point: the incorrect notion of competition in the book industry.

By supporting other writers, you’re opening doors for a successful author career.

A lot of famous writers have had groups of writer friends who helped them become successful. I myself am part of a critique group. Networking with other writers is a fun, rewarding part of being an author. It’s exciting to celebrate each other’s successes, to give each other feedback, to discuss the industry, and to promote each other’s work.

Of course, it’s also an unwanted opportunity for jealousy.

What do you do if you find yourself jealous of other writers and subconsciously competing with them? First of all, this is an instinctive reaction, so don’t berate yourself over it. Acknowledge that this is a normal feeling, and that’s okay. Then, acknowledge that you’re feeling this way because of an incorrect way of thinking about how the book industry works.

Here’s how it actually works: another writer’s success is also your success. Audiences don’t just read one book, they read lots of books. The more great books there are in the world, the more likely it is that the world will foster voracious readers. You should be excited when another author is wildly successful – especially authors who write in the same genre as you. Their readers will look for more great books and will come to you. Likewise, your readers will go to them once they’re done reading your book. Everybody wins!

Being jealous of other writers or viewing them as competition will only stress you out. If you want to double your success, make friends with authors who write in your same genre and subgenre. What an excellent opportunity to cross-promote your books to each other’s audiences and collaborate on ideas.

Find Your Crit Group

Here are some ways a critique group works and how a writing network can help you succeed as an author:

  • Exchange feedback by “beta reading” each other’s manuscripts. I’ll share more about the beta reading process in an upcoming post.

  • Meet regularly (e.g. weekly, biweekly, monthly) for critique exchanges. Take turns reading aloud 1500-word excerpts from your current draft and offer each other constructive feedback.

  • Brainstorm together and talk about ideas. Share your progress, current struggles, articles you’ve read, and thoughts about the book industry.

  • Cross-promote each other’s published works on social media and in email lists.

We invite you to join the Blockbuster YA community, where you can connect with other YA authors who have the same goals and struggles. In this mastermind group, you can chat, inspire each other, and exchange constructive feedback.

There are two things I want you to take away from this post: first, if you see a book or movie with a premise that’s similar to yours, get excited, because you can capitalize on that bandwagon! Second, support other writers and build your network, because readers don’t just read one book, they read lots of books. By cheering for other writers in your genre, you’re boosting the success of the whole book industry.

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