Monthly Archives: November 2014

You Can’t Steal Ideas

New writers are often paranoid writers. All too often they believe their idea is gold, the likes of which has never, EVER been done before. This makes their idea valuable and, as we all know, people like to steal what’s valuable.

Except, you can’t really steal an idea.

Let’s clear something up right now – ideas cannot be copyrighted. Ideas for novels are a dime a dozen. They are quite literally anywhere and everywhere in the world. And it’s very easy for people to come up with similar ideas.

A few years ago I had an idea for a book that I got really excited about. A few days after I started writing it, I found myself on Amazon, searching their recommendations for books I might like. By chance I stumbled upon a recommendation for a book that was to be released the following year. I read the blurb and…it was, quite literally, the same idea I’d had. I was stunned. I had not told one single person – not even my cat – about the idea. The author in question was a debut novelist who lived on the other side of the planet. There was no possible way I could have ‘stolen’ the idea from her.  I have no doubt that if I’d gone ahead and finished my book it would have turned out very differently to the one on Amazon. But the core idea, the concept at the heart of the novel was the same.

The idea probably represents about 1% of the work involved in writing a book. If anyone wants to copy an idea they are free to do so. But they still have the other 99% of the book to write. Even if they copied the core idea from someone or something else, by the time they finished that other 99% of the book, it would be completely different to the original source.
More than once I have heard people accusing JK Rowling of ‘copying’ Jill Murphy’s The Worst Witch series. There may be similarities in the basic ideas behind the books, but the books themselves are completely different. There are countless books out there that have similar core ideas, but the characters and the plots are completely different.
Here’s the thing, Ramblers – the idea doesn’t make the story. The execution of the story does. How many of you have ever picked up a book thinking it sounds really good, only to hate it once you start reading? I’ll bet it’s happened to all of us. You don’t automatically like a book just because you like the idea behind it.
It’s easy to get excited about ideas – I do it all the time – but do not forget that they are only a tiny part of writing a novel. They are nowhere near as valuable as some people think.

And to the people who still don’t want to believe this, who jealously guard their Fantastic Ideas like Smaug perched on his treasure-hoard, ask yourself what will you do if your book ever hits the shelves? Any of those sneaky idea-thieves could read your book and decide to ‘steal’ your idea. It’s not like having your book published means people can’t and won’t write something similar.

Paranoia is a chain you need to chuck off. The idea is not what matters, the finished product is. The best idea in the world could be butchered by an untalented writer, and the dullest idea could be rendered magical by someone skilled.

So ditch this silly notion that everyone’s out to steal your ideas and just focus on actually writing them.

Writing for Money

Hopeful authors are frequently told not to write for money because the chances are they’ll never see much of it. But sometimes this seems to get misinterpreted as meaning authors shouldn’t expect to be paid.

I once saw someone tell a young aspiring author that they’d lost all respect for them because the young author hoped to make money from their work. I’ve seen people say it’s okay to steal books because the authors shouldn’t be writing for the money anyway.

NO!

When people tell authors they shouldn’t be writing for they money, they mean the authors shouldn’t be writing JUST for the money.

Why?

Because authors, as a general rule, earn very, very little. Telling people this is not to discourage them, it to open their eyes to the financial reality of writing. It is not sneering at them because they hope to make money from their writing. That is not okay.

Why shouldn’t an author expect to be paid? They work hard on their books. Artists aren’t expected to give their paintings away for free. Photographers don’t offer their services for free. Just because something is a vocation doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve payment.

And what about those authors who are lucky enough to write full-time? For some people writing is their sole source of income. It’s the only way they can pay the bills, put food on the table, and clothe their kids. For some people writing is a job.

When you do your job, you get paid for it. Imagine going to do your job, working for eight or more hours straight, and then being told you don’t deserve to get paid because you shouldn’t be working for the money. Would you be pissed? Damn right you would.

Authors deserve to be paid. It doesn’t matter if they write every day or only release one book every few years. If anyone out there thinks authors don’t deserve to be paid, I challenge you to write a book – to spend years actually learning how, to spend months working on your manuscript, to put your heart and soul into it, and then be told you don’t deserve paying for it.

Authors weave magic in their pages. They take us out of their mundane lives and whisk us away on fantastical adventures. They give us friends to laugh, cry, and fall in love with. They take us to places we never thought we could go. They touch us in way we couldn’t imagine.
How can anyone not want to pay them for bringing so much joy into our lives?