Today, YA Highway has a very interesting prompt: What SNI (Shiny New Idea) were you psyched to work on, but discovered it was too close to something already done?
I have had this happen a few times, but luckily, I was always in the early planning stages. I wanted to write a story about a society in which people received a letter detailing how and when they would die. Totally sweet, right? Yeah. THE DEATHDAY LETTER by Shaun David Hutchinson.
A MG historical fiction about the Battle of Culloden. PRINCE ACROSS THE WATER by Jane Yolen and Robert J. Harris. Jane freaking Yolen. No way I could beat that.
A YA girl version of DEXTER. SLICE OF CHERRY by Dia Reeves.
But honestly, like many of the other bloggers have said today, it’s all about what you bring to the story. I would probably be able to write a similar story to any of these and have it turn out completely different, with its own nuances and twists.
Still, I totally gave up on these three ideas. I think that with literary fiction and character-driven stories, it’s easier to allow for similarities in the market and to put unique spins on your story. BUT, with higher concept ideas, it can be tough to sell your idea no matter how much of a unique spin you put on it. If your pitch is too similar to something that exists already–say you’ve written a story about a boy wizard who goes to wizarding school–then you have a much harder road ahead. And if you can get through the gatekeepers, or self-publish, you’ll spend more time defending your originality than enjoying your success.
So, the way I see it is, why make things so difficult for yourself?
Now, if you’ve already written the entire MS, then I could totally understand not wanting to scrap it when you find a similar idea. Have any of you ever struggled with this? Had to scrap a partially-finished MS because it was too similar to something else out there?