There is nothing like that heart-stopping moment when you realise the core element of your WIP is the core element of another YA novel that is being released within the week.
This particular novel has some significant differences from my WIP but there was enough the same for me to freak out about writing an identical book. Where the society was set, the general characters and some of the rules and practices of the society were identical to my WIP. Of course the journey of the character was very different and this particular novel was set more in a magical/mystical world while mine was based more in reality.
I’d never come across something like this before and to be it lightly, I freaked out. What was I going to do? My great idea which was so different wasn’t as different as I thought, in fact there was almost an identical novel coming out within days!
|This is pretty much what I looked like... Except for the purple hair (I wish!) and beard|
Of course I’ve had plenty of “oh no, I can’t write about that… that’s what XX book or XX TV show or XX movie was based on”. Or even “that is the exact same story as The Lord of the Rings” or something equally as obvious!
I slept on it for a few days and I actually had a brief conversation with the author in which I told her my dilemma. Her response surprised me, reassured me and is possibly even something we should all take on board and keep in mind. She said that same scenario has happened to her many times before (as I’m sure it has everyone). She also said “But even if the stories were the same... no two people tell the same story the same way.”
How true is that? You could give two people the exact same general plot or idea and both books would be completely different stories! I certainly felt a lot better after that, but I wanted to go further, I wanted to change it up that little bit more.
|This was my 'why didn't I think of that' expression|
I came out using a similar framework and loose plot that I’d started with, in a different setting (I’m confident it’s an even better setting than before), with many more ways to create conflicts and plot twists. The story is coming more naturally to me now, and the characters are leading me through their journey in a way they weren’t before.
If I had not have come across the novel with a similar plot to my own, I don’t know if I would have completed my WIP. I would have been stuck in a rut because it wasn’t coming as naturally to me as it really should have. The characters couldn’t find their way out of the maze to tell me their story, but now they just won’t shut up!
Sometimes we have to have these setbacks in storytelling, and in life, to set us on the right path and lead us in the direction that’s meant for us. Sometimes that’s where the best surprises are. I do believe everything happens for a reason, and while at first the reason may not be clear, it’ll present itself eventually.
If anyone has seen the film Soul Surfer, there is a scene in this film that has really stuck with me. All the characters are at youth group and their youth group leader is showing them pictures which really could be anything. The first one looks a little bit like a basketball, but when you zoom out, you see it’s the eye of a fly. The next image looks like some sort of brain, but when you zoom out you’ll see it’s a walnut. The message behind this is perspective.
|It's the eye of a fly!|
Sometimes you’re so close to something that you can’t see the whole picture. You need to take a step back, or zoom out, so you can see everything. I guess it’s like that in life. If you’re too close to something you may be missing the big message. For me, when I realised there was a story almost identical, I was … well to be honest I was upset. I’d worked so hard at this idea, and I’d been crafting and putting in all my brain power. Later I took a step back and realised I could come at it from a different perspective. I’d taken a step back, seen the whole picture and found a different way of doing things which turned out to work much better.
So the moral of the blog? Take a step back and take a look at the whole picture. Let the setbacks lead you to a new path and enjoy the journey. It may lead you to wonderland.