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Writer's Dilemma - Salvador Dali in a lawn chair.
I'm invisible without 3D glasses.
Writer's Dilemma
Please listen to the following hypothetical scenario and consider what you'd do:

Suppose you have several notebooks full of potential story and character ideas, but those ideas are fragmentary. Most of your ideas are undeveloped and take the form of, "I wanna write a historical novel about person_X," and "It would be really cool if one of my characters had personality_tick_Y," and "Wouldn't it be beautifully tragic and ironic if event_Z happened."

Suppose while reading Wikipedia about certain persons of alleged history, you decide definitively that you've found the character you want to write about, period. This person may never have existed and is considered by most scholars to be fictitious. You're already jotting down notes and outlining the progression of the plot.

After a while, you stop writing to finish reading the Wikipedia entry, and you discover, to your overwhelming frustrating, that someone else has recently (within the last eleven years) written a work of historical fiction about the same character. Your plot lines and character traits are fairly different and the other author's book has been both adored and disdained by readers. The biggest threat is that there might be a motion picture planned in the next two years, but until now, you've never heard about it.

What do you do? Do you write your story or do you set your notes aside and pick another historical person? Do you continue with your own version of the story and hope that a publishing company would print and distribute your novel despite the competition from this already established publication? Or do you admit the inevitability of your defeat and move on, trusting that you'll find inspiration again?

Current Location: Water Valley, MS
mood: sad and frustrated
music: the grind of my computer processor scanning for viruses

14 Voices in a Chorus | Lift Your Voice Aloft
watercamel From: watercamel Date: May 17th, 2008 11:58 am (UTC) (link)
there is a lot of historical fiction about the same people, so as long as there is no plagerism or the hint thereof, why have another book about the same person. I mean, look at how many Arthurian Legend books, plays, and movies there are.
lost_angel From: lost_angel Date: May 17th, 2008 12:42 pm (UTC) (link)
The problem is more about the likelihood of publication. Will publishers even consider a new work about a topic if there is another piece of fiction that is already recently established? If there had been twenty or thirty years between my potential novel and this one already out there on the same subject, it would be less of an issue. But the recency of this current book (and the potential movie) may make my potential novel less "marketable" for the publishers. I just don't know.

Thank you for taking the time to respond and reminding me that my story will never be the first, nor the last, of its kind. There are no new stories, and thus I shouldn't be frightened of supposed competition.
watercamel From: watercamel Date: May 17th, 2008 04:01 pm (UTC) (link)
Well, look at the Boleyn family novels out there now. The Other Boleyn Girl and the Bolyn Inheritance both involve many of the same characters but are from different perspectives. Both have done fairly well in sales and came out within a few years of each other. It can be a good thing- if interest is sparked on the topic of the one person, then many people will read books on the same topic or person (I think- I would anyway).
lost_angel From: lost_angel Date: May 17th, 2008 09:06 pm (UTC) (link)
Very very good point. If there is heightened interest, a publishing company may choose to piggyback off of the already established marketing. Thanks!
watercamel From: watercamel Date: May 17th, 2008 03:22 pm (UTC) (link)
Woops, I meant why not have another book.
(Deleted comment)
lost_angel From: lost_angel Date: May 17th, 2008 09:29 pm (UTC) (link)
You speak truth. I suppose for any project that takes potentially years of your life (as I would expect the exhaustive research and writing to do so), you need to love what you're writing on its own merit and not be focused on the gamble and PR game that is traditional publishing.

But I would be lying if publication didn't factor into my aspiration. I want to write the story to be read and enjoyed by other people. The entire process of writing and editing a novel must keep the audience in mind, at least that is what we're taught from high school on. Breaking this rule and ignoring your audience leads to, with only a few stellar exceptions, self-absorbed and undeveloped trash no one else wants to read.

Despite my tangent above, your point is valid and well-taken. It should be more about the journey and the quality of my writing; those two things should lead to financial success, also.
alcamar From: alcamar Date: May 17th, 2008 02:19 pm (UTC) (link)
I think if the story lines were remotely similar, then perhaps it might be some worry. At least with a lessor known, but still known historical figure. But with completely different story aspects....naw. Even with a movie coming out(which would be where most of the concern), I don't think it's that big a deal really. Go for it!! :)
lost_angel From: lost_angel Date: May 17th, 2008 09:29 pm (UTC) (link)
thanks :)
imnotsatan From: imnotsatan Date: May 17th, 2008 08:05 pm (UTC) (link)
I think you're actually more likely to get the story published if a movie about whatever person it is comes out. There's bound to be an upswing of interest in whoever it is.

You may not get the most favorable reception, however.
lost_angel From: lost_angel Date: May 17th, 2008 09:14 pm (UTC) (link)
True. I suppose that's my fear also, that my work would be considered derivative or that I would be considered a hack simply by being second. If my writing sucks, then I would understand the criticism (even though it would hurt, I would understand), but I would hate to be dismissed out of hand like so many books are.
birdofparadox From: birdofparadox Date: May 17th, 2008 10:10 pm (UTC) (link)
You should write the story your heart wants you to tell. Publication may be on your list of goals, but I think you're going to get more satisfaction, and write a more satisfying book, if you write the story you want... rather than the story you settled for.
lost_angel From: lost_angel Date: May 18th, 2008 09:42 am (UTC) (link)
Ah, sensei, your wisdom applies to every facet of life. *bow*
birdofparadox From: birdofparadox Date: May 18th, 2008 09:45 pm (UTC) (link)

zordac From: zordac Date: May 18th, 2008 04:29 pm (UTC) (link)
First, write the book for you. Satisfy the inner critic and make the lost_angel happy. If you are able to do this you are already leaps and bounds above most of us. This is a difficult task and I shall help you accomplish it in any way that I can.

Second, only expect those people that know you and love you to read it. They will always be your biggest fans and your biggest critics. If more people than your inner-circle read it then it is a success.
14 Voices in a Chorus | Lift Your Voice Aloft