So, maybe you’re a writer, you’ve published some short fiction and you’ve cultivated a peer group of writer friends and then you get to a point where you start to think: Hey now, maybe it’s time to stop it with the short fiction and write something longer. So you mull over all your favorite ideas and try to come up with one that you can sit with for a few months, something you find sexy enough to spend some long nights with, to ignore your friends for, and to give yourself to. Finally, you hit on your idea. It’s about a unicorn who hangs out with a wizard who have to save their kingdom from an evil clown. You are super psyched about this! It’s not just a novel you want to write, it’s one you want to read! You are going to do this!
So you get started, and even though it’s your first time, you are persistent, you are strong, you are writer, goddamnit, and you will finish this thing, and see it through to the end. So you ignore all your obligations and take those short story skills and apply them to longer form and you write a 60,000 word wizard/unicorn/clown novel and it is shitty, but damnit, it’s your zero draft, and so you’re going to give it the love and attention and spit and polish it needs to stop sucking and become something maybe more than just readable.
But remember all those peer group writer friends? Turns out they’ve been writing too – many marvelous things, and then one of them announces that they have written the ultimate wizard/unicorn clown fighting book and it’s coming out this year. And even though you are usually happy for your friends, this kind of kicks you in the eye because you are like – wait, I just wrote that too?
Your editing on the unicorn/wizard/clown book slows down, because what the hell is the point anymore? The book was already written! It’s been done, and you are totally discouraged and listless about your 60 thousand words. And it’s not that you think that they stole your idea or anything, it’s just that you know that you are exposed to the same cultural influences, so the same ideas tend to pop up over and over.
Then another writer friend gives you a pep talk and says: “Hey, you know, even if they’ve written a wizard/unicorn clown fighting book, it’s not going to be YOUR wizard/unicorn clown fighting book – yours is going to be different, and maybe better, and don’t worry about it!”
And you think about that and then you say to yourself “Fuck yeah!” Because you realize that your wizard/unicorn/clown book has a theme goddamnit, and that theme is it’s own, and it’s not just about wizards and unicorns, but it’s a coming of age story about first love, and your friend probably wrote something with a different theme, so it’s cool.
Then their book goes to pre-order, and you read the amazon description, and it says that it’s a coming of age story about first love, and you are like “God motherfucking dammit, our themes are the same too?” and you realize that even if you DO find a publisher for this thing that everyone in your peer group is going to say that you read this persons novel and stole the idea and that you suck and you will lose your peer group forever and be even more alone than writers usually are.
So you think, maybe I’ll make the unicorn a pony? And the wizard a pumpkin? Maybe the clown is a space clown? But the whole draft reads like a message about how you are going to lose all your friends now, and does not a have a cool cover and an amazon page and you now hate unicorns and wizards and word documents and you think that maybe you should write something else now and put this aside until your friends novel goes out of print, but it will probably be in print forever, which will be great for them and really you are proud of their achievements you just wish that they had written about fairies that live in bananas and murder cats rather than the wizard/unicorn thing but maybe it doesn’t matter because first novels are supposed to be shit anyway?
Not that this has happened to me or anything. ::cough::