Déjà vu: when you see the world through the veil of your story

A tweet nearly sent me into full-on panic mode yesterday. It wasn’t even a full 140 characters. And I remembered to take my meds, I promise.

So how did one incomplete sentence send me spinning?

Here it is:

Aliens…hybrids…powers… All of those are pretty prominent key-words in the book I’m about one week away from querying. I immediately began berating myself for daring to sleep during the past six months. I should have sent this baby out weeks ago! Now I’ll be on the wrong side of the trend wave! Why is the chocolate milk gone?!

I got back to work, pounding out a personal record of new words in one day, crying over the death of a thousand old words, and hitting the half-way point on revising this draft. I took Laura Zat‘s advice to heart:

Although, as I look at it now, I don’t think that’s significantly different from what I had planned to do before the melt-down-inducing tweet.

Then some rational part of my brain, really down deep in the recesses of my mind somewhere (two rights and a left past the cliffs of insanity), gave me the mental equivalent of a slap in the face. It doesn’t matter if everyone and their monkey’s uncle is writing books about aliens and powers. I bet those other books have people and oxygen and copious references to coffee in there too.

That’s right. Take a breath, Megan. This book is going to stand on its own, or it won’t. I don’t know if this trend will have an effect on its journey toward publication. It might work in my favor, or it might mean it sits on a hard drive while I tap the next story in line and write like crazy.

But this incident got me thinking about something else I’ve noticed on my road to becoming a “real!” writer. The more time I spend writing this story, the more I see it everywhere I look. I watch The Fifth Element — oh crumb! My story’s already been done! Two days later, I reread Mistborn…and there it is again. [Disclaimer: reading Brandon Sanderson‘s books always gives me a major case of Aspiring Author Syndrome (AAS). “I’ll never be that good! I should just shut down the computer and walk away. For reals.” So I am by no means implying that my book is in the same league.] An episode of Doctor Who…I am such a plagiarizing hack. I’d better start from scratch and try to come up with something original.

There are two major problems with this line of reasoning.

First: I’m almost certainly the only person on the planet who would see the similarities. Really, I’d have to write a dissertation to convince anyone that my story bears any resemblance to the ones I just mentioned, or the dozens of other movies/shows/books/songs that I see my book so vividly reflected in.

Second: Of course my book “looks” like the stories I love. I’m drawn to the themes and archetypes and mythologies and all that jargon-y stuff that mean the most to me. Why would I expect that I would write something different? If Hope’s Grave is a shadow of those stories, they are also shadows of each other. That’s a place I’d be happy to reach.

Do you ever run across a book that sounds just like your WIP? How do you handle the resulting nervous breakdown?

Really, help a girl out. I need some good coping mechanisms for the next time I forget all that stuff I just wrote.

Originality quote.Lewis.smaller

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