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Topic: How do you know your idea for a novel hasn't already been done?

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Subject: How do you know your idea for a novel hasn't already been done?
Date Posted: 12/10/2008 1:27 PM ET
Member Since: 11/9/2008
Posts: 8
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Other than being a consumate reader, Is there some kind of reference where you can make sure it hasn't already been done? I'm speaking of thriller novels to be exact.


BTW I found this on a website on writing and found it absolutely hysterical:


Sinclair Lewis was invited to talk to some students about the writer’s craft. He stood at the head of the class and asked, “How many of you here are really serious about being writers?” A sea of hands shot up. Lewis then asked, “Well, why aren't you all home writing?” And with that he walked out of the room.


Date Posted: 12/10/2008 2:38 PM ET
Member Since: 10/13/2007
Posts: 36,445
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You have to assume that your idea has already been written.  I doubt there is many novel ideas left that have not been written in some form.

YOU need to write what YOU feel works best for you.  Just because someone wrote a thriller about doctors and DNA stealing does not mean you cannot do that same. No one will write the same book, everyone will add their own little twists to it.  Look at the romance genre, same basic idea reworked over and over again, and they sell well.

So rather then worrying about your idea being the same as anyone elses, just work hard and do the best you can, write, edit, edit and submit.

Date Posted: 12/10/2008 5:01 PM ET
Member Since: 5/6/2008
Posts: 5,641
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Pam's right...go for it. You couldn't possibly write the same book as someone else.

Greg K. - ,
Date Posted: 12/16/2008 3:24 PM ET
Member Since: 3/15/2007
Posts: 871
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I read somewhere there's no such thing as an original idea. Someone somewhere has already thought of it. It's just a question of who does it first.

(to cite an example, Do you think Thomas Edison was the first person who invented telephone? He wasn't. Someone else thought of it first but Thomas Edison was the first to file a patent and thus he gets the credit.)

I remember thinking of something like why don't we have something like this and I would see it before my eye on some commerical weeks or months later. I'm like dang. I could had been the one who is marketing that product. lol.

Date Posted: 12/16/2008 10:08 PM ET
Member Since: 11/9/2008
Posts: 8
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Thanks! That works for me1

Date Posted: 12/30/2008 9:37 PM ET
Member Since: 7/6/2005
Posts: 404
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Good question.  The bible says "there's nothing new under the sun".  I saw my complete story in a book and I never had it published!  If I knew the writer saw my work I would say she totally ripped me off! 

Date Posted: 1/1/2009 9:37 PM ET
Member Since: 12/3/2008
Posts: 32
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There are only a finite number of stories floating around out there.  There are, however, infinite ways of telling that story.  That's where your unique perceptions and personality come into play.  I wouldn't worry about "if my story was already told," I'd be more concerned with asking yourself if you've told your story in the best possible way.

Write on!




Sheyen - ,
Date Posted: 1/13/2009 9:57 PM ET
Member Since: 10/1/2006
Posts: 2,885
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Think of it this way, a creative writing teacher gives her class an assingment.  "Write a short story on two dogs that get left behind at a camp site, and they find their way home.  You give them the names, the personalities, where they were.  You make everything up"  Each person witll have a different spin on that one idea.  I don't know how many times after reading a book I have said "If a different person had written that book I think I might have liked it better."

Date Posted: 1/14/2009 1:51 PM ET
Member Since: 12/7/2008
Posts: 25
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I agonize over this one a lot, but I agree wtih what CleoAuthor said. Someone might have already written the same plot, but not with your voice or with your unique way of telling a story.

Date Posted: 1/16/2009 11:30 AM ET
Member Since: 12/29/2008
Posts: 272
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I have had that same thought...In fact, I started my first book and was several chapters into it when I came across a book that I started reading.  It wasn't exactly the same as my book, but similar enough I stopped writing it, largely because I was afraid I would subconsciously duplicate the rest of the book instead of forcing it to go in a different direction.

Date Posted: 1/17/2009 10:51 PM ET
Member Since: 9/27/2008
Posts: 370
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I would advise you not to go looking to see if your idea has already been done.  That way, in the unlikely event that some legal problem would arise down the road, you will be able to honestly say that you were never aware that someone else had written anything similar. 

Date Posted: 1/19/2009 10:53 AM ET
Member Since: 7/8/2005
Posts: 305
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I just referenced a book to comment on a different thread and came across this information in the same book.   The book is "Get Published" by Meg Schneider & Barbara Doyen, ISBN-13: 978-1-59869-687-5, ISBN-10: 1-59869-687-4

Page 43    Check Out the Competition

The Internet has made it easier than ever to find out what else has been written on your topic.  Sites like Findarticles.com continually troll the Web and archive articles from a multitude of publications.  Your can search articles by keyword and publications by topic, and many of the articles are free....You can find out the publisher, the format, and often the table of contents or excerpts of competing books--information that will help you identify both potential publishers and the weak spots in the competition.

Findarticles.com also provides a portal to a broad spectrum of useful statistical information sites, such as the Statistics of Income bulletin from the IRS and the Uniform Crime Bulletin from the FBI.


Good luck and have fun writing!


Edited to add:  I agree with the others, don't stress over rather or not your idea has been done.  Chances are greater that it has than that it hasn't.  I also agree with what they said about your writing being unique and thus your story is unique because you wrote it.

Last Edited on: 1/19/09 10:55 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 2/2/2009 6:35 PM ET
Member Since: 1/30/2009
Posts: 5,696
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Shakespeare took all his plots from other sources.  <i>Everything</i> has been written.  But not by you.  So it's not the same.

See all the brouhaha re: Neil Gaiman's Books of Magic & Harry Potter.  When asked, <i>both</i> admitted they both were heavily influenced by A Once and Future King.  Which in turn was a reimagining of Mallory's Arthurian stories.  Which were not new when he wrote them in the 15th century.  Just write what you want to write and do it as well antruthfully as you can.