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Thursday, January 19, 2012

My Worst Fear

(Other than Global Thermal Nuclear War. Thank you John Badham.)

Confession: Every time I come up with a new idea for a book, I live in fear that someone else is going to come up with the same idea and write it or sell it before I get the chance.

I know. It sounds a little insane. Like what other person in America (or anywhere else for that matter) was going to wake up and think "Huh. What if a brunette cheerleader from New Jersey had to move to Florida and join a competition squad completely made up of blondes?" right around the same time I was pitching I WAS A NON-BLONDE CHEERLEADER? But believe it or not, it has happened to me. More than once.

A few years back I had a writing partner and together we wrote three screenplays. The first one was a teen body-switch movie that was cute, but ultimately silly, I guess. The second one was about a guy in his twenties who still had a frat-boy mentality who, on learning his best friend was engaged to a girl he detested, went about trying to break-up the wedding. We had just finished our sixth draft and were very excited to send it out, but we couldn't come up with a title. We racked our brains for days, weeks, trying to come up with just the right moniker to catch the reader's attention and get us our first big movie deal. And then, one day, I was at the theater and I turned around and almost walked right into a huge, cardboard standup ad for a movie called SAVING SILVERMAN! My first thought was "Omigod! That's the perfect title for our movie!" And guess what? It turned out it had the EXACT SAME PREMISE AS OUR MOVIE!

I almost threw up. And then the movie sucked and it made no money and everyone in Hollywood who read our script said, "It has a lot of funny parts and memorable characters, but Saving Silverman bombed, so . . . no." And that was the end of that.

So we came up with a new idea, wrote a new screenplay (took us a couple of years of toil, btw), put the finishing touches on that one, and were ready to send it out when I went to the theater and saw a trailer for a movie called DOWN WITH LOVE, which had THE EXACT SAME PREMISE AS OUR MOVIE! Except it was set in the 1950's and ours was set in the present day. That time I actually had to get up and go to the lobby to have a panic attack. My date (now my husband), thought I was having a nervous breakdown. It's kind of a miracle he stuck with me after that public display.

Anyway, my writing partner and I kind of gave up after that.

In the last few years, there have been two separate occasions that an idea I was mulling was basically written by someone else. Both times someone more famous and successful than I am. So as much as I happen to appreciate my own creativity, I've learned to believe in the maxim, THERE ARE NO NEW IDEAS. (Most notorious case in point, TWILIGHT? Yeah. THE VAMPIRE DIARIES came first, people.)

So I've had this idea that I totally, TOTALLY love for the past month, but I haven't had a chance to perfect it and send it out yet, because first Christmas happened, then the kids were home for a week, then they both got sick and have actually been sick EVER SINCE! I've spent the entire month of January tending to sick children. Which, let's face it, is my more important job, but still.

Every day I get that email from Publisher's Marketplace listing the deals of the day, and every day when I see it there in my inbox, I get this awful, hollowed out feeling. I click it open, actually leaning back, away from my monitor, as if it's going to detonate in my face. Then I quickly scan all the deals for key words that might point to something similar to my beloved idea, and only when I see that there are none (not today), do I exhale. Right now, my worst fear, is that I open that sucker and see the line:

PITCHED AS A TEENAGED ________ ________ who must save her ________ ________ from _________ by going to _________ and ________ _________.

What? You thought I was just going to give it away?

So anyway, wish me luck. I plan to have this thing finished by the end of next week, provided I can keep the germs at bay. If all goes well, you'll see MY name in the Marketplace soon with all the blanks above filled in. NO MORE FEAR!


Blogger sherlock said...

doesnt matter if someone else something along the same lines as you, i will read anything written by you! no questions asked. you are one of my favourite authors, hands down.

January 19, 2012 at 1:14 PM  
Blogger amber d* said...

For the past four years I've been working on and off on this one novel (I refer to it as The Devil nowadays), and every time I watch Parenthood, a part of me cringes because there are so many similarities in my characters and those characters! The other day after knowing how many "coming home" and "family" stories there are out there, I thought maybe I should just finally dump the thing but the next day I told that foolish part of my brain to cram it and started right again for the millionth time to write it.

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