Friday, May 31, 2019

My book has a doppleganger

I'm looking for advice or maybe some insight into a problem I'm sure (I hope) other writers have experienced. 

I've been working on a book for many years off and on, but I recently discovered a book that was just published that has an eerily similar premise to my work in progress. They are the same category, same genre, and same story if you boil it down to a sentence. They both have the same type of magic. We both even named our rulers the same name! (In my defense, it wasn't that inventive of a royal name.) 

Obviously, this author's book was published first, so I'll admit defeat and change the name, but I'm worried about the other similarities. I know the meat of my book is different. The tone is different. The character arc is different. Is that enough? I just don't know where to go from here. I've spent years on my book. It's changed a lot in those years, but it's always been that basic premise. Just when I finally feel I have the book figured out and I'm ready to start querying... I find my book's doppelganger. I'm crushed, to say the least. 

So, should I shelve it and move on? Or is there still hope? 

You know what else is different?
The writing.

I see LOTS of books with similar plots, even similar log lines. It's what the writer does with these basics that draws my interest.

And if you think I'm just trying to make you feel better (wait, you're a blog reader, you know that isn't even possible) take a look at the flash fiction contests. The writers start with exact same words, and no one has ever written a duplicate. Not even the ones who have the same ideas.

When I read queries, yes I want plot. Yes, I want the plot to have something fresh and new. But I'm mostly looking at your writing. Can you fling, and zing, and sling words and sentences? Can you make me care about the villain? Can you make me desperate to find out what happens next?

So to answer your question: no don't shelve it, no don't move on, yes there is still hope.
You've hit the trifecta. Buy a lottery ticket.


E.M. Goldsmith said...

OP, I would not worry about this at all. Take a new angle. I have been working on a series of books for years and years and then some more years. I am close to having one ready for querying. As research into which agents to query, I often read books they have sold and are published. Recently, one of the agents at the top of my list presented a client whose new debut book is eerily similar to mine in theme- no matching character names, different world building, but still so similar. And extremely well-written. It so good. Loved the book. And it is also the first of a long series. It is selling well and has already been optioned for television/movies - what have you.

This author also happens to live about a block away from me with an extremely similar life story. Talk about doppelgangers. Instead of being worried about this, I plan to use this book as a comp in my query. It was published about two months ago so it is a recent title. Is that a bad idea?

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Standing in line at my local Walgreens I looked up at the impulse-item paperbacks by the register. A cover caught my eye. I read the back cover and felt a chill. It referenced a well known person in the news that I reference often in my novel. Eerily similar it was as if someone crawled inside my head and decided to write about the crap they found their.
I bought the book.
I read the first few pages.
I gave the book away.
I did not want to be influenced or deterred in any way by that book.
But...that the other author and I share an idea so similar is creepy.

julie.weathers said...

Nope, don't shelve it.

I had some people tell me Far Rider wouldn't sell because it was too close in premise to The Green Rider, including the agent who repped The Green Rider. The writing and stories are completely different.

For one thing, you can tell a Julie story a mile away. I write strong female leads, oddball characters, and I have a very warped sense of humor. I've given up thinking I can do anything else different. It's just the way stuff comes out.

OP, I'm sure your book is the same. You have a way of writing that is unique to you. How many times has Romeo and Juliet been told? It's still going to be told in new voices with new twists and do well.

Go forth and conquer.

Dena Pawling said...

OP, you said: I know the meat of my book is different. The tone is different. The character arc is different

Janet said: Yes, I want the plot to have something fresh and new.

Depending on who you ask, there are only seven basic stories. What the industry wants is "the same, but different." The same, because that's what people buy. But different, because that's what people are buying now.

Buy [or borrow] this doppelganger. Support the author who wrote something like yours! And READ THE BOOK. Be able to describe very specifically WHY your book is different. It's like X, but in space, or underwater, or the MC is Native American from Alabama. It's Game of Thrones set in the year 1975 and no one dies. It's Garfield meets the Hunger Games.

Read the back cover blurb. What can you do to makes yours [your query] highlight the differences? Who's the publisher? Who's the agent? Read the Amazon page. What books are shown as "you might also like"? Read those and do the same with them.

You'll end up with several comps, a good feel for the current market, and a great pitch for how your book is different from ALL of them. You may also get an idea for changes to make in your story that will make it better.

Life/publishing handed you what looks like a lemon. Make lemonade! You can do this.

Craig F said...

One main tenant to writing is to in writing the familiar. Most of us read from that same familiar geography. That means that a lot of books look similar.

If you go too far into the fringe, there are not readers there. Those books should be held until people will follow what you write to the gates of hell.

Write something familiar. Put life into it and make it an old friend. That will make it seem familiar to the readers you want and need. Writing doesn't work well in a vacuum.

Ashes said...

I would actually be interested in a FF contest where the contestant do have the same plot. Like a "write a story about X" prompt.

As it stands we get the same prompt words but I think we often try to use them in unique ways and the words are purposely selected to have multiple usages.

It would be kind of neat to read 30+ entries that are the essentially same story.

John Davis Frain said...

OTOH, you now have an excellent comp. And anyone who has queried can tell you, good comps are hard to find.

I bet if you sent Silence of the Lambs with gender roles reversed, you'd have a few agents saying my way, please. Familiar yet different, it's what the good people want apparently.

Konnie Enos said...

My identical twin sister and I both write. We're identical. We often come up with the same premise for our stories, BUT our stories are never the same, even when they started from the same idea. We're different. Our voice is different and our take on the situation is different. I love my favorite saying. "No two people are exactly alike." if there can be multiple versions of the Cinderella story and NONE of them are the same, then you can clearly write a completely different story even if you start with the same idea.

Konnie Enos
Smile. Make the day a brighter day.
Instragram @ konnieenos

MA Hudson said...

I spent years and years working on a book too. I love that book with all my heart but it was only through writing new stories that I could really take a step back and see what book 1 really needs to make it zing. I haven't gone back to it yet to revise but I will, definitely, and it'll be all the better because I've learnt so much about writing craft with each subsequent project.

I recently saw a trailer for a movie that made my heart sink - the premise was so similar to my WIP. But, like you, the meat of my story is very different, and the execution, so I take comfort in that. Also, I figure that by the time I start querying my WIP, that movie will be a distant and rapidly fading memory. Fingers crossed.

Brenda said...

Interestingly I did a Masterclass today where James Patterson talked about the need to read widely in your genre. That way what you think is fresh is actually fresh.

Back to the library...