Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sunday Musings: April 12 2015

Kicking back with Muse

Hey there, Musers!

Hope you're keeping well.

Let's get straight to this week's musings...and hopefully, I didn't repeat this question...then again, we're always good for more insights.

How do you stop yourself from just repeating every other book that's already out on the market?

I worry about plenty of things:

whether I've done enough research or whether someone will write and tell me I've gotten something wrong

whether my book will be accepted for publication

whether it will be badly written, contain grammatical errors, be dull and uninteresting, attract readers, etc, etc

But I don't worry that my book will be a clone of someone else's -- I have too much faith in my inner weirdness for that.

And one has only to listen to two people's eyewitness accounts of the same events to really get that no two people will see things the same way.

When I get an idea or something excites me into thinking, "Book!", I play with it -- potential characters, scenes, plots.  If I see everything shifting into a sadly familiar road, I give it up. What satisfaction, or fun, is there in following or appropriating someone else's work?  I file the idea in my mind for possible future use and go my way.

Also, once I begin a project, I read absolutely no fiction for fear that I might inadvertently adopt something.  Legitimate research, normally nonfiction, is another matter, naturally.

Bear in mind, though, that there are a limited number of plot and plot combinations available.  We authors have to draw on them.  The trick is to do it creatively.

I don't try. I just write. A century ago, before copyrights or plagiarism, authors copied other authors often, sometimes giving them credit, sometimes not. For good and bad, sharing (or borrowing) is not allowed today. That said, there is nothing new under the sun. So people will come up with similar ideas if they've read the "copied" book or not.

To me, I suppose the answer to your question is all about voice - voice of the author and voice of the characters. Of course, others may argue story (plot) and language (prose) are the answer, but today, I'll stick to voice.

JAMI GRAY, author

How does that saying go, "Every story has already been told"? The basics of every story has been done by now, so for writers it's their characters and their worlds that become distinctive. Each time I sit down to write, I have to ensure my characters are unique, and that individuality of characters will help me craft a compelling world readers will want to visit.

For me, writing a new story is a challenge to my muse. For example, after my first UF series, The Kyn Kronicles, I decided to try my hand at first person point of view and a new genre, Paranormal Romance, and my second series, PSY-IV Teams was born.

Much like Pauline, I won't read the genre I'm currently working in. My fear is that if I get stuck in my WIP (work in progress) I might inadvertantly use a tried and true genre trope to escape. I'd rather claw my way out on my own merits, and that journey is what makes writing such a blast.

That’s a very interesting question. Actually, when I was starting to write one of the things I was told was to go to bookstores and libraries and check out the books that were similar to what I was writing. When I went there I looked for any books that might be like mine. I found none and realized that my book had a chance since no one had written anything like mine.

Another thing I do is I don’t read YA books when I am in the middle of writing. I am now in the middle of a YA novel, actually the sequel to my first novel, and I have imposed this restriction on myself. This way I know I am not placing any of the thoughts of another author into my book. Of course, no one else writes like I do, so I don’t think I could repeat any books now out there.

When J.K. Rowling became popular and Harry Potter books were on top many authors wrote similar books. They were copy catting her and some publishers like that. Stephanie Meyers created the vampire genre in YA and so many authors copy catted her too. I think all authors should follow the idea they have in their heads. Going along with what is popular might not be the answer. But also keeping track of what books are out there is a good way to make sure you are not following the pack and writing with your own voice and to your own interest.

If the book I  wanted to read already existed, I’d be reading it instead of writing it.

To come up with an unique idea for the plot of The Ginseng Conspiracy, I did research. I researched the topic of ginseng and learned that there weren't any fictional books out there at all, at the time about the topic. Many mystery authors have covered writing about different herbs and plants. Ginseng was never among them, most likely because 95% of all cultivated American Ginseng is grown in Wisconsin. I had an unique situation. To have a believable mystery about ginseng and to use it in a novel, the setting would have to be in Wisconsin.

During my writing and after The Ginseng Conspiracy was published, I was contacted by The Ginseng Board of Wisconsin and given their blessing.

DAWN KNOX, author

I don't understand why someone would deliberately copy another author's book. Where's the satisfaction in that? I love to see the characters in my imagination come to life as I write about them. I wouldn't want to be bound by anyone else's constraints.

When I first started writing, I feared that I might be influenced by other people's books until I realised that if I was reading a story which engaged me, I often imagined how I would have finished it or developed the characters differently. So, the chances of me inadvertently copying were very slim.
I think that unless one is deliberately attempting to copy someone else's story, it would be very hard to produce something similar. Each month, members of my writing group are given a writing prompt and despite starting with the same  idea, the stories are always completely different.

One thing that does bother me though, is that from time to time, I've submitted romance stories to women's magazines and despite my stories being described as well-written and having likeable, believable characters, they are often rejected because they have 'predictable endings'. I often wonder how many endings there can be in a love story. Either the couple end up together, they go their separate ways or the reader is left to make up his or her own mind. I don't feel like I'm copying other people's stories, I'm just an incurable romantic who likes a happy outcome.

While I am reading historical non-fiction something will trigger an idea based on fact. For example, in False Pretences, the situation of a young woman desperate to find out who her family is and whether she is legitimate or illegitimate; in Tangled Love, a father bound by his oath of allegiance to follow James II to France which results in his daughter being reduced to poverty. These are not themes which I have read in other novels I have read which are either Regency Romances or set in the reign of Queen Anne Stuart 1702 -1714.

I add historical details - events, social and economic history, fashion, food etc., to add interest and in my own voice.

I never give this a thought. All the plots have been done and re-done, thousands and thousands and thousands of time. I just do my thing, concentrating on the plot burning through my brain. I’m sure it’s repetitious but that surely can’t be helped, or be of much consequence.

Thanks for joining us and see you next week!
 If you have a question or comment you’d like us to muse upon, do not hesitate to contact me Christine Steeves-Speakman  at

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