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My apologies for potential errors, I'm not a native English speaker

Hello. I don't really know, who else I could ask, so I'm putting it here.

First of all, I know, that my writing isn't something groundbreaking and 100% original. I just have to get this off my chest.

I always wanted to write a nice story, which could be enjoyed. To cut it short, one day I got an idea. The idea grew and grew. I began writing the story and even got help from few beta readers (who are helping me till this day, but for a reason I can't confess with this matter to them). Hours were, and still are, put into the characters, story details and research. I fell deep in love with everything in the book. And it helped me during difficult times, just to write and be with the characters. Basically the book became my second life, the characters my another family.

The thing is time. I'm kind of slow writer, school and work take time too plus sometimes, the block strikes. That results in the story being written for couple of years. And I know I won't be finishing soon. I'm okay with taking it another period of time, writing is a long(er) track matter.

Recently, I've met someone, who also writes. They are really nice person and we understand each other very well.

And not too long ago, they got a new idea for a story. Their story is in the same field as mine, same time period. That's fine, our story concepts are very different. But then there is one stage in our plots, where the surroundings are the same.

Here I'm beginning to panic. I've noticed, when we talk about our stories, how similar their events are. And not only events. Their characters do so similar things and have nearly identical behaviours and manners as mine, sometimes same motives too. A lot of times persons idea comes some days later, after we've talked about something similar taking place in my book. I blame a lot of it on coincidence, since the surroundings are the same. Unfortunately, it's the part of the story, which I care about the most for, most effort went here and also, the character I've put the most effort in has their shining moments there.

The person is a very fast writer. I'm pretty sure, that they are going to finish earlier than me and publish it sooner.

I'm scared, that when I eventually publish my story, I'm going to be accused of copying that persons work. Even when I began writing so much earlier and had everything in place before they got their idea. The thought of being accused of copying their work terrifies me. Is there something, that could help me getting rid of this fear?

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    It won't solve every issue, but one thing you can do is print all material that you already have, and mail it to yourself. When you receive the mail, do not open it. The post's stamp on the sealed envelope will prove that you already had this material today.
    – Stef
    Mar 20, 2023 at 14:13
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    Also, if this other writer that you mention is a friend, then you could talk to them about this now. Invite them for a coffee, then say "There is something I wanted to talk to you about", and then tell them exactly what you told us here in your stackexchange post.
    – Stef
    Mar 20, 2023 at 14:15
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    Hello, thank you for your advice. I've been thinking about how to prove having the materials. I thought maybe having emails, because I communicate a lot with my beta readers per email and always send the chapters as soon as I finish writing them. But the thing is, some could argue that I've faked it. So the post is really good idea. Thank you! And yeah, I think we're going to have a talk over cup of coffee and (try to) solve it.
    – Theri01
    Mar 20, 2023 at 16:32
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    @Stef Poor man's copyright does not work. As the UK Patent Office said: "It is important to note, that [mailing yourself a copy of your work] does not prove that a work is original or created by you." Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poor_man%27s_copyright
    – user55858
    Mar 21, 2023 at 12:13
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    @user52445 But there is no copyright issue at all in this case. No one is going to sue the OP for writing a novel with a plot element in common with another existing novel. Copyright doesn't protect vague plot concepts. Besides, the point of mailing their work to themselves is only to prove the date of the work, not to prove that the OP wrote the novel themselves. Of course mailing yourself your work doesn't prove that you didn't ask a slave in your basement to do your work for you, but that's not the issue here.
    – Stef
    Mar 21, 2023 at 12:18

2 Answers 2

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a story is a gift

You cannot share a story and keep it to yourself.

You have the good fortune of a small group of friends who support your interest in writing. You will, at times, need to compromise and filter your feelings. You will need to share your toys, and allow your friends to play their own game with one of your toys.

I believe you. I am sympathetic.

It's actually ok to still like this person, and realize they are... not respecting your boundaries. I think you are right to bring this up in an anonymous way, and not pollute the waters of your writing group with an accusation.

I'm going to paraphrase your words as honest observation: they are 'nice', and they truely think they came up with the idea you told them just a few days before. I have known this person. They are charming, and fun, and charismatic.... They will 'borrow' the good parts from everyone they meet.

It's actually flattering.... Keep reminding yourself that.

share on the page

Ideas cannot be owned, and writing is not just a bunch of ideas but actual words on the page, edited, and (eventually) completed –– I'm afraid we cannot call 'dibs' on our un-written novels.

Don't worry about being 'first', you need to be better –– if you really want to win the the big gold medal and the shower of money that lies at the end of the writing rainbo-

No, sorry. there is no prize for writing first or best. There is only a sorta bragging-rights prize for finishing.

Here's my advice

Beware of over-sharing your story with your mouth –– it feels like a releif to get it off your chest and push it out to someone else. But that's not the goal.

Writing is the goal. Hold it back until you are forced to get it on the page, and then to your beta readers where it counts.

Keep score, set a quota. Write x number of words a week. Outline the next scene, There's no deadline unless you make one. This is a wake-up call. If you don't write it, you can't complain when someone else does.

Your friend will never learn boundaries, they are not wired the same way. What they see, they take. You will need to limit your conversations to scenes and chapters you have already written, and don't brag about the ideas you haven't written yet.

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  • Hello. I wanted to thank you for taking time and answering. As you've said, it's a wake up call. I'm going to make a limit of words per week and really try finally finishing it. And also limit what I'm saying. Thank you once more!
    – Theri01
    Mar 20, 2023 at 5:44
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I would never share a story while I am writing it with another writer writing a similar story, and I wouldn't want another writer to share their story with me, just because of the effects you describe.

I even go so far that while I am writing one story, I do not read stories in the same genre! Because what I read would unavoidably trickle into my story and change it to become more like what I read.

I do not know if your friend uses your ideas intentionally, but I know it would happen to me unintentionally, whether I wanted it to or not.

So, as @wetcircuit said, keep your story to yourself (or to your non-writing friends) until you have published (!) it.

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