I had a mild panic attack yesterday. I was talking to my thirteen-year-old about my MG I've started. I was explaining my main character and the world he discovers, and I was very excited (and a little proud) of how different it was than anything else I'd ever seen.
Up until she said, "Oh, that's just like *insert name of popular children's book*."
No, not Harry Potter. I'd never in a zillion years accidentally immitate Potterverse. I'm a well-versed Potterdork. But this series she compared mine to is also pretty popular. I knew it because I'd bought her each book as it came out. I've never read it. I've never even read the back to find out what it was about. I just knew she liked it. So, with her words I went from excited to incredibly depressed in 2.4 seconds.
She brought me the books for me to look over. I googled the series. Researched the characters, plot arc and motivations, and am relieved to say mine is still very different from that one. There *are* similarities, though. Unintentional ones. I know this is to do with the fact that *there are no new ideas.* Even that one is compared to another previous author's work.
So how, in this world of millions of books, can we possibly know *our* ideas are fresh and new? They probably aren't. Someone else has already written your book with different characters and motivation. And not necessarily in book form. I told my friend about one element and they said, "Oh, that's like a Dr. Who episode." Crap. I've read jacket copy of some books and said to myself, "That's a Buffy episode."
It sucks, but we have to soldier on and hope that our new take or twist is different enough to not be considered immitation hacks. I don't watch Dr. Who. I haven't read many of my daughter's books. There's the possibility (or inevitability) that if this book finds representation and is published, someone will think I've copied someone else. But none of us do that on purpose, do we? We don't *want* to be like others. We want to entertain with our newness, not disappoint with our similarity.
This might be a bad idea, but I hope an agent would help in this regard. If they are interested in the book, but think parts are too similar to something I've never heard of, they'd let me know so I can change it. Unless they discard mine from the get-go for being too similar. It's a frightening possibility.
Has this happened to any of you? Have you thought you had a new take or idea, only to discover it's been done?