How Start-Up Business Rules Apply to Writers Too!

October 27, 2019

Earlier this year, I was asked to join a start-up company as a copywriter. As I worked on their social media and marketing pieces, my role grew and I became more directly involved with the start-up. In this short amount of time I learned so much about business, in particular about the correlation between the climb that both start-ups and writers have to make in order to get their projects out to the public.


There is one main theme that jumped out at me that I needed to share with my fellow writers: Don't be afraid if you notice that someone else has come up with a similar idea as yours. 


I can't tell you how many times I used to worry whenever I came across a tweet from a fellow #writingcommunity member that described story details that mirrored mine in some way. It felt dejecting. Never mind if the person got published! That would crush me. Someone with a similar story got the jump before me, so why should I continue? 


I've noticed that this happens with other writers too. I've seen and heard writers share their dismay or declare surrender when they see that someone else claimed their story idea before they got the chance to. But we've all been wrong. These are not sound reactions because it couldn't be further from the truth, unless we are talking about someone actually stealing your manuscript and publishing it as if it were their own—that's a different topic for a different blog post.


Here is what I learned from my experience in working with a start-up company:






No one else will have the exact same idea as yours. Your knowledge, background, and imagination are unique to you.




Even if someone else puts out a novel that shares similar concepts or plots, that does not mean that they can tell the story the same way as you would. Your story is guaranteed to be different just because you are a different person. Don't let the fear of a similar narration published before yours stop you from sharing your work. 





Ideas are repeated all the time. Sometimes people create improvements on old themes; sometimes people tell the same tale in their own words. In business, as in writing, this is called competition and competition is good. Competition creates buzz but it also creates a niche. It is a good thing to not be the sole person in a venture because it signifies that there is a need for what you have to offer. 


Think about it! This is exactly why we have genres. A certain repetition in story is expected of novels. Let us also remember that there are fans that look for similar plots and story. Ever fall in love with a book and once you've finished it you wish you could dive right into another similar story? Yes? There are others out there that feel that very same way. 


Then there is the world of fan-fic. This is where fans of fiction take a beloved creation by someone else and either extend it, recreate it, further dissect characters, or twist it in some other fashion. 




Never give up on a project just because someone else got it out before you or even mentions that they have a similar concept. 


Do worry about holding back your work simply because you think it's been done before. In her book, Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert describes ideas as living breathing things that look around for the perfect host that can form them into tangible creations. If these ideas go ignored by the host, they move on to the next person.


There is a danger in pitching a story that nears another's concept too much, especially if the genre or sub-genre has become oversaturated as what happened with the world of vampires. Conversely, there is a danger in wanting to be so unique that agents and publishers will be wary of taking you on. In business, investors can be trigger shy when they are dealing with a concept that is new and unheard of, even if they are interested in it. 


At the end of the day, put forth your work if it is well written and the story is burning inside of you. Don't, if you're only aiming to copy someone else's work for lack of your own ideas. 





I leave you with the poetry of Charles Bukowski:





So, You Want to be a Writer?


if it doesn't come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don't do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don't do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
searching for words,
don't do it.
if you're doing it for money or
don't do it.
if you're doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don't do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don't do it.
if it's hard work just thinking about doing it,
don't do it.
if you're trying to write like somebody
forget about it.

if you have to wait for it to roar out of
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you're not ready.

don't be like so many writers,
don't be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don't be dull and boring and
pretentious, don't be consumed with self-
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
over your kind.
don't add to that.
don't do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don't do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don't do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.



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