B*$@! stole my story (not really)


I was driving home from work yesterday and for the first time in a couple of weeks, I didn’t have any podcasts to listen to. So I flipped on NPR and was happy to catch the book review…until I heard the book review. “Russell begins with this Philip K. Dickian premise and enthusiastically runs with it. What if sleep were a commodity? And what if we could barter with it? Slumber Corps has found a band-aid for the crisis in “sleep donations,” where sound sleep is extracted from a willing donor, and then transfused into an insomniac. Just like giving blood, it’s done out of a van.”

I almost ran off the road.


No, I’m not accusing Karen Russell of plagiarism. Unless she, like…plagiarized my brain… The thing is, for YEARS I’ve been thinking about writing a story that is eerily, scarily, creepily similar to this. I just never got off my tail and wrote the darn thing. And now she has and she’s getting reviewed on NPR and I’m not and waah wahh.

I’ll likely read this book to see how she’s done our idea. But the moral of the story is, kids, story ideas are a dime a dozen and it doesn’t mean anything until you DO something with that idea.

I’ve heard well-known authors talk about being approached by “fans” who say things like, “I’ll sell you my idea for a great book. It’ll make you a million bucks but I just don’t have the time.” Surprisingly, none of them seems to want to take anyone up on this arrangement. Once, Mur Lafferty on her blog for I Should Be Writing posted story ideas for a month or something. Her point was that ideas don’t mean squat when it comes to stories. It’s the finished book that means something. 

Writers are hilariously paranoid about people stealing their ideas. I participate in pitch contests on Twitter where you tweet your book pitch and agents can request materials. I’ve seen several tweets along the lines of, “Post my story here so someone can steal it? Uh, no thanks.”

Maybe I should write my own version of the sleep story, THEN read Russell’s book and compare. Hmm…

I know I’m not the only writer this has happened to.  


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