Writing

The Accidental Plagiarist

I haven’t posted much lately because I’ve been writing. Or not writing, depending on the day…my mileage varies. Currently I am at 36k words, and have worked out some of the plot kinks that were plaguing me.

This morning I went to write a scene that I’d been excited about doing, as I could see the whole thing in my head and had had the initial inspiration from a dream. As a matter of course, I usually google names, etc., to make sure that I haven’t inadvertently yoinked a real person’s name or a bit of an existing story that I may have read. And what happened when I googled “clockwork fagin”? This. Now, I know who Cory Doctorow is, and am aware that he is a very good writer. I have For the Win sitting on a shelf but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. I swear that I have never read this story. I don’t remember hearing anything about this story, but quite obviously I have.

How uttery disappointing, that the idea which jumped fully formed into my dreams is not my own. I can see the children with their clockwork limbs gathered around a fire, on which cooks a pot of rat stew. They are comparing the day’s haul of pickpocketed goods, presided over by a robot Faginesque character in tattered black. The fire lights the archways and missing tile of an abandoned and forgotten underground station. Pretty cool, huh? Problem is, it’s not mine.

So, into the trash with that, and now I’m trying to completely rework those scenes. And that is why I haven’t written anything this morning.

It’s quite scary, actually, knowing that your mind is quite capable of doing this to you. “Yeah, here you go, a cool-ass scene, from your oh-so-creative imagination. Yes, you are on fire baby, you can come up with this shit even in your dreams.” All writers read, they read voraciously and passionately – I think you would have to, in order to write. And all of that material is sitting there, forgotten, washing around in the depths of your subconscious waiting to be fished up as though it was new, and yours. So dangerous.

I’m still sad over losing my clockwork thieves and rat stew.

7 thoughts on “The Accidental Plagiarist

  1. Couldn’t you use your dream anyway? So long as you’re careful it isn’t direct plagiarism if it came from your dream and if it fits so well it seems sad to let it all go :(

  2. Well, I was going to keep the band of street urchins, but take away the robot Fagin character. I’m just unsure about the part where their lost limbs (from working in factories) had been replaced by clockwork limbs, because from the excerpt it looks as though he has used that already. I was going to call them Tatters (from tatterdemalion) and now they’re just not cool without the clockwork bits.

  3. Hmmm…check this out. A small blurb in a larger article, “What happens if you come up with an idea that has been used before by another writer?” it makes mention of your pain and rings true . It’s advice is one of the reasons I finally got to writing. What do you think?

  4. I think WordPress might have stripped out the link – let me know where it was, if you can, as I’d love to read that. Glad that I’m not the only one that it has happened to!

    I worked out another way of handling the scene, so I didn’t need to trash it all. As a consequence, I actually came up with a character that I’m totally in love with, so it wasn’t all bad. :)

  5. Well then, let’s try it another way. Here’s the addy – “magicalwords.net/david-b-coe/a-few-things-writers-shouldnt-worry-about/” Put it behind a “http://www dot” in the address bar and we’ll see if it can’t get you there :)

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