Hi, everyone! Hope you’re having a good week! This is the first in a series of common writer worries. I hate to see creative people fret about things unnecessarily, so I hope to put some of those anxieties to rest!

Newer writers, especially, worry about others stealing their plots or story ideas. Sometimes, they even ponder whether they should make beta readers sign non-disclosure agreements (not realizing, maybe, that the biggest struggle is to find beta readers who will read one’s work at all.) They put copyright lines at the bottom of every page of their work, which can look amateurish to potential employers or publishers.

Experienced authors rarely worry about others stealing their ideas. Here’s why.

1. Ideas are easy. Execution is hard.

Here’s what lots of us do. We get a brilliant idea…and then, after fifty or one hundred pages of writing, it feels like such a slog we’re tempted to pitch the whole thing and start something new. That’s because even if a premise is brilliant, a writer has to figure out a hundred little things to make it work. The expression “The Devil is in the details” is all too true.

2. Most writers like their own ideas better than other writers’ ideas.

Because a novel (or even a well-crafted short story) does take so much effort, writers rarely hear a sentence or two about someone else’s work and think, “That’s it! I’m going to write that whole novel!”

Most writers have about ten or so half-baked ideas floating around in their own heads, waiting to be written. There are all kinds of personal reasons why they’ve come up with these ideas. These stories have already taken root in each writer’s subconscious, and a new idea has almost no chance of supplanting it.

 

 

3. Agents and publishers aren’t looking for ideas to steal.

Agents and editors are inundated with proposals and manuscripts, so they don’t even feel the temptation to take one person’s idea and get someone else to write it. If they encounter a great and sellable idea backed up by an equally great manuscript, they acquire it. If it’s a great idea but so-so writing, they’ll pass…but they might share some constructive feedback about the writing.

4. Ideas are not copyrightable.

Actual writing can be copyrighted. Premises and ideas can’t. For this reason, it’s better for writers to focus on the writing rather than on protecting the concept.

5. Most ideas aren’t that original, anyway.

I’ve blogged before about how other people have probably already written stories similar to yours, and that’s fine. I’ve noticed a tendency for newer writers to think they have a truly unique idea…simply because they haven’t read much in their own genre.

Many new writers put too much emphasis on coming up with a shockingly original concept, and not enough on the craft on writing. Coming up with a strong story structure and engaging, memorable characters…achieving a clear and evocative writing style…these things aren’t easy, and if a writer can achieve them, they’ll already stand out.

While the stealing of ideas isn’t a big issue, the stealing of finished work absolutely is. Book piracy is a serious issue, and it’s terribly unfair to writers and to the companies who invest in them.

Hopefully, though, this post will set writers’ minds at ease, so they won’t be shy about getting the feedback they need for their work.

Is this something you’ve worried about in the past…or worry about now? Have you had an experience that I haven’t covered? Let me know in the comments! Thanks for reading, and happy writing!