A lot of the blogs I read feature children’s books. That’s part of the reason that my library bag is constantly overflowing. I see a book that intrigues me and I request it. But the other day I saw one that really rocked me back. It looked like my book, or at least my idea.
I’ve been playing around with a dual story line picture book for a while now. Part of my issue has been trying to settle the story line. Part of the issue has been trying to do the research. When I saw Peeking Under the City by Esther Porter, my first thought wasn’t “Wow, what a great book.” It was much closer to “oh, no.”
The thing is that this is bound to happen. Ideas don’t develop in a vacuum. They are the result of various external stimulus which are then churned around in your brain. But you aren’t the only one who has the stimulus. You and someone else are bound to have remarkably similar ideas. A friend of mine wrote an excellent book about an underground city right before The City of Ember came out. We had already critiqued his manuscript and he had started to send it out. The two books were so similar that it was spooky.
And that’s the first thing to do. Get the other book and read it. I’m sitting here with a library copy of Peeking Under the City. It’s a fun piece of nonfiction about the various things that lie underground in a city. Porter covers everything from utilities and trains to building foundations and fossils. This is nothing like my idea or at least only very tangentially. I am so relieved!
If the idea is very close to your own, you have to decide if you want to finish your book. While I don’t want to tell you “don’t bother,” you do need to seriously look at the competition. If it is very like your own idea, the two will be in direct competition. Quite frankly, if the other book is flawed, that’s no big deal. Plot holes and flat character may leave you enough room to maneuver.
But if it is a top-notch book, written for the same audience, by a big name author? Then you have some tough decisions to make.