Rick Daley, over at the Public Query Slushpile Blog (which I hadn’t visited before, too enamored of his personal blog My Daley Rant), is hosting a contest for writers: write a query and the first 5 pages of a novel based on the following premise:
Our protagonist has found evidence that the government is being lured into war. If the country engages in the conflict abroad, its military will not be able to deal with an imminent invasion by a rival nation. The problem is that the source of the information is a double-agent, and our protagonist is being set up to cause the war he/she is trying to prevent.
Rick wants to discern whether it’s easier to write a query or the first 5 pages (my answer: the query), and also to debunk the idea that a novel premise can be “stolen.”
I attended a seminar over the weekend with close to 100 writers gathering at the local library to hear an agent talk about the publishing world. She fielded many questions about copyright issues (should I mail my MS to myself? should I use the copyright office?). She valiantly tried to reassure them that copyright occurs as soon as you compose words on the page (see right here? copyrighted! Brilliant), but the authors in the room were unconvinced that their words wouldn’t be stolen as soon as they were out of their hands.
Do stories get stolen? Absolutely. I’ve seen it happen, and it uniformly happens when some talented writer has their story stolen by some less-talented writer (who is obvs a thief as well – I think we should re-institute 7 years of exile as a suitable punishment, see Gary Colby’s awesome post about historical punishment in Ye Olde England). Beyond the moral turpitude that goes with such thievery, the chances are vanishingly small that anyone who steals your ideas will be able to profit from it. Because it is in the craft of bringing those stories to life, that it’s possible to change a story idea into a salable novel.
So fret not. Onward.
As I cook up my story ideas for this contest, I’m already drawing on a delightful series of posts by Adam Heine about crafting slang for your story-world. And Matthew Delman’s series of posts on the origins of steampunk, along with MG steampunk novel Leviathan, have tempted me to try my hand at a bit of YA steampunk romance/thriller/mystery … in space. Actually on a different world, with political intrigue, male geishas, and the emergence of new technology that threatens to throw the world into war.
Go ahead. Steal my ideas! I double dog dare you.
Contest ends May 28th!