Department of BS Writer Complaints: Stealing Ideas

car-theft-676972-m“I’d tell you my idea for a novel, but I’m afraid you’ll steal it.”

Every jackass with a pulse has a “book in them.” Good for them. Really. They probably also have a killer movie idea, a world-changing BBQ recipe, a new online business concept, a perfect solution for health care reform and a mind-altering sex position to their namesake. Great, but who gives a shit?

Ideas are a dime a dozen. Scratch that, a dime a thousand. They’re not anything until they’re executed, which is when they count. Until then, they’re not anything but good feelings, hopes, wishes and unicorn carnitas, and you can’t pay a mortgage with those things. Which is why there’s no reason to worry about someone “stealing your idea.”

One, an idea can’t be copyrighted anyway, so the law man isn’t going to bust down doors on your writerly behalf. Two, there’s no guarantee someone who “stole” your idea is going to wind up with the same product at the end. If they’re lifting passages out of your finished work, sure, that’s called plagiarism, and it actually is theft. But up and until that point, no, it really doesn’t matter.

I bring this up because I just finished reading an advance copy of a novel set in the North Dakota oil boom. Like my novel, The Invisible Hand, it features meth pushers, prostitutes and a look at how the economic explosion changed a rural part of that state. Gee, it’s almost like this person “stole” my original idea. I really regret posting about “my idea” on social media, because now look what happened.

Oh, wait, no I don’t. Because even though our two novels share a similar setting and themes, the end result was two completely different takes. We’re both individuals with our own styles. If anything, I’m honored the idea to set a novel in the North Dakota oil boom was solid enough for someone else to approach. In fact, I’ll be writing a glowing review once this other novel is released.

I only rant because I’ve heard this so many times. “I don’t want anyone to steal my idea.” Great. Now actually follow through on the thing you’re worried about being stolen, then we’ll talk.

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