Category Archives: critique

So Long, Farewell…

I’m typing this quickly, and at 5:00 in the morning. There’s a feeling of adventure about being up at this time of day when you’re not used to it. It feels like the days when my parents used to wake us up early so we could get the long drive to my grandparents’ cottage out of the way before:

a) traffic hit in Toronto

or

b) my brother and I were awake enough to “ARE WE THERE, YET?” the whole way

…I’m not actually sure what the reasoning was, there.

The point is, ADVENTURE.

Well, my friends, I’m on a different kind of adventure this morning.

Edits are back, after a few delays in getting started and finished. I’m not going to lie to you. It’s not pretty. There’s more work to do than I’d anticipated based on early reader responses, thanks to some amazing ideas from my editor on how to make this thing kick more ass.

Like, ALL OF THE ASSES.

Mature, I know.

Mature, I know.

It’s the advantage and the disadvantage of getting developmental/substantive edits, I guess. There’s no “I can whip through this in a week by accepting and rejecting line edits,” which I imagine feels pretty sweet. There’s more gnashing of teeth this way, more re-writing of scenes and re-considering of elements, and more hard questions about everything. It leads to more self-doubt, for me at least, and more heartburn.

But damned if it doesn’t lead to a better, stronger, more satisfying and more entertaining book in the end. Bound was good before those big, bad edits. It came out of the fire far better. I’m aiming for the same here, and want to create the most amazing book I can for the readers who are making all of this possible.

So what does this all mean?

For me, it means a lot of hard work. I still want to stick to the time-frame I had planned, but… well, remember when I joked about becoming an editing-cave troll through much of the winter?

I thought at the time that I was exaggerating. I was not.

It means you’re going to see less of me around here, and on Facebook, and elsewhere. That stings. Authors these days are expected to stay on top of social media, and quite frankly, I enjoy it. I love you guys. Chatting with you in comments and posts makes me smile.

But that’s why I need to back off. Because you deserve the best.

Torn is a good story. It’s one I believe in, and one beta readers already loved. And after going through editing notes, I believe it can be great. Better than Bound (and isn’t improvement always the goal?).

It also may mean a delay in the book’s release. It definitely means I’m not putting a firm release date out there until I’m at least through the larger re-writes. If I were free to work on this all day, every day, I’d say there would be no problem sticking to my original goal. But I’m not. Technically, writing’s not my full-time job–my family is, and they’re not going to be pleased if I throw bags of uncooked ramen noodles at them every day for the next few months instead of cooking, or if they have no clean underwear… ever.

I know. Totally unreasonable, right? But I’m basically stuck working the 5 hours a day when the kids are in school, weekends off.

So here’s the plan.

I’m using this up-early time to write this post, and then to go over notes again, read through the line edits, see what changes I’m going to make, and which I’m not. It’s not an easy process, but it’s step one. After that, it’s organizing, brainstorming, re-writes, minor edits, line edits… and then my wonderful second-round beta readers will get their hands on it and tell me how we’re looking.

I’ll keep you all up to date on what’s happening as we go.

Yes, I’d still like to do pre-orders by the end of February. Yes, I’d still like to release in March.

But quality first. This isn’t an assembly line.

It’ll be worth the wait, I promise.

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The Things I’m Learning: Working With an Editor

In this series of posts, I’m sharing a few of the things that surprised me about publishing a book, as well as things I wish I’d known before I started. This is all personal experience and personal opinion, shared in case it helps someone. Your mileage may vary.

This is going to be a long post, and not of interest to everyone. Feel free to skip this one and join the party next week, or skip to the TL;DR version at the bottom. And again, this is about my choices and experiences. My way is not the only way. You can do it your way, and I respect that. We all cool?

I get a lot of questions about my editor: why I chose to use one, how I decided who to work with, how much it cost, what the process was like, and whether the decision has paid off. I think it was one of the best decisions I made for my book, so I thought I’d answer some of those questions today.

…And then I really need to get back to my real work, which means getting Torn ready for beta readers, who look at it before my editor does (more on that later).

So. Once I made the decision to publish independently*, I knew I wasn’t going to put out anything that was less than the best, most professional work I could produce. I know there’s a popular school of thought that says do your best, publish and move on, and then pay for editing later if there’s enough interest in the book. I can’t do that. My perfectionism will not allow do-overs, so it had to be right the first time.

In my case, that meant hiring an editor.

I had done my research already. I knew I wanted developmental editing, because though the story was as good as I could make it, and my beta readers were AMAZING, I knew it still had weak spots. I knew it needed line edits, because no one can catch all of his/her own errors. Also, the number one criticism I see on indie/self-pub books in reviews is “this could have used an editor,” and I didn’t want to put my readers through that.

(For anyone wondering, developmental editing = critiquing the story, finding plot holes/character inconsistencies, pointing out missed opportunities for kicking things up a notch… whatever. This can be done any time from the planning phase through edits. Line editing is fixing grammatical errors, changing sentence structure to be clearer or flow better, probably changing that string of three consecutive “ing” words up there, noting confusing sentences/blocking, etc. Some people call this copy editing, and define line editing differently, but this is what I was looking for.)

I had a list of a few editors to check out. There are a some whose blogs I follow who seem fantastic, and who are on my list for future projects, but I had one more item on my list: I wanted someone with experience in Fantasy. That narrowed the list down. While I would trust many professional, experienced editors to do line edits, I needed someone who knew world-building and magic systems.

Enter editor Joshua Essoe.

I’d been listening to the Hide and Create podcast for a few months, and knew that he knew his stuff. I liked what he said about those issues I mentioned above. I liked how he described his approach to editing. People seemed pleased with his work. I went to his website, looked things over, and decided to send my sample pages in and get an estimate.

I was so nervous. I hate sending my work out for critique, and this was the real thing. Someone was going to tell me how my work sucked so I could pay him money to tell me MORE about how my work sucked. Sweet deal, right?

Anyway, it was fine. He actually thought the first five pages were pretty good, but he made some line edits. I changed things, read it through, and knew I’d found my guy. He didn’t mess with my character’s voice, just made things smoother and clearer, and asked questions that helped me make the setting and character movements clearer.

The next question, of course, was money. I don’t like to talk about money. Monsieur Joshua Essoe charges an hourly rate (posted on his site if you’re THAT curious), and gives an estimate based on the sample and how long he thinks it will take to edit the full book. The estimate is subject to change, of course. If a mechanic gives you an estimate on changing your oil, then opens the hood to find the engine plastered in cat crap and roadkill (not to mention the parts that are falling off), your price is going to go up. Likewise for an editor who charges by the hour.** My estimate came in at something just north of 50 hours.

So yeah, it was a big decision. I had to talk it over with AJ, and explain that there was a good chance that this book wouldn’t earn that money back. Most books, especially first ones, don’t “earn out,” and any profits would need to go toward the next book’s production costs***. We’d have to think of it as an educational expense; I wanted an editor more than I wanted to take a few courses or try to go to a convention. More than just getting this one story fixed, I wanted to know where my writing needed to improve, and I knew I’d get that. It was an investment in me and my business, and (may all the gods of Tyrea bless him forever), AJ voted that I should go ahead with it.

I was shaking when I hit “send.” I may have barfed. Wait, maybe that was when I published. In any case, for the two weeks My Editor (yes, it’s fun to say that) had the book I was tense, jumpy, nervous… a joy to be around in all respects. He sent an updated estimate half-way through (not much change, but considerate of him nonetheless).

Was I nervous that I was wasting my our money? You bet. Terrified, in fact. What if it wasn’t worth it? What if Señor Joshua Essoe thought it was horrible and told me to change everything? What if he didn’t get what I was trying to do, and wanted to make the tone less modern and more TRADITIONAL, MEDIEVAL FANTASY? Ick. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just not what I like to read or write. What if it turned out my work was so horrible that I couldn’t publish, and had to give up writing, and had wasted our tax refund, and…

Sometimes having an over-active imagination sucks.

So then, on an evening in April, my phone binged its e-mail notification as I was getting ready for bed. By that point I was jumping to the ceiling every time that happened.

And there it was: Bound Edit Complete! And an attachment!

Nausea. Excitement. It was like Christmas morning, if we’d had the turkey the night before and it gave me salmonella.**** Obviously I wasn’t going to wait until morning to peek. AJ was working, the kids were in bed. Screw sleep, I had reading to do!

The editorial critique letter came in around 20 pages. This was the developmental editing, the big picture stuff, the things that would lead to revisions and scene re-writes.

And it was FANTASTIC.

That’s not to say it was all positive. Nooooooo sir.

The first paragraph was kind and wonderful. He said I was a good writer, that my characters were well-drawn and engaging, that he enjoyed the story right through.

The second paragraph said this: “If you feel like throwing things as you continue to go through the edit, come back and read that first paragraph again.”

Cue my nerves.

It was a fair warning, actually.

  • He critiqued my magic system, which seemed too broad and open, and allowed problems to be solved too easily. It wasn’t well-defined enough; that was my fault, as I’d accidentally edited much of the explain-y stuff out when I was trying to get the word-count down to trad-pub acceptable levels.
  • He reminded me that I had the ability to time-travel, to go back and set up important details early in the story so that they didn’t seem a little too convenient when they showed up later, or slow pacing when I had to explain them during exciting moments.
  • There were big issues with Aren’s character and motivation. Not surprising, given that he wasn’t even supposed to be a viewpoint character when I first came up with the concept for the story, or through most of the first draft.
  • The climax needed to be re-written, as it was too melodramatic.
  • He thought I should change the ending, and **SPOILER** suggested I not let certain aspects of the romantic storyline reach a conclusion until the next book.

There were other things, but I won’t list them all here. The letter concluded with another lovely paragraph about the book. More importantly, the body of the letter gave suggestions about how to fix the problems. *insert choirs of angels singing* And not only that, he had respected the story that I wanted to tell and the way I wanted to tell it.

So yeah, it was hard to hear there was so much room for improvement, but it made me sure I’d made the right decision in hiring my editor. I fell asleep that night with a huge grin on my face. It was going to take a lot of work, but this thing was going to be goooooood.

I read through the line notes the next day. These were done using Track Changes in Word– not my favourite program, but effective for this. There were changes to wording that I would accept or reject later. SO many of those. But more importantly, there were notes EVERYWHERE. Why would he do this? This statement doesn’t make sense. That concept needs to be explained sooner. Redundant. She wouldn’t be this comfortable with him yet. Cut. These characters are too stereotypical. There were also little notes that indicated personal reactions to the story, and those made it easier to get through the tough stuff: **cool!  **nice **this is awesome

My personal favourite correction.

My personal favourite correction.

Maybe it’s silly that I needed them, but those little bits of encouragement really made the whole thing a lot more pleasant. Yes, there were times when I made faces at the screen. Yes, in my sleep-deprived immaturity I may have giggled at the phrase “needs deeper penetration.” Yes, I did occasionally want to throw things.

In fact, what came next was the hardest work I’ve ever done on anything. I took the advice. I planned changes. I accepted most suggestions, and rejected a few (see aforementioned romantic conclusion and ending– truth is, I hate cliffhangers and unresolved romance as a reader, and I didn’t want to use them in this book. Not bad advice, just a personal decision. This is one of the reasons I went indie, after all). And at the end, I had a book I was truly proud of.

Was there anything I would change about the experience? I guess doing developmental and line edits separately would have been nice, though it would have been a LOT more expensive to have him take the time to do two passes. It would have allowed me to make the big changes and address major issues before he fixed up the smaller things. But keeping costs down was important at the time, too. And Joshua was great with follow-up stuff. I asked for clarification on a few points, bounced a few ideas off of him in e-mails, was probably a little annoying, and he was great about answering everything. He offered a wrap-up phone call, but I don’t really do phone stuff. E-mail it was. And he took a quick look at by cover copy and corrected a couple of grammatical/punctuation errors there, too.

Was it easy? No. My skin’s not as thick as it should be, though it’s getting tougher. But it was absolutely worth every dollar and every minute.

Is it for everyone? Probably not. I know I was lucky to be able to afford to do this (see aforementioned tax refund), and not everyone can. Many authors get by just fine without developmental editing, and line edits are usually cheaper. Some writers don’t work with editors at all. I’m sure people will read this and tell me I spent too much. That’s fine, if that’s your opinion. But my book came out of that editing so much stronger than it went in. It’s not a perfect book, but I’m confident that it’s the best I could make it.

Okay, there’s one typo. I need to fix that.

And yes, it has paid for itself already. I don’t like to talk money, but my fears about that were unfounded.

Before anyone asks, yes, Mr Essoe has agreed to work on Torn. If Bound hadn’t made enough money, I’d have had to find a cheaper route, but we’re good for now, and I’m thrilled about that. When my lovely, wonderful, and honest beta readers are done ripping it apart critiquing it, I’ll fix the problems they identify, and then send it off. Fewer problems = less for mister editor to fix = less expensive for me. I highly recommend doing it this way if you’re using an editor.

TL;DR VERSION

Why I decided to use an editor: The book was good, but I needed professional help if I wanted it to kick ass.

How I found mine: Heard him on a podcast, was blown away by the sample edit.

How much it cost: More than my first car, less than my current one.

Holy crap, really?: Yes.  This is a good post on what they do, and average rates. There’s another FANTASTIC post out there on why they charge as much as they do (taxes, business expenses, non-billable hours, etc), but I can’t find it. If anyone knows the one I’m talking about, please drop a link in the comments!

What the process was like: Amazing. Humbling. Uplifting. Inspiring. Confidence-boosting. Challenging. Grey-hair inducing. SWELL.

Has it paid off: In my case, absolutely. Your mileage may vary. This is all personal experience.

So I hope that helps someone, and now I have a post I can refer people to when they ask. WIN-WIN, guys.

*No, I don’t like the term self-published, because it has a stigma attached to it and because I don’t do it all myself. I operate like a micro-press that works with freelance editors, cover artists, and formatters. It just happens to only represent one author.

**Many do charge by word-count. I consider them brave souls!

*** General advice is to expect to release 3-5 books before you’re making much money, so that’s how I planned it.

****Sorry for that visual.


ROW80 Update: Not a Damn Thing

Yep, that’s what I’ve been up to, but I’m about ready to get back at it. I don’t even feel too badly about it; I’ve been writing almost every day for a year. I deserved a few weeks to rest my brain.

So what have I been doing?

20130811-102454.jpg

I’m actually working on that pony* I need to have done by the end of the month. It’s strange getting back to it; I haven’t had a paint brush in my hands since the winter. Possibly before Christmas, actually. Feels good. Also, I find that doing something creative that’s NOT writing gives my brain space to think things through without my conscious mind censoring, and sometimes it’s a good way to get around problems and blocked thought processes.

So that was actually a ROW80 goal, which means that I AM making progress on something.

What else have I been doing? Well, if you follow me on Twitter you might know that I hurt my hip this week, totally NOT while I was shaving my legs (though I’m still working on a cooler cover story). That’s right. I tell Twitter things I don’t tell you guys. I AM A MYSTERIOUS AND COMPLEX WOMAN. This was several days ago. The first evening and day after The Amazing Adventure Which Led To My Injury (TBA) were horrible- I couldn’t walk without leaning on walls, furniture, people, floors.

That’s right. I didn’t fall down. I was leaning on the floor. There’s a difference!

Thanks to beaucoup de Advil and as much rest as the kids would let me get, I’m almost better. Still hurts, still a little stiff, still don’t know what I hurt, but I’m hoping to get back to taking Jack for at least a short walk tomorrow. The poor guy is getting really depressed over the lack of walkage happening around here.

"Kill me now."

“Kill me now.”

So the answer is, I haven’t been doing much. Made those awesome chicken fingers the other night, overcooked them. Hint: don’t do that. Made meatballs last night, I’m told they were good. I don’t know, I hate ground beef, so I’m kind of a terrible judge. Cooked wild-blueberry pancakes, and they were amazing. Made my way downstairs to do laundry yesterday, cleaned out the litter boxes… ALL OF THE FUN THINGS, I HAVE BEEN DOING THEM.

I also had the privilege of alpha reading a fantastic novel, and the horrifying responsibility of sending feedback. I hate doing that. Even when a story is great, you want to do what you can to make it the best it can be, but you know that it’s probably going to sting the author a bit. I find it easier to give a critique than to take one, but it still isn’t easy. I think doing both helps us grow as writers and as creative people; in fact, critiquing someone else’s work can open our eyes to potential flaws in our own and help us gain objectivity toward our own writing. It’s win-win, really.

So, goals for this week: We’re going to be at the in-laws’ for a few days, which means little to no editing time for me, but I’m going to take the computer and give it a shot. I’ve nearly settled on the things I’m going to change in my novel before it goes to the next round of readers. Next step: locate the exact places that need changes, and figure out how to do that.

Easy, right?

Yeah. Easy as moving one ace in a house of cards without disrupting everything else.

Aaaaanyway. I’m also going to get around to some more ROW80 blogs today and on Wednesday, and I’m going to try to put something together for WIPpet Wednesday. I got to comment on most entries there last week, but haven’t posted in two weeks. I miss it. We’ll see.

And I’m still trying to get those pictures off of my stupid camera so I can finish telling you about our Ontario trip. Wish me luck!

What are you up to this week?

(for more of those Round of Words entries I’m going to be reading, click here!)

*For any collectors who may be freaking out, here’s the info: she was a Majesty, play set edition (aka “receding hairline edition). She had a slight head-body mismatch, her symbols were almost gone, and the new paint job is covering “pony cancer” and ink stains on both sides. What I’m saying is that yes, she was bait condition.


Two steps forward…

…and then, inevitably, one back. AMIRITE?! *puts imaginary gun to head*

Two critique partners have pointed out a disgusting flaw in my story to me. It’s not one that previous readers mentioned, but now I’m slapping myself for not seeing it, and my muse has been sent to sit in the corner and think about what he allowed me to do.

BAD BOY. STAY.**

Anyway, it’s nothing I can’t fix, and everything is going to be better for it (this is why I loves my CPs), but it’s something that seems relatively simple at first glance… and then makes you go “holy crap, this changes SO MUCH OF EVERYTHING.”

So two steps forward (people like the story, things are good), one step back (partial revisions needed again). Pretty much what I expected, basically. Sometimes you know something’s not right but can’t figure it out, and you have to find people who care enough to gently smack you with a 2×4 of readerly/writerly wisdom to help you focus on potential poopstorms.

I’m actually happy about this. I want my work to kick as much ass as possible and I never want to put out a book that makes multitudes of readers go “Why did no one point this crap out to her?” My inner perfectionist, however? She is pitching A SHIT FIT. She’s such a bitch, I swear. I can critique other people’s work, find flaws, and think no less of them as a writer or a person. If I make a mistake, though, Miss Perfect gets all huffy and tells me I should be embarrassed, get all emo, give up already, maybe re-think the whole writing thing or switch to something marketable like zombie porn. (Don’t look at me like that. These are both huge things in publishing today!)

*zombie/prostitute joke removed because I respect you all too much*

But that’s just Miss Perfect talking, and I’ve learned one important thing about her: She’s not me. Simple, yet profound. These thoughts are not me. These thoughts are not truth. These thoughts lead down a rabbit hole I have no interest in exploring. I am allowed to tell my old friend companion tormentor to shove off and take her nastiness with her. It’s a good feeling.

Why am I sharing this with you all? Two reasons. One, because I think honesty helps all of us. If me talking about my failings/setbacks helps someone else understand that mistakes are okay, we can’t do this alone and shouldn’t expect ourselves to, then I’ll do it. The second reason is that I might not be talking too much about writing for a wee, tiny little while, just until I get this all sorted out in my mind.

My thoughts needs to incubate, yo. Hang on a sec.

*sigh* Yes, you can come out of the corner…

OK, back to work for us. I’ll be posting a few times this week, probably about my trip to Ontario. There’s SO much I wanted to share with you guys! You know, besides the unicorn. That one couldn’t wait.

I don’t know whether I’ll be posting for WIPpet Wednesday, but I’ll be back to commenting on everyone’s work this week, and trying to get back into commenting on ROW80 stuff, too.

See you around!

*Just kidding. I love him… this is so my fault.


Holy Crap, Did I Finish Something Before the Deadline?!

*deep breaths*

Friends, it’s as done as it’s going to get for now. I’m in the process of contacting people who have so generously offered to beta read for me (let me know if I miss you, my notes are gone), and then I can get to work formatting for them, sending it off, and then cowering in my basement while I wait for them to beat the crap out of me my book.

Actually, this is good timing. I’m going on vacation next week. I’m going to be reading (finishing one book, alpha reading another), resting, hanging out with the best family in the world*, and trying to give my brain a break.

My brain might not want a break, which could be awkward, but we’ll try that.

And above all, NOT thinking about my book.

HAHAHA! Just kidding. I’ll be worse than a new mother who’s sent her baby to live at the circus for a while.

*Sorry, other families.


Stop Being Awesome. Stop it NOW.

Seriously, guys. I go away for the weekend to the Land That WiFi Forgot, and I come back to an impossible number of tempting blog posts in my WordPress reader. Even being selective has left me with over a dozen open tabs waiting to be read.

WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ME?

Knock it off with the insight and the encouragement and the sharing of links that I then have to click on and read because they are ALSO useful or delightful. Stop making me happy to see your names on those posts and your smiling faces beside your re-blogs.

Stop being such an amazing community of writers, because it’s super distracting. I don’t have time for this many superstars in my life.

*sigh*

Ugh, fine, don’t look at me like that. You just keep doing what you do, I’ll deal with it somehow. Just don’t expect big word count numbers from me until I get caught up. 🙂

(I wish I could say I used the weekend for that,  but I find it hard to get writing done at the in-laws’ house. I did get more editing done on Bound, though, and I’m thinking I need a couple more beta readers for mid-to-late summer. I’ll put up a post requesting those when the time comes, but if anyone wants to volunteer to subject yourself to that, I’m just looking for people who are willing to point out story/character issues, slow spots, unanswered questions that absolutely can’t wait for the sequel, WTF moments… the big stuff, no need for nitty-gritty grammar issues just yet. Raise your hand, shoot me a message at kate.sparkes (at) live (dot) ca, send up a smoke signal somewhere visible from my house, whatever. And bring the awesome!)


CPs and Protecting Your Work- How Do You Do It?

I recently had an experience that has the little gears in my brain a-whirling, and I’d love to know everyone’s thoughts on the subject.

I’ve been trying out a few critique partners (CPs), trading a few chapters to get a feel for each other’s work and critique styles, and to see how well we might work together. It’s a harder process than I anticipated, but necessary. I appreciate my friends who have read over Bound in its various stages of done-ness, who gave me gentle feedback when I needed it. But there comes a time when you can’t rely on friends and family to tell you what you need to hear, and you need an unbiased opinion. Enter the CP, a creature a step higher than the beta reader in the editorial chain.

The first one I worked with gave me good advice, but she seems to have disappeared. I’ve found a few other potentials through Ladies Who Critique, but for the most part we’re still feeling each other out. One, on advice from a friend of hers, asked me to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) before she sent her work over.

My first reaction was, “Well that’s odd, but whatever. Can’t hurt.”

Really, it’s a good idea. I tend to trust that other writers aren’t out to steal my work; I know I’ve got ideas (concepts, anyway) lined up out the door and down the street SHUT THE DOOR, IDEAS, YOU’RE LETTING THE HEAT OUT! Jeez, born in a barn much? What was I saying?

Oh, right. I don’t need to lift ideas, concepts, plot twists, or anything else from someone else’s work, and I tend to trust that other people will offer me the same respect. Couldn’t hurt to cover your ass though, right? Seriously, we hardly know these people.

Completely agreed. And for that reason I almost signed; after all, I had no plans to reproduce, distribute, or otherwise screw with anyone else’s work, let alone this person’s (who seems super nice, and I wanted to work with her).

And then it hit me, as these things tend to do. Slapped me right upside the head.

I need to watch my own ass, too. Legally speaking. Not literally, I’m not that bendy.

Her novel has nothing in common with Bound, which is my main focus right now, and what she’d be critiquing. But it’s not my only project. The Newfoundland Supernatural series (working title only, please check your torches, pitchforks, and/or flaming pitchforks* at the door) of short stories and novellas that I’m working on is still in early stages, but it keeps popping up, insisting that I work on it between other things. And for that one, there are surface similarities.

Some genres are just full to busting, this one in particular. In a crowded elevator you try not to step on anyone’s feet, but it’s kind of accepted that you’re going to bump into one another. Also, you’re stuck smelling other people’s farts, and all you can do is suffer through it and hope the stink doesn’t follow you out. But I digress.

To put it more clearly (and less disgustingly), when you’re using similar concepts/tropes, there’s a really good chance that you’re going to have some of the same ideas, even if you think they’re brilliantly original. Most of us will grumble about it but acknowledge that the idea wasn’t stolen, and in the end the stories come out completely different, anyway.

If I signed a NDA saying that I wouldn’t use any of the information in any way, I could be opening myself up to lawsuits over ideas that were mine to begin with, just because I read them in someone else’s work at a later date.

Is that being paranoid? Probably. I don’t think this person would sue me, and I hope she doesn’t think I’d steal her ideas.**

Fact is, you can’t copyright an idea. Stephanie Meyer can’t stop other people from writing a vampire-werewolf-dumbass girl love triangle, presumably because it’s an idea that people could have arrived at on their own. Can you imagine how busy the courts would be if there were lawsuits every time someone based a novel on a fairy tale? *shudder*  In essence, if I signed this particular NDA, I’d be saying that it was OK to sue me for having a similar idea/concept/setting/etc. I don’t know that the lawsuit would go anywhere, but I don’t want to have to worry about it.

It hurt to say no, mostly because I’m a people-pleaser who cares way too much what strangers think of me. My first thought was, “if I don’t sign, she’s going to think I’m an idea-sucking monster.” I’m sure I’m not giving her enough credit, but hey, I’m nuts like that.

Got me thinking, though. Am I doing too little to protect my own work? So far I’ve only showed the full manuscript to trusted friends, and the CP I hope to continue working with seems like a trustworthy sort (and in the same “why the heck would I steal YOUR idea when I have my own?” boat). I think my idea is good. I like it. I’m having fun with it. But I’m also aware that it’s not as special to other people as it is to me, and I don’t think I need a layer of legal documentation to protect my precious snowflake; I’d be happy with a casual agreement that the work won’t be reproduced or redistributed in any way. Maybe that’s the wrong attitude.

What I want to know is, where do you stand on this? Do you get people to sign something before they critique a work-in-progress or review an unpublished work? If not, do you worry that people will take advantage of your openness? Am I being unreasonable in not signing a 2-page document full of legal-speak that’s just protecting someone else’s hard work? Have you been in this situation on either side, or has someone reproduced your work without permission? Any other thoughts?

*Officially calling shotgun on “Flaming Pitchforks” for my band name.

**Actually, I know she doesn’t think that– she got back to me, and completely understands why I couldn’t sign. Darn it, I like her!


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