Where Ladybugs Roar

Confessions and Passions of a Compulsive Writer

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

These Things Happen...

So, yesterday was the worst day I've ever had as a writer. I thought the rejections sucked...and they do...I thought getting harsh critiques was rough...and it is, but yesterday hit a new low, and if I didn't have things contracted and if, in fact, I wasn't working on a novella I'm contracted on, I would have rashly just walked away from this whole thing yesterday, because yesterday sucked. A lot.

I wasn't sure whether I should talk about this, but I know it's happened to other writers and given how easy it is to stalk anonymously on the Internet, I even suspected it might happen to me eventually, but not like this. I spent so much of yesterday crying that I felt a little dehydrated. My kids had activities at our church last night (scouting and so on) and I kept breaking down and sobbing so I went and hid in the bathroom every so often, but people could tell and I had several people ask about me today. And since it's happened to other writers...and it'll happen again...it's probably worth mentioning in a blog post on a blog about a writer's life. It's a sucktastic part of a writer's life, but it's part of a writer's life.

So, over a year ago, I asked some Twitter friends and blog friends which of my WIPs I should work on. I had a few that I'd started and, in the end, I got sucked into a revision and didn't get to them, but I basically pitched these WIPs...most of them were over 20K. So, I picked one because I felt like it was uber marketable and it hadn't been done. It felt original, and I was really excited about it--really excited. It was one of those times where you're asking for opinions but you've already decided. ...But then I got sucked into a revision and set it aside. One of my Twitter friends got into a DM (private message) conversation with me on Twitter about my WIPs and most of you noticed I will talk to anyone about anything...and especially with a friend.

It confused me when not so long after that, this Twitter friend stopped following me on Twitter. Really confused me. I kept thinking, "But we had those long DM conversations. Did I offend them?" So, I unfollowed and refollowed them to see if it was a Twitter mistake...nothing. Okay, well, they were busy working on a WIP, so maybe I just had to wait. They got an agent...I congratulated them. I was happy for them. Then, amazingly, they got an incredible book contract...with a big publishing company. I was giddy and excited and screaming and tweeted that. And they refollowed me shortly after that, so I figured it was just a mistake that they'd unfollowed me in the first place.

Yesterday, I found out what their book is about. It's nearly word-for-word the WIP I'd pitched back then. The one I'd thought I'd been discussing with friends. And, while, sure, it's all been done and there are no original words under the sky, and I recognize the manner in which we come up with ideas is complicated...there is absolutely no way I can publish my WIP now. The idea was somewhat specific and our pitch would be exactly the same--exactly the same. My WIP is a brick, a doorstop, a paperweight. We have tons of Twitter friends in common, and I can't publish this thing...ever. If one of our friends didn't say, "Wendy, that book of yours...why did you copy so-and-so..." if I tried to get it published, I'd be shocked. There's no point to finishing it because I'll look like I'm mimicking someone's idea.

It hit me like a gut punch yesterday. And I cried...and cried...because I thought we were friends.

But, of course, there is nothing I can do, and it doesn't matter. I talked about this WIP online. And it's not like I'd published it. It's not like I'd copyrighted anything. They didn't do anything wrong...technically. *shrugs* And even if they had, I'm not the type of person to do anything--especially when we share a lot of friends.

Anyway, so that was yesterday. And today I move on. I'm sure my husband hopes, after yesterday's deluge of sobbing mess, that I'll do things differently...that I won't share as much, but that's just not me. I'm sadder, possibly wiser, but I'm still me, and I'll continue to talk to anyone who talks back. The "once burnt, twice shy" idiom just really doesn't apply to someone who values friendship more than she values a document and a book contract.

There is a possibility that some of my friends might recognize this book when it's published in the far distant future as being the twin to my WIP...because I was just that excited about this premise that I'd worked out clear to the end, and if you do...don't say anything, it's not worth it to anyone. I can't control this person's actions, but the final thing I can control is my response and my response is to just move on.

If this friend of mine happens to read this blog post, what you did...sucked. It wasn't illegal but it was a lousy trade-off for friendship. And, in the end, I don't care. If you'd asked me if you could use the idea because you were really excited about it, I would have laughed and told you that you absolutely could use it--that I had a lot of other projects and you were sure to do a better job than I could since you were so passionate about it. I've always prized friendship above success. I wish you well with your debut but I don't envy the cost the next few years will play with your conscience. There is always the very small chance that a friend of mine had the same idea at the same time and behaved bizarrely for no reason and I like to believe that people are inherently good, so I'm choosing to believe that. If you talk to me on Twitter, I'll pretend this didn't happen. I'll continue to congratulate you. I'll continue to support you because, from this moment, I'm choosing not to care...and that's the choice you've left me. Best wishes.

Edited to add: As I mentioned below this wasn't just an idea, it was an active WIP partially completed and I'd done a rare thing and outlined it out. BUT after thinking it over for another night, I'm still not going to say anything more than I said above. I have four or five completed projects that I need to focus on and I have other WIPs and ultimately I can't be sure and I'm in no position to judge guilt. Other writers sometimes realize a ship has sailed on an idea and that's how I'm treating this. I went and looked at their Twitter following and we have a ton of friends in common...really close friends. I keep considering deleting this even and I may even go and delete any online proof I have, but I know this happens to other writers and there are many ways of dealing with it--and this is how one writer chooses to deal with it.

86 comments:

  1. I'm so sorry for your terrible day yesterday. You bring so much joy to so many people that you're the last person to deserve being stabbed in the back by a 'friend.'

    And yes, while it isn't illegal what that person did, it's certainly immoral.

    Can you tell I'm still all "Hulk Smashy" about this?

    *virtual hugs*
    -Jay

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  2. Thanks, Jay...and thanks for putting up with my hysterical freaking out yesterday. You're a great friend. Seriously. Thank you. It is a good thing we don't talk on the phone, though--poor Jaime got to listen to me cry yesterday. Wow. Yesterday sucked. I don't ever want another yesterday.

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  3. *boggles* That's... *speechless* That's just awful. I'm so sorry, Wendy. *hugs*

    I'm not sure I could be as gracious as you. My story ideas are my babies, and if I'd written down that idea in a proto-query or anything (where the date of the idea could be proven), I'd be sorely tempted to contact their agent and publisher. Sure, maybe nothing would change, but I'd want *someone* to know just what kind of a person they were dealing with. The publishing industry is still very small and reputations mean something.

    Gah! That's just so horrible... *mega sad face* I'm so sorry that you had to learn that a "friend" wasn't really a friend. *hugs*

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  4. Actually, Jami...this was more than an idea. It was one third done with the remainder outlined out. *sighs* I actually posted an excerpt on my blog at that time--with the pitch, and I emailed portions of the WIP to family to give opinions of it. So, I have proof that it was my project first, but no desire to start a confrontation...and I really have a lot of friends/followers in common with this person. *coughs* Possibly even you. It wouldn't surprise me.

    But, in the end, it'll just keep hurting and I cried a lot yesterday and it's not worth it. I haven't discussed it with Sarah yet, but I can't imagine she'd tell me to do anything...other than she did already advise me to be careful about who I show my work. *winces* Yeah.

    I wish I was seeing more of the fun aspects to being a writer. I hear there are those.

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  5. But also thank you for commenting...as I was writing this post I kept thinking maybe I was overreacting. I've been dealing with a lot of things lately and I'm somewhat an emotional mess so I thought I was blowing this out of proportion.

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  6. Nope. You're definitely not overreacting. At all.

    I respect your decision to put this behind you. You need to do whatever will help you move forward. But a part of me *does* wonder who this is--and if I know them. Not for gossiping purposes, but because I want to avoid speaking about my work with them.

    If someone's willing to do that once, would they do it again? Do they have story ideas of their own, or would they be desperate enough for a followup that they'd be on the hunt for another good idea they could steal?

    (And I'm not saying any of that to make you reveal something you don't want to. Really! As I said, you need to do what's best for you. You're not responsible for anyone else. This is just me freaking out that I might know this person. :) )

    *sigh* I just see writers sharing work all the time in private critique forums, online classes, etc. If we can't trust each other, that makes all those opportunities for networking and improving our craft harder. There's just no good answer to this. :(

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    1. Same here - I've already been paranoid of talking about my WIPs but now even more so I want to know who did this so I can be careful.

      And as someone further down said, I too would feel awful supporting someone who did this.

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  7. You make a fair point on that. There is just this tiny niggling doubt that this is what happened...because it seems so...horrible and I really thought we were friends. I keep thinking, "Maybe they really DID come up with this very exact idea right around the time I discussed it with everyone...or maybe they didn't remember HOW they got the idea." Even if it's a one in a thousand chance that I'm wrong...I just can't bring myself to "out" them.

    I don't know. If something changes and I'm more certain, maybe I'll make sure they know they've been caught.

    It just seems so...mean...and this person isn't/wasn't mean...I didn't think.

    As authors, we really do open ourselves up for this thing. Betas, online critiques, agents, pitches, editors...they all get copies of our work and a certain level of our trust...and it sucks to have that trust betrayed.

    I'm sure you've heard about Stephanie Meyer and Midnight Sun...Twilight from Edward's perspective. Someone she trusted let a partial go viral and so Stephanie Meyer put the partial on her website and refused to finish the rest. That was years ago and it's still unfinished. I remember thinking, "That really sucks to have someone you trusted betray you--but she should put on her big girl panties and finish it because that was better than all her others combined."

    In all honesty, this is the best way I can think of to put on my big girl panties. (Only, I'm not doing it one leg at a time. It's like a running leap and both legs through at once. Because that's how I roll.)

    This whole thing has made me question whether I'm too sensitive to publish novels. If I spend an entire day sobbing over this...how will I handle negative reviews? I just don't know. I have two novellas under contract and I'll reevaluate after those are out. But this was awful.

    You know...maybe I'll see if you follow this person and go from there. But not today. Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof and I've had a bit too much of evil Tuesday and recovery Wednesday.

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  8. Omg Wendy, I'm so sorry. I'm actually crying right now I'm so upset. I can't imagine how you must be feeling. You're handling it really well, but the fact is, how could you not want to shout it to the world? No, it wouldn't do any good, and I respect you for not badmouthing this person, but I totally understand why you need to vent and let it out.

    I know there's nothing I can say or do to make you feel any better. Just know that I'm so sorry this happened and if you ever need to talk about anything, I'm here for you. (And yes, I am nearly BURSTING with the need to know who this person is, but I shall refrain from pestering you lol) ;)

    ♥ xoxoxo

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  9. Thanks, Natalie, and actually...having people say that it sucks and that I'm not overreacting does help and does make me feel better. I'm not sure if all non-writers would "get" this. I talked about it with IRL friends and they were sympathetic but I don't think they understood why I'd been sobbing like I'd had a death in the family. And it's not even the WIP...I would have told them to use the idea if they'd asked. I'm just a very trusting person and there isn't a lot I wouldn't do for a friend.

    But, anyway...yeah. It's not as painful today as it was yesterday and anything is better than Tuesday so I'll get over it. Thank you. *hugs* Seriously. It does make me feel better.

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  10. I'm so sorry to hear about this Wendy-- that sucks so hard. It is completely not right, what happened, and that person, whoever they are, should be completely and utterly ashamed of themselves. Abusing a writer-friend like that is just... unconscionable. I don't think you're blowing anything out of proportion or being dramatic or anything of the sort. I think you have an absolute right to be as upset as you are, and it isn't about being a writer, Wendy, or being too sensitive to be a writer, it's about being BETRAYED by a friend. And that is ALWAYS going to cut deep.

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  11. Oh Wendy, I'm so sorry this happened. No, you're definitely not over-reacting.

    Thank you for posting this. It's a good reminder to the writerly-world to protect our babies until they're ready to meet the world. You never know who's out there ready to swipe them.

    I'm glad to hear today was better than yesterday. I hope tomorrow will be a step better.

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  12. It IS always going to cut deep. This was one of the first people I followed on Twitter. They are in half my lists on Twitter. I still keep thinking I'm wrong...and I'll probably keep thinking that because it seems so unreal. But they also have my sympathy because I can't imagine having such a wonderful dream come true--and knowing you spiked a friend to get there. It'd taint everything. And that kind of guilt is a poison.

    Anyway, I'm grateful that I've got so many wonderful friends around me because I can get slammed and just recognize that this--as much as it sucks--is an aberration and that I'm really surrounded by awesome people who feel ragey on my behalf. Nothing heals like friends feeling hulk-rage towards someone who's hurt you. LOL. That's probably a character flaw of mine. I should at least half-heartedly whisper, "No...stop...don't..." Next week...next week...I'll stop feeling good about it. ; )

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  13. Stephanie, yeah, I've said I won't change how I do anything, but I might change a few things. I won't change what I share with friends, but I'll be a little more careful what I post on Twitter and in here. I was paranoid in the beginning but I eased up after the number of times I sent out fulls and partials and entered in contests and pitched online. And I think just the process of building an online presence creates this feeling of camaraderie among fellow writers so it feels like a small community--a community you can share things with because we're all in this together. And, for the most part, that's true, but there will always be the occasional viper in a group that large.

    I was close enough friends with this person that I would have shared WIPs and pitches anyway with them but I still should have protected my projects a little better than I did.

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    1. The same thing happened to me but on my side it was my ex partner who decided to hurt me after our break up...(As if cheating on me wasn't the only way) it still hurts and I try not to talk about it. I even try to pretend it didn't happen... But it feels as if your child has been kidnapped...with no possibility of return. Just be strong and show them you can do n be better

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    2. We had our car broken into earlier this year and there was that same feeling of violation and disbelief. It's hard when your trust is betrayed. I'm sorry it happened to you too. *hugs*

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  14. So, I talked to Sarah about this today and she agreed with how I'm handling it...and didn't slap my hand or anything...so that was good.

    She also agreed with me about deleting specific WIP summary references in this blog so the drama doesn't resurface. So, I did that this morning. It was really hard to skim through posts and see my enthusiasm for my dead WIP, but I have others and my brain already wants to move on to my allergic Shifter story and I'm in the middle of a novella revision...and so it goes.

    Once again, if anyone does recognize this WIP-debut twin, please don't do anything. You can vent to me because it sucks, but don't say anything. Life goes on and I want to think that this was a fluke, an aberration in a close-knit online family of writers.

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    1. Wendy, you have a lot of class and I admire your dignified stance on this issue. What I don't understand is why you're deleting the "evidence" of this wrongdoing and therefore *helping* this person get away with his/her deceit. You can still mantain your dignity without covering up for them as though YOU were the one who cheated. It's not a matter of being non-confrontational, it's about not enabling others to do you harm and protecting them so they get all the glory they don't rightfully deserve, not to mention continuing with this modus operandi since they got away with it.

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    3. (My previous attempt at this had a typo in it... it made me twitchy.)

      I kept copies of it, but I took things off my blog that'd enable a hunt or give someone else the opportunity to swipe an idea from that same discussion.

      If anyone has the right to decide whether to pursue this, it should be me. I took screen-captures of it to enable me to have that choice and then removed it so I didn't spark a hunt.

      Some people need justice in their lives. I have two kids on the Autism Spectrum, I live with severe clinical OCD that I'm medicated for, my grandmother died in May, and most nights I get three or four hours of sleep. I honestly don't care about justice. I scrape through the days because people care about me and some of those people would be hurt if this came out. I can live with someone else making money off my idea because they still had to do a lot of work to flesh theirs out and because my conscience is clear in this.

      When you have OCD, you try to live in a way that lets you sleep at night. This allows that.

      Besides, in six months, I'm hoping people are saying, "Hey, that's Wendy Sparrow, she wrote Frosted, I'm going to see if she has anything else out." If I go on with this, it'll be, "Hey, that's Wendy Sparrow, she got so screwed over by that one person. Poor idiot. She should have been more careful. Everyone is talking about that other book now."

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    4. BTW, if that came off as snarky, it wasn't meant to. I haven't had Mtn Dew this morning. The world is a cold, gray place and I'm incapable of pleasant intonation. *claws way to fridge*

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  15. I'm so, so sorry this happened to you. I've had it happen to me on much smaller scales in different ways and the ways in which even those instances have changed my inclination to trust fellow writers just makes me so sad. It can be so hard not to get swept up in what a wonderful community it can be, but learning to stay on your guard and keep your ideas, outlines, etc. to yourself is definitely one of those lessons we all seem to be forced to learn one way or another....

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  16. Dahlia, it was a wake up call in some ways, but I just don't want a poor experience to taint every other relationship. *sighs* It's so hard to find the right "take away" in this experience, you know? I should be more careful, but it feels like they've won if I mistrust my friends because of this. Ugh. I don't know. Thank you for your post here and tweets on Twitter. *hugs*

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  17. Oh, Wendy. I am so, so sorry that this happened to you. It just...it sucks, it really does. To have an idea that you're excited about, that's *yours*, that you've worked on and fleshed out and daydreamed about and spent so much time working on? And then to have it stolen out from under you? It's underhanded and vile, and I admire you for forgiving or at least moving on, but can I be angry on your behalf? Because I am. And I admire you for the value you place on friendship and forgiveness, even though I'm sure this situation really tested you. Big hugs to you.

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  18. I can't believe someone would do that to you and I have to say, my respect for you and your handling of this whole thing is immense. I would be freaking out and most likely causing a scene. I'm so appalled on your behalf!
    But don't let one bad apple spoil the bunch. I know you'll think twice about trusting but I tried to see the good in people, so I sincerely hope you'll never have to go through this again.
    Here's to you having great success and years of stress free publishing ahead of you!

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  19. I don't know you and you don't know me, but I know you are a writer and I'm a writer, too. so we have that in common. This is one of my greatest fears and something I consider poop. For someone to do this, and especially a *friend* it breaks my heart. Like the commenter above, it brought tears to my eyes because I can feel you pain through your blog post.

    I'm so sorry for you. (((hugs)))

    And this may not be very nice of me to say, but I'm going say it anyway.

    May she or he have diarrhea for six months straight. And every time she/he has a book promotion or book signing, I hope diarrhea be their constant companion every time. *sticks our tongue*

    Yes, I said it. and I mean it. Was it childish of me? Maybe...but someone like that doesn't deserve a book contract unless it's one that keeps them from every publishing a book anywhere in the world.

    Well, someone had to say it for you and I guess since no one knows me, it doesn't matter that I said for you!

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  20. This totally and completely takes my breath away. Sucks so hard. This is what karma was invented for. I just wanted to weigh in, not for this particular instance, because I know you want to put this behind you and I respect that, but for anyone else reading who has had this happen to them: this actually IS illegal. I'm not a lawyer but I do teach a college class where we discuss copyright law and have done a lot of research on it. Under US copyright law, a detailed plot outline such as you describe is all you need to hold the copyright on that idea. And you don't need to file a copyright to own it. Obviously, you can't just write "Boy meets girl, they fall in love" and be covered for any rom-com idea out there, but if you had a specific idea with plot points that this person stole, it is 100% copyright infringement, as my understanding of copyright law holds. So writers who are inclined to do something this horrific, beware- the next person you do it to might be more vindictive.

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  21. Wendy, I am so very sorry that you were betrayed by this person in such a horrible way. I really, REALLY admire you and the way you're handling things. It was soooo wrong, what this person did, but you are taking the higher road. God will reward you for your mercy for this person, I 100% believe that.

    (If it were me, I would be so tempted to publicly shame that person.)

    Thank you for sharing your story. It couldn't have been easy, not naming names. You totally rock!

    <3 Beth

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  22. Do you still have the DMs, because technically, yeah I think it might be illegal. It's scummy enough you could probably go to the agent or publisher and request it be taken down. Especially if the DMs were specific and you had emailed the idea to anyone else prior to this person picking it up.

    You may not be comfortable with that idea, but I'd appreciate an email or DM letting me know who it was so I make sure I don't buy the book.

    *hugs*

    You're an awesome writer with great ideas. I know you'll get there.

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    1. I was thinking the same thing. I think with the date & time stamps, something could be done. I would certainly take screen captures and contact the person's agent. Things might come to a standstill while this is investigated. I too would like to know in a DM who it is because I will never buy anything that person writes.

      I'm so sorry, Wendy. This is a lousy thing for someone to do, and made even lousier by how wonderful you are to everyone.

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    2. Thanks, Sharon.

      Yeah, I've kept everything other than the emailed notifications of the DMs, but unless something changes it's not worth it. I'm very non-confrontational, and I also can't sleep if I'm worried about something. It's not worth the stress at this point.

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  23. Caryn, you can totally be angry on my behalf. And this one was special because I was a crazy pantser at the time I started and it was the first I'd outlined out to the end, but I have other ideas, and life goes on...and someday maybe I'll have a novel out and it'll debut due to all my hardwork--and that is a joy no one can steal.

    AngiNicole, I have made some of my very closest friends online--including some of the people who've already posted in here. It'll change how I handle WIPs in public but not how I treat friends. I would do just about anything for a friend and that's a deep-ingrained part of me...almost genetic code levels. That can't change. *hugs*

    A writer 2, LOL. Your response was perfect. Thank you for expressing the sentiment in my hard on Tuesday...because it did suck that day--as evidenced by the fact that I still haven't quite replenished my tear supply I think. I don't think I've ever cried that much or that...ugly. I'm not a pretty crier at all. I looked a mess and several people asked about me the next day. Thanks for posting. *hugs*

    Anon, that's fascinating. I had no idea it'd count before it was complete. My agent and I discussed it and she slept on it to decide what I should and we agreed, but it's good to know and I'm sure valuable for others reading. I really thought you'd need to have finished it.

    Beth, thank you for posting here and tweeting with me. There is just this small seed of doubt in my mind because we're friends...and a friend wouldn't do this. But even if I did believe it, it's just an unwinnable situation. Everyone will lose if I out them. And maybe that's fair to them, but not to everyone between us and I don't want to put the negative energy towards this. It was one person. One WIP. And I have other things to work on--deadlines to do. It reminds me of the day B was diagnosed. One day, we grieved. The next day, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work.

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  24. Liana, because fate is cruel this way...I finally dumped everything from the last two years in my deleted folder less than two months ago. I would laugh at the irony but my sense of humor isn't *quite* that broad. And even if I did have them...I just have enough doubt in my mind that I wouldn't follow through. I mean, I thought we were close so this still...just...boggles me. So, I can't name them by name even privately because there's this tiny seed of doubt. I would hate myself if I discovered that I was wrong. And I can't live with guilt. I can't sleep if I feel guilty for even the lamest things. And with OCD, you feel guilty every damn day of your life anyway...this would kill me. So, they can feel guilty and I'll move on.

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  25. This beyond sucks.
    This is no friend and I don't think you should pretend they are a friend or congratulate them.
    Reprehensible.
    Disgusting excuse for a human being.
    Toe jam.

    I'm so sorry. I'm not as nice or as forgiving as you are. You are a better human being than most.

    Best of luck with anything and everything that WILL come your way soon.

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  26. I already said it on twitter - that person - if they stole it and it wasn't the world's more crazy coincidence (which I don't think it was), they are an Unimaginative Douchecanoe.

    *hugs*

    You have something they don't - the ability to come up with your own stories. I don't like thinking this is someone I might be in contact with, sharing my babies with, but I get your hesitance to reveal their identity.

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  27. Wendy, this is a terrible thing that happened to you and I admire your ability to turn the other cheek. I don't know a lot about anything but have you heard of a "poor man's copyright"? Authors used to date materials by sending it to themself by mail. There are ways around that but the modern version is to EMAIL stuff to yourself thru something like GMAIL. The date stamp can't be altered so it would serve as proof as far as who had the WIP/OUTLINE first. Sure you couldn't do it with a vague idea but with something as detailed as you said you had...I think it would help you out. If you happened to email yourself something on this WIP...or sent it to anyone for that matter...I'd definitely look into it. It's not acceptable behaviour for anyone to treat you this way. You worked hard and should be able to enjoy the spoils of your graft and your craft. I wish you luck in the future and I hope this hasn't soured you too much on Twitter and the like. And if you ever need someone poked with a spear look up @Spartagus and I'll come and give 'em a poke. :0) See ya on the interwebs.

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  28. Heather, thank you... I hope this means I'm due some good fortune. That would be great. : )

    FS, I'm going to giggle about douchecanoe every time you say it. Thanks for your comments on Twitter and here.

    Gareth, I have that proof. I emailed unfinished portions to a couple betas, and I frequently email drafts to myself just in case my harddrive fails or something. So, I have proof in several forms that I had that idea in progress...I just don't have the motivation to pursue this because it would hurt people we share as friends. And my friends mean everything to me--as evidenced by how much this shattered me. So, I have proof...copies of the WIP with outline time-stamped and copies of the blog posts where I discussed it. What I don't have is proof that this person did all this beyond a shadow of a doubt and I don't think I ever will. So, my only option is to walk away, and I can do that and feel good about myself tomorrow. And nothing could sour me on Twitter...that's my second home. ; )

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  29. Oh no!! I'm so sorry this happened to you. And that really sucked. :(
    And yeah, I agree--I think it IS illegal, too, and I think you can prove it...you just need an email to do so, and if you DMd and chatted with this person, I think that would do!
    (((hugs)))

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  30. I came by here through a link a writer friend posted on Twitter. My heart goes out to you. There's nothing more soul-crushing than having your work stolen.

    A few notes on copyright law for Anonymous and others wondering about legal action: (because it happened to me, but with a piece of artwork): Technically, you are the legal owner of anything you write from the moment you set it down. However, when it comes to the courts, if you intend to sue over the issue of infringement of your intellectual property, it really is important that your work be registered with the U.S. copyright office before the act of infringement.

    When my artwork was stolen, it wasn't registered. That meant that even though the artwork was legally mine, I could only sue to recover "actual damages"--basically, the amount of money I lost as a result of infringement. And for cover artwork for a CD (this was what it was stolen for), even one with reasonably wide distribution, that amount is not very much.

    By contrast, IF the work had been properly registered, I could have sued for "statutory damages"--that's tens of thousands of dollars or more, as opposed to just the loss of my own personal profits (which for an individual artist or writer, again, isn't much). In addition, the opposition would have had to pay my lawyer's fees once I proved the matter of their copyright infringement.

    Registration of a manuscript with the U.S. Copyright office costs $35 and can be done online, and for anyone worried about the theft of their writing, it's a worthwhile investment to make for the reasons listed above; it makes legal recourse much more financially feasible.

    Wendy, I know in your case this isn't really applicable to you, since you don't want to try to take legal action because of the relationships it might ruin. You seem a very kind person. I'm so sorry to hear this happened to you.

    Maybe her book will flop and in a few years, when the world has forgotten about it, you could put your project out there?

    It's really upsetting... I think it was right and brave of you to set this post out there in the world, though. It lets other writers know to beware. Take care of yourself. I'm so sorry this happened to you!

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  31. Aww, Monica, you're one of my favorite people, did you know that? *hugs you too tight* *you pass out* *people gawk* Thanks for being so awesome.

    G.B. Skye, THANK YOU. You made posting this worthwhile--even if I didn't expect it to get so much attention...yikes...so many people. But it's important to know what's involved for legally dealing with this and while I never would have guessed it was that complicated--I knew it wasn't something I wanted to pursue. If it was a completed work and I could be sure...and if it wouldn't hurt so many people. I'm sure for some it's very, very worth it and I'm sorry this happened to you too. I've been worried about the header on this--a painting of mine--getting swiped and you've given me that to think about too. So, thank you. *hugs*

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  32. Jeez, Wendy, that's just terrible. To be honest, I wouldn't consider legal action ... I'd grab my most rusty pliers and show up on his or her doorstep for some amateur dentistry. I hope this rotten incident brings you energy and great things happen for you. But you also have every right to out this person, in my opinion. Every right in the world. Best of luck.

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  33. Awww man. What a freaking sucky situation! I'm so sad and mad for you right now! (((hugs)))

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  34. Unknown, thanks, the violent vehemence of my friends has been somewhat life-affirming--which just goes to show I'm not as good as you guys think. ; )

    Rhonda, yeaaah. Sucky is the right word for it. Thanks. *hugs back*

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  35. Wendy,
    I am so sorry for you and what happened.

    They say "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." They lie.

    I tend to take a somewhat different view on the situation than your live-and-let-live (yours is the more evolved, no doubt). I view my WIPs as I do my children. I argue, if I don't take steps to fight for them and protect them, then who will?

    I re-read the 5th paragraph of your blog post twice. If the ms. that sold was word-for-word or even beat-for-beat like your WIP, I fear I'd shout "relationships be damned," hire a good lawyer and plow off to court. (All of my friends know I have no tact. Bull in a china shop... that's me.)

    But if the pitch is the only thing the 2 have in common, may I politely suggest that maybe... just maybe... your WIP isn't dead in the water?

    As you know, you can't copyright an idea. Execution of that idea, however, is fairly well protected. If your "friend" (I use the word loosely) took your original idea, made it his or her own, and then ran with it -- surely you, as the original Mind behind the story would have done things differently and arrived at a different outcome. Who knows? Maybe their big sale with a major publisher just opens the door for you to do the same.

    I guess I'm saying that if the original story still grabs you and appeals to you, you don't have to just suck it up and take the hit. Of course, you could still choose to duke it out legally. Or you could finish your kickass WIP with your original idea, taking great pains to assure that it's *way* better than your erstwhile friend, and have your agent sell it to one of the Big Boys too.

    A screenwriting friend had a similar experience as you. One of her scripts did well in a screenwriting competition, but her agent just couldn't move it. About 5 years later, out comes this movie -- starring a TV actress in a break-out role. The movie's log line is word-for-word my friend's script pitch.

    She hypothesized that one of the movie's writers had been a juror or reader in the contest and considered suing. Ultimately, though, she figured it was impossible to prove someone had stolen her idea, washed her hands of it, and moved on. Today, 10 years later, it still rankles.

    Whatever you choose to do -- whether to pursue legal action, finish the WIP & sell the heck out of it, or forgive and forget -- here's hoping that the situation causes you no more tears. Mean people suck. And your current WIPs need you...

    -->> Here's a thought: insert a subplot in your current WIP about a two-faced S.O.B. who steals someone's fully-fledged idea & claims it for their own... then throw them under a bus... or put them at the mercy of a sadistic terrorist kingpin... or drown them in magma... The possibilities are endless. And very, very satisfying. :)

    Keep on keeping on.

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  36. Ami, yes, sorry...I realize in retrospect that fifth paragraph wasn't as clear as it should be... *blushes* I was still a little emotional and I'd expected maybe five people to see this. Instead I feel like I'm suddenly holding back the ocean.

    It would be very difficult to make the pitch different and the other similarities not scream "copycat." And when you come second and share friends...it makes you look crappy. Or everyone realizes what I was referring to when I wrote this--which would also be crappy. Someone did suggest possibly a pseudonym and that might work but having to change my name to publish something that was mine to begin with will probably rankle--like with your friend.

    But I will think about it. I think eventually this WIP will feel less tainted and I'll want to finish it, and my agent and I can talk about what happens then. But the few people who know which WIP I'm talking about and who did this--thus far agree with my opinion that it's dead. For right now. In this situation.

    And if it is dead, it's okay. Publishing is a tough world and there's every possibility mine wouldn't have sold with the same pitch. This hit me so hard because of who it was and how it happened--more than what it was.

    Also, in the end, I wasn't very careful. The fact that I had to delete "telling" information from my blog so blog readers couldn't guess at this shows you I wasn't keeping things private. It could have just as easily been a random stranger--but the fact that it wasn't--is what got to me.

    I'm better today. Tuesday was awful as you can tell, but then I dove into a revision and the worst days of being a writer can't compete with the best writing days that feel magical. And that which doesn't kill us--will be used as character development in a story later. Bad days in reality make for good black moments in fiction.

    Thank you. *hugs*

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  37. wow. Just wow. Of course all of us have had idea-envy at some point or another. Of course we think 'darn, wish I had though of that first!' That's normal. Going the extra foot, mile, league, ocean away from that and actually creating a book off another person's detailed idea is just a crime. I don't care what anyone says, it's wrong wrong wrong and even if it's not technically 'illegal', it stays a crime, imo. There's no justifying it.

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    1. I've read books and thought, "I think I could have done that better," but then shrugged because I got the idea FROM their idea. Derivation can be complex but there should be several degrees of separation between you and what gave you the idea.

      I've learned in painting that art occurs when you deviate from copying.

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  38. I stopped talking about my WIP's until they are with my publisher and I have a release date. Too many chances in this day and age to be ripped off. Someone once told me how rare it was and now I have proof of how much it isn't.

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    1. Yes, good idea. I think, at the very least, writers should be careful about what they post online, but I do think it's not as rare as we'd like. It seems like I've heard a lot more cases recently.

      Delete
  39. So sorry this happened. This is not the first time I've heard of this. It's happened to a couple friends of mine. If you're still passionate about the idea and still want to put your time and effort into it, you could self publish it and get it out there first. I mean it is your idea.

    But I understand if you'd rather just move on.

    It's a shame when we can't just trust everyone. And her actions seemed very deliberate.

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    1. Your idea made me smile because this other person is hampered by the timeline of traditional publishing... it's very devious--though less devious than what happened initially. But I do just want to move on. I'm supposed to be working on a novella revision and nothing feels healthier than working on something you love.

      Delete
  40. How terrible. I would boycott the book if I knew what it was. I don't think people should be allowed to get away with that sort of thing no matter how gracious you are. As a consumer I'd like to buy a book that is worthy of my money.

    This person's agent/publisher etc should definitely know about this. I wouldn't be happy taking someone on who obviously has no morals or ideas in their own heads. They're asking for trouble and law suits further down the line. You'd be saving them alot of tarnished reputations and money if you let them know. It is in their best interest, and they can decided to do what they like with the information. But at least then your conscience is clear.

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    1. Yeah, but I just can't be sure and it's not in me to ruin someone's life with even the remote chance I'm wrong.

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  41. I am so sorry for you, and I hope the Karma bus runs over this "friend" who clearly lacks any sense of ethics or morality.

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    1. I'd like the Karma bus to pick me up and take me for a ride at the very least. Thanks.

      Delete
  42. I mentioned your case on my blog today and a friend on facebook recommended I pass this link along to you. I know you don't plan on pursuing this, but just so you know, you could have a solid case if you kept the twitter PMs and stamped files.

    http://www.brownerpllc.com/blog/?p=211

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    1. I just deleted the DMs a couple months ago--because that's how it goes...the moment you delete something, you need it. But I do have the time-stamped stuff and I plan to keep it.

      Delete
  43. Oh, man--I am so sorry about this. I get that ideas sort of float through the ethos, but something you've shared a lot more than just a sentence or two--that is definitely a violation of trust, even if not illegal.

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  44. Hi, Wendy! I feel so bad that this happened to you :( I expect it feels especially worse because a friend went behind your back. I just wanted to tell you I think you're a very classy lady. You're dealing with this in such a kind, positive way. What goes around comes around, and I expect big exciting things will be happening for you! Chin up and stay as good and kind as you are! :)

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  45. There are certain things people with self respect just don't do. Cheat in romantic relationships. Manipulate people under your authority for personal gain. Steal another creative person's ideas.

    That being said, there will always be thieves in the world, so you should just be careful about what you share, and with whom. As far as putting a query up somewhere public? I would never do it unless the book was completely done. And even then, if someone wrote a cool book based on my query alone? I might be more flattered than angry.

    The partial MS aspect of your experience is another story altogether though. This is low.

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    1. Hey Wendy, new follower here from Creepy Query Girl's blog. I swear, I felt my heart stop when I read her post about your story. On a smaller scale, this happened to me a little over a year ago and I'm so sorry for all of the hurt you've experienced. You know what I've seen? The people who need to snatch ideas eventually run out. You, on the other hand, will continue to prosper. I'm sorry you had to see your friend's true colors this way but admire how you're handling it.

      Maybe I'm way too sensitive but it took me months and months to move on so I commend you for taking that initiative now. Pour this hurt into your writing and keep creating great ideas and work. That has staying power. Don't give anyone the power over your well being. I know you've mentioned you won't take action with this but it might help to at least let the friend know that you know. Any mutual friends would surely understand if they were aware of the situation. That being said, I respect you for choosing to move on.

      I know I'm super new to your blog but if you ever want to talk to someone who has been in a similar position, I'd love to. Good luck with your writing.

      Delete
  46. Spread the word. Give us a name and the title of the book so we can boycott it and lambast them for being a stealer of ideas. Set the social media world on fire. This person does not deserve to profit from your hard work.

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  47. Wendy,

    I just heard of your story, and I am sorry. It does make one stop and think to about what we all put out there.
    I'm happy to make your acquaintance, but sad it's over such a horrible matter.
    Wishing you well, and yes Karma will hopefully take this on.

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  48. Hart, it's the violation of trust that bothers me the most too.

    Laura, thanks. I'm hoping that, at the very least, fate eases up a bit in the next few months.

    Matthew, there were a lot of ways this could have played out that wouldn't have hurt--including them just asking if they could take the idea and run with it. I thought they knew me well enough to know I'd have said "yes" but I don't know.

    Saumya, I think I've got a healthy amount of denial and repression going on to be honest, but I've got deadlines and NaNoWriMo is coming up and I just don't have a lot of pleasant options. Besides, that which doesn't kill us will be great for character development, right? ; )

    Michael, I appreciate your vehemence and the fact that you used the word "lambast" but this situation is... unwinnable and I'm just not interested in the fight. It sucked. It stung, but I've got writing to do...and writers write.

    Yolanda, thanks for stopping by and that's why I posted this in the first place. I don't want to be someone's cause to fight for, but I don't mind being a cautionary tale. I flat-out should have been more careful and I knew better. I keep thinking maybe I should take this down because I'm discovering I don't like this sort of attention, but this crap happens if you're not careful, and I wasn't. *hugs*

    Thanks everyone for your concern. I'll try to keep responding, but I'm on a timecrunch for a revision and I'm supposed to be writing about people falling in love--and I might have to crank up the Barry White and light some candles just to reach a polite handshake level at this rate. So, if there's a delay...I'm probably trying to figure out how many smiles I can have on a page before I sound like a toothpaste commercial.

    Thanks,
    Wendy

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  49. Hey Wendy, new follower here from Saumya's blog. Feel really, really bad for you. This is a wake up call to all of us that we should exercise caution regarding what we share online. You have shown tremendous grace and dignity in the way you have moved on without accusations and name and guilt dropping. Hugs. Wish there was something we all could do to help you.

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  50. Rachna, *hugs back* thanks. I'm actually doing okay...other than a little unnerved from all the attention. LOL. I've already gained a few followers on this blog and Twitter whom I sense will be long-term friends, and whom I wouldn't have met otherwise. I've swapped out one lousy friend for at least three new friends. It was a fair trade. Plus, sometimes, it takes some lousy days to appreciate the good ones--and I think I'm due some good ones.

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  51. Yeesh.

    Half the fun of being a writer is brainstorming, collaborating and bouncing ideas off one another. This *friend* destroyed all of that.

    This blows epic arse, but your decision to let it go and move forward speaks to your character and, no doubt, the future of your writing career.

    Best of luck to you.

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  52. OH NO. NO NO NO. I am so sorry!!! GAH. I can't even...Just gross. YOU are such a good person for moving on and letting bygones be bygones. I can't honestly say I'd do the same.

    It's so disillusioning. Maybe it's good that I've always been pretty quiet about my WIPs. I have one core group of friends who I trust wholeheartedly, but my blogger and twitter peeps for the most part? I'm chatty w/them about petty stuff, but very cautious w/my work or personal matters. Hearing something like this validates that practice for me. I wish you all the best, and hope you get a kickbutt book deal VERY soon! Keep writing!

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  53. Hi Wendy, I ended up here through someone posting a link to your blog on Reddit.
    (You're the talk of writer-land now hon ;) )

    What this person did to you is immoral, and illegal. And you are a far better person than most of us for dealing with this in such a mature way.
    If it happened to me, I'd be screaming like a banshee all the way to my solicitor (UK lawyer) armed with all my evidence.
    This person is not a friend to you, or anyone within the writing community, and deserves to be shut out completely for this.

    But, like others have said, this is definitely a wake up call for a lot of us, that there are people like this out there, and we should be more guarded with what we're sharing.
    I wish you all the best with your future writing and hope you find the success you deserve :)

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  54. This is horrible. Kudos to you for sounding the alert. I'm sure it was a hard decision to post about this painful experience. At least you're getting some well-deserved support from the writing community this way. If I were you, I'd include the incident in your next book and kill the fictional offender off in some really gruesome way. Cathartic for you. Uncomfortable for her. It shouldn't have happened, and I sincerely wish it hadn't.

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  55. This situation stinks. You may be obliging, but you should also be private with work you really like of your own. There are many out there with no scruples whatsoever. You've kept your grace, but the girl doesn't deserve it, IMO. That may be one of the bad sides of social media. It's hard to tell who you can trust just from a voice or 140character message.

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  56. This person will probably just take someone else's work when they need a new idea. I'm very sorry this has happened to you.
    I write POETRY for goodness sake and I've seen this happen. There's no real money in poetry so, kind of funny and sad at the same time.

    On the VERY slim plus side: You know you're absolutely brilliant and for someone to even come CLOSE to what you are, they have to steal it from you. Which means it is only a matter of time before you hit it big and I am following your blog from now on so I can say "I knew her before the NYT Bestseller list"!

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  58. I am so heartbroken for you, Wendy! What a terrible thing. I know you'd never publicly call out the person, but I would hate to unknowingly support them by buying the book when it's released.

    You are an incredible person, and the way you are handling this is amazing. I understand your not wanting to seek any legal action, but my concern would be that if she had access to your partial, she possibly plagiarized as well. Hopefully it didn't go that far.

    I also feel sorry for the agent that has no idea they signed on an idea thief.

    Wishing you much success in your career, Wendy. You deserve it!

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  59. I am so sorry this happened to you! :( This is like, a cardinal sin in the writing community. I cannot believe someone would do this! It is truly shocking.

    Just to add my two cents, when I send out WIPs to anyone -friends, relatives, crit partners, etc.- I always put a copyright page on it (even on drafts). Just something simple like "copyright, 2012, Kat Morrisey". Technically you don't have to do this to protect copyright(in the US), since it's automatic. I do it because (1) I am a bit paranoid and (2) in my head I like to think it's a deterrent to anyone who might be thinking of doing this in the future.

    Thank you for sharing this with the writing community. Best of luck in the future!

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  60. I think you should try talking to this person one-on-one to get to the truth of the matter. If you talk to them this humbly and they still act defensive and mean to you in response, then they probably did it on purpose. Otherwise, they didn't.

    This area is very complicated. I came up with an idea for a novel last year. It was to be about Medusa and I wanted it to be a romance novel from the perspective of Medusa as being the good guy. I searched on the internet to see if there was any novels like it and found NONE.

    Then I outlined the novel and wrote the first draft and all of a sudden this author started talking to me and told me that she was ALSO writing a novel about Medusa, where Medusa was the good guy, and it was a romance novel and it was about to be published.

    I cried hysterically as well and was terrified if I decided to publish my novel that people would accuse me of copying her.

    I finished writing the novel anyway and read her novel afterwards. Our novels are so different, it's not even funny. Pretty much all they have in common is the word "Medusa", so your novels might not be as similar as you think they are. Unless you read her novel and actually see the way you word things inside of her novel. And if you do, then what she did WAS illegal.

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    1. That's a really interesting story. It's strange how things like that happen. Two writers--same idea, but totally different execution. And it happens more than we believe. It's one of the reasons why I'm not doing anything.

      Delete
  61. I am so sorry that this happened to you. Reading this had me all choked up, because it is the very thing I fear and I can only imagine how horrible it really must be. I wish you the best with all of your future projects!

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  62. Hi Wendy,

    This is so so sad :( I can understand that you want to share how things go and discuss ideas and get feedback on your creations, but when your openness and honesty are treated like this then it's nothing short of a betrayal :(

    Really hope and pray that things work out well for you..

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  63. Thanks everyone who has posted recently. *hugs* I had an incredibly weird and awful November in addition to working on revisions, so I'm sorry I've been absent. I've read these notifications on my phone, though, and be grateful for your thoughts.

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  64. First ofall, I really hope you didn't delete any poof you have. Not because you should do something with it, but just because they should know it exists. I'm really sorry this happened to you and I wish there was a way to avoid this. It's impossible to be successful in this business without sharing your work, and it's terrifying that a writer would do something like this to a friend. But I'm so proud of the way you've handled this. I could not do it. I would be pissed! I would totally call this person out on the blog linking to all evidence. I think the way you've chosen to handle this will benefit you in the long run. You are an impressive person.

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  65. This is why Stephen King refuses to accept unpublished writing from authors for critique. Ideas are special commodities that translate into custody battles down the road - or in your case, feelings of betrayal and plagiarism. It is unfortunate that these gems you feel so much pride and pleasure in must be held close to the breast until the day of fruition.

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