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.