writing

#IWSG–My Plot Has Been Co-opted

writers groupThis post is for Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers Support Group (click the link for details on what that means and how to join. You will also find a list of bloggers signed up to the challenge that are worth checking out like Kate and Rebecca who inspired me to begin). The first Wednesday of every month, we all post our thoughts, fears or words of encouragement for fellow writers.

This month’s insecurity:  It takes me so long to write my novels that what seemed original or timely when I set out on the journey has become dated and overused.

I spend a lot of time researching my topics. I need to read thoroughly on the topics, talk to people, get a deep understanding of issues so the connections bubble up. I write fiction, so the connections don’t have to be real, just believable. I want those nuances that will make readers sit up and pay attention, madly turn the pages with the buzz in their head saying, ‘I didn’t know that’ and ‘Could that really happen?’ My writing is a blend of science, military, thriller, tech. Fascinating topics, but ever changing. Between this and that and Yikes and S*** (and a F*** here and there), it’s taken so long to get my book out, the epiphanies have collapsed in on themselves. Here are a few examples:

North Korea as enemy

I’ve included the country name so you can see what I mean. Four years ago, did you worry much about North Korea? Kind of, but well behind other international dangers. In the last several years, that’s changed. Where I was trying to get away from typical ‘bad guys’, I’m now dead center with the norm.

An alliance between sworn enemies

I spent a lot of time coming up with two nations who hated each other, but could ally for a compelling reason. The fun was building that argument, making it believable enough it would pull readers in. Well, now they’ve done it, well before I got around to publishing.

A phrase like ‘Katy bar the door’

It was so retro, I thought it would be cool. Now I’ve read it twice in the past year, by well-read authors.

My cutting edge tech ideas are now old

Tech changes so much, almost daily. I just read about an app coming out that will allow you to point your phone at a business you’re passing and get all sorts of data on it. That wasn’t around when I started my WIP!

A restaurant I used has gone out of business

That actually happened three times. I had to zoom in on Google Earth and find a new geographically-available restaurant that didn’t force me to change the storyline. Harder than it should be.

A scientific fringe idea arrived

Think of Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak. Did you ever think of that as anything other than fantasy? When I researched, I discovered it is available for certain uses. I extrapolated (with convincing explanations) how that fit my plot line. Much to my dismay, my idea is now on DARPA’s radar. It will sound like I copied them (when they actually copied me–yeah, right.)

This is why I’m becoming a growing advocate of self-pub. If I’m a good enough writer, I can get my work to market before it becomes dates.

Has this ever happened to you?


More IWSG articles:

Am I good enough? Does it matter?–#IWSG

Fear of Saying Dumb Things Scares Me to Death

#IWSG–The World is Changing–Can I keep up

Will I Find Employment if I’m an Older Job Hunter?


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. In her free time, she is  editor of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.

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29 thoughts on “#IWSG–My Plot Has Been Co-opted

  1. Even writing short fiction I’ve found that this happens. Sure, I might finish the story in a week or two and start trying to sell it, but by the time it’s been round a dozen magazines and finally been accepted for publication, suddenly there are a dozen stories out there paralleling what was my fresh, new idea. But I figure that as long as my execution’s good then the story’s still worth people reading.

  2. This exact thing has happened to me! Years (and years) ago I started a YA zombie novel for with my husband. There were no YA zombie novels (that I knew of) at the time. Now? Uh, yeah. Totally missed the boat there. It took me too long to finish. When I started querying it I was told it sounded too much like another YA zombie novel-that hadn’t even come out yet! Yeah, that hurt. Lol.
    But, I am self-pubbing it this fall! Because I love it anyway, even if zombies are totally old hat now. :) Good luck with your story! I hope you find a place for it. :)

  3. You’re right about self-publishing allowing you to better keep up with the changes in the world. Never thought about that before. Of course, I’m such a slow writer that even with self-publishing I’ll probably still be out of date by the time I finish a story.

  4. I do wonder about self-publishing, but my guys are pretty helpful, and I think I’d feel a bit disloyal, even if the time they take to get me to print has me frothing on occasion. Mind you I don’t really write time challenged stuff

    • Yours (based on the one book I read) is more about digging into thoughts and ideas. Love it. There, it’s truly your voice and the connections you make that carry the story.

  5. An invisibility cloak exists? Really? I had no idea! My feeling is that many of your readers won’t be as aware of the new technology developments either.

    I also feel that I take longer than I would like to finish projects. However, a well researched, believable book will certainly keep the reader flipping the pages! I think I have to agree with the others on self publishing, that way you could bring your work to market faster – before anyone else does!

  6. Well, for me I guess the good news is, no matter if the subject matter is “dated” or “done” or not, it always comes down to the writing… and no one writes what you write like you do, so it will always be original. That’s how I look at it. :)

  7. I haven’t read what the others said, so I hope this isn’t redundant. It’s happened to me. Back in the 90s, I wrote an epic novel around the Vietnam War, then was told nobody wanted to hear about that war any longer. You’re left with some simple tweets, as in fix’ems, Jacqui. Change the name of the restaurant, scratch the dated phrases, make the conflict with Korea feel so intense nobody can put the book down, or change it to China. You get what I mean. If publishers aren’t interested, publish it yourself. The writing is what readers want.

      • I’ve made it as good as it possible can be, and now I’m ready to find a publisher. A vet told me to go for it. He helped me with the fire scenes, said I wrote like a man. LOL. I took it as a compliment. I actually love the story, so I’m going to try again. Good luck with yours, Jacqui. Best.

  8. I sort of doubt I’ll have difficulties, such you describe, Jacqui. Although at this point of my story, I’m still in my ‘pre-writing’ stage. I’ve begun the research I’ll need to do,soon! One thing I’m fairly sure is the one aspect of my story will always be a struggle especially for mothers who are torn between their addiction and her child. This is the ‘theme’ (I think??) of my novel.

  9. I’ve solved some of these problems by setting my novels in the “identifiable past.” Given how life recently has usurped my (continually revised) writing schedule, it’s a good thing I don’t do science fiction. I’m not insecure, just realistic.

  10. My first book contains items that date the book, but in subsequent books I was more vague about current events and technology so that I wouldn’t have that problem. I don’t want an editor to tell me I have to change something, because between a draft and publishing the final version a lot has changed. Those were YA contemporary books. I can see how these issues might be a problem with maybe a thriller or espionage book where these details are more important. You can always fictionalize things that might be worrisome. I’ve seen authors use fictional countries or regions, world leaders, apps, you name it.

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