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What To Do When You Realize Your Idea Isn’t Original Part II

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A long, long time ago when I was working on the first book in The Girl In Between series I came across a newly released traditionally published book that shared several similarities with my novel. Of course, I completely panicked and started rethinking everything to the point of almost driving myself mad.

And then I came to the realization that lots of books have things in common–characters, setting, plot, conflict. There will always be an aspect of one of my stories that someone else has attempted to explore before. The difference? Well, the explorer, of course.

No one else has lived my life and therefore no one else has my same experiences to draw on for inspiration. No one has my voice or my perspective. No one is me. And that is how I was able to push through and continue with that series.

But then disaster struck again, only this time my WIP didn’t just share similarities with the traditionally published book I came across. The synopsis for both were practically identical.

Here, I’ll show you…

Rough synopsis for my WIP, which I used to teach my students about stakes & inciting incident during the outlining process:

Maite has just lost her twin brother in a tragic accident. His organs are donated, saving several lives. One of them is Phoenix who’s been waiting for a heart transplant for almost six months. He wants more than anything to meet the family of his organ donor and thank them for their son’s amazing gift but Maite and her parents are still in the midst of their grief and can’t imagine anything more final than hearing their son’s heart beating in someone else’s chest.

Even though they denied a meeting with him, Phoenix manages to find out the identities of his organ donor’s family. He learns that Maite is in his freshmen photography class and even though he knows he should keep his distance, something else, something stronger keeps pulling him in her direction. After partnering up for a semester-long project Maite and Phoenix slowly begin to develop feelings for one another.

Shortly after discovering that she is in love with Phoenix, Maite also discovers his true identity and realizes that he’s been keeping his connection to her twin brother a secret. Feeling betrayed and confused Maite is faced with the decision to forgive her soul mate or lose him forever.

And here’s the synopsis for Tamsyn Murray’s new novel, Instructions for a Secondhand Heart:

Jonny knows better than anyone that life is full of cruel ironies. He’s spent every day in a hospital hooked up to machines to keep his heart ticking. Then when a donor match is found for Jonny’s heart, that turns out to be the cruelest irony of all. Because for Jonny’s life to finally start, someone else’s had to end.

That someone turns out to be Neve’s twin brother, Leo. When Leo was alive, all Neve wanted was for him (and all his glorious, overshadowing perfection) to leave. Now that Leo’s actually gone forever, Neve has no idea how to move forward. Then Jonny walks into her life looking for answers, her brother’s heart beating in his chest, and everything starts to change.

Together, Neve and Jonny will have to face the future, no matter how frightening it is, while also learning to heal their hearts, no matter how much it hurts.

And cue mental breakdown…now.

I was absolutely gutted.

This…this was SO MUCH worse than the first time I discovered another book similar to my own. Because this book is practically identical!

FGHSHSGSNUDH!!!

That’s how I felt in that moment because what choice did I have but to shelve my novel? After having already spent years daydreaming about these characters and learning what makes them tick. After grieving the loss of Maite’s brother right alongside her. After diving deep into existential questions with Phoenix. Like…why do some people get to live while others don’t? And what is our responsibility to those who’ve passed on too soon?

And why, oh, why did the universe plant this story seed inside me if another writer was about the publish the exact same thing?

Did I mention how crushed I was?

But worse than that…I was confused.

I’m a very intuitive person. I’m a strict student of Fate and constantly in pursuit of my purpose. I look for signs everywhere and I usually follow them. So far, I’ve felt like Fate and I have pretty much been on the same page. But now I find myself knee deep in a very emotionally taxing project, which I now have to abandon because someone else has reached the finish line first.

And my only recourse is to CHOOSE to see it as another sign. Maybe that sign is that the next book in my queue, the one I’ve decided to query, MUST be written now. It can’t wait. And the universe had to practically shout it at me before I finally noticed.

So Fate never abandoned me. And just because I’m abandoning this story doesn’t mean I won’t be able to tell it eventually. Because even though it seems identical on the surface, below that surface is an ocean, the depths of which only I can explore.

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Want an ARC of my next novel?

The last thing I wanted was for it to take me an entire year to publish my next book. After the reaction to TDOTN I wanted to purge the experience as quickly as possible by getting something new out there, something that would allow me to prove to myself that I could finish something else, that it could be good. I needed another book to help me get my confidence back.

And yet, here I am, exactly one year later, still trying to squeeze out these last three chapters.

But I will get them out. And I will publish this novel. And if people hate it…I will still write another one. Because that’s what I do. What I have to do.

So, here’s the plan: finish the final chapters of this novel before the weekend, complete my final read-through and formatting by Sunday, and then send out ARCs Sunday night.

I think providing trusted friends and loyal readers with advanced copies is the perfect way to dip my toe into the sometimes treacherous waters of public opinion. And if I get good feedback maybe I’ll actually be able to sleep at night during those weeks leading up to publication on October 31st.

If you have a blog and would be interested in an advanced review copy of my novel please fill out the form below so I can get the correct format to you. I’ll post the full synopsis soon, but for now, here’s my Twitter pitch:

Pen & Xander is a contemporary YA romance about food and finding where you belong set in a Mexican restaurant that is the heart of an immigrant neighborhood.

Teaser Tuesday!

P&X

My back hurts, my legs burn, and everything sticks to me, sweat painting my neck. I scrape my hair out of my face and find pieces of lettuce and dried enchilada sauce. Angel is just as filthy, the hours stuck to us in layers of grease while time has burrowed even deeper in my father’s skin.

He’s been waking up at three AM every morning for the past fifteen years. Cooking migas and tamales and pozole and carne asada. Cleaning up broken glass and spilled drinks and half-eaten food. Hiring bartenders and dish boys and steak cooks, firing them too. Waking up every morning wondering if people are going to show up that day, if they’re going to like the food, if they’re going to pay what it’s worth. And going to bed every night hoping that it was enough. To pay the bills. To raise four kids. To open the doors another day.

I can see those worries on his face, and even covered in filth, in food my father used to love, in sweat I can’t wait to wash off, there’s nothing I want more than to wear the same worry he does, to wake up with the same hope.

WIP Wednesday

Yes, it’s March, and yes this is technically my first WIP post of the year. Luckily, no one missed much as I’ve been working on this last line edit for book 3 in the TGIB series for…oh…three months now. I don’t know what it’s like for other writers, but there is no stage of my writing process quite as treacherous as that final line edit.

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I’ve gotten really good at not editing as I go, simply for the sake of finishing. If I read each draft the way I do the final one, I’d never get anything done. But once it’s time for me to strap on my editor hat for that final line edit, it’s like I get sucked into a black hole. I’ll glance at the clock and realize that I just spent half an hour on one paragraph or that an entire day has gone by and I’ve only completed one chapter. It’s tedious and heart wrenching but it’s also necessary. I just wish I could find a more streamlined way of tackling it, or better yet, maybe the universe could just add a few more hours in the day. Once this is finished, which I pray will be in the next few weeks, I will no doubt emerge looking like a zombie, probably smelling like one too. But who has time to bathe when there are words to be sliced and sentences to be diced?

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Once book 3 in the series is finished, and it WILL be finished this month, I will move on to the fourth and final book in the series, which has been patiently waiting for my attention since…oh, jesus, November. I plan on taking things at a slower pace with this novel because I really want to get it right. That means it probably won’t be done until the end of the year. But the good news is I’ll be alternating drafts with my contemporary romance novel that’s also been shelved for far too long and then…once all that is done I will finally be able to start something new. It’s been an entire year since I started a new project. For the past twelve months I’ve either been editing or picking up where I left off on abandoned drafts. By the time I start book #9 (yes, NINE!) it’ll likely have been two years since I’ve started something new. And I can’t freaking wait.

The Worst Thing I’ve Ever Written

*To celebrate my two-year blogging anniversary, I’ll be re-blogging some of my favorite posts from 2014 throughout the month of December*

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Lately it feels like that’s what this current WIP is turning out to be. I wrote the other day about how I had my first good writing day in a while but something I didn’t quite clarify was that “good” wasn’t necessarily referring to the actual writing itself. Yes, I gained clarity and yes, the words were flowing but that didn’t mean they weren’t garbage. They were and they are and the more I write the more I dread revisions because this puppy is going to need a lot of work. But what I’ve come to realize in my quest to write a first draft without obsessing over every word is that it’s not the words that matter. What matters is the story. And not whether or not it’s good but whether or not it’s there.

Through five books I’ve been the type of writer who would rather sit and…

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