By Stephanie Bearce
I had just finished the 13th round of revisions on my manuscript. It was spit-shined and perfectly polished. The topic was unique. I'd done months of research. This story was sure to sell. I opened up my email ready to send the manuscript to my amazing agent, and there was a note from fellow Ninja Chick, Susie Kralovansky.
DID YOU SEE THIS ANNOUNCEMENT?
There in Publisher's Weekly was an announcement for the sale of my story.
Exact same topic. Even the same title!
But not written by me.
I'd been scooped.
Was there some devious plot to hack my computer and steal my ideas?
Did some evil writer read my drafts and take my work?
Was I the victim of a good topic and poor timing on my part?
Anyone who has been in the nonfiction business for more than half a second has experienced the "Stolen Idea" phenomenon. Nonfiction writers are avid readers and researchers. We are always looking for a new topic, a new take on a holiday, critical anniversaries, and hidden gems of stories. It's like the California gold rush for nonfiction stories. And exactly like the gold prospectors, there will be winners and losers in the story mining business, too.
But simply because another author beat you to the editor's desk doesn't mean it's over for your story. There are a few tricks you can try.
1. Change the target age of your manuscript. Is there a need for a middle-grade manuscript on the topic? Change that PB into an MG proposal. Or vice-versa!
2. Try a different format. Could you change it into a graphic novel? Could you turn it into a collection by adding similar stories?
3. Change the focus of the manuscript. If you are writing a biography of a famous person, try focusing on an unknown aspect of their life.
4. Set it aside for a while. This does not mean giving up on the story. Simply give your story some time and space. You may come back at it with a totally new perspective or you may find a unique way to use your research and hard work.
Most importantly, don't get discouraged. There are more stories waiting to be discovered. Get busy digging!!
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Disclaimer: The Nonfiction Ninjas are a group of writers with diverse ideas . The views expressed in each post are those of the author and may differ from others in the group.