If You Think You've Been Scooped, Here is Help
Written by
Mary Ellen Latela
October 2015
Written by
Mary Ellen Latela
October 2015

*** Mary Ellen Latela @LatelaMary, [email protected] ***

On the pages of SheWrites, I've read the bittersweet stories of several writers who say they have been scooped. They have been focusing on a great project, have started the research, and have even written a solid outline. Then they opened one of the really excellent periodicals and saw their own ideas played out by another author - the very same topic, from - it appears - the same perspective, but written by someone else. Each "victim" says: "I've been scooped."

I want to say to anyone who feels this way.... don't do anything rash. Stop and think it over.

When we have a great idea and we feel are the most qualified person in the world to write the book, which will of course be a bestseller, it means that we have examined our thoughts, dreams, abilities, fears, and worries. And we have concluded, "This is my book."

Consider the following ideas. First, you may be the best person in the universe, even the solar system, to write a book... and you have piles of resources, a half-completed manuscript, and tickets for a week away to just write, new cartridges for the laptop, sharpened pencils, a new camera, etc., all the tools. There is at least one missing piece in this near-disaster/near-victory. Is it possible to have more than one terrific story stewing in your idea oven? For example, how many love stories have been published ... one or two thousand, even one from your own experience. And yes, your story appears to be exactly like hers, but experience – a lots of reading – shows that everyone's story is different.

Someone (sorry I cannot find the post) decided she was going to write about being a non-Mom and how that was working out so well. Even the pictures in the magazine spread match her own home; the office is similar to hers, down to the nautical clock on the desk and that mahogany colored one-of-a-kind coffee mug beside it. 

I've been chatting with Melanie Holmes, whose book, The Motherhood Assumption, has just come out. The conflict between choosing to be a mother and choosing to be a non-Mom is "in the news" these days as more and more women are honing their career plans to include a heavy emphasis on a medical, societal, or creative profession. They are talking to potential mates about this decision BEFORE the coupling. They will do what they think is best. They are doing so already.

Melanie's powerful, down-to-earth, and well-research book addresses the choice of women regarding parenting: Is that part of their core life-plan or do they believe their energy will be used better by concentrating on a career in science, medicine, or technology. She has interviewed over 400 women, uses some cutting edge studies, and her own depth of experience to address the dilemma. I would venture to speculate that there is room for more than one book on that subject. I would not put aside my own manuscript, because I have a different voice. My story is my own. My background is unique. My relationship with my own parents enters into the mix, as well as my ability to take care of children ... or not.

What do you have to offer on a topic which has been written about already? What have you learned?  What genre works for you? What format? What POV? Fiction? Memoir? Series of interviews with experienced moms and experience professionals? You - the writer, the author, CONTROL these decisions and even if your first crisp white page is still empty, you have the freedom to make choices.

You are an author. You write every day. Read all you can about your topic but, for goodness' sake, do not compare your as yet unwritten work with someone else's plans for another incomplete book.

Share your ideas about being scooped, about the issue of moms and non-moms, or any related subject in the comments. I welcome your suggestions.

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  • Lene Fogelberg Writing

    This is all great advice and something that I believe happen to most writers at some point. I remember seeing a blog post which was very close to a text I had sent to that blogger some week earlier and your advice above is spot on. We all have our unique voice and different angles to view life from, and even if someone touches similar themes, each one will for sure bring something unique to the discussion!