I go to a number of writers conferences. Sometimes I go as an author conferee, but more often I attend as an editor from a publishing house. What frustrates me the most is when authors are afraid to show others their stories for fear of theft. During editor appointments I have even been told by authors they will not show me their story unless I contract it because I might steal it if there isn’t a contract. The level of fear both saddens and frustrates me. The fear stops them from being the writer they can be and from being happy partners in the process of creating a book.
First, to deal with the reality of their fear. Writing is a creative sport and there are no two creations alike. I got a beautiful example of this from my AWANA class of third through sixth graders recently. The assignment was to write down their favorite Bible verse and then draw a picture to go with the verse. Over half the class used John 3:16 but there were no two pictures alike. They were substantially different. Not even close to the same. This speaks to the fact there are only a few basic story lines, but there have been thousands of books written, all different. I have been in writers groups where a single prompt is given and every story from the prompt is different. Every writer has their own personal story and will therefore write the basic line from their own personal story. There is no need to fear theft because no two people write alike.
Even if an author does take an idea and does write a similar book, it is impossible to write with the same voice.
What does an author lose by living in this fear? They lose they the improvement in their work that comes with critique and with bouncing ideas off other authors. The strength that is found in a positive, supportive writers group cannot be duplicated in the loneness of the place you hide with your writing.
If you are one of those writers who live in fear, stop it? It is easy to say something like that, but I know it is not that easy. Reach you to just one or two people. Let them read your work. Let them make comments. Evaluate those comments. You don’t have to take every piece of advice. You are in control so you can choose which advice to take. It is my experience the writers who do this are the best writers and they have the best books.
To every writer who lives in fear of having their story stolen, release the fear and live in the freedom that working with others brings.