The Way of the Word

2. December 2009

Avoiding Self-Plagiarism

Filed under: workblog,writing — jensaltmann @ 10:29
Tags: , ,

A couple of days ago, I had an idea.

I’m a writer, the above isn’t really anything to blog about. I have ideas all the time. More than I can use, actually. If I could sell ideas, instead of having to develop them into actual stories, I’d be mega-successful and filthy rich. But, alas…

Anyway. As some of you know, I’m currently writing a zombie novel, which is the sequel to a horror novel I wrote back in 2007. Even then, I had considered turning the main character of that novel into a series lead. That is why, when I had the idea for the zombie novel, I wanted to do it as the second Christopher Price novel.

No secret: I already have one Christopher Price novel published, which makes it more likely that a second one will find a publisher.

The idea that I mentioned above would be for a third Christopher Price novel. Obviously, I don’t know whether or not I will write it as that, or even if I will write it at all. It depends on a lot of factors that I can’t control, or even anticipate. But I expect that I will eventually need a third Christopher Price idea.

I won’t go into details, but the idea involves deadly nightmares. Which bothered me a bit. Should I use it? Deadly nightmares, dream demons, isn’t that what the Freddy Kruger movies are about? Of course, that doesn’t mean I can’t use an idea involving deadly dreams. I’ll just have to make sure that ther story itself isn’t too close to Nightmare on Elm Street.

Yesterday, I thought I had figured out how to do it. I took my Christopher Price ring binder (where I keep all notes and outlines regarding Christopher Price’s adventures) and wrote the idea down. As I came to the end, something about my note bothered me. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at first. I re-read the note…

Then it hit me: the few lines I had written could just as easily serve as a nutshell description of my first novel, Return of the Ravager. It wasn’t really the same idea, but the premise I had developed from it was close enough that if I used it, I would have to be as careful in developing it as with the Freddy Kruger thing. More so, even, since I would essentially be cannibalising my own previous work.

In practice, it meant trashing the note. Never fear, though: I’ve come up with something new for the idea that doesn’t remind me of anything — not yet, at least. The good that came out of this, however, was the reminder that I always have to be on guard. Having ideas is easy, developing them  is the tricky part.

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