3.28.2007

Pancake makeup takes on a whole new meaning

Dear Ms. Snark,

Let's say you're writing a novel (literary suspense) about, oh, let's say a professor of English who discovers a lost novel by Jane Austen. After writing about half of your first draft, you see an ad for a forthcoming literary suspense novel about...a professor of English who discovers a lost novel by Jane Austen. Your first instinct, of course, is to jump in front of a truck. After you settle down, though, you realize (please choose one):

a. It's not the end of the world--you scrap the thing and start a different novel the next day.

b. Plow ahead with your novel--chances are the guy who got there first won't have written a bestseller, and a year from now, when you're querying, most agents won't have heard of the thing. Besides, if one sold, another can sell!

c. Keep writing your novel, but make damn sure you can talk intelligently when you query about why it's different from that piece of Austen crap that came out last year.

d. Go ahead with that truck idea.

Thank you!


Well, as enchanting as the idea of watching you pancake yourself is, here are the options in order-first choice to last- c, b, a, d.

14 comments:

Chi-town said...

Hey Miss Snark,

If the label is a reference to T. Capote's first book, you've got it reversed. It's "Other Voices, Other Rooms."

Shannon Chamberlain said...

I wouldn't worry about it too much. The plot sounded interesting, so I just spent a half an hour trying to find the news item you referred to. Nowhere on Al Gore's internets, which leads me to believe that either a) I've lost my touch, or b) it's foreign or POD.

Anonymous said...

Frankly, I would go with the truck. With that kind of publicity used right, the competition will fade quickly into obscurity and you (or your estate -- plan carefully) will rake it in.

Brady Westwater said...

There are probably more than two of them out there. The wish fulfillment desire of Autsenphiles to enlarge the canon guarantees it.

Peter R said...

Anthony Horowitz once said in an interview that he was working on a novel about a boy wizard when the first Harry Potter book was published. He scraped the novel instantly and started on a spy novel instead. Only if the competing novel were POD would I continue, but if you are successful make sure you are prepared for plagiarism lawsuits.

Alley Splat said...

Jane Gardam wrote a wonderful short story called 'The Sidmouth Letters' which is about the letters Jane Austen wrote to her lover being found by a grasping academic and the owner's decision to sell them to him (or not).

It has the germ of the same idea and it's certainly famous in the UK; but given how many fans there are for anything about Austen I'm sure there's room for much more in the market. Good luck with it.

Anonymous said...

Shannon--My assumption is that author of this question is describing a similar, hypothetical plot, not the actual plot. At least, that's what I would have done :-)

Shannon Chamberlain said...

anonymous: Maybe, but it seemed a little specific for that. In any case, does the Snarkling who submitted this question want to stand up and tell us the name of this other book?

Also, this plot dates back to at least 1888: Henry James' "The Aspern Papers."

John B said...

The simplist solution is to change it from Jane Austen to Steve Austin. Historians have often wondered about the lost works of the Six Million Dollar Man.

Glad I could help.

Anonymous said...

This is silly- everyone knows that Jane Austen is still alive and living in Poughkeepsie. I saw her leaving a mini-mart with Elvis last week.

Rei said...

It's always a danger. A while ago, I ran into a book (Hugo award nominee, if I recall correctly), which had a number of common elements with mine. Thankfully, mine is different enough to set it apart, but it certainly was (and still remains) a concern.

If you've already invested a lot of labor, you might as well bring it to fruition -- just in case. It's not like plots never get reused or anything :P If you doubt that, look at all of the Tolkien knockoffs that have been eating up shelf space for the past half century.

A Paperback Writer said...

John B.-- I like your plot idea. Do let us know when you finish your first draft. :)

BuffySquirrel said...

chi-town, I think you need to explain that to blogger, which puts post tags in alphabetical order regardless of the order in which you enter them.

Miss Snark said...

it's the comma on other voices, other rooms that did me in. Blogger uses a comma as an indicator of "new tag".

it's fixed now but punctuated wrong.