As a genre writer it’s inevitable that at some point you will encounter a book that sounds like yours. Even if you stay away from the major trends (cowboy, shifter, vampires) like I do, there are only so many tropes and story lines to go around. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.
You see, recently I’ve come across several new releases (including one from my own publisher) that, based on blurbs, seem awfully similar to the novel I just completed: disgraced/ down-on-his-luck man returns to the town he grew up in and has to deal with issues from his childhood while embroiled in a mystery and rekindling a relationship with his boyhood love/crush.
I know this is a well-used trope across multiple genres and movies of the week, but still, there is nothing like that lurch in your stomach when you stumble across a work that reads like yours.
My initial reaction was to panic. Followed swiftly by a sense of defeat. Was I going to have to throw away ten months of work? I began to worry about unfavorable comparisons, or worse, that readers would think I somehow copied the idea. And then there was the whole timing issue. Why now? My book has just entered the editing stage; it’s too late to make major changes. And would readers be tired of this trope by the time it drops in June?
I’m not the first writer to go through this, and I won’t be the last. In a crowded genre this must happen all the time. Knowing that hasn’t stopped me from taking a look at the available excerpts and samples for those books for reassurance. It does seem that there are enough differences to avoid side by side comparisons. Much of my worry is no doubt compounded by my standard pre-release anxiety. In the end, I tell myself, it’s out of my hands. I have to be confident that my characters and style will distinguish my novel from others out there. That’s really all any of us can do.