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Hi. Is it possible for a writer to unknowingly use someone else's idea when writing a book? For example, two writers that don't know each other coming up with an idea at the same time, or a writer coming up with an idea/story that was written about years ago? Thanks

Hi, Danelle!

Yes, it's absolutely possible. I've been a victim (of sorts) myself. But "first to shelf" rules. So, if your story is too similar to another, it's best to change it slightly so it doesn't confuse a reader (or worse, wind you up in trouble with the published author.) I know it's frustrating to think that the hard work may wind up in the shredder, but it's the way of the business. I had to trash a full manuscript once because the plot, the character descriptions and even the people's NAMES were nearly identical to a book by a friend that hit the shelf before mine was sold. We laughed about it later, but I didn't laugh at the time. All you can do is sigh and move on. And really, sometimes, it can be the best thing to happen to the book. A few changes can make it really SING where you might not have made those same changes before.

Chin up and don't fret too much. It just means you're in good company---talent wise. :D


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Cathy Clamp


I'm happy to answer questions about any aspect of writing novels, from the beginning kernel of an idea through completion. I can help with writing a query letter and synopsis to an agent or editor. I can explain publishing terminology and acronyms. I can also assist with questions about verifying the credentials of agents/publishers and how to proceed once you've been accepted for publication. I can teach the rules of formatting a manuscript, creating viable plots, characterization and flow in the following genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, suspense, horror, women's fiction, mainstream and mystery.


I'm a USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance for Tor/Forge Books. Along with a co-author, I've published fifteen novels (combination of mass market and trade softcover) since 2003, and have contracts for four more books through 2011.

Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Outdoor Writers, Horror Writers of America.

Tor/Forge Books, Western Reflections Publishing, BenBella Books, Running Press, Wild Child Publishing. Many others.

My educational background is limited to real life experience of publishing novels commercially for the past five years.

Awards and Honors
USA Today bestseller, Waldenbooks Mass Market Paperback Top 20 bestseller, Nielsen BookScan Top 20 bestseller, RT BOOKreviews Career Achievement Award winner, 2009, Book Buyers Best Award for Paranormal, Romantic Times Best Werewolf Novel, Write Touch Readers Award, EVVY Best Historical Chronicle Award, The Lories Best Paranormal. Many others.

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