Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I am crestfallen. I have discovered a picture book that is very similar to one of my manuscripts.

I post my manuscripts regularly for feedback - I am a member of an online critique group, and I also post to the manuscript exchange on the SCBWI website. A while back, one of my critiquers suggested that I look up a book that my manuscript reminded him of. I had never heard of it, and couldn't find it anywhere, so I put it out of my mind, made more revisions to my manuscript, and when I thought it was as good as I could make it, I sent it out into the world. My baby: my favourite picture book manuscript so far! I truly like it and am proud of it; it makes me laugh every time I read it, even though it's mine and has been revised and nitpicked over and over and over. I almost think of it as my firstborn, even though it is as yet still circulating, because I have never before thought a manuscript to be quite as polished as this one.

So, a few weeks ago, I was shopping at and found this other book that my critiquer had mentioned, so I ordered it, and managed to find time to read it today while my toddler and I were eating lunch. The MC in this book has a problem sort-of similar to my MC's problem. And there are parts, just a couple, that are almost word-for-word the same as in my manuscript.

I hate it when this happens. Even though there are only a couple of sentences, and even though I can rewrite those parts of my manuscript if a publisher or agent feels that it is a problem, I still hate it. I hate the way it makes me feel, like I've almost done something wrong, even though I haven't because I never looked at this book until today and never heard of it until I had already written my manuscript. Will a publisher read my manuscript and discount it because this book has already been published and mine is too close? Or, even worse, will they not believe that this manuscript is truly my own work, and discount me altogether as someone undeserving of publication? I know myself to be an honest, trustworthy, upstanding individual, but in this rabbit-eat-rabbit world, it isn't my opinion of myself that counts.

When I stop to think about it, I know that these thoughts are ridiculous, nothing more than knee-jerk reactions. I know that I can rewrite whole chunks of my manuscript if someone asks it of me, let alone a couple of sentences. I know that the problem faced by my own MC, if a bit similar, is actually quite different in nature from the problem that the MC faces in this other picture book, and the resolution is entirely different. The main character is completely different, with her own unique voice and her own unique talents. My manuscript could not in any way actually be confused with this other book.

Most importantly, this one manuscript isn't the only one I have written, and it isn't the only one that I am ever going to hone through revision after revision until it shines. It may be my best - so far! - but it will not be my last, and it may yet be outshone by one or more of the stories that flow through my fingers onto the page. I know that I have more in me than this one manuscript.

Perhaps my own opinion of myself does count, after all.

Thanks for stopping by,


  1. Oh, this is such a dreadful feeling! You're not alone. I know I've felt this and so has at least one other writer friend of mine. My particular "similar" ms has not sold but neither have I thrown it out. One day.... And you have the right attitude to believe in yourself and your own story and your future stories. Thanks for sharing this experience!

  2. Thanks - and good luck with your own "similar" MS! I guess experiences like this are a good reminder that whatever book we're thinking about, it's probably been done - more than once! - and it's our own expression of that story, told in our own voice, that we bring to the table. Keep going with it, Lizann. As you say, "One day..." Thanks again for commenting.