Sometime around March, (...at least I think it was around March. I mean, I know that The Walking dead had just ended it's season, so I believe that it was March....) my husband, friends, and I were sitting around discussing doomsday scenarios. We had just watched The Walking Dead season finale, I had read and been to see The Hunger Games, and I had recently been watching a lot of "Doomsday Preppers" -- so I seemed very knowledgeable in this discussion. We were discussing all of the things that would or could happen if there was doomsday scenario -- loss of power, loss of jobs, the rise of the criminal element, and the loss of the general societal structure that we, as Americans, have become to believe is expected.
Then my friend said "Yeah, but that wouldn't happen, the government or someone would step in before things got that bad." Well, that got ME thinking -- what if they couldn't? What if they wouldn't?
And a story began to form in my head about a family fighting to protect themselves and their neighbors and what might have happened to make such "protections" necessary.
That same week, I began writing. I was writing a story about the end of the world as we know it. Kind of a hybrid of the TNT series Falling Skies, The Hunger Games, The Walking Dead and my own ideas. It took place years after the fall of civilization in the U.S. There were no longer any utilities -- no power, no water, no internet. Stores were empty having been looted at the beginning of the end. Each family had to learn how to make do or do without -- growing their own food, gathering their own supplies, and securing their own safety. It was told from the point of view of a young girl -- the oldest in her family -- who had been forced to grow up too soon and who survived along with her family, a few close friends, and neighbors in a distant suburb of a metropolitan area. It was about how the government had been unable or unwilling to stop the events that led to the situation where everyone was now responsible for their own survival. There were militia that tried to enforce a sort of faux government, numerous gangs of bandits, and a big part of survivng was knowing who to trust and who to fight.
I would have late night sessions where I'd write for hours -- trying to get the dialogue write (my biggest weakness is writing believable dialogue). I had to stop to referee fights, fold laundry, make dinner, act as chauffeur to my kids, clean up messes, enforce bedtime, and do all of those things that I normally write about here. I was proud of myself for daring to tackle the task -- writing a novel is hard work and a daunting task that is much different from blogging. It is also much harder than the 10-15 children's books that I have written (and haven't been able to get published). It was always in the back of my mind that I hadn't been able to get those stories published so why was I wasting my time on another work of fiction? But the story was there. It was in my head and my characters seemed to do stuff whether I wanted them to or not. I had the main writing on my computer, but I also had notes in my iPhone and on random scraps of paper (even napkins) for when an idea about something that my characters might say, do, or encounter, came to me. (Incidentally, if you can avoid it, don't move cross country while you are working on a novel. Keeping up with all of the random scraps of paper long enough to transfer them into something electronic just adds to your stress.)
This story I was writing was aimed toward the teen audience -- I was hoping to send it to publishers and capitalize on some of that Hunger Games success. It had an underlying warning message that becoming too dependant on anything was dangerous, and that we should appreciate modern conveniences but also learn to survive without them.
It was an AWESOME story.
I had a little less than 8,000 uneditted words written.
Then last night, I saw JJ Abrams's new series Revolution on NBC.
I loved it.
And I wanted to die.
IT WAS ALMOST EXACTLY THE SAME STORY.
I sat aghast and in awe -- both at the realization that playing out on screen was basically my story (or parts of it anyway) and that it was done better. (Obviously, JJ Abrams has no problem writing believable dialogue.) It was like what I had envisioned my story to be after I had finished it, edited it, and gotten professional help with it.
It was very surreal.
As amazingly awesome as it is that JJ Abrams and I think alike, now all of this progress that I had made on my very first novel was a waste of time. My slim chances o getting published just fell below zero because it is a story that has already been told now. My husband, who knew of the work I had done and who wanted to be supportive, suggested that I just "rework it" into something that wasn't the same. While I appreciated the sentiment, he isn't a writer. You can't just "rework" it. It isn't that easy. Basically the same premise and characters, MY story was now Mr. Abrams's story. And he told it in HD. Sigh.
So JJ Abrams, if you (or any of your representatives or staff) are reading this -- you rock. You have the best ideas. And I am totally stoked that we had the same idea, because it is a total boost to my confidence that I could have almost the exact same idea as you. But Revolution was a brutal reminder that there is very little left that is original. I'll just continue to watch your shows and movies, read, and wait for the next stroke of genius to occur. Next time, I hope that I can beat you to the punch. (I would also like to point out that if I had your resources, I TOTALLY could have finished this book and had it published in at least 5 languages before Revolution premiered, but I had to write while being mom to 4 kids, moving cross country, and battling a serious addiction to procrastination).
SERIOUSLY EMBARASSING UPDATE:
I originally wrote this to Joss Whedon who had nothing to do with Revolution. It was Mr. Abrams (along with Eric Kripke) who had this great idea (another couple of geniuses whom I admire). As one of my Facebook followers pointed out, when we see strong female characters in this genre, we automatically think of Joss Whedon, so that shall be my defense. So, sorry Mr. Whedon, you are still awesome, but aparently its JJ Abrams and Eric Kripke who ruined my day. (I ruined my geek cred all by myself though....)
|So if you wanna know what my book COULD have been, watch Revolution on NBC, Mondays at 9pm Central.|
(And I totally stole this picture from NBC -- I hope they don't sue me.)