Yves Brown McClain: Literary Fierceness

I better get this copyrighted…before it gets stolen

Posted by Dahlia on February 24, 2011

As I indicated in yesterday’s post, I’m going to take part in the Catch Me If You Can blogfest. One comment I received back was the fear of a WIP being stolen. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this from a writer. There is a woman in the writer’s networking group I’m in that joined us a few months back. She was visibly nervous. She seemed scared to even talk about her book idea. She was afraid to join Facebook…come on, who isn’t on Facebook? Why was she scared? She didn’t want anyone to steal her idea.  Last month, the same topic came up to our guest speaker, who is a screenwriter. Even I have felt anxious about how much of the content to Wild Oats (my WIP) I should share with others or even if I should do an online story like 12 Days (which is another WIP). Even the thought of “What if the copyeditor I contracted takes my manuscript and tries to pass it off as her own work?” crossed my mind. Unfortunately, the fear of stolen work is on the mind of almost every writer at one point or another.  It’s not that we’re being irrational, it’s just that we’ve worked so hard and are so passionate about the story, it would be devastating if somebody had the audacity to take it.

However, I’ve learned that it boils down to this: Trust. At some point, writers just have to trust that another writer, editor, or agent won’t take it. The majority of us have pretty good morals. We don’t want that bad juju/karma to come back and get us. We don’t want to be sued.  So, in most cases, you can trust that you can share without fear of pilfering. And for those who are a bit crooked or shameless, then stamp your copyright ASAP. If you work with an editor, get a written contract. Make sure it has language about who the story belongs to. If your fabulous manuscript winds up on the Best Seller list or Oprah’s book club and your name isn’t in the byline, then you’ve got the paper trail (and probably a lawsuit).

Also, we need to understand that fear is a spirit that is not or should not be in us. It’s crippling and if you let it consume you, you won’t be able to write that story. Or, if you do finish, fear can prevent the world from knowing just how fabulous you are.  So, go ahead and join that critique group, hire that copyeditor, post a sample on your blog to tease your loyal following. Putting yourself out there is how you will discover your strength and weaknesses about your craft and can ultimately lead to a better story.

I dare you to try it…what’s the worst that can happen? Yes, I know it could get stolen, but do it anyway.

A few thoughts about fear…

You block your dream when you allow your fear to grow bigger than your faith.
— Mary Manin Morrissey

Fear is faith that it won’t work out.
— Sister Mary Tricky

FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real
— unknown

Feed your faith and your fears will starve to death.
— unknown

For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
— 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)

© 2011 by Yves Brown McClain 😉


13 Responses to “I better get this copyrighted…before it gets stolen”

  1. Trisha said

    I did actually think about this, when I signed up for the “Catch Me” blogfest. But you know, by the time I get around to submitting my work, I hope it will have changed a fair bit – to be WAY better than it is now. 😛 So let somebody steal my rough draft! ha.

    besides, it’s not like we’re posting our entire MS, right? 😉 How can anyone magically know what awesomeness comes after what they’re gonna see in this blogfest?

  2. This is a great post! I understand the paranoia of some people, but I’ve never been worried about my work being stolen (and maybe that’s because it probably isn’t worth stealing, and if someone did, I’d say, “Whoopee, they liked it!”–kidding)–it would be impossible to have beta readers and critique partners if that were the case.

  3. Theft does happen, but oh so rarely. If she’s not posting her entire story online, she shouldn’t worry.

  4. I especially love the first quote. I have also had fears of my manuscript being stolen. I realize the chances are slim, but it still makes me anxious.

  5. Thanks for this. I think I might just push my fears aside and enter the blogfest now. 🙂

    ❤ Gina Blechman

  6. I recall a story floating around last year about a relatively unknown writer who began to publish short stories at an amazing rate. One editor recognized the opening paragraph to one of these pieces of brilliance – it was from a Stephen King book.

    Chances are, if someone’s dumb enough to plagiarize, they aren’t going to go looking for an obscure WiP. They’ll steal from what’s more readily available.

    That having been said, I do think about this issue before joining online critique groups.

  7. Fantasticly written and very true. Fear will get us no where as authors. But intelligence and business savy will. We must learn what our legal rights and recourses are.

  8. Sylvia van Bruggen said

    It’s funny, this is one of the reasons I started my project. I saw all these writers clinging to their work in fear and thought: how can I help them?

    There were many other reasons too, thought…

    Fear is such a crafty emotion, it can mask as so many different things. A fear may seem straight forward, but it can be others in disguise. How many claiming fear of theft are actually afraid of rejection?

    Just research who you send stuff to, and when they appear good, just take a leap! Do you really want to die clinging to a stack of unpublished manuscripts because you were afraid to submit?

    • True, fear is very tricky! It’s interesting you say that. Sometimes, it is exactly the fear of failure or rejection that keeps a person from moving forward. However, sometimes it also the fear of success, of having to maintain that level of “fabulosity” and being scared of it…just a thought

  9. Nina said

    You know, I never really think about people stealing my ideas unless they are business related. I tend to think that writers are a pretty honest bunch. I say go for it too.

  10. […] 27, 2011 In the past week I have to given you my two cents on pen names and sharing WIPs, lied to you, made you guess the driver of a VW Beetle, signed up for another blogfest (I get the […]

  11. […] knew all these people wanted to hear me ramble on about beta readers, dashboards, and getting over WIP-sharing fears? Certainly not me. I also didn’t know I had this much to discuss until I made a commitment to it. […]

  12. Heya!

    I’m a visual artist (paintings, drawings, photography, etc), but I enjoy creative processes–no matter the medium.

    You’re right about letting go of fear; fear is the anti-action, the anti-decision. Therefore, it’s the anti-Art.

    Two things: a) For the sake of Sleeping Well, I’d actually assume the *worst*–that everyone and their brother thought my idea was the cat’s pajamas, and that they wanted to hork it. That they wanted to rob me blind. Sure–I’m a painter, but I read a lot, and Lit is never far from my mind.

    Recently, I bought a book of the collected works of Jorge Luis Borges. I caught myself reveling in/bogging down in his Voice, so I did a little experiment: I randomly flipped to various pages to see if his Voice carried through it all. And it did. Then I started thinking about other writers–and it was the same: their Voice was on every page. If you have a “high concept”–a thematic, literary one-liner, you are most certainly up for pilfering. If you get famous on it great, but expect thieves. However, when you develop the Voice it’s so evanescent and personal that only the biggest, time-wastingest impostor could possibly *try* to steal it. And even then, they wouldn’t truly nail it since it wasn’t really theirs and they couldn’t replicate what it was you had that made it.

    A painting instructor of mine once put it this way: you aim to be Descriptive and not Depictive. You tell “how” it is and not “what” it is. That’s where the beauty lies–where the mystery resonates. “How” is so personal as to defy the copying that “What” is so open to.

    Anyhow…keep up your work. Work breeds more work!

    Oh–and the (minor) second point: Copy*righted*!


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