The UN-Editorial Notepad – #1

Posted by Rita Lorraine

Hi Everybody,
As many of you know, I’m a writer who also reviews books of all kinds. I’ve been reviewing for years, and this unique experience has brought me a special insight that I’d like to share with you. These tips may sound very “editorial” at times, but since I’m not an editor, I’m calling this series of posts The Un-Editorial Notepad. You like?


I’ve decided to begin this series with what seems to be a common fear among newbie writers. A newbie from one of my writing listservs posted that she was nervous about allowing anyone – even a critique partner – to see her story. She felt her idea was unique, and that someone would steal it the moment they laid eyes on it. So rather than networking with other writers and getting her story critiqued and polished, she decided to leave her story sitting on her desk, gathering dust, like a bump on a log.

Her dilemma is what got me thinking about posting about my experiences as a book reviewer. First, after having read a ga-zillion books (well, okay; not that many, but just sayin’), I’m fairly certain there’s “no new thing under the sun,” and that includes story ideas. Oh, there may be unique twists to ideas, but in my experience, most ideas are like turkeys that have been in the oven too long…they’re way overdone.

Why did she use ME as an example?

Believe me, I’ve seen the same “idea” over and over – in PB, MG and YA form, and you know what? I can truthfully say I’ve never yet read the same book. See, anyone can duplicate a plot (or at least try), but they can’t duplicate your voice or the way your sentences flow. I can read two books that are almost identical in theme and plot, and I can love one and actively dislike the other, based upon various and sundry considerations (like pace, voice authenticity and plot originality). In other words, no matter how many people write about the same idea at the same time, the final product is always different.

So if you’re a newbie writer who’s afraid of allowing others to see your work because you think your idea will be stolen, take it from a seasoned book reviewer: I think you’re safe enough. The real trick is honing your craft, overcoming your fears and networking with other writers. One great networking resource is SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), which is filled to the brim with writers, illustrators and newbies just like you. Once you join, you’ll be able to find listservs for your region so that it’s easier to meet writers and/or critique partners in person when the time comes.

Hope this helps!

Best wishes from my un-editorial notepad,

Rita Lorraine

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