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Synchronicity November 9, 2009

Posted by Ronica Stromberg in Uncategorized.
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I sent the first three chapters of my inspirational romance to an editor who requested them and now am digging into that pile of romances I received at last summer’s Romance Writers of America conference.

I’m surprised at how many of “my ideas” I see cropping up in these books. Of course, these romances are already published; mine are still in the works. When I thought of the idea for my inspirational romance, I hadn’t seen any romances in which a dog played a key role. Then Marley and Me hit the shelves (and soon after the movie theaters), and now it seems every publisher has romances with comical animals in them. That’s synchronicity. Many writers writing about the same thing at the same time without realizing they’re far from alone.

Years ago, I wrote a picture book series about a clumsy uncle whose speech made him sound as if he came from the Victorian Era and yet he was always trying to impress his niece and nephew about how hip he was. He ended up in a series of accidents in each book, and each book started with a warning. The first one stated, “Warning: This book is not meant for scaredy-cats.” I sent a proposal for this series all over with no response. A few years later, the Lemony Snicket series came out. This series bore enough resemblance to mine that my series basically became unsaleable.

A new writer hearing this might respond, “They stole your idea!” I doubt it. If I had a contract for every time I submitted a story to a publisher and, a year or two later, they came out with a highly similar story by a different writer, I’d be very well published by now. But I’ve seen synchronicity in action.

In a journalism class I took in college, the teacher assigned students to write a story about a psychological experiment. In the experiment, scientists had people in various vehicles try to get toll collectors to waive the fee for crossing the bridge. The scientists discovered that people in luxury vehicles like limousines had far more success at gaining free passage than less prestigious vehicles. For my hook (or first line of my story), I wrote:

“Money talks.
And when it does, people listen.”

The college instructor collected the stories we had written and redistributed them in the classroom. I received the story of a woman who sat across the classroom from me. The opening lines for our stories matched, yet neither of us had copied off the other. That’s synchronicity.

Beginning writers sometimes worry about joining critique groups because they fear another writer will “steal” their ideas. This could conceivably happen, but it’s more likely that another writer (or two or three or fifty) is already out there working on the same idea.

Recently, I heard that publishers think they’ve identified what the “next big thing” in publishing will be after the current trend of vampire stories dies down: angel stories. I was happy to hear this since I had an angel book, The Time-for-Bed Angel, published in 2008. This time, I may be riding the crest of the synchronicity wave.

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