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I used to cringe whenever anyone handed me an author and said “your work reminds me of…”

Now I tend to keep a lookout for anything that might be similar. Am I confident enough today to pick up that book and still feel like I can slash and burn what I’m writing on my own? As the cliché goes, “can you kill your own idea children?”

Sometime you’ll have to. Really. And yes, it sucks. Your writing can’t be what’s popular now or the work will hit the slush pile because people are so sick of reading things like it.

Sometimes it’s a hard jolt if you ever see something in print that was an idea you had rolling around in a sketch book years ago. If you watered and fed it for a while or even finished it and put it aside after a few people read it and liked it, it’s even harder to pick up that book and take it home. But A. That happens to everyone who writes constantly and B. good for them for having the same original idea. It’s better for me knowing in draft now instead of wasting print so I can chuck that similarity down the chute. Plus, I’ve just found someone in this world remotely like myself, which tends to take the edge off at one in the morning while we’re all sitting silently at our keyboards.

You gotta do it. You gotta know what’s already going to be freshly cliché or passe to your potential readers. What are they armed with? It’s not you against other authors. Heavens, no! It’s you against your audience. That’s the part nobody tells you in group-hug writing classes.

Eventually you stand under the machines so long you begin to see the mechanics, and that’s what they are. Nobody owns them, but it’s good to know how to repair your own miniatures. We are the modern version of men with chopsticks and fishing wire who used to build boats in bottles.

It’s worth looking at a few others before you start.