Should We Let the Cat Out of the Bag?

I kind of like to keep my cat in the bag.
Disclaimer: No cats were harmed while taking this photograph. The cat got himself in this situation and I just happened to have my camera. It was funny.

If you want to know where the old saying ‘Don’t let the cat out of the bag’ came from, go to Wise Geek for a bit of history.

Here’s the real question. Should us authors keep our story ideas a secret while they are a work in progress?
If you believe your idea is safe, you could be mistaken. IPwatchdog says you cannot patent an idea.

In today’s digital world your work can be subject to theft. Without proper precautions, your unpublished work can be copied and pasted. Some unscrupulous person can claim it as their work and then submit it to an agent. If you manage to discover the dirty deed, you could probably prove what happened, but how much time and money would it cost you?
A nice blog at Writing Mastery describes it well.

What about your story ideas? Do you share those with other writers?

Authors, should we be worried about this happening? The more I look, the more conflicting information I find.

Leave your thoughts or experiences in the comment box.

Attention! Book giveaway! (Not mine. lol An advanced readers copy)
I will use a website that picks random numbers to find the winner. It’s simple, leaving a comment enters you in the contest. (USA only)
This is my first of many giveaways, so your chances will be good.

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

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11 thoughts on “Should We Let the Cat Out of the Bag?

  1. I share my storyline pretty freely among friends, because I want their opinions on it. But I do keep my plotline pretty well hidden on my blog–not because I’m really worried about anyone stealing it, but because I don’t want to spoil my own book. I’m hoping that my blog becomes a place where fans come in the future to find out more about my books–details and factoids that never made it into my books.

    Before I shared anything with anyone, I had a proof copy made of my book (my husband didn’t even know I was writing a book until I ordered the proof). It was nicely stamped, during printing, with a date, so if anyone ever did try and steal my idea, it would be very easy to present my proof copy–and the publishing date in it–as proof that the idea was mine first.

  2. andrea gehrke

    I enjoy your ‘food for thought” essays. Guess I should look that one up through Wise Geek. As far as sharing ideas on anything, I think it depends on the crowd. If it’s trusted family and friends, no problem, anyone else and there’s a risk involved.

    • The random number was TWO.
      Congrats and thanks for your thoughts.
      Andrea’s comment was the second, so she wins!

  3. KT

    That’s a funny picture.
    I tend to be the paranoid type. I share with my close friends and family.
    Sometimes I do with other authors that I have became friends with over the years.

    I won’t allow my work on the net until it has been finished/released.

  4. I tend to share big ideas and keep my plot lines to myself for a very long time. 🙂

    Thanks for the amazing giveaway!
    artsyrockerchick at aim dot com

  5. Kaelee Morgan

    It doesn’t bother me to share story ideas, because no one can write the exact story I’m writing. Every one has a different voice. We create the characters within our imaginations and no two imaginations are alike. So, while stories maybe similiar none are identical. While ideas can’t be protected, your writing is. Per the US Copyright Office website, “Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.”

  6. I share the basics with almost anyone who asks, and the deeper details with writer friends. Then, of course, crit partner and betas get the whole sha-bang. I agree with Kaelee Morgan, no one could ever write the same story in the same voice, and haven’t we all heard there are no new ideas?

  7. Honestly, I don’t believe there are craven plot-stealers trolling the web for random writers’ stories (Stephen King or J.D. Robb might be a different situation).

    If someone tried to steal one of my ideas, I’d have a head start on them. Considering how few of them sell, I don’t think it’d be a wise choice. 🙂

    I do believe, though, that you shouldn’t reveal ALL of your plot online. That would ruin the surprise (and incentive) for your potential readers.

    My wife and I share plot ideas all the time. We don’t worry much about bleedover because she writes historical mysteries and I write strange stories set in modern times.

  8. The Georgia Yankee

    I think it’s one thing to discuss character development and individual plot items online or otherwise publicly, but too much details . . . well, I wouldn’t do it. It’s not so much that I’m really that worried about theft, honestly – nobody’s heard of me (yet!), and so I’m a poor choice for victim.

    Nevertheless, I’d be worried about letting too much of a plotline become public, especially for one of those marveloously complex mysteries of the Agatha Christie variety – after all, after the Murder of Roger Ackroyd, isn’t anyone who employs that particular ending twist just another Johnny-come-lately?

    Anyway, thanks for the essay and the highly enjoyable photograph!

  9. I loved hearing everyone’s thoughts.
    Andrea won the book.
    Thanks to you all.
    I will do it again next week.

  10. Hey there, thanks for stopping by my blog!

    I always follow the old adage, “Better safe than sorry.” I only share with my family, and loosely with writing buddies (genre, style, but usually no plot specifics). Of course, I think this really stems from my tendency to keep to myself rather than any conscious effort to protect my work.

    And no, you can’t patent and idea, but there is such a thing as intellectual property rights. If you have proper documentation of your work, and have shown it to trustworthy, credible people who can verify it is yours, in the long run you might get a headache, but the problem is solvable.

    But I’ve also noticed that (serious) writers tend to like their own ideas way better than anyone else’s. So if this problem arises, you probably aren’t going to be dealing with a real author, or someone who wants to make a name for themselves. I’d think it would be someone who thinks the process is easy and they can make a quick buck off it. The chance that a scammer/thief would be willing to put the effort in past a few rejections is slim I think.

    Of course, that’s all just my speculation.

    P.S. Yay for Arkansas writers 😉

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