Posts filed under 'Writing'

The tyranny of originality

It’s NaNoWriMo month and I’m using the opportunity it provides to complete the first draft of my WIP (work in progress). Only two days in and I discover a published book with the same name I was going to use for my latest – Zero Day. Not only that, but it’s in a similiar domain (cybercrime and zero day exploits) … and it has a forward by Bill Gates. Top that!

It got me thinking about originality. I inhabit the software industry with its endemic start-up culture. The water-cooler conversations are always about cool ideas for a new web site or business. It is almost a religion in this business – the cult of originality. It can become tyrannical. That same tyranny to be original seems to be a driver in “high-concept” thrillers too. It is said (I can’t remember who) that for every original idea you think you have, there are at least 3 people in the world having the same idea. Some will be in better position to pursue that idea, or further along with it than you. For example, tablet PCs have been around for years. The idea was in even Star Trek (and probably earlier than that). But it took the convergence of Steve Jobs to bring the idea to its time with the iPad. Now they are everywhere.

Then there is the school of thought that says there are no really original ideas in the world anyway – it’s all been done before. If we followed it to its logical conclusion, we would never do anything at all!

So does the discovery of a potentially similar book de-rail me?


There is also the school of thought that you can do something others are doing, but you should do it in your own unique way. We are all standing on the shoulders of giants. Don’t let the tyranny of orginality topple you. As they often say on Litopia, you can’t protect ideas, only the expression of ideas. So I won’t be reading any cybercrime novels for a while, just in case!

I have always asserted that authors can only write the books they can write. Authors are the amalgam of all the ideas, philosophies, experiences, and people that have influenced them in their lives. There lies the originality and the uniqueness. It is a writer’s style, and the way he or she combines story elements and plots that makes the work unique. I want to complete my own draft this month. I want to write those scenes in my mind on the steps in Odessa, and that pivotal character piece in the Karelian forests, and that closing scene in the streets of Seattle (whose charms I first discovered last year).

I noticed the same thing even happened to Mr. Russinovich – a novel just published after his by David Baldacci with the same name Zero Day! At least I can change my title. (By the way guys – I have the domain registered if you want it!)
Congratulations to them both. I know that writing and publishing a book is a major achievement.

In truth, we write because of our creative drive, our characters, our own imaginative worlds … and for the fun of it. There’s nothing like it!

Add comment November 3rd, 2011

Broken Evolution is published

Broken Evolution is now finally published in paperback and ebook. Publication feels more like relief than victory after such a long journey to get here. A long-overdue holiday is calling me too — just a few days away.

After I get back the REAL work begins – promoting it! And then a first draft of the next novel. Busy, busy.

See you in a couple of weeks!

Add comment September 1st, 2010

A Welcome Review

I got word of the first of the pre-publication reviews to come back for Broken Evolution. I must say it was one thing to get good feedback from beta readers, friends and family, but it takes it to a whole different level when the opinion comes from a person I’ve never met – and a person with a high profile in the field of bioethics.

To read about my own work things like “enjoyable and a very good read” and “the author does seem to have done his homework both from an ethical and scientific perspective” and “I really believe this book should be made into a film” is wonderful and great validation of the years of work in getting it to this stage.

But the nicest surprise is this: a totally independent view of the meaning of this story.

Of late, I had been so mired just getting it all right, making a good thriller, tweaking the pace, or editing the grammer and punctuation, or fixing typos, or submitting to agents, or receiving the obligatory agent rejections and false starts, only to be left spinning and wondering what I actually had in this story at all. How nice to get this assessment – pinpointing with laser precision – the true meaning of this tale: “this book raises the fundamental bioethical questions about the definition of human dignity, how it is conferred and the manner in which a person understands his or her identity.”

Thank you Dr. MacKellar; you have reminded me why I sat down to write this book in the first place.

Add comment August 11th, 2010

Judge a book by its cover? – Redux

The old cover for Broken Evolution has been revamped, to make it a little more bookstore shelf friendly. I just received the printed proof, and I really love it.

Broken Evolution Front Cover

It’s just a quick snap that doesn’t show the full detail, but it looks gorgeous in close-up. Getting there …. bit by bit. The new web site is underway too, and should be live just before publication.

Add comment May 24th, 2010


My back is repairing itself, slowly, but steadily. It required a little help from me too. And a trip to a neurosurgeon. There’s nothing like resorting to a surgeon to copperfasten your resolve to heal thyself. I opted not to have the operation – there are always risks – so I focussed instead on core strengthening and stretching. I’ll say no more about in my blog because I don’t want to bore anyone with it and because it’s not of much relevance now anyway – I’m back in action – and it will continue to improve slowly and surely over the next months as I make it stronger. The last words I’ll say about it are these: if ever you rupture a disc, just know that with time and the appropraite physical treaments the pain does subside, and it will heal, but it could take a long time – over a year in my case. In the end, the choice is always yours – the patient’s. Get advice from many people and medical professionals. Just be as well informed as you can. You have to do the right things for it and you have to be patient – not unlike a writing career. Which brings me to my main point.

I’ve started to heal my ailing novel also. The revisions and rejections meant I’d lost passion for it, and it’s impossible, in good conscience, to undertake another revision without passion. Otherwise, I would ruin it. After reflecting during this time of reparation, and thinking about how the novel would change, I find I’m no longer afraid to make the changes that a couple of months ago would have seemed harsh. Sometimes surgery is the most appropriate course of action for a patient, as drastic as the incisions may seem. Time to relieve its painful patches too, and roll it out to the world, fitter, leaner … and stronger than ever.

Add comment February 20th, 2010

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