Books may share themes, subjects, or similar protagonists with others, but they each bring something special to their story.
Sometimes books will deal with not just the same themes or topic as another, but also the same plot points.
In the last couple months I’ve run into a couple sets of books that have much in common. They handle the same topics and, in a general sense, have the same resolution or revelation at the end. Instead of being carbon copies, though, each creator (or set of them) made their book uniquely their own.
The books I’m going to talk about now include a newer book and an older book. They were published about a dozen years apart, so they definitely weren’t on the new bookshelf together.
To begin with, one is a picture book and the other is an easy reader. That, in and of itself, affects the pacing and word choices and sets them apart from one another.
The basic premise is:
We want to play outside. It starts to rain. We don’t like rain because we can’t play outside in it. But wait, actually we can and it’s great fun.
That is very basic and it highlights their similarities, but this is where writing sample pitches can stretch your thinking and highlight their differences.
“Rabbit’s play date gets broken up because his friends don’t want to get wet. Rabbit thinks hard for the solution so the play date can begin again – in the rain but not wet.
“Piggie is looking forward to playing outside, but a sudden downpour leaves her feeling sad. Can she get over the grumpies and try something new?”
The art, as they are for younger readers, also plays a role in telling the story and emphasizing different aspects. For example, in I Don’t Like Rain there’s full background art on every page that tells part of the story, like how the “drip” of the rain drops turns into the raindrops themselves. Kids love to say as many “drip drip drip”s as they can when you’re reading those pages. On the other hand, in Are You Ready to Play Outside the art is sparse and primarily focused on Piggie’s face as she deals with figuring out her feelings about the rain.
There’s so much to explore even with a “simple” story concept. This is comforting as a writer because there’s often a fear of whether or not you’re treading on toes or not being unique enough. As each writer is unique they will bring that into their manuscripts, whether in experience or voice. It might be similar, but it won’t be the same.
Write what you love to write. Write what you want to write. Put your joy and passion out there.