Will someone steal my idea?

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I received this question in my inbox the other day

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I received this question in my inbox the other day. I thought it was worth including since I do see this floated around every now and then.

Writers know how much time and effort go into stories, whether they be a two part short story or a seventy chapter epic. It's hard work. We don't want people swooping in taking credit for our work.

So once we've got our manuscript ready (or maybe we're just planning on posting as we go), we start to wonder: what if? Many of us write to share our work with others, but what if someone takes it?

In the beta reading circuit, even here on Wattpad and other writing help sites, a lot of writers express concern for their stories and ideas being stolen. I'm going to start off by saying three things:

1. I'm not going into protections and that sort of thing (you can find information on copyrights with Wattpad and on the internet; in fact, I'm including an external link in this chapter to the United States Copyright office FAQs). Protections and what you have to do to acquire them or have the right to be able to sue someone, vary by country.

2. I'm not talking about mirror websites and people who just copy stories off places like Wattpad and put it up word-for-word on their mimic sites. That's a small risk for you to consider on your own.

3. I am not a lawyer, though I have worked for one. I'm just providing some perspective. I advise you all to do your own research.

What I'm talking about this morning is the fear that another writer (or a person who can afford to hire one) is going to steal or ripoff your idea and make their own story.

FEAR: There are some people out there who don't want to share their ideas, lest some other writer come along, see the fantastic idea for what it is, and make millions off of it. They aren't talking about just their story. They're talking about the idea, sometimes even just the pitch, the logline. The writer really feels like they've got something special here, and they aren't keen on giving it up.

That's understandable. Most of us feel like we've written something special.

You see it all the time when someone is looking for help with the story, or they ask you if it's something you'd read, but they give shallow details. When you ask for more, they say something like: Well, you'll have to read the story to find out. ;) or straight up say, I don't want anyone stealing it.

I've also seen it in stories pitched to me by people who want me to write for them. 

Example of stuff I receive: Hello Ms. Bowe. I admire your writing. I have a million dollar idea for you for the next bestselling romance novel. Together we could be successful. I have the idea ready for you and outlines of the first few chapters. They're brilliant, that's all I can say until you agree to write for me.

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