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Ethical quandry

October 13, 2011

So I submitted a new short story the other day. Today, while updating my submissions tracker to reflect that, and to note a rejection, I realized I had an older story still submitted elsewhere that draws on the same setting and characters as the new one. The two stories could be chapters in a longer narrative under other circumstances. I’m pretty sure some particular lines (though not many) are near-identical in them.

Is there a conflict? Should I withdraw the older one?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 13, 2011 1:08 pm

    Submit both. If they only share a couple lines, I would say they are different entities. The odds of both of them getting published are remote, anyway, no offense just statistics.

  2. October 13, 2011 2:22 pm

    Very true. If they really did have too much in common, though, the odds of both being published would no doubt rise.

  3. October 20, 2011 10:16 am

    Could the two be separate chapters in a larger narrative – that is, are the plot events distinct, with no repetition? If so, and both got published, you could write the larger narrative and say it was based on both. I don’t see a problem with that.

    Does either publisher/market ask that if they publish something, that if you write something using the same characters, etc, they be given first chance? I think this is rare with short fiction, but if it is the case, could be an issue.

    I’m not sure there is an issue with reusing lines. There certainly isn’t an issue of ‘plagiarism’ when the lines you ‘stole’ are your own. It might be something for future fans to notice, and write papers on.

    I’m thinking now of writing several poems – all with at least one line the same.

    • October 20, 2011 11:04 am

      The more I look at them, the more I realize the “issue” is the reuse of “set up” information in both stories, since they were conceived and executed independently. The setting, the characters and such have to be introduced, and what works for one works for the other.

      I feel better now. Thanks all.

    • October 20, 2011 11:04 am

      And that sounds like a cool conceit, John!

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