But They’ll Steal My Ideas!


No. No they won’t. And if they do, chances are you won’t even recognise your idea after it’s worked its way through that other writer’s psyche.

I have heard several (inevitably new and/or unpublished) writers say things like, “I don’t want to join a critique group or give my work to a beta reader or an editor because they might steal my ideas.” I shake my head when I hear this sort of comment.

I have been in workshops where a dozen writers were given the same writing prompt (in other words, the same story idea) and produced a dozen entirely different stories. I’ve never been in a workshop where two writers wrote the same – or even a similar – story from the same prompt. Never.

The other day I was talking with a writer friend, J.M.Cornwell, and she began discussing an idea she had. Her idea sparked an idea in me which took off in a different direction entirely from my friend’s idea. I sketched out a story, and then became a bit concerned that J.M. might think I had appropriated her idea. When I mentioned it to her, she said, “For crying out loud, write the story! Your story won’t be at all like mine, and you know it. Go for it.”

So I did. The story’s still in the notes and planning stage, but when I write it, I know two things: It’ll be my story, not my friend’s; and J.M. Cornwell will be okay with my taking off on her idea.

I have never worried that my critique group, beta readers, or editors would steal my ideas. After all, how many variations on “boy meets girl, boy woos girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back again” have you read? Or variations on “guy murders other guy and detective brings the murderer to justice”? Or maybe “the zombie apocalypse erupts and only a few people survive”? Honestly, you could write variations on variations on variations of those basic ideas from now till twenty minutes past forever.

Idea-theft should be the least of your concerns. Write the doggoned story. Get it critiqued, beta-read, edited. Rewrite it as needed. Make it the best, most polished bit of writing you can. And there you have it. A finished piece worth reading.

The Backstory Blues


Kristen Lamb: Instead of dumping a crude flashback in the beginning so your reader will understand Such-and-Such…let them wonder. It’s good for them and it’s good for your career.



Backstory is the part of the story that takes place before your novel, novella, or short story begins. It’s the past.

I’ve heard writers say, “But if my readers don’t know all the events in the past that lead up to the events in the book, they won’t understand.”

Now it’s true that some parts of the past must be made known, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend pages and pages dropping that information on the reader’s head. Pick a few details, a few important bits, and sprinkle them through the book. Do it when and where the reader needs to know. And give the reader only what she needs.

Too much backstory will bog a novel down and throw your timeline all out of whack.  It will kill the forward momentum of your story. Nothing — or almost nothing — will provoke me into throwing a book across the room and marking the writer down as one I’ll never read again more quickly than too darned much backstory.

An interview


typewriter by Richard Edwards FreePicturesAZ

Photo by Richard Edwards Free Pictures A to Z

I recently did an interview with the wonderful Tonia Brown. She is one terrific writer. And she can ask some off-the-wall questions. I had a lot of fun with this interview.

Here’s a link to it: A Word With Mary Ann Peden-Coviello — Tonia Brown


Photo credit: Richard Edwards at

The Writing Olympics

The Winter Olympics are over for four more years. The Summer Olympics next take place in 2016, two years from now. Still, I was thinking about the athletes. Not the podium-standing medal-winners. The nearly 2,900 athletes who competed, most of whom had no chance to wear a medal of any colour.

Why do they do it? Train for years, in lonely gyms and rinks, working and struggling even though they must know they have little to no chance of medaling. They employ trainers, teachers, coaches, medical people, costume designers. And they strive.

How does this apply to writers, you ask?

Thousands of books are published every year. Big, traditional publishers. Small presses. Self-publishers. Some will “medal,” bronze, silver, gold. They will win awards, earn money for their writers. Most? Well, most are like the majority of the 2,900 athletes in Sochi a few weeks ago. They might earn a few dollars. They might not earn a nickel. Yet the writers keep on. They write in the early hours of the morning, the late hours of the night. They hire editors and proofreaders. If they’re self-publishers, they hire a book cover designer and a formatter. They market their books.

And most will not make a bestselling list. But we keep striving, keep writing, keep telling those stories that wake us up in the middle of the night.

Why? Mostly, I think, because we have to.

I’m Sekhmet Press’s Woman in Horror today (24 February)

Yeah, I’m shamelessly self-promoting again. Sekhmet Press has made me their Woman in Horror for today. This link will take you to an article I wrote for them and an interview I did with them.


Sekhmet Press is a relatively new small press, but one that’s doing very well and gaining a considerable reputation for putting out a high quality product and treating their authors well.


Mary Ann Peden-Coviello, A Woman in Horror


Human Skull bansidhe


Photo credit: Bansidhe at

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