Sunday, November 6, 2011

How Jim Butcher Almost Killed Tom Crayder

After the millions of books that have been written, we all still want to be original.  It is not an easy proposition.

If you look at my profile on GoodReads, you will see that I list two favorite authors.  Both are recent for me.  One of them is Jim Butcher even though he almost killed off my series in its infancy.

It was not his fault, he doesn’t even know who I am.  Until I had written “The Reluctant” and put it out for beta reads, I had never read “The Dresden Files.”   I had seen it in book stores when I went to peruse the fantasy section because that is my favorite genre to read.  But, I had never actually picked up one of his books even though they were usually sitting on the coveted aisle end cap.

A detective wizard in modern day Chicago did not sound like my sort of fantasy series.

I had always wanted to write a fantasy story, but I never had a good idea that hadn’t already been done to death.  “The Reluctant” was not the sort of story that I would normally read or write, but the concept hit me hard when it finally broke through my skull.

One of my early beta readers sent me an email that said my writing reminded him of “”The Dresden Files.”  What?!  I finally found a unique idea and it reminded him of someone else’s writing?  Damn!  After more than a decade of not getting an original idea for a story and character, someone was saying that my work was like another author’s work.  I was crestfallen and considered, seriously, just deleting “The Reluctant.”

While my finger hovered over the “Delete” button, I decided I should check it out for myself and ran out to buy Butcher’s series.  I was not waiting for Amazon and UPS. 

I saw some similarities in the writing and the characters, but I saw a lot more differences.  First of all, Butcher turned out to be a very good writer and GREAT story teller.  I don’t pretend to be as good at either.  My main character is a lot more rough edged, Dresden is more likeable from the “git go.”  And, of course, there is no magic in my series.

Butcher quickly turned into a favorite writer because of his story telling ability.  He could make a phonebook sound interesting.  I have devoured his whole Dresden series including the short stories that preceded “Ghost Story” (which I am reading currently).

Now, I look back on what that beta reader said with fondness.  I’m not in Butcher’s class so I take what that reader said as a huge compliment now.  It was just one man’s opinion, but it was a fun opinion to me!  Plus, his email turned me on to a great author who was new to me and gave me many hours of enjoyment.

And that’s how Jim Butcher almost killed Tom Crayder without ever knowing it.



  1. Butcher is one of my favorite writers, with the Dresden character being so much fun to read about just to see what he does/gets into next. Oh, and Harry and I are buddies. No, really. I mean it. You can see for yourself on my website...

  2. I'm SO glad that you didn't delete it!
    You are talented in your own right and dont you ever doubt it!

  3. Thanks, Peeps.

    I do hope people just start writing. I let the feeling that I did not have an idea original enough hold me back for more than a decade. Then after I had my "ahah" moment and got an idea down on paper, one person's opinion almost made me go back to "thinking" and not "writing." That person even meant their comment as a compliment.

    The point is, there will be a parallel to whatever you write. Someone, somewhere, did something similar. The key is that no one has done your characters, and story, and setting, and style, EVER before. Unless you are writing fanfic, your combination of ideas WILL be unique.

    So start writing.