In a different way, I'm sure that at some point in your life you came up with an incredible idea for an invention. Maybe it was something simple like one of those foam holders that keep your can or bottled soft drink cold, or maybe it was more complex, like a way to vaporize hydrogen in water with electricity, which then gets sucked into your car's air intake causing a decrease in your engine's fuel consumption. This is real... see Water Powered Car.
We've all thought of ways to improve products or even to create new and better working versions. But the law of inverse thinking says something like: Idiot... if you wait too long to actually produce your idea, someone else will beat you to the punch.
Unfortunately, because it's an inverse law and you don't think in an inverse way, you wait too long and sure enough, your siting there one night watching your favorite episode of Baywatch when suddenly there's an As Seen On TV commercial for your idea. It's even got pretty cool looking packaging.
Writing ideas work the same way. How many of you want to bet that before Jurassic Park was written, a dozen or more writers were thinking, "Man, my kid really loves dinosaurs. I ought to write a book about a T-Rex chasing vacationers down a river toward a really big waterfall" Or something like that.
I've personally missed out on several inventions I thought of producing, like friendship bracelets, which became all the craze during the 80s, and I've had book concepts torn from my hands, and my Idea File, before the ink on my notepad was dry.
With the loss of an invention, we cry and moan about how we could have been rich if we hadn't sat around on our tushies, eating Cheetos, while watching Baywatch and instead got serious about our idea. Now, in order to be rich, we have to come up with a totally different invention idea, which we hopefully act on before someone else does.
But writers don't cry over spilled ink. Instead, we rework our idea or concept. We add a few twists, a different locale, and different characters. When we're done, we have a totally different book from the one that someone beat us to the ink on. Kind of like how different screenwriters penned, Armageddon, Deep Impact, and of course that classic, Night of the Comet, which included meanie zombies.
A good writer knows there's more than one way to skin a... make that ...write a story. So, the next time you see a #1 best seller with the same concept as yours, don't go looking for a rope, a chair, and a tree limb, just buck up, put on your writing cap, and go to work, or should I say rework.
Remember, you never have to give up on a writing idea. Unlike an invention, you're not left with having to invent the next best thing to Tivo, which happens to be the iPhone by the way, you just have to tell the story your way.