Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Seven Reasons Why Plagiarism is Wrong

If you know me at all, you'll know my books are full of crazy. I'm all about embracing the crazy.
But plagiarism is a whole new level of crazy and I want nothing to do with it. If you steal the work of other authors, I want nothing to do with you. We cannot be friends!
There have been a couple of outstandingly hideous examples of plagiarism just recently that have set my blood boiling. An author in Germany who, bold as brass, said she was 'Mixing', and a writer in the states whose Christian (ie, super sweet and inspirational) books were being ripped off but getting sex scenes added to them. Blurgh!

I don't know why it even needs to be said - plagiarism is wrong - but clearly some people aren't getting the message!

But in case you were wondering, here's why it's wrong.

1. At its most basic level, plagiarism is stealing.

2. Plagiarism is lazy. Bust your own chops for a while and have a go at writing your own stuff you thieving, thiefety thief! (see point 1)

3. Someone else wrote it, you copied and pasted it into your manuscript (oh, you changed a few names along the way? Wow, that must have broken you out in a sweat) And now you call yourself a writer? See point 1.

4. Have you attributed your copied phrases, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, entire novels to the person who actually wrote it? Didn't think so. See point 1.

5. You are not 'mixing'. You are not 'repurposing' you are not 'echoing', you are stealing. See point 1.

6. You cannot sustain a career from plagiarism. Because you don't have the right kind of brain to create characters and situations and scenarios and emotional depth. Because you have a thief brain, not a creative brain. Your brain takes, our brains give. See point 1.

7. You will be caught. In order to not get caught, you'd have to remain completely anonymous. But that doesn't work because you want to sell your (stolen) words, which means you have to raise your profile, and once you do that, you will soon be found out for the thieving thief that you are.

I bust my chops making something I hope will resonate with readers. I hire editors, I workshop and brainstorm with other writers, I bitch and moan to my husband when plots don't work. Writing for me is a long term commitment. My books are the beginning of what I hope will be our pension fund. Because there won't be pensions when we 'retire' and anyway, I love writing so much, I love creating characters, that I won't stop until I have to.

Back when I started writing, I had 'fraud syndrome'. There had been very sad cases of plagiarism that struck fear in my heart. The writers of suspected plagiarism offered excuses along a similar theme: "I must have loved the writing (of other author) so much I unconsciously channelled them into my book."

So I lived in fear that I could do the same. Because I read so much, loved so many authors, how could I possibly avoid doing something similar?

But then, as more and more cases came to light (Black Footed Ferrets anyone?) I began to realise that this 'unconscious channeling' wasn't really a thing. Not when I struggled to get lyrics of a song right at the best of times and yet some books contained word for word, comma for comma cut and pastes from other books. Or a scientific thesis on the life cycle of the black footed ferret.

These days I don't fear that I have plagiarised someone else. Which is a relief. But that doesn't mean someone else won't try and rip me off. All I can do is hope that nobody does.

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