Remember the anti-plagiarism day? Remember the whole ghastly “one writer in a workshop stole from another writer” thing? Ugh. It’s uncomfortable. I want to look away. I want to look. I don’t want to be involved, and yet as writers we are all involved really. It’s our duty to speak out. Isn’t it? Anyway, seems like it’s all out in the open at How Publishing really Works. Look. Don’t look. Ghastly innit!
Jane Smith, she of the fabulous How Publishing Really Works blog, has decreed today to be anti-plagiarism day. She has posted a link laden post which will lead you to all sorts of other writerly blogs and thoughts on plagiarism. It’s vital that writers discuss this very real problem. I blogged a while ago under the heading “Magpies and shiny things” after a couple of writing colleagues of mine discovered that another colleague had helped himself to their ideas. It’s such a difficult and emotive thing and nowhere near as straightforward as one would hope.
Personally I strive for my own voice. I hope that my experiences and thoughts can help me create characters and stories that other people will respond to. I want to be different. I want to stand out. I can’t imagine knowingly copying someone else’s ideas and feeling any satisfaction for success with something that wasn’t mine in the first place.
There’s an interesting post from Julia Bohanna at her blog “The Flea” which I’d like to draw your attention to.
The internet makes me so happy. Seriously, it’s all I dreamt it would be, and more. I went to a school which until the year above me had been a boys grammar school. Some of the teachers were misogynistic fossils who blamed the girls for the schools downgrading to comprehensive status. One of these men was the computer studies teacher. He didn’t believe that girls had the same intelligence as boys and directed his teaching only at boys. All I remember of his classes were diagrams of data, we never touched a computer at all.
I waited a long time to get my hands on a PC. When I did it was bliss. And it enabled me to get my writing out into the world. Through blogging I *met* other writers, made friends, learned, explored. Very cool. I’m self taught and probably go about things the wrong way at times, but I love how empowering it is. I persuaded my mum to get a MacBook, I think it’s an invaluable tool for older people and will help her retain independence.
There are some shitty things too. Online bitch fests, patronising people, twunts of all kinds. There are those who see other writer’s stories shining brightly and help themselves to ideas, layouts and themes instead of using their own imagination and fighting for uniqueness. (See Vanessa Gebbie’s latest post and Tania Hershman’s.)
I would like to say more about what I have been told has happened, but, ha ha, it’s not my story to tell, and I try to always be respectful to others stories. What I will say is that I am surprised at what it seems one can get away with. It would appear that one can take someone else’s stories and rewrite them, submit them, have them published, win money and acclaim, and then not be penalised if one hasn’t used the exact same words. Hmm. Sounds dodgy to me.
Also, reading up on plagiarism, it seems that it is not considered a legal problem, but an academic one. As such it is usually down to universities et al to dole out appropriate punishment. It is a matter of ethics, and when I share my work in progress with other writers there is an unspoken code of ethics which means we can trust each other. Sadly, just as in the Real World, some people are unethical.
There was apparently a huge plagiarism scandal in romantic fiction circles a while back. Googling took me to Smart Bitches, Trashy Books where what strikes me as most interesting is the amount of defending the people who shouted out about plagiarism had to do of themselves. Other peeps wanted them to shut the fuck up. Nasty business, move along now. But if it is not openly discussed how easy is it to move on? For me, unaffected by plagiarism (thankfully) it’s easy, but for the people whose work has now been diluted by repetition, whose trust has been shaken, not so easy I reckon.