There are writers, would-be writers and wannabe writers. (There are also don’t-wannabe writers, which is fine and a perfectly valid lifestyle choice and they play no further part in this post.)
Even though neither party has actually been published yet, the would-bes and wannabes are quite easy to distinguish. The would-bes put in the hours, learn, self-criticise and improve. Oh, and they write. Success can never be guaranteed but they’re in with as good a chance as any. The wannabes, on the other hand, just wannabe.
The strange thing is that the wannabes are much more precious about what little writing they get done than the would-bes. Another mark of the would-bes is professionalism, making the effort to learn the biz. The wannabes just wanna see their name in print, even if they have to pay for it themselves.
Lack of professionalism is just one of the many flaws revealed in this sad tale of sort-of-accidental plagiarism. In summary: archetypal fantasy writer wannabe, hereafter AFWW, actually hires a ghost writer to write her novel for her. To be fair, she seems to have a serious physical disability that makes it very hard to write coherently. She probably hired the ghost writer to tidy her drafts up. But also to be fair, cruelly and clinically, she doesn’t seem to have bothered reading what the ghost writer wrote for her. She doesn’t have to realise that he has simply copied out the first chapter of David Gemmell‘s Dark Prince, changing only the names. She should at least have just realised it wasn’t her writing.
It gets worse. AFWW then gets the book, which she has clearly not bothered reading, self-published and then has the gall to announce proudly on her web site that “I feel each person has something unique to share with the world and writing is my gift to share”. She also goes on record that every word of her novel is entirely her own.
What is baffling to clearer minds is that she’s probably 100% genuine about this. She totally believes it. Writing is her gift to share, even if she has to hire someone else to do it. There’s no meaningful difference between this and any celebrity “novel” or “autobiography” you care to name, except that in the latter case we know the game. Does anyone really think Jade Goody wrote her autobiography? But this lady, by trying to break into a world that actually takes writing seriously and hold herself up as an equal there, just opens herself up to public crucifixion, which service the public is happy to provide.
Have I ever plagiarised? You could probably say I have. Technically. If for whatever reason I find myself writing something that reminds me of what someone else has done then I assume that other people will also spot the similarity, and try to make it clear that I see it too. Thus as just one example I can without trying too hard think of references to 2001 in His Majesty’s Starship (when someone is trying to coax a recalcitrant artificial intelligence) and The New World Order (the last few lines of part 1 are a pretty direct quote). The second vampire plagues novel is set in Paris, 1850, and is replete with references to The Murders in the Rue Morgue and Les Miserables (book, not musical, please) simply because I didn’t see how you could write a novel set in Paris in this period and not mention them.
Thieves steal, artists borrow, which a fancy bit of sophistry meaning that the above examples were to add layers of secondary detail to a primary narrative that was already good enough to stand on its own, and anyone else in the biz will know exactly what I did and why. And I doubt they made a penny’s difference to the money I received for this writing.
Professionalism, dear, professionalism.
Ben Jeapes took up writing in the mistaken belief that it would be easier than a real job (it isn’t). Hence, as well as being the author of 7 novels and co-author of many more, he has also been a journal editor, book publisher, and technical writer. His first Milford was at Margate in 1991, which shows (a) how far Milford has come in the past 26 years and (b) qualifies him as a Great Old One, in Milford terms at least. www.benjeapes.com