Writing’s Dirtiest Word

There is a dirty word in writing.  Equivalent to the f-bomb in church (or the RT words to an Auburn fan- Auburn family, you know what I mean and War Eagle).


For a writer, it’s the lowest of the low. Despicable.  Dishonorable.  Disgusting.

And yet, it keeps happening.  It comes up again and again.  The biggest recent scandal comes from a man who calls himself Q.R. Markham.  He “wrote” a book called “Assassin of Secrets.” I use the term “wrote” loosely.  Almost the entire thing was plagiarized.  Entire paragraphs and conversations were lifted from James Bond books.  All you have to do is Google the title and you’ll get a slew of references on this, but here’s a few for you:Q.R. Markham: Plagiarism Addict, Assassin of Secrets Plagiarism Charges.  The saddest link I have for you on this comes from author Jeremy Duns’s blog.  Jeremy blurbed Markham’s “book” and had several conversations with him regarding writing, becoming a mentor of sorts.  Jeremy then discovered the heinous act.  His post on the subject, Highway Robbery: The Mask of Knowing in Assassin of Secrets, makes me sad to read, and sick at the same time.

The question everyone asked was: how did this happen?  How did publishers not catch it?  My question is: how could the writer do such a thing?  How can any writer do such a thing?

Several years ago, before she became popular for her own novels, YA author Cassandra Clare wrote Harry Potter fan fiction.  She wrote a trilogy of fan fiction books.  There was a huge debacle in the fan fiction community when it was discovered she had plagiarized large chunks from other books and from a variety of television shows.  Now, I don’t write fan fiction and have never been part of this community, however, this post, Cassandra Clare Plagiarism Debacle, pretty much spells out the details, complete with plenty of examples of the plagiarism.  I know this is just fan fiction, and I’ve never read any of her books, they just aren’t something that appeals to me, regardless, I find this appalling.

I could never plagiarize.  Ever.  Under any circumstances.  Fan fiction, something I’ve written just for me, something for publication.  Never.  I fail to comprehend how you can take someone else’s work and put you own name on it.

Maybe I’m just jaded, but I write for the joy of writing.  I get a thrill from putting my thoughts down and wording a sentence just right.  I enjoy observing the world around me and putting that world into words.  I like creating characters and digging deep to see what makes them tick. Of course I enjoy reading others’ work.  But that’s their words, their impressions, their feelings.  My writing is my perspective.  It’s my release.

I get paying homage to something that inspired you.  I can even understand writing a new interpretation of a published work (like the re-imagined fairy tales that are popular right now-see Beastly by Alex Flinn– or modernizing of classic lit- see Jane by April Lindner).  Passing off someone else’s ideas as your own, though?  I don’t understand that.

I can even see how someone might plagiarize for a school paper or something.  I don’t approve and think it’s terrible, but I get it.  You have to get a grade, you don’t care about the subject, whatever. (If I were a teacher and caught the lazy, thieving student, they’d fail, no questions asked).  But writing is art.  If you’re published, not only are you making money from those words, you’re acquiring fans.  People love you because of your words.  When your words aren’t your own, not only are you lying, and cheating, and stealing, you’re misleading your fans, and I can’t support that.  If I discovered my favorite authors had plagiarized, I wouldn’t be able to continue supporting them.  Period.

Most recently, there has been a big scandal in the YA book blogging community.  I don’t follow the blog, and hadn’t heard of it until this week, but the Story Siren has been caught plagiarizing blog posts.  I’m not going to link to the Story Siren’s blog because, honestly, she doesn’t deserve the traffic.  She gets paid for blogging through ads on her site based on blog traffic.  If you want to check it out, you can search it on your own, but I don’t want to support a plagiarizer.  Worse, she even posted on plagiarizing before.

There has been a huge uproar in the YA writing community on this issue.  Some people don’t think it’s that big a deal because it’s only a blog.  Others think it’s a huge deal because she is part of the writing community and should know better and misled her followers.  I think she made it worse for herself by not apologizing, then when she did issue an apology, by not being sincere.

Plagiarism, in whatever form it takes, is a dirty, nasty thing.  I can promise you right now, you will never catch me plagiarizing.  I may draw inspiration from other blogs and other books, but everything I write is from my own head. And I think that’s the way it should be.

7 thoughts on “Writing’s Dirtiest Word

  1. What a fascinating post. I’m supposed to be editing you know!

    Blog, fan fic, school work, a novel, it doesn’t matter. Wrong is wrong, and each person that plagiarized knew it was wrong. The people who got paid to do it are despicable. It speaks volumes of a person’s character. Plagiarism is unacceptable, period. That was one of the first things we learned in English class, so there would be no excuse. Some kids still tried to get away with it, and were caught.

    There is no perfect crime, plagiarism included. Someone wrote what you stole, and eventually they are going to find out. Just don’t do it.

  2. Not quite the same, but I wrote a paper in college for my criminology class regarding the inaccuracy of eyewitness testimony and I was accused of plagiarism. There was a big investigation as they entered passages of my paper into some tool that searches the web for exact/near exact matches. I was, of course, cleared. But I remember being so incredibly insulted. That was like 7 years ago and I’m still pissed off. But at least I know my technical writing skills are so amazing they were assumed to be stolen, haha. Now if only I had the same reassurances about my fiction…

  3. Just thinking about Plagiarism makes me feel a bit icky. Faking someone else’s work as my own… the dishonesty of it just creeps me out.

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