Category Archives: writing trivia

Plagiarism

I had a serious encounter of how foolishly people copy other people’s work and think they can get away with it!

It began few days back, when I heard that one site’s writers had created a small gathering for themselves. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to go and see the chat.

I think we had been speaking for, what, ten minutes? When suddenly one older fellow decided we should read something out from our own works. To get acquainted with each other and what we write. Idea had merit, so we did. He went first.

And what followed looked something like this:

“She stared at the man before her as if she’d seen one really bad rotting egg. He knew from the first time he laid his eyes on her she had no interest of knowing him better. Especially after a bad remark on her job, this made her now as bitter as ale gone off. He hadn’t really meant it, at least not about her, but as he hadn’t had a chance to fix it, she didn’t know it.

Even worse was his surprise to hear her voice in the other end of the line, when announcing his arrival with the goods in less than fifteen minutes. She hadn’t been expecting them anymore as he could read out from her stuttering, but she regained her posture fast, telling she’ll open the gates. That’s what you got when replacing your truck driver, who calls on Friday the 13th that he is sick. The whole day had gone down the hill from there. And now he had this pretty site to welcome him. How he had even memorized her voice was beyond his comprehension – it was just as pleasant as any other.

She looked strange with her working clothes. Obviously, with what they did, he could hardly imagine her wearing something more revealing or something that would have suited her more, but this was truly ugly shade of grey apron and jacket. Her hair were all messed up, too – probably put up in hurry and waiting few minutes in rain had turned her usually soft curly hair into fuzzy hay like mess. What a peculiar site she was. He blinked to get that vision out of his head. She was actually graceful like that.

He coughed. The older man that shared several her traits seemed nicely oblivious about them knowing each other and the way she clenched her lips into a very sharp edged line, she had no intentions of doing the honors and introducing them to each other.

She was wearing a long gypsy skirt. He hadn’t realized it before she turned to catch the truck’s back door that went flying towards her. She caught it with ease and softly let it fall against the machine’s side.

Not just SOMETHING, but pretty surely EXACTLY like this! Only, I know this story. I know it from my heart. I even put some of it up in my back-then blog, though years later.

I wanted to know more and I asked him then bluntly if the “she” character is making muffins next, in a warm honey-like kitchen? And perhaps they fall out and she responds to his ultimatum with resigning her secretary post in the office they both work in?

How do I know, they asked – he’s only worked of this for three months. I said I don’t think he’ll work on it much longer, considering I only have a chapter to finish it! Amazing how gravely silent your surroundings can get.

He is respected author, they said.

Well, then he sure chose the wrong way to boost his career, I responded, because I have the original – on paper, photographed with dates. And I do not consider it much of a progress if an older colleague chooses something to present as his own what I wrote more than six years ago!

Think wisely if it is worth the trouble, when you go down the road of plagiarism! Just because the stories are old and written by less known authors does not make them less known. There is always someone, who recognizes, who the original comes from. The best scenario –  you might end up presenting it to the author of the original. The worst scenario – she might find it enough of a reason to present it to her lawyers.

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How to choose the right books about writing?

Marcy L. turned to me with this question and though I can only guess answers to most of the questions, I can be confident, when replying to this one. I should – I’ve spent most of the last year reading one “how to write” book after another.

My advice would be this: there is no one book out there to fill you with skills you need as a writer. There really isn’t – one writer prefers one writing style, another seeks help from a different book, but there really isn’t one that would suit them all. This seems quite frustrating answer?

I would suggest instead of reading them all, which in the end gets very confusing, choose one and learn it by heart. By this I don’t mean to go and pick something random, you still need to read a bit to understand what they are about, but instead of getting them all, try finding one that calls out to you and stick with that one.

There are two things beginners love to forget: you do need to learn tricks of the trade in order to go pass “got idea, wrote it, it repeats what I wrote yesterday” phase and one book does give those tricks to you, you just need to actually use it. And I mean use it. Not go on to next one, because it didn’t make sense. Most of the beginners books have the same built and they take you through the all the necessary brick work. The difference is just in the mortal used to build the wall with the bricks.

I’m very fond of Donald Maass and Write Great Fiction series and don’t get me started on Dean Koontz book that came out in 1970s! James Frey and Nancy Kress have same style books, but I couldn’t get myself read them through. Yet I know they are just as good to teach you all the basics. The difference really is in which of the author suits with you and when you’ve found it, stick with the teachings and actually take the time to go through the exercises and try it out.

There is criticism, which I’ve often faced too, that if you have talent, you don’t need to know rules and you don’t need to mess your talent up by learning to push it in boundaries. That’s all very nice and I gladly shake hands with anyone, who is aware they’ve got talent, but it is sad site when such talents write and wait for someone to come and reclaim them, if one could say so. Unless you add work to it and get yourself some firewood for that phoenix, you will only see the ashes.

If you don’t know where to begin, I’d suggest Donald Maass “Writing the breakout novel” or anything from Write Great Fiction series. Nancy Kress series are also good to understand the tools. One thing is sure – most of us don’t have good courses to take or clubs to join, but this doesn’t mean you must parish without good teachings. It’s just about finding a good book and after that a library.

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Growing pains

I think I’ve had epiphany.

 I’ve often had problem in writing communities that the most common respond to beginners’ cries is “do as you will”. How many times I’ve cried out in response – but I have no idea what it is I’m suppose to will?

Well, last month I was talking to a truly beginner and realized suddenly that to all his cries of help, I had the urge to respond exactly the same. Out of spite. I’m not as spiteful as I play out to be sometimes, but it struck me that I really felt spiteful that moment. All the man wanted, was some answers. The same answers I wanted few years ago when I decided I wanted to know more than my own empty head was willing to give.

Why would I respond like that? To me, this was the meanest respond I could receive from people I considered my idols in writing world.

But then it got to me that he had to learn it by himself. Make the same mistakes we all go through so he can see the difference. Otherwise he would have never seen the real difference between character that captures you or flat Mary Sue. There is no “all roads take to Rome”, because if you explore them, they suddenly take you to London instead.

I stopped writing then, mostly duo over-planning and stress that caused, but also because of this. I realized that I was after shortcuts, but didn’t really want them. That’s why I couldn’t press myself ask questions that mattered to me, because I didn’t focus at all to the responses. Most of the questions I asked would have brought simple yes or no answers, but that doesn’t take you anywhere. And in the end I would have still gone back to books to understand why they gave me that yes, or no.

So even though I still find it very rude (because it shows how little others actually care) and I try to get pass this negative enforcement of “do as you will”, it was rather liberating. I realized that I didn’t need to constantly check on books to write. That I was constructing better story skeletons without having to peep into how-to-s so often.

I’m guessing he will have to go through the same road to come to the same conclusion one day – the understanding why pros don’t teach you unless you listen and don’t just hear.

Growing pains, some would say.

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Little social experiment: forbidden under 18

Had this flash idea this morning, noticing another “Forbidden under age 18”and remembering a joke from the morning’s newspaper:

Barman: “You can’t be here with your cow.”
Guest (with the cow): “Why not?”
Barman points at the sign: “No one under 18 allowed”

 You know all those warnings everywhere with the flashing sign “Forbidden under age 18”? How many of us actually put attention to them in our tender age and how many actually do it now?

 Character would be a responsible, loyal girl (because they follow rules better), who has been explained the experiment she’ll pass. The challenge is to get to the age of eighteen without ever – and I mean ever! – clicking any website, read paper or watched anything not allowed under 18.

 How long would she last? What challenges would she face? How would she cope?

 Play around – it’s free for taking.
I know you want to  😉

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Rumpelstiltsken

SPOILERS!

If you don’t want to know what happens in the series, I suggest not reading further!

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I am not what I write

I started writing this with clear image of what I wanted to say. Now I don’t think it’s that easy.

We all remember the article about a teacher, who was socially blackmailed for writing fantasy erotic novels. I call it social blackmail, because what else would it be if other grownups start a campaign against someone? I had completely forgotten the article until I saw an old video I had liked on youtube from one of her graduate students and it made me think of the values I am presenting in my writing or what I’m expected to present.

The latter is what made me think if I’m possibly risking the same faith?

When I write, when I create a character, I never thought I should play fair with it and write someone that reflects me. Yet when I present the story, with girl, who kills a woman, man who rapes another, youth with drinking problem, a serial killer, grownups playing hide-and-seek, I receive this weird glance filled with questions. They just are what they are – different people, animals with their own characteristics and their own problems.

There is a movie called Crossing Over by Wayne Kramer.  In that film a 15-year-old girl, Taslima Jahangir presents a paper in school that is so misinterpreted by the authorities she gets deported from US. I have seen parts of this movie several times, but it never called for me to watch it. I don’t like this kind of humane dramas, because I can’t afford falling apart before the tv like that. Until I saw this part of the movie and it did exactly that. It made me think how many of such “probable threat” youth have been mishandled like that in real life? Is it really so that you can be turned into terrorist for what you write? How far will be the time where fantasy becomes a taboo for not suiting the leading world? 

Everything has to be same color throughout. If you present yourself one way, it is appaling to western world that there could be different side of you that you don’t present so openly. You are what you write, you eat, you drink, you watch, you say.

Just because I write on these topic and write through their POV doesn’t make me support their cause more or justify their actions. To me there is strict line between literature and reality. For someone even to think that I would go and kill someone I don’t like, because I was capable of writing about this in my work is appalling to me. Good writer can write their characters whatever their own background compels them. I write about the serial killers, questionable characters and weird folk because that’s who they are. I won’t stop writing about them just to please anyone. Even if this means the story will not get published, I’m not writing for numbers. 

 It scares me that this is the world I’m entering with my writing, so I’m making the disclaimer right here:

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
I, as a real person, do not support killing anyone in real life, torture against both animals or humans, criminal acts, immoral behavior or anything else that is not in compliance with law or common ethical standards.
 

Now that this is off my chest I can turn back to writing my book, because I just found mighty interesting way the story could go…

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Life does its corrections.

I say – life intervenes like bad parent. The thing is I have only a month to finish my book and send it out. Thank heavens I don’t have actual datum fixed by any publishers, but I feel bad about it nevertheless. It’s just two little factors, three even if to count my phone, which also acted as my e-reader.

One – I still haven’t got my computer back. I miss it tremendously. Though I can use brother’s pc and work computer, it is still far less than what I accomplished if I had my own personal computer with 24/7 access. Brother said he wouldn’t mind, but as we pretty much have breaks from work at the same time, I am the one feeling poor for occupying it all the time. There is another pc at home, but that’s strictly for business. Also, it’s looking grim on finances, so it will take few more months before I get it fixed.

Two – school. Surprise! Actually, it’s to do with the fact that my teacher approved my writing plan for bachelor thesis and wants to meet up in the beginning of May for updates on research. I chose the subject well – there’s massive amount of information to work through and even more massive work to write down. Also, school has been so far on the back of my lists and it’s starting to show. I need to put anything else I’m doing away and work on that for now. Bad side of it is that every time I say that I end up scribbling down more ideas than in months.

Three – my phone finished working. Again. Third time already and it’s getting irritated. Last time I had it somewhat 4-5 days and right before it froze and shut down yesterday, I downloaded the last app that would turn the phone from being just a phone into useful tool for me. Managed to load the books up, too… The phone is right now the only place I have time to read fiction from while I travel. It was ideal. And now it must go back in repairs and they’ll try to do something with it again. Good luck, because my patience is wearing thin – I just paid my last payment for it and that little fact is even more irritating in the light of probability of loosing it. So right now I’m putting my writing on the shelf and try to get back on line with my schoolwork, financial state and time planning. I have about ¾ written, so it shouldn’t be big problem to get back on saddle when ever I manage to get a moment.

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