Thursday, January 10, 2008

Plagiarism, Bad Writing, or Really Not Knowing Any Better

So, here we go. I can hear the snarky-assed comments from them already. They spout from those "literary types" who wouldn't take romance novels serious if one won the Pulitzer Prize or if Oprah suddenly had an epiphany that most, if not all, of the books she picked were hideously depressing and started up a studio chant of "Nora, Nora, Nora" while throwing Angryromancegrrl bookmarks out to the crowd. They insist romance novels are mindless fluff written by just as mindless, if not horny, housewives who couldn't possibly know the quality of the written word because they're too busy drooling over bare-chested men. They are going to have a field day over the latest allegations of possible plagiarism by a fairly well known writer.

This author (and I won't name her because you can just get off your lazy ass and Google it yourself) apparently took anywhere from phrases to nearly complete paragraphs from research books and used them in her historical novels. The whole thing started at the website (a great place, BTW) when a novice romance reader pointed out that she noticed several large chunks of text that read differently than the author's voice. So, armed with several of this author's books and Google (hopefully there was tequila involved because, hey, where's the fun if it wasn't) two of The Bitches got together and started digging. You can go to their blog and find the results there, but I will tell you it was interesting to see the results. Needless to say, the pitchforks and torches were plentiful.

Now I'm not going to say what she did was right. It wasn't. We learn from little on that you at the very least paraphrase (and I have to say I did some pretty sad examples of rewording in my high school years) because it's not right to take credit for someone else's work. I'm even willing to bet if this author has kids that at some point, she probably even reminded them of that as most moms do. But, does this boil down to TRUE plagiarism? Who can say? Maybe. Maybe not.

I do think it falls more into the category of bad writing, or simply being unimaginative and I don't think it's limited to Romance as so many people will try to insist. The whole point is to take the research you have and create something with it. Using it verbatim from a research book is failing to put that bit of information into the story and letting the character convey it through their point of view to the reader. You don't just slap it onto the page. The results are exactly what this person saw: large chunks of text that stand out like Bugatti in a room full of Ford Escorts.

So, let's recap, shall we? DON'T take research directly from the a book and try to pass it off on your own. DO cite your sources if you do. And if you screw up, admit it. Rambling excuses only makes you look ignorant and more guilty. Practice in front of the mirror if you need to..."yeah, I fucked up...big time. I was an idiot!"

See? Very easy.

Oh, and and for you literary types.....BITE ME because I'm a romance writer and damned proud of it.


Cathy in AK said...

I'm hoping this situation isn't confined to dissing romance writers, but it does seem that romance writers take the brunt of insult from folks. I figure it's because the majority of books being bought are romances, so there are simply more books out there to criticize. SF/F got trashed for a loooong time before finding a bit of respectibility.

Our day will come ; )

Amy Jandrey said...

I think for those who don't take romance novels seriously, it's just more ammunition for them to say, "see, they can't be taken seriously". (This was where this topic was supposed to go, but I got interrupted and lost my train of thought)

It really pissed me off when I read the Newsweek article by the one author she copied and started the whole thing (the guy with the ferrets)and found it filled with such references to romance as "bodice ripper", "throbbing", "pulsing". I really had a hard time not doing a post that pretty much said, "hey, we didn't diss your black footed ferrets, why are you degrading our genre?!" Especially after The Bitches raised donations toward his cause (matched by Nora). Bastard!

Okay, this has turned into another blog. :-)