Lather, Copy, Paste, Rinse, Repeat

The word got out fast last week. Popular romance author Christine Serruya was accused of plagiarizing not one, not two, not three, four, or five, but countless other writers’ works. Not only that, but her passages weren’t remotely subtly constructed. Serruya lifted from her peers’ romance novels as well as from online articles on various websites. She even plagiarized at least two recipes.

How can you … I mean, I’m just … Wow.

Whether or not you are a lover of romance novels (I, personally do not read them), you’d have to be completely void of scruples not to condemn the audacious exploitation at work here.

Intellectual property is a real thing. Writers sweat, cry, and worry endlessly over their artistic output. Anyone who has ever tried making sense of story knows the heartache and boundless joy that is derived from putting in the hours. You sit there in front of the blank screen, willing the words to come. And maybe for a long time, the only thing looking back at you is that self-indulgent blinking cursor. Oh man do I hate that guy sometimes! But when it’s good, it’s great! And the prose just flows out of you.

You read it back to yourself the next day and you think, “What is this trite trash? It was genius yesterday! Who messed with it overnight?” No one did. It’s just that your perspective changed. And now you are viewing it with the eyes of a discerning reader and guess what’s on the plate for today and many days hence? You got it! Revising, editing, fixing, toiling, rehashing, annexing, scratching, picking, grinning, smashing, doing doing do it! Breathe. Go at it again.

It’s not always as dramatic as that, but it can be when you get down into the weeds of your writing. So when news breaks of some copycat who took it upon herself to steal someone else’s work and pass it off as her own, the entire writing community is going to take to arms and lynch the villain. And that’s pretty much what is happening right now.

The Ghost In The Machine

Serruya was quick to try to defend herself. She claimed that she hired a ghostwriter with no moral compass, someone who did the dirty work, unbeknownst to her. And here’s where it gets even worse, for me anyway.

First of all, I don’t understand the ghostwriting business. Not from the author’s point of view anyway. I mean sure, if you have some notoriety and the desire to strike while the iron is hot, maybe the promise of more Benjamins could entice you to hire other writers to slam together some similar works for you. Personally, I could never do that. For me and the majority of writers I know and believe in, the promise of a possibility of making some green is a sweet bonus to putting our creative endeavors out there. I can’t fathom any situation where I would want someone else to write a book for me to slap my name on. It boggles the mind, really. That said, apparently there are some authors that do utilize exactly this type of churn-out device. And there are other creative types who are willing to compromise their own names and hide in the shadows, giving their own stories over to someone else. And I guess this is just something that, at some base level anyway, we accept. Beyond that shared allowance, you better believe that if you are hiring a ghostwriter, you 100 percent have to read what they turn in and check their work. At the very least you should know your own genre, right? And even if you are too busy to fact check something you’re putting your name on, then hire somebody else to do it for you.

This Just In

Well, this came in hours ago, maybe even yesterday. Look, I’m not exactly going to be a great source for breaking news. But this is news to me right now so yeah. – Anyway, here’s yesterday’s scoop: Serruya’s website is down, as are her social media profiles. Do you feel bad for her? Don’t. She did this to herself. It’s rough, but that’s how it is. The woman was a lawyer before she was a writer. You would think someone with that background would know better than to plagiarize. Baffling.

It’s unbelievable we are having this conversation in 2019. To the 0.001% of writers out there who don’t realize this already, plagiarism is bad. Don’t do it. Ok?

Full stop.

Stories are beautiful. Writers are creators. Please don’t abuse your power.

Stories are beautiful. Writers are creators. Please don’t abuse your power.