Monday, February 1, 2010

Cut. Copy. Paste.

As I plodded forward on my treadmill this morning, I was suddenly aware of another set of feet behind me. My six-month-old black Lab, Nala, sometimes walks with me. Only, she doesn’t walk with all four, she clops with her undeveloped, puppy front two. Besides that, she’s not really exercising. She’s trying to copy what I’m doing so she can get to my feet to bite them. Eventually, she gives up following then leans one foot on the sidebar letting her toenail hang over the edge to make an ungodly whirring noise as the treadmill belt rolls on.

Nala is a laugh a minute, but plagiarism isn’t. Even the word, plagiarize, sounds terrible sort of like Nala’s toenail grinding against the treadmill belt. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary gives this definition of plagiarize: to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own; use (another’s production) without crediting the source; to commit literary theft; present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.

Ooh – that could hit close to home. I remember in high school working towards deadlines for essays and reports suddenly wishing I had never heard the word, plagiarize. Nevertheless, most of us know how not to plagiarize.

As much as I would love to copy and paste every posting from my favorite blog ( to my own blog, I have to resist the temptation and come up with my own ideas. You would have loved to read everything Rachelle Gardner says about agents. But, I guess you can go to her blog and read it.

And, books I wish I would have written. If I could “borrow” any scene from Denise Hunter’s Nantucket Love Story series and say it was mine, I’d be so well known. I’d love to take credit for writing James Scott Bell’s Plot & Structure – techniques and exercises for crafting a plot that grips readers from start to finish. Uh-oh. Should that be in quotes? If I could even just copy the blurb on the back of Getting into Character by Brandilyn Collins, I’d have my name up there at the top with all the other big authors. (You gotta get that book. You’ll never write the same again.)

Sometimes I wish I hadn’t read so many books already. How can I know whether I’m stealing someone else’s words or ideas since they’re already in my mind? How can I tell if they’re really my own? How do you know? I’d like to hear how you avoid the dreaded literary theft.

Wishing you His best as you write,
Donna L. Rich ACFW Indiana President


  1. This is a good thing to think about; it's a challenge for sure. I'm just going to have to lean on Divine wisdom for that. If I think of anything else, I'll let you know!

  2. Since, like you, I don't know if I'm plagiarizing, I tend not to worry about it. What I'm more conscious about is "cutting and pasting" cliches. You know, the BOO-words that scream lack of creativity and make agents and editors run the opposite direction from your ms. When cliches are pointed out to me, I'm often surprised, and then where do I see them used? Uh-huh, in a pubbed author's book!