Saturday, December 17, 2005

Stealing

In a 1984 interview I did with John D. MacDonald and recently posted on the excellent Mystery File, JDM talked about somebody ripping off his early stories and then reselling them to magazines.

A friend of mine who sells a lot of books once had a novel of his copied virtually scene for scene by another writer. Readers picked it off instantly. The book was pulped.

A famous romance novelist, apparently frustrated that Nora Roberts was doing so well, cribbed heavily from a Roberts novel and published her version. Nailed immediately.

God knows I have a difficult time writing. Because I wrote so much in the early part of my career, people think I just sit down and let the words just automatically write themselves. Every single piece I create, good or bad, is tough going and results in headaches, irritability and insomnia. Not all the way through but there are few pieces that don't inflict at least two out of three of those devils on me at some point.

That said, I still wouldn't crib. It's not that I'm so moral. It's that I know I'd get caught within seventy-two hours of publication. Somebody would fire off an e-mail to the publisher saying, "Gorman lifted this story from a 1928 Hungarian pulp magazine called (translation) Babes Ahoy. He even forgot to update it several times, calling all the women in it `flappers.'"

I mention this because another writer reminded me recently that the first time I'd talked to him I was telling him that I'd just gotten an anthology submission that was clearly lifted from a three year old copy of a mystery magazine. A very popular mystery magazine.

So be careful out there all you would be plagiatrists. God pays you back with carpel tunnel symdrome that affects you all the ay to your bicep.

And if any of this happens to sound like something you read in last month's Writer's Digest, forget about it. There';s no comparison whatsoever.

Well, maybe a coincidental paragraph here and there but...

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