Stop Thief! “Writer Beware” Warning

Darn. Just hit a key that erased my entire blog. But that’s better than someone else stealing my writing. Here goes again.

Once upon a time, I wrote a book. Someone didn’t steal the book – yet. But I worry about plagiarism as I go about finding teenage reviewers, not the ones I know personally, but others. In a full classroom, I figure there might be a few whose ethics aren’t developed enough to not steal someone else’s work. With adults in my critique group, I don’t worry. Years ago, I did, so much that I didn’t seek the help I needed to hone my writing skills. But my husband spoke to a man on a plane who told him plagiarism isn’t a problem in critique groups.

So I sought out the local Emerald Coast Writers’ critique group and joined. I was glad I did. I learned to trust the group and never had anyone try to steal my work. When we bounced ideas off each other, if someone wanted to write about someone else’s idea, that person would ask permission.

Getting my writing critiqued was painful at first, but also very rewarding. I spoke with our chairperson recently about that experience. Since I went in expecting criticism, when I got it, I didn’t run home crying. There was praise, to be sure, but I didn’t know a passive verb from an active verb, let alone from passive voice. And I was wordy, very. But it wasn’t long before I learned to better edit my own writing and to wield a red pen on others’ writing with an eagle-eye for detail. It’s a lot easier finding other people’s mistakes than your own, and for that reason I’ll never feel like I’ve outgrown the need for critiques. These days, I’m just seeking critiques specific to the age group. My audience’s, not mine.

Which brings me back to concerns about plagiarism. Turns out there’s a blog that specializes in protecting us writers from unscrupulous predators. Here’s the description:

“Writer Beware®, a publishing industry watchdog group sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America with additional support from the Mystery Writers of America, shines a bright light into the dark corners of the shadow-world of literary scams, schemes, and pitfalls. We also provide industry news, advice for writers, and a special focus on the weird and wacky things that happen at the fringes of the publishing world.”

Victoria Strauss posted this article about plagiarist David Boyer, one of many names. She also specifies how to tell when someone has stolen and posted your work via Google alerts, and gives advice on how to have it taken down.

After hearing local author Tommie Lyn explain a little about the same thing, it seems theft and unauthorized distribution is far more common than someone actually claiming authorship of someone else’s work. So although my book isn’t even published yet, I experimented and entered my first Google alert on my book title. I hope never to find out someone else stole it, but better safe than sorry.

And if anyone is seeking a good critique group in the Florida panhandle area, talk to Mary Brown, ECW’s critique group chairperson extraordinaire. You’ll be glad you did. For children’s writers, you need SCBWI. Or me.

Share A Heart

Indie author-friendly freelance editor, children's book blogger for picture books through YA, kid lit, SF/fantasy lover with special fondness for middle grade, pun-loving SCBWI member, meter-maid for poetry and rhyming picture books.

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