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For Love of Writing, or Avoiding Plagiarism

19 Jan 2008

No, I’m not going to blog about Cassie Edwards. It’s been done to death here and here.

And, no, I’m not going to blog about how plagiarism is bad. If you can’t accept that basic fact by now, there’s really nothing I can say to change your mind.

But all this discussion of plagiarism has made me realize something: I no longer read the sub-genre in which I write. That’s right: I write romantic suspense, but I don’t read it.

In fiction, ideas cannot be copyrighted (otherwise, Harlequin wouldn’t be putting out secret babies books by the truckload every month). Writers put their own spin on familiar themes and story-lines, so Jane Author’s book about the billionaire who sleeps with his virgin secretary who ends up with a secret baby is not the same as Joe Author’s book about the billionaire who sleeps with his virgin secretary who ends up with a secret baby.

However, I am a voracious reader. And I internalize a lot of what I read (this skill was very helpful during my school days) and can regurgitate facts and figures and quotes like the most annoying know-it-all everyone avoids at a party. And this leads to my fear of unintentional plagiarism. To this day, I can recall Hitler describing his father as an “irascible tyrant” in Mein Kampf. And that was a from a book I forced myself to skim for research material back in high school! Do you know what it’s like for me to read something I enjoy? Do you know how much I can recall from Gregory Maguire’s Wicked? A LOT.

Thus, for me, reading other romantic suspense books is simply too risky. So I don’t.

But have I gone overboard? Authors, do you still read your sub-genre(s)? Everyone else, if you start writing would you stop reading your sub-genre(s)?

(Or maybe I could have stopped reading romantic suspense because most of my favorite romantic suspense authors have gone the way of mainstream suspense for better sales [does mainstream really sell more than romance?] and more respect.)

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