I tend to be a Naive Nell. I feel one of my best qualities is I see the best in everyone. What’s my greatest weakness? I see the best in everyone. I also like to give new people opportunities. I know that without people like Candy Havens, Bob Mayer, Les Edgerton, James Scott Bell, Agent Laurie McLean and others, I wouldn’t be where I am, which is an AWESOME place, namely because you guys are here.
This said, I like to pay it forward. Ah, but paying it forward can bite back, and I’ve been bitten way more times than I care to admit.
So back to stupid. NO, EPIC stupid.
I don’t even think I should have to blog about this, because COME ON! Plagiarism? In this day and age? REALLY????
But, we live in a world that must caution us not to blow-dry our hair in the shower or use power saws while sleeping, so here goes.
Plagiarism. Yes, it happens.
And I don’t like telling this story, namely because it makes me look like the World’s Biggest Jack@$$, but hey. I’m willing to be embarrassed if you guys can get something useful out of it.
A Little History
A few years ago, I decided to try a different kind of writing workshop. I’d been in a traditional “let’s read 5 pages and critique” group, and, while that was a lot of fun and I learned a lot, I felt the format couldn’t handle larger works, particularly novels. Thus, a handful of the members and I decided to meet for a content critique group that focused more on making sure authors began with a solid plot structure. Line-edit was for later.
We all grew exponentially as artists.
Excited about what this format did in person, I was eager to try an on-line version to help authors who couldn’t make a meeting in Fort Worth, TX. I didn’t know if it would work (it didn’t, btw), but it was at least worth a try. Shortly after starting the workshop, however, my grandmother became suddenly ill. She was in and out of the hospital and I had a one-year-old and deadlines, blah, blah, blah. So I asked one of the original members of the in-person critique group, Terrell Mims, to help me with the critique as a co-instructor.
Because he was blogging on craft and his blogs were OUTSTANDING. He was proof this new format worked. He’d gone from not knowing his @$$ from a hole in the ground to writing lessons that rivaled my own (and I spent MONTHS reading every craft book I could find).
Even when I talked to him on the phone, he was quite insightful about craft, frequently quoting books like The Writer’s Journey, Hooked, Save the Cat , Plot and Structure and Bullies, Bastards and Bitches (all FABULOUS books and recommended reading for the workshop).
His blogs were superlative, and he was quick to give credit to me and to WANA for his growth as a writer.
Anyway, Terrell was ideal to help with the on-line version of the workshop. He was single and had just moved back to his home state and was looking for employment there while waiting on his state teaching certification, meaning he had the time. He’d earned a degree in English (supposedly) and had even been teaching high school English (allegedly), so it was no stretch to believe that he’d produced the content in his drop-dead-awesome-blogs.
In the workshop?
Over time, I started noticing that we were giving almost identical feedback to the participants. I believed it was because we were seeing the same things. Yeah, that “believing the best in people” thing. I wasn’t noticing that his comments were always after mine.
My grandmother continued to be in and out of the hospital and by that August, my favorite aunt was ill as well and SHE was in and out of the hospital (often they were in adjacent rooms). A month later, my aunt passed away and the family was reeling. Since Terrell seemed to be seeing the same things I was, I said, “Well why don’t you take over for the initial assignments and I will only look at the final stuff? This way we lose the redundancy and I can take care of my family.”
I needed the help. I was choking. On top of all the health crises, we received orders my husband was deploying to Afghanistan. I was so desperate to keep the workshop going and keep to my word to the writers who’d trusted me that—*lets out long, dejected breath*—that I even paid $50 to send him a small BRAND NEW laptop I wasn’t using because his had crashed.
I know. I’ve already kicked myself a thousand times.
This is when things got weird.
Once Terrell was on his own, his critiques suddenly ranged from all-out-flaming-bizarre to moronic. Complaints started piling in, and yet I defended my choice. I said, “Well, look at his blogs. I have no idea where this critique came from. I’ll talk to him.” When I talked to him in person, he seemed to understand the craft. Yet, it felt like I was dealing with two or even three different people.
Long and short of it was Terrell got caught, and he dragged my good name and WANA through the mud with him. Not only had he wholesale copied posts—PICTURES AND ALL—from Cracked.com, he was kind enough to mention ME as his mentor and to thank WANA for the support.
So one day I am bee-bopping along when suddenly @HolyTaco calls me out on Twitter as a plagiarist, or that, rather, I train plagiarists, and I’m all like WTH? When I confronted Terrell, he lied and told me the guy was just a troll looking for a fight. Terrell then takes down the posts he stole, but here is the thing…
THE INTERNET IS FOREVER!!!!!
One of the reasons I strongly recommend against blogging about sex, politics and religion (unless it’s part of your platform) is that, if it explodes in our face? WE CAN’T UN-DETONATE. It is troll fodder FOREVER. Trolls have mad computer skills and a lot of free time.
This is also a reason NOT TO STEAL PEOPLE’S STUFF.
Terrell doesn’t seem to understand the depth of his sin. Writers are like elephants and we remember everything FOREVER.
Not only did he make me look like the biggest dope on the planet—“Oh, here little
chickens writers, here is a wolf Terrell to guard you and your eggs stories”—but he had absolutely NO problem dragging my good name (that I actually worked my tail off to build) through the digital mud. He also had no problem dragging the WANAs through the mud.
So we all pounce on him and run him out of Cyberland, yet he still keeps resurfacing under new names. And this isn’t my problem. My problem is he KEEPS STEALING. His post yesterday—that he’s taken down because he’s been BUSTED by the WANA Justice League headed by Digital Wonder Woman @JamiGold and the WANAvengers ruled by Digital Dark Knight @JayTechDad—was STOLEN from freaking FORBES. FORBES?????!!!!
(I am Thora-Xena for those who wonder :D…a lot)
Is this just a special kind of stupid? WARNING: Please do NOT let Terrell near your shower with a hair dryer.
I am all for forgiveness, but we have to actually be repentant and CHANGE, and the only thing Terrell Mims is sorry for is BEING CAUGHT. When he originally humiliated me and dragged my good name through the mud, I didn’t make it public because 1) I was mortified and 2) if he DID mend his ways he’d have a harder time recovering.
Yeah. I’m all out of grace, and the innocent need protection.
What I don’t get is that you guys have no idea the kind of free time Terrell has. Why steal? He knew the material he originally plagiarized, so just freaking write it DOWN.
I am a mother, a wife, I run a global business with 30+ instructors, blog 5 days a week, teach, travel, do most of the yard and housework, all the shopping and all the cooking, AND I WRITE MY OWN STUFF! I may not wear makeup or clean clothes, but my writing is MINE…unless you didn’t like it and that was from the aliens who sometimes hack into my brain :D.
Hell Hath No Fury Like a WANA Scorned
WANA is a fabulous community that will help your platform grow exponentially, but love has a price and that price is integrity. Betray that trust and GAME OVER.
DO NOT STEAL.
Digital-Wonder Woman and the Digital Dark Knight Will Smite the Wicked. HOLY TACO!
We have CRAZY talent in WANA. No seriously, they’re crazy. Why else would they hang out with US? Some of the WANAs have MAD SKILLZ so don’t mess with them. Jami will tie you in a Lasso of Whoop@$$ that looks a lot like her blog. Here is her Storify of the #MyWANA “Outing of the Shunned” for those who doubt. The WANA Justice League and WANAvengers are also sometimes assisted by the chaotic neutral Holy Taco who first ousted Mims.
And I am sorry this post breaks my promise to be brief, but there are wolves out there and I want you guys to be prepared.
Some Helpful Tips
Don’t Plagiarize. You WILL Get Caught.
Seems like a no-brainer, but apparently there are some brainless folks out there. There are sites like Copyscape that can check to see if your stuff’s being stolen. There is also the Internet archive of, oh…EVERYTHING at Wayback. And might I remind everyone of the WANA Justice League and WANAvengers?
There is NO reason to plagiarize.
In the new paradigm, we know our stuff needs to be shared. We WANT you to share it or we wouldn’t put all those share buttons all over the place. Sharing and stealing are different for anyone who is confused.
Get a cold? Kids get the flu? On a deadline and have no blog to post? Reblog one of MY POSTS. I freely offer my content so long as I get credit.
I am not alone. Most people are cool with sharing, we just want the credit for the work we did. That’s FAIR. Mims could have avoided ALL of this with a simple reblog. Post the first paragraph then hyperlink to the original post and give credit to the person who actually did the work.
Mims has content and original blogger has new readers.
Everyone is happy.
Rat Poison is NOT Candy–DO NOT EAT
Don’t use a curling iron in the shower, a radio in the bathtub, a chainsaw while cooking, and, for the love of all that is chocolate, DO NOT DRIVE WHILE SLEEPING!
Aren’t you glad I give all this free advice? 😀
So there it is. Not only did I trust an epic-moron-sociopathic-thief in my workshop, but I provided him a new computer to help him steal more efficiently. Yes, I want a DeLorean so I can go back in time and kick my OWN @$$.
I still give opportunity to newbies, and I’ve continued to get burned, but the handful who make it? The ones that shine? They make it worth any amount of pain.
So let Terrell Mims or CDLaune or Captain Assclown or whatever he calls himself be a cautionary tale to NOT BE STUPID. Writers are generous. We will help you. No need to steal. Really.
So what are your thoughts? Fears? Suggestions for tarring and feathering on-line?
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of January, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.
At the end of January I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!
I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.