“How’d you like my story?” he asked, as I returned his edited manuscript.
We’d built up a good working relationship over the last few months but this was the limit. “C’mon, DH. You copied ‘The Horse Dealer’s Daughter’,” I said. He and I have been through this act before.
“Not really,” he said. “I saw a way to make it better.”
I almost laughed. “There’s no creativity in rewriting someone else’s stories. You copied at least one line verbatim.” He looked sheepish but shrugged it off. “Your lady, Sable Erwin, like Lawrence’s Mabel Pervin, after having been saved from drowning herself in the pond asks, ‘Who undressed me?’”
“I liked that line,” he said.
“You even used the same staircase scene from Lawrence’s story.”
“No, my staircase is on the opposite wall.” He held up his manuscript. “This is my story. All mine. And it’s better.”
“These are not yours. You simply rewrite other people’s stories by wearing out your Thesaurus. You’ve used lines straight from original bodies of work. Like…like that.” I gestured toward his manuscript. I was sickened by what he’d been doing all along. Frustrated, too, because I’d been editing his work and since I’m not as widely read, didn’t catch on right away. “When you submit these around, professional readers spot the similarities.”
“With all the writers around today, no one knows who wrote what anymore.”
“The only thing your rewriting is getting you is a reputation as the person with the most rejections.”
By now, I knew I’d better be careful of what I said. I wasn’t going to convince him of the error of his ways but I, at least, wanted to make a point. “I can’t edit you anymore,” I said. “And you needn’t continue to edit my work.”
“That’s fine with me. Your POVs are always confused anyway.”
“That’s because you read from a man’s point of view. I am woman. If I begin a story with “I” and the antagonist (opposing character) is named Bobby, and the “I” and Bobby is married, then the “I” is female. So you shouldn’t ask me to clarify “I” in the first sentence of the story.”
“Women use “Bobby.”
“Most likely spelled ‘Bobbi.’ You know I don’t write from a male POV.”
“Creativity works in many ways,” he snapped. He evidently thought the conversation on points of view too hot. “I happen to get inspired by the better writers.”
“But you’re not creating your own masterpieces. You’re just reworking theirs. That’s plagiarism any way you distort it.”
His expression told me I had said the dreaded word. “What about you?” he asked from the hot seat. “You read Hemingway’s ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ and that’s what inspired you to write ‘Caught in a Rip.’ That’s plagiarism. The Old Man is out at sea alone talking to himself. Your Lilly character is out at sea alone talking. What do you call that?”
“Well, first of all, The Old Man is talking to his marlin and to the sharks. He’s always safe because he’s in a boat and can see the lights of Havana to guide him back to shore.” I suddenly realized I didn’t have to defend myself but it was too late. “My ‘Lillian’ is in the water, out of sight of shore and most likely caught in the North Equatorial Current with nothing to her benefit but snorkel, mask and fins. And since she’s alone, it took practiced writing skills to get the reader to know that the dialog is interior monologue that everyone probably goes through before they die.”
“Same story,” he said. “You copied Hemingway.” Now he was acting like a person who saw the end of something good and meant to have the last say, but I wasn’t through.
“I read Hemingway’s book three or four times over two decades,” I said. “While it inspired my plots, by the time I wrote “The Tropics,” it had been three years since I last read the ‘The Old Man.’ I didn’t pick up Hemingway again until I was into the third draft of my ‘Caught in a Rip’ story.” He said nothing. I couldn’t help but finish making my point. “When did you ever put a book aside and never open it while writing you own story?”
“Don’t have to,” he said. He rolled the manuscript he held into a scroll and tapped it against a palm. “My plots come right from what I’ve read. Gotta catch inspiration when it happens.” He was so in denial.
“DH,” I said. “It’s one thing to be inspired by great writers; another to write your own story without copying.”
“You think I’m not writing my own stuff?” he said, whining.
“When’s the last time you’ve written your own story to final draft without looking at anything that someone else has written?”
He fidgeted, tapped the scroll against his hand again, thinking. He honestly looked like he didn’t understand, a way of acting at which I’ve come to learn he was very good.
I was into this way over my head but I didn’t want to read any more of his copy cat stories. And I didn’t want him reading any more of my stuff. Had anything I’d written inspired him, he’d probably already rewritten it and sent it out, so my stories wouldn’t have a chance if read by a same editor. “DH,” I said. “What about your name? You admit your DH Harvey is a pseudonym. No one knows your real name.”
“You think I care?”
“Well, now that I’ve read this takeoff on ‘The Horse Dealer’s Daughter,’ I think I know from where you derived your pen name.” I smiled pleasantly when I said that. I had wanted to end this conversation shortly but my curiosity prodded me onward.
“Oh, tell me, please.”
“My guess is you fancy yourself a Chekov or a Steinbeck or any of the others you’ve copied. Now that you’ve copied DH Lawrence, you’ve given away the secret of your pseudonym. Lawrence is both a first and last name. So is Harvey. Everyone knows your name is not DH Harvey or DH anything.”
Again he hedged. “One reason people use pseudonyms is that they don’t want their identities known.” So what did he have to hide?
“Let’s just end this, okay?” I tried to soften my words because when he tries he really does do a fine edit of my work. “I don’t want to exchange edits any more.”
“Okay,” he said and shrugged. “That leaves me more time to write. I found an opening chapter that I can rewrite for my next novel.”
I dared ask, “And what are you borrowing now?”
He looked smug. “I’ve just finished reading ‘The Idiot’ by Dostoyevsky,” he said. “And I know I can make it better.”
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“How’d you like my story?” he asked, as I returned his edited manuscript.
The hard facts about your public image as author publicity.
Author publicity has its own set of rules. Author promotion is another name that applies.
Something I noticed when I first began submitting stories for publication was that I got a lot of rejections. I couldn’t understand what was wrong with my writing when others had already read the pieces and said they were spectacular.
I’m compulsive and needed to know what was wrong. I dissected some of my rejected pieces, with the help of a friend, word for word, letter by letter, and you’ll never guess what we found.
I wasn’t as compulsive as I had first thought.
Letters missing or one little letter where it shouldn’t be, or misspelled words, or commas misplaced or just plain missing: Typos. Now I look at everything I send out or post on the Net.
Imperfect writing and typing gets rejected. That’s unless you happen upon a benevolent editor who likes your submission and who will correct your errors. My advice: Never count on that. It seldom happens. Too much good and perfect writing exists and they won’t bother with a piece of writing unless it’s near perfect.
Never let your guard down when rooting out those imperfections. Place it high on your list of writing rules.
If you think the quality of your work has nothing to do with author publicity, please think again. Anything that you put out into the public arena can be categorized as author promotion.
Would you promote yourself to be a second rate writer?
I can’t say that I don’t make typos anymore; I do, and I still miss a few. But what occurred to me was what anyone sends out in public, what they offer as a picture of themselves as a writer, is a picture of how well they have perfected their craft. What and how they write and present is their public persona, author publicity, whether positive or negative.
Exceptions may be when an electronic transmission of a body of writing gets garbled and drops a word or two. Or the publication’s production people make typos or other errors in your work.
Every writer needs to create a good image, and you’ll create one whether or not you believe that your submissions are considered author publicity.
No one wants to be known as a writer whose work is fraught with errors. No editor wants to read such gobble-de-gook. They regularly read the best of the best – and that is what a writer should aspire to be, or at least among the best. Many will not reach those heights—and not make an income from writing—if they submit prose that is impossible to get through in one easy read.
An editor doesn’t have the time to sit over a piece and decipher what the writer is trying to say because they can’t read it in the first place. Make them happy and they will ask for more of your work.
Then, if you think Web sites and blogs don’t matter? Suppose you send off a nearly perfect story and the editor loves it. You can bet they will check out your Web site and your blog (you’d better have one in today’s market) to see if you’re capable of rendering positive attention to yourself, and to the publicity of their publication.
Your website blog is your reputation.
So the editor goes to your blog and sees it is nothing but a rendering of yesterday’s headaches and a lot of bellyaching about everyone and everything and it generally serves no purpose but to make you look like a disgruntled complainer. Is that how you would handle your author promotion?
Your own words can undermine you. What could an editor expect you to do for them?
We’re writers. Stories, poetry, and information about craft are all we should be putting out into the public as we build author publicity.
Our private lives should be publicized at a minimum. Reserve something of yourself for that great publicity interview, if you get that far.
At this moment, do you know how an editor might perceive you if they happened upon your stories and postings? If you’re serious about a writing career, think about it.
In building your public persona, make every word count.
Follow the writing rules. Author publicity and author promotion are one and the same, and you will create it with every word you place in a public forum.
Child Finder: Resurrection, award-winning author Mike Angley’s second novel, is rich with sensory images and Catholic philosophy. Mixing those two very literary techniques with a bang-bang shoot-em-up tale might seem risky to some—and it is. However, Angley has created a super-hero who transcends comic-bookery while maintaining the genre’s idealistic view of good overcoming evil. He created this approach in his first book, Child Finder, but the reader will find a maturation of style and new complexity in plotting in Resurrection. In this story, not only does Major Pat O’Donnell, the psychic protagonist, talk to God and the Saints and Angels, but God and the Saints and Angels communicate back to him. It’s a nice touch. Read More