The qualities that define a writer

Here’s a post by Alma Alexander at Book View Cafe, in which she details a particularly brainless instance of plagiarism. It *is* funny, honestly, in an appalling way:

Author Cassie Edwards – who, after what appears to have been a steady stream of books and a sweet career in the romance field, should really know better – appears to be unable to tell the difference between research and out-and-out copycatting. In her book entitled “Shadow Bear”… Edwards commits the ultimate stupidity. She not only completely cut-and-paste plagiarizes something word for word, she takes what was a scholarly study on the black-footed ferret and tries to stuff the whole thing into (inappropriate) dialogue. What’s more, she uses a study whose author is still alive and kicking…

One does wonder, given this, whether Edwards’ career was actually ever based on her own writing. At least, I do. In fact, you might have heard of pretty serious allegations regarding Edwards’ work because all this really hit the internet back in 2008. I’d more or less forgotten, but Google reminds me that it was Smart Bitches Trashy Books that brought this into the spotlight, and shortly thereafter, says Wikipedia, Signet dropped Edwards, though I don’t know how that all worked out in the end.

While I certainly do not claim to know The Truth, I must say that the passages Alexander quotes in her post are hilariously bad.

Shiona then tells Shadow Bear how she once read about ferrets in a book she took from the study of her father. “I discovered they are related to minks and otters. It is said their closest relations are European ferrets and Siberian polecats,” she says. “Researchers theorize that polecats crossed the land bridge that once linked Siberia and Alaska, to establish the New World population.”

Shadow Bear responds: “What I have observed of them, myself, is that these tiny animals breed in early spring when the males roam the night in search of females.” As the ferrets bound off into some distant bushes, he continues: “Mothers typically give birth to three kits in early summer and raise their young alone in abandoned prairie dog burrows.”

Wow, what romantic pillow talk. And I say that as someone who would be happy to explain to some hot romantic dude that of course ferrets belong to the Mustilidae family and are more closely related to dogs than to the mongooses they resemble.

Anyway, in this post Alma Alexander is making several different points, about believability, and about the importance of editors who are paying attention, and about how crucial research is and how different that is from plagiarism.

But here is the ultimate take-home message:

There are many lists of attributes that have been floating around as being necessary for, or defining, a writer. Perseverance. Faith in yourself and your work. Industriousness. Professionalism.

I would like to add one more, without which none of the others are worth much.


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