Monthly Archives: December 2013

New Year Reflections

I generally enjoy New Year as a time for reflection, simply because I enjoy reflecting. 2013, like it’s predecessor, has been a year crowned with ongoing success uninhibited by even moderate setbacks. University has progressed splendidly, and over the summer I got the volunteering job I’ve always wanted.

Of course not everything has been perfect. This time last year I was hoping that by the close of 2013 I could point to a novel having been accepted for publication, as well as the completion of my 13th published short story. Neither objective was achieved, but that hasn’t caused any loss of sleep. This year saw the finale of Werekynd, which has been both a lucrative and highly enjoyable experience. It is, after all, my first published novella. My most worked-on novel to date, Ironfang, is also approaching the completion of its second draft. There are also a number of projects in the works for which I have much hope. So in essence, as far as writing is concerned, 2013 has been a year of steady buildup. 

If 2014 brings equal success I will be happy, but I’ll continue to strive for even better. Now seems like a good time to acknowledge all you followers, likers, rebloggers and book-buys who make all my work possible. You guys are the best. Have a happy, merry and prosperous New Year! 

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Merry Christmas Writerkin!

Merry Christmas Writerkin!

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December 24, 2013 · 11:26 pm

Copycats, Plagiarism and the Writer’s Voice

Look at that vile little Middle Class child copying that upstanding, bowtie-wearing young Upper Class gentleman.

I use Grammarly’s plagiarism checker because my shoulders aren’t broad enough to shield my laptop screen from those behind me in Starbucks.

Plagiarism is a curious beast. Something of a taboo in the publishing business, exactly what does and doesn’t constitute as copy-catting can be surprisingly vague.

I think most writers, myself included, have been forced to pause at least once and wonder ‘is this too close to that other work I read last month?’ There is nothing sinister in this – in order to flourish, all writers must be great readers. They improve their own craft through absorbing, both consciously and subconsciously, the writing styles and techniques of those who have come before. This is especially important when it comes to a writer’s unique ‘voice.’ The voice, we are told, is special to every writer and develops in a stately, unhurried fashion. It is not, however, something without pedigree. All voices are to a large extent conglomerations of the voices of other writers, given unique flavour when combined. As an example, I like to say my writing is the bastard child of historical fiction grandfather Bernard Cornwell and sci-fi master Dan Abnett. People sometimes say my work is a lot like theirs stylistically, and this is no coincidence – I grew up voraciously consuming their writing. Their genetic code is imprinted on my own style.

I think we’d all agree, however, that the development of the voice in harmony with those who came before does not construe plagiarism. We have in our heads the idea of plagiarism as something more pernicious. It is the parody of talent through the direct copying of another’s work. At University it is a constant spectre – we are told the departments possess extremely advanced plagiarism detection software through which all our essays and dissertations are run. We sign numerous forms declaring we have not in any way plagiarised or stolen anyone else’s work. We are told again and again to cite, cite, cite! But in my four years at University I’ve only ever heard a single story of someone being hauled in for plagiarism. Knowing some of the, ahem, characters we have at Uni and the dubious means they have of writing 3,000 words the night before a deadline, this makes me wonder whether Edinburgh really does possess this secret, masterful anti-plagiarism tech.

Or perhaps they simply struggle to define what is and what isn’t copying.

There’s a revealing myth among writers. It claims that there have only ever been a few purely original works ever written (the number varies from four to eight). All others have taken from these Ancestor Works in some small way or another. Nothing is without precedent, because everything has been done before. The best we can hope to do is avoid cliche and add a new spin. This seems truer than ever today, what with the rash of remakes, sequels and prequels to well-established works.

Not that this should daunt us or in any way inhibit the creative drive that makes us writers. All it means is that we shouldn’t feel too bad when inspired to write by someone else’s work. Supposedly they all did it, Shakespeare, Dickens, the lot. Nobody can prove that they plagiarised, because they didn’t – they simply took inspiration from others. And ultimately, what greater compliment could a writer receive? Inspiration is the root of creativity, and to bring it out in in others is something we should all aspire to.

Just don’t copy them word for word!

And now for a fun game of “is he a cyberterrorist or an NSA agent!”

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Women’s Charity Books and a Special Mention

ImageA twofold post on this fine midwinter Sunday. Firstly, a few weeks back the latest anthology featuring my writing hit ebook and print. The attentive among you may recall the “create a female superhero” challenge. Well, this is the end product – a tidy little volume featuring the splendid flash fiction of 23 talented author, and 1 hanger-on Robbie. Apart from adding some much-needed female representation to the world of the superhero, the best thing is all the money SuperHERo Tales raises goes towards women’s charities. It’s a nice little gift for the Christmas Season.

Part two of this blogpost is a small but very happy shoutout to one Taylor L Scheid. She’s probably wondering why. The reason is she’s my 200th follower! It helps that she’s also a fellow-writer of the werewolves, gore included (there are also vamps but we don’t hold it against her). Go check her and her awesomesauce blog out!

There are more announcements, festive and otherwise to come, but I’ll hold off until the next SITREP sometime just before Christmas. Until then, may your log fires be full and your carpet pine needle free!

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The Pit

I’m currently celebrating my greatest victory from a computer in Hell.

Okay, so it’s technically not a victory yet. I have to wait until January to get my results back, so I could have totally bombed out on those two English Language essays. But considering the fact that I’ve never once failed an essay – including the last two EL ones I submitted, which were just horrible – I’d go so far as to say that I’m hopeful.

And with that it’s all over. No more English Language for me. After 3.5 years I have officially completed half of my join Honours Degree at the University of Edinburgh. Next semester it’s just me and History – I think it’s safe to say we’re both looking forward to it.

EL hasn’t been all bad. I’ve made plenty of great friends, learned a load of stuff and heck, I even enjoyed some of the dialectology. I mean, do you know the reason “mutton,” “pork,” “beef” and other words relating to meat sound nothing like “sheep,” “pig,” or “cow,” the creatures they originate from? No, don’t Google it. It’s because the former words are Old French in origin and the latter Old English. English and French blended together after the Norman conquest of 1066, giving us what is basically the halfbreed language we have today.

Then there’s the fun fact that actually, contrary to what we Albions like to think USA accents and spellings are more “correct” than the British versions. In the 16th century everyone use to sound the way some American dialects still do today – it was the Brits who changed over time, not their colonial offspring.

But I’m getting carried away! That’s all behind me now, for better or for worse. I suppose you’re wondering what gave me the liberty to use that opening hook one-liner and scandalously draw you into this dull meander through my current goings-on. Am I really in Hell? Well no, or if I am my sins must have been mild indeed. Let me explain.

Edinburgh Uni owns many grand and splendid premises across the city. Many of my fellow-students would not rank the derelict Hugh Robson Building as one of them. But to me it is a delight, a secret garden of meditation wherein I am uncovering the Muse with ever-greater regularity. For, you see, the basement of the much-maligned Hugh Rob Building is in fact a veritable cathedral of computer workstations.

The blessed sight itself.

Nicknamed the Bunker, the Pit, the Depths or simply ‘Hell,’ when students have been unable to win the coveted prize of a free desktop slot in our labyrinthine Library across the campus square they come here. The place is hallowed ground, its musty chairs and benches made sacred by the raw terror and stress of a thousand-thousand students during exam period. It’s one of my favourite places on campus, because unlike those hardworking busybodies, I only descend the bleak staircase into the Bunker when I’ve found half an hour to get some writing done.

And now that I’ve finally vanquished English Language I’m going to have a lot of spare time over the coming months to write-write-write. Not boring essay stuff, but actual I-just-made-it-up action-packed fictioney stuff. So expect more post! More SITREPS. Even book reviews! *gasp*

All I want for Christmas is a chance to chillax with my blogbuddies, and it looks like that’s exactly what I’m going to get. Season’s greetings to you all, from hell!

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