Friday, October 2, 2009

Blocking the Writing Prompts

I used to wonder what Writer's Block was; I couldn't imagine not having something to write about. Then someone asked me to pen a particular piece and I finally knew. Writer's Block is when you don't have the right something to write about.

My usual problem's more like Writer's Glut - so many ideas I can't decide which to use. And that's where Writing Prompts came in. I joined Gather and other online writing communities. I found "Use this sentence," "Start with these words," "Include these word-pairs," "Build on this paragraph," and "Man called X meets woman called Y then something explodes," etc... And I wrote.

I wrote an awful lot of stories based on prompts. They piled up in an overflowing folder on my computer. Then I sorted them into mysteries, drama, scifi, childrens, tragedies... I edited, re-edited, fixed and changed them, and lost all sight of where they'd came from. Then slowly, oh so slowly, I plucked up courage to even try submitting to magazines.

This week I read an article which accused someone of plagiarism. Initially the claim was he'd used the same six-word sentence as someone else. Not hard to do I thought. But the accuser searched the internet and found more - longer sentences, matching phrases, even a whole paragraph...

And then I wondered what writing prompts might have inspired this writer. "Use this sentence?" "Start with these words?" "Incorporate this paragraph...?"

Perhaps I ought to try blocking those writing prompts and find another way out of Writer's Glut.


Terry Odell said...

I remember weekly writing exercises from an On line group. Many of them led to things that after much transmogrifcation, ended up being published.

Then there are all the 'ideas' that I have, and I write them, only to see that someone else has published something with a smiliar circumstance.

I'm not going to worry about being accused of plagiarism. (Someone would actually have to buy my books first, which would be a good thing!). Just today, during my blog-hopping, I found at least two blogs on the subject of mentors.

(And if you want to see what one of those writing exercises turned into, the piece I did for that group is now part of "The Other Side of the Page" which is a free download from Cerridwen Press.

Sheila Deeth said...

Thanks Terry. That's encouraging, and I'll try not to be too neurotic.

I really enjoyed the Other Side of the Page.

Terry Odell said...

Glad you enjoyed the story, Sheila. My characters seem to enjoy themselves when I'm not around.

Brian G Ross said...

Having a similar idea to another person is not a crime, or even writing it in a similar style. The same six word sentence is no big deal either, but the rest of that story is... history.

You should only worry about plagiarism if you're actually copying someone else's text. No worries - I'm sure you ain't.


bearmancartoons said...

I have been trying to spread the writers prompt

"Bearman is so great because..."

But no one is picking up on it.

Kathryn Magendie said...

In classes I took years back we used writing prompts and I always hated them, but once I got going, things worked out okay ....I'm like you, have to control the chaos.

Hywela Lyn said...

I don't worry too much about things like this. I've come across similar ideas from totally diffrent writers many times, and once I came across the exact same sentence I'd written and I know it was pure coincidence.

I don't often write from prompts since most of them don't fit into what I write, (Futuristic and Fantasy Romance) but when I've done so with a group, I've found nearly always everyone has a completely different slant on the same prompt.

Thank you so much for your support, by the way.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Plagiarizing six words is a joke unless it's something extreme and out of the ordinary. Reading someone else's work can remain in your brain when you're writing and you think it's something original that you've thought up yourself.

maryrussel said...

Funny you should mention this. Yesterday my nephew mentioned he had read one of my Flickertail & Paint stories on a joke site using different characters. I asked him to supply me with a link. He couldn't. I believe what happened is that about a month ago I sent him my story in an email and he remembered reading it. I won't be sending him any more of those emails since he practically accused me of plagiarism on a public site. You would have thought he would have at least had the decency to bring it up in a private email to me.