Romance novel plagiarism – or not?

There’s a storm in the romance novel world, concerning romantic novelist Cassie Edwards. I haven’t been following the story, but apparently the plagiarism issue was raised by the site Smart Bitches who Love Trashy Books.

From the AP story, a comparison between Ms Edwards’ novel and her source.

Nora Roberts says peer lifted material – Yahoo! News: “From ‘Savage Longings’:

‘The women who belonged to this society created ceremonial decorations by sewing quills on robes, lodge coverings, and other things made of the skins of animals. Snow Deer had told Charles that the Cheyenne women considered this work of high importance, and when properly performed, it was quite as much respected as were bravery and success in war among the men.’

From ‘Cheyenne Indians’:

‘Of the women’s associations referred to the most important one was that devoted to the ceremonial decoration, by sewing on quills, of robes, lodge coverings, and other things made of the skins of animals. This work women considered of high importance, and, when properly performed, quite as creditable as were bravery and success in war among the men.'”

Always attribute your sources, whatever you’re writing

The AP reports Ms Edwards said: “Edwards, interviewed earlier this week by the AP, acknowledged that she sometimes “takes” her material “from reference books,” but added that she didn’t know she was supposed to credit her sources.”

This is undoubtedly so. A romance novel isn’t a feature article in a magazine. If you were writing a magazine article, you’d send your sources with the copy, so the fact checkers could look over it.

However, even if you’re writing a novel, if you’re using reference material, you should always make a clear distinction between the sources you’ve used, and your own words. The above example is pretty close to the original – Ms Edwards should have used a little creativity to make the information her own, so to speak.

If you’re relying heavily on a source, as Ms Edwards obviously was, then it’s only polite to attribute at the end of the novel, with a “Thanks To” or “Sources” page. Many novelists do this, in many different genres. It’s a commonly accepted practice. It’s also polite and courteous to do this.

The fact that her publisher didn’t request this, really doesn’t absolve Ms Edwards; she owns the copyright of her novel (I assume) and if so, she’s responsible for what’s published under her name.

So if you’re using sources for your novel, do remember to include a “Sources” page, whatever you call it. It saves hassle – and most importantly, it’s polite to do so.

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Angela Booth is a top copywriter, multi-published author, and writing teacher. She offers many guides, courses and classes to help writers to enhance their skills on her websites. She also provides inspiration and motivation for writers on her writing blogs. Angela has been writing successfully since the late 1970s, and was online in the 1980s, long before the birth of the Web. Her business books have been widely published.