How to Cheat at Writing
There are a lot of ways for writers to cheat. We can plagiarize. We can write a bunch of fake 5-star reviews for our own books. We can set up multiple user names and have long conversations on our blogs to make our blogs seem busier than they really are. We can purchase copies of our own books to improve sales rank. I’ve thought about using all of those tactics (except for plagiarism… I have my pride).
The good thing about cheating at writing is that nobody knows what most writers look like. John Locke (a kind of prolific ebook author) paid people to write 5-star reviews for his books, but if I saw him on the streets I wouldn’t recognize him. Even if I did recognize him, I wouldn’t do anything to him. I’m a writer. I might write a harshly worded blog post about him, but I wouldn’t physically do anything to him. If John Locke had cheated at poker like he cheated at writing, he would have to fear for his safety. Writers usually aren’t violent (though we can write great fight scenes). Poker players are.
If you have to choose between cheating at poker or cheating at writing, cheat at writing.
I write this because I’ve just done something that might be considered cheating (but hopefully nobody will pick a fight with me over this).
A few months ago I wrote a serial narrative (it was a true story with a couple composite characters and a couple composite scenes and a little exaggeration… but not much) called “Long Story.” It was a story about a story I wrote in high school. Writing a story about a story is probably a bad idea. But I’ve had a lot of bad ideas when it comes to Dysfunctional Literacy. I tried a thing called Dysfunctional Grammar, and it… never mind. The point is, I took my serial “Long Story,” made a few changes (deblogified it), and have released it as an ebook called The Writing Prompt.
I don’t know if it’s considered cheating to write a story on a blog, and then self-publish it under a different name as an ebook. If it’s cheating, I’m trying to be honest about it. Maybe I’m plagiarizing myself. Whether it’s cheating or not, I promise not to review my own books (“They’re f***ing awesome!!!”), and I promise not to buy a bunch of them to improve sales rank.
What I’ve done isn’t unheard of. A lot of syndicated writers republish their work in different formats. Malcolm Gladwell published a book called What the Dog Saw that simply reprinted a bunch of his articles (many of which can be found for free online) from The New Yorker. The paperback book cost me $16.99 (which is expensive for a paperback, but it’s high quality paper.) The Writing Prompt is only 99 cents (but it is a lot shorter and maybe not nearly as insightful, and there’s no paper involved).
Even novels used to be published as serials in newspapers back in the old days (way before my time). The Three Musketeers (one of my all-time favorite books) was originally published as a serial in French newspapers, and I don’t think anybody accused Alexander Dumas of cheating. If anybody did, there was probably a good sword fight duel afterward to settle the matter.
I don’t care if people read “Long Story” on my free blog instead of paying 99 cents for The Writing Prompt. I’d rather people read my stuff for free than not read it at all. All of the jokes in my ebook Best Brand New Jokes Ever! are also on this blog, but they’re scattered all over the place and you have to read a lot of bad jokes (as in poorly written and not funny) to get to the ones that actually work (there are a few where I got it right, and those are the jokes I chose for the ebook).
If this is cheating, then I guess I cheat when I write. But I don’t cheat when I play poker.
- Plagiarism (really bad)
- Paying people to write 5-star reviews (pretty bad)
- Reviewing your own books under different names-sock puppeting (pretty bad)
- Using pictures of women in bikinis for stories that have nothing to do with women in bikinis (bad)
- Buying your own books to improve sales rank (bad)
- Taking your own blog material and releasing it as ebooks with different names (bad?)
What other ways are there to cheat in writing? I could probably use a few more new ideas.