Saturday, June 29, 2013

My new plagiarism policy

I have decided I am going to place a disclaimer on my freelancer page and in my contracts stating that if someone sends me plagiarized work to edit, I will charge a $25 fee and return it to them. If they want to hire me to fix it, they will have to post a new job on Guru, invite me to it, and if I have time I will apply.

Plagiarism is just too nasty to try and fix. It takes up too much of my time. Although I edit 20,000 - 40,000 words per day and I write 10,000- 15,000 words per day, I can only fix about 2,000 plagiarized words per day.

I hope that placing this disclaimer will keep people from plagiarizing, but even if it doesn't it will let me back out of doing the job for them.

The last person I rewrote something for wanted to take it back and rewrite it himself to save money. When I told him I didn't want him to do that, he first told me to take my time fixing it and then demanded it immediately. If I would not have had the editing job with him, I would have given it back to him and said "do it yourself" from the start.

The problem is that I already put time into editing the manuscript before I usually catch plagiarism. For me to hand it back to them without getting payment is causing me to lose money for the time I already put into it. On the other hand, keeping it and rewriting it myself takes too much of my time away from other jobs. I feel this is the fairest way for me to get the money I earned and for them to get the work done in a timely fashion.

What do you think?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Writing for myself

Obviously freelance writing here and there is not as profitable as writing your own stuff and publishing it under your own name. However, it is a whole lot easier to get paid if you freelance.
The problem is, that like all authors, I want to make it. I want to be an author and make enough money so that I an do it full time and cover all my bills (especially my college debt).

But the difficulty is finding the time. I have a competed study guide that I want to self-publish. However, it needs just a little more tweaking because I originally wrote it in the style of certain published study guides. Unfortunately when I sent it, the company had decided to discontinue that line. Now I have to fix it, but I am so busy trying to get jobs and finish the jobs that I haven't had time to tweak it, copyright it, and self-publish it.

I also have a romance novel that is halfway finished. And a children's book that just needs pictures. It is very frustrating to not be able to complete these projects because I am too busy with others that give me instant money.

Then there is my husband's book. This is a fully complete book. However, if you have followed my blog at all, you know my technology curse. I sent a query by email to the agent I wanted to represent it, and have seen no response despite following the rules and waiting. Then I checked my sent mail box to see when I sent it, and I found the query had disappeared. Sigh. Time is the only thing I don't have and yet I find myself constantly needing to make more of it.

Saturday, June 22, 2013


Today I am editing a minister's book. I didn't necessarily apply for this job. Actually, I applied to edit a dissertation. However, the woman writing the dissertation wanted me to edit this book for her minister as well.
It is very difficult editing a book on Biblical doctrine when you don't have the same doctrine. As an editor, you need to smooth content (this is not true in all cases, but it is true for this particular job). Sometimes people write things and do not realize they are not coming across as they probably want them to come across. But you also should not change the meaning of something that the author wants to leave that way.
In some cases, like when you are writing fiction for someone, you can write or edit something that you know is completely false - after all it is fiction. Usually, I will send a quick note to the employer and inform them of the error and then explain why I am going to keep it.
Non-fiction is another story. In most cases, I will let the author know their is an error and I ask if they want me to fix it. I have been quite stubborn in the past about not writing stuff I know is false. However, how do you tell a minister he's wrong about something? Especially if it is something that could be a matter of opinion?
Needless to say, I do not generally bid on non-fiction Christian books - even just to edit. But, I bid on the dissertation and this is a side job of that. Sigh.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


I have it posted all over my profile and generally in each of my bids that I do not work on Saturdays or Sundays. To some extent this is true, but I don't "work" Saturdays because I generally spend the day going through my leads. Occasionally, I will see a rush job and do it on Saturday. And, of course, when I have a Monday deadline and I don't have the work done, I will also do that. However, I only rarely check my email on Sundays and I avoid taking on new jobs.

So, of course someone contacted me on Sunday wanted a job completed by 5 AM Monday. I checked the bid, and right there it was: "I do not work Saturdays or Sundays." Since I do not check my email on Sunday and even if I did, this kind of message would not have come to me - I would have had to log in to Guru since the employer had not actually hired me - I did not receive it until 8AM. I tried to let the person know that I would be happy to rush it through in 6 hrs (it was a complete mess) but I never received word back.

It is tough losing a job, but if you show up to Target at 2:00AM, do you really think you are going to get in?

Had the guy contacted me Friday and told me he was getting a job in Sunday and then completed the hiring, contract, and SafePay set up, I probably would have accepted it. But he didn't. And he didn't call me like a certain other employer I posted about several weeks ago. (It is really hard to say "No, I am not going to take your money and do this job" when you are talking to someone on the phone.)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Taking notes

Everyone who writes needs to take notes at some time or another. I write fiction as well as non-fiction, and to make my fiction good, I need to do some research.

To serve as an example, I am taking this source material from Wikipedia:
"The Victorian era of British history was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence for Britain.[citation needed] Some scholars date the beginning of the period in terms of sensibilities and political concerns to the passage of the Reform Act 1832. The era was preceded by the Georgian period and followed by the Edwardian period. The latter half of the Victorian age roughly coincided with the first portion of the Belle Époque era of continental Europe and the Gilded Age of the United States.
Culturally there was a transition away from the rationalism of the Georgian period and toward romanticism and mysticism with regard to religion, social values, and the arts.[1] In international relations the era was a long period of peace, known as the Pax Britannica, and economic, colonial, and industrial consolidation, temporarily disrupted by the Crimean War in 1854. The end of the period saw the Boer War. Domestically, the agenda was increasingly liberal with a number of shifts in the direction of gradual political reform, industrial reform and the widening of the voting franchise.
Two especially important figures in this period of British history are the prime ministers Gladstone and Disraeli, whose contrasting views changed the course of history. Disraeli, favoured by the queen, was a gregarious Tory. His rival Gladstone, a Liberal distrusted by the Queen, served more terms and oversaw much of the overall law-making of the era."

Now, this is not plagiarized because I told you I got it from Wikipedia and I am going to tell you I got it here: today (6-12-13). Now, this is how I would take notes on it:
Victorian England: 20 jun 1837 to 22 Jan 1901 (Queen Vic. reign), linked to Reform Act 1832 ?, Belle Epoque era? Gilded Age? comparable times on continent and U.S., from rationalism to romanticism/mysticism, also Pax Britannica period, Boer War ended (when?), Gladstone? and Disraeli? important Prime Ministers on opposite ends of political spectrum.

Notice that my notes are very brief. Even when I am writing non-fiction I am careful to only grab the points I need for my writing. When I need to find out more, I put a question mark after it. When I know enough about something I do not (note Pax Britannica does not have a "?" after it). When I need all the information a sentence provides I rewrite it in my notes and then rewrite it again in my manuscript.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Plagiarism II

So, this brings me to my next assignment, which I should be working on right now but decided to blog about instead.

In this case, a non-medical person wanted me to edit medical pamphlets he wishes to distribute. As I was working, I noticed that some of the information was word-for-word to the websites I was referencing to check the information. In other cases, some words were dropped or changed that actually made the information wrong so I had to correct it. By doing so, it became the original.

Now, this guy is not paying the best, but I am willing to rewrite it for him and edit it because he is paying more than I would charge to do the edit alone. This time, he is the one who "wrote" it, so I am waiting to see what his response is. Officially, his document cleared my plagiarism checker (which made me wonder if the quality of that is not as good as I thought). However, I know that he is writing stuff word-for-word because I can see it, so I do not need an online checker to tell me.

Once again the key is to take good notes not comprehensive notes.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Rewriting vs. plagiarism

Most new non-fiction authors do not understand what plagiarism is. Frequently, they think they can just write the exact same thing but only change a few of the words with a thesaurus. This is still plagiarism.

Plagiarism is:
Several beginning non-fiction writers do not understand what plagiarism is. Often, they believe, they can just write the same thing, and only have to change a few of the words. This is still plagiarism.

Rewriting is:
Beginning non-fiction authors are frequently caught in the trap of plagiarism because they do not understand what the term means. Often, new authors will write the exact same thing as the original without even realizing they are doing it because they use a thesaurus to change some of the words. Even though it is slightly different, they are still plagiarizing.

In the case of the author I mentioned in the previous post, she often wrote grammatically incorrect in order to change the sentences. This is not acceptable. If you are only using one source for your information - you are probably going to plagiarize. I learned this in sixth grade when I wrote a report on the Dead Sea Scrolls. The problem was that the information I found was written so well that it was exactly what I wanted to say how I wanted to say it. It started with my notes, which I only omitted a few words from. My teacher recognized immediately that my sentence structure was extraordinarily advanced even for a child in the honors class. She called me on it, and I did what all people who plagiarize do - denied it. Now, before you get on your high horse and say that I was lying, remember - plagiarists rarely know what they are doing is plagiarism. I did not, but in order to defend my case I looked into it and now I would definitely say I had done it.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Plagiarism I

In the past few weeks, I have received two documents to edit that have been plagiarized. In one case, the document had been written as a part of another project and the person who hired me did not realize that the health and nutrition worksheet was actually Dr. Oz's diet plan.

In this case, I began doing the edit, and thought it was very strange that this health worksheet was talking about the background of Dr. Oz's friend. However, anyone can hire me, so I thought I could be editing something for Dr. Oz's publicist. Then, as I continued reading, I came to a recipe that had no instructions. Now, most recipes are just rewrites from the internet or close enough to other recipes that I can figure out what to do. So, when the person who hired me said he would try to get in touch with the author for the directions, I just told him I would look it up. And when I did, I found the exact same recipe written using the same words. The author (who was foreign) had taken the one recipe and split it into two recipes which is why their were no directions - they were all at the bottom of the next recipe. The only major change she had done was to write "6 cups broccoli" as "broccoli 6 cups."

I decided to run a plagiarism check and found it to be 75% copied. That is when I discovered it was Dr. Oz's diet plan. When you inform your employer that he/she has plagiarized material, you never know how he/she is going to react. In this case, the employer was irate at the author and paid me to rewrite it for him.

The problem is that editing is (supposed to be) quick. Rewriting is not.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Editing 101

So when you are editing a document for someone else, it is standard practice to do it with track changes "on." (For those of you who have never used this feature it is located in the "tools" section of MSWord.) This is a very valuable tool, because sometimes the author wants to keep certain items that are not grammatically correct. Consider these examples:

"You should be careful who you go to bed with." is not a grammatically correct sentence because it ends in a preposition. However,

"You should be careful with whom you go to bed." may not sound right to the author of the piece.

Track changes allows the editor to edit and the changes are marked in a color such as red, and then the author can accept or reject those changes (en masse or one-by-one). Another feature of MSWord allows you to add comments. This is also helpful for beginning writers, because they can have their work critiqued directly in document.

So, as you can imagine, I had a person hire me to edit their document. When I edit, I have a process that effectively checks the document three times. But in this case, there was a lot of red by the time I had done the second check (a line edit). So, I sent it to the author and asked her to accept or reject the changes so I could do the final edit. She was in shock. Instead of getting a nice complete document back, she opened it to find a sea of red. She quickly asked me to "just edit it" because it was due. So, I accepted all my changes for her. It was very odd for me.

Although I am not obligated to do it, I will probably teach this person how to use this function. It creates an atmosphere of teamwork that any ghostwriter should have with their credited author.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Blogging break

So, I had to take a blogging break for a week or so. I would like to say I went to some exotic local and forgot my computer at home, but the truth is far less luxurious. In truth, my husband and son went on a trip together.

I might have been able to hang on to everything I was doing and continue with my blogging, but a series of unfortunate events not dissimilar to the books of the same names converged upon that week. You see in the beginning of May, I ran a week's worth of Teacher Appreciation at my son's school. This put me a little behind, but the next week, I knew I would catch up. Unfortunately, the Broadway Musical "Wicked" was in town and even more unfortunately, a local dresser broke her foot creating an emergency situation that I was called in to take care of the week after Teacher Appreciation. So another week was spent working on that and I fell further behind. Then the principal quit to retire in Florida, and I spent a week dealing with PTO elections, passing a card for students to sign, and taking care of the 8th grade awards ceremony and dance. And the very next week, my husband left and I had to deal with book check in which did not move smoothly.

I would like to say that the worst casualty of this was that I let my blog go for a little more than a week. However, that is only the second worst tragedy. The worst tragedy is that during this past month I have been unable to make it to the library, so I just had to pay $94 in overdue fines. Ouch!

Thursday, June 6, 2013


So, I just finished a screenplay on a very difficult subject. If you want to write screenplays, I recommend several things. First, invest in Final Draft. Final Draft is very expensive but impressive. It automatically formats your writing to industry standards. It also autocompletes everything you want to write such as character names, locations, and standard directions. It also automatically saves every five minutes and will automatically open the last project you were working on. It allows you to click a menu option to register your script, and you can save it in a PDF file.

Final Draft, like any software, makes scriptwriting easy, but it also needs to be learned. It is not idiot proof. If you decide to go in and edit margins or other formatting, you may find yourself in a heap of trouble with a non-standard (read non-sellable) script.

No writer should become too attached to their work. This is especially true with a screenplay. To give my client the best service, I submitted mine to a professional reader. These people are paid to read scripts and give production companies a thumbs up or thumbs down. Paying one to read your script is a great way to get good feedback, but you have to be careful. The difference in price is great. Some are around $60 (I would cringe if anyone charged less than this) and some can cost thousands (again I would cringe at this price but for different reasons.