Sunday, April 2, 2017

Is Plagiarism the Accepted Way?

I recently started a discussion about plagiarism on Fiverr's online forum. This discussion was very educational to me.

The back story is simply that I've received a number of recent requests via Fiverr to rewrite existing information to make it look like another person's original work. I have declined each request because it looks like plagiarism to me. I even had to modify my gig descriptions to state that I do not work with plagiarized information, nor do I rewrite or, as some call it, "spin" articles.

I started the discussion because I was shocked at the number of people requesting this and also shocked at their lack of shame at taking someone else's work and wanting to make it their own (or, rather, have me make it their own). Not one of them sent me work they said was their own; they all said it was work they'd taken off the internet and some even sent me links to the work instead of copying and pasting it into a document.

Merriam-Webster defines plagiarism as, ":  to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own :  use (another's production) without crediting the source" and ":  to commit literary theft :  present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source"

The comments on the discussion were varied. Some felt that taking someone else's work and modifying it was perfectly acceptable and others felt it wasn't. A couple people compared it to using a template to write with, like those used in writing romance or mystery novels, citing that every Angela Lansbury mystery starts out and ends up the same, just some details are changed.

I think using a writing template is far different than taking someone's original work and passing it off as your own.

One person commented that creating original content seems to be a dying art. I agree.

One person said, "Today, plagiarism is a common thing."

Many people had an entirely different definition of plagiarism, one person even telling me that I don't understand the meaning of the word.

Do we just accept that and not strive for better?

Where do you stand on plagiarism?

Write well.
Write often.
Just write.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Successful Query Letter

I recently sold an article to a new-to-me magazine, The Christian Standard. I had not written for them before, nor had I pitched to them before. This was my first pitch, my first query, and it paid off big time. Not only are they publishing this first article from me, they pay well and have invited me to write more for them.

All this from one simple query.

I am not an expert query letter writer. I have rarely written them over the years and never like this one - out of the blue, unsolicited.

There's a back story. I have been a regular writer for one publication house for nearly 30 years and they recently recruited me to write on a specific topic. I gladly complied, signed the contract and wrote the article. However, even though they liked the article, before it could go to print, they changed their minds and decided not to print it. They said their needs had changed. The editor who had recruited me was no longer employed there.

But, I really like the article and was going to put it in my blog, but I felt it should see more of an audience than my blog offers. So, I searched around on the internet and decided to send a query letter to another publication.

My query was simple:

Good day to you,
My name is Tricia Johnson. I have written an article titled Critical Thinking in the Church, which challenges the "herd" mentality of so many Christian churches, schools and organizations. I would like to submit this article to you for consideration.

I have been a regular contributing writer for Regular Baptist Press for nearly 30 years. I have raised and home schooled eight children.
I have been married to my husband, who was a pastor for 31 years, for 37 years.

I am a regular blogger at
I have created a Bible study system through which I teach others how to make observations in Scripture and interpret according to the given context. This can be found at

If you are interested in reading the article, please let me know and I will send it quickly.

Thank you so much.

The reply was equally simple:

Hi, Tricia . . .
No guarantees, but we’d be glad to read this article.
Thanks for your interest in Christian Standard.

I replied and attached my article. That was on a Friday. On Tuesday of the following week, I got this:

Hi, Tricia . . .
I like this!
Yes, we’ll use this. It will probably fill a spot in our family-issues edition (May). 
We’ll send you a contract promising payment and process that payment request as soon as we’ve received the signed contract back from you.

Thanks so much for your interest in Christian Standard. We’d be pleased to hear from you anytime.

Best wishes,

It's sometimes that simple. 

I did not follow a template or any sort of pattern, I simply believed in this article, thought it should have a wider audience and pursued it with that in mind. I gave a brief description of my life and writing experience.

And I'm smiling all the way to the bank.
And I'm writing more articles for them.
You, too, can write a successful query letter.
All you have to do is do it.

Write often.
Write well.
Just write.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

How My Crafting Helps My Writing

I am a wife. I am a mom. I am a writer. I am a crafter. My favorite craft is paper crafting. My second favorite is drawing. Even that involves paper. As does my writing.

When I craft, I think. 
When I think, I write. 
When I write, I get published. 
When I get published, I earn money. 

It nearly always starts with crafting for me. 

As I've taught my writing students, thinking is a huge part of writing. I've spent weeks thinking about things I've written before I finally sat down and wrote them. Funny thing is, when I spend so much time thinking about writing, before I even write, when it's time to write those thoughts down, they are usually written within 20 minutes and these are the ones most purchased by a publisher.

So, whenever I'm in my studio making pretty paper crafts, I'm actually working on a writing project.

Write often.
Write well.
Just write.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Overcoming Failure - Part 5

Failure is hard but it's part of the writing process. Once we accept failure as truly par for the course, we will fear it less and not allow it to define us. This applies to all life, not just writing.

In light of the recent election here in the US, I read this article in Forbes Magazine, Exclusive Interview: How Jared Kushner Won Trump the White House. This article ties in perfectly with today's thoughts on overcoming failure. In the quest for the White House, the article tells us that, behind the scenes, Jared Kushner tried many avenues and social media tactics to promote his father-in-law's presidential campaign, quickly halting what didn't work and putting more energy into what did work.

Did you read that? He quickly halted what didn't work. This means not everything he did worked. This means he failed along the way, but still saw success in the end. The one thing he did was constantly take risks. Some risks panned out and some didn't, but he took the risks.

That's today's tip: Take risks. 

On a clearly much smaller scale than a presidential election campaign, when I started my Writing for Publication classes in our local Community Education program, I did not get enough people signed up to hold even one class. The next semester, four people signed up, but only three showed up. But, I kept putting it out there. I kept offering the classes. After a few semesters of not getting enough interest to hold the classes, I suddenly had five students. Then six, then nine...then a dozen! Then other districts began calling, wanting the classes in their districts. That led me to branch out and offer more courses, including e-publishing. I saw success. I took a risk and it paid off, but it didn't pay off on day one. It took persistence and patience, not only on my part but on the part of the director of the Community Education program.I tweaked my class description in the school's newsletter, trying different ways to promote the class.

I believed in the class and knew people would benefit from it if I could get it in front of them. This paid off when my most famous student, Amanda Hocking, took the class and saw great success in e-publishing the following year.

So, take risks. Realize what works and what doesn't, then keep taking risks.
You won't know whether something works or not until you try.

Write often.
Write well.
Just write.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Overcoming Failure - Part 4

The inevitable failure we face as writers should not be what defines us as writers. We write, we fail, we write some more. I never really consider failure something to slow me down. By failure, I'm talking about failure to see publication. We can be highly successful writers if all we do is write; if that's our only motivation. But, getting published is another story and we all face the failure of not getting published, of being rejected by a publisher.

I was recently asked to write an article on a specific topic. We signed a contract and I wrote the article. In the meantime, the publisher changed staff and the editor I'd been working with was no longer there. Even though I had a contract, they rejected my article. I'm still going to get paid for writing it, but they are not going to publish the article.

I believe in this article; I am looking for another outlet in which to publish it. I've already sent it to another editor. This leads me to the 4th part of overcoming failure:

Realize your own Potential

While this may appear to echo appreciating your talent, which I blogged about here, it's deeper. Many of my writing students look at the list of names of successful writers at the beginning of my writing course and tell me they could never be like them. My response is a resounding, "Why not? Someone has to be the next famously successful  author - and you are someone!"

No one person is more important than another. Success is not sitting back waiting for anyone specific. You get to decide your success. You get to determine your future in writing Once you realize your potential, you will look at success differently. Even if you have never thought you could be successful, realizing your potential will open success up for you in ways you never expected.

Realizing your potential is key. Realize it, act on it, success follows. Every time.

Write often.
Write well.
Just write.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Overcoming Failure - Part 3

If you're a writer or even an aspiring writer, you might already know that failure is an inevitable part of being a writer. Knowing this ahead of time can help when the failure comes. And it will come.

One sure fire way to overcome failure is one simple practice:

Keep writing.

That's it. Just keep writing. 

Famed author Amanda Hocking did just that. When she took my writing class, she had a thick file of rejection letters and they kept coming during the time she took the class. What did Amanda do as a result? She wrote more books. By the time she e-published, she had 17 finished novels. Now, because of her e-publishing success, she is an international sensation with book and movie deals that scream her success.

She started out failing.
She kept writing.
She saw success.

That's a simple formula.
It will work for you, too.

Keep writing.

Write often.
Write well.
Just write.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Overcoming Failure - Part 2

Every writer fails, no matter how successful they are. In my book, Writing for Publication, I talk about failure, how it's inevitable and how to overcome it as a writer.

Today, I'm sharing my second point on how to overcome failure and rejection as a writer. I think of this point as logic at work.

Don't let rejection slow you down.

Realize and accept that rejection is part of the job of writing for publication.

If you accept this, it will not surprise you when it happens.

It's a given, par for the course.

It truly cannot be avoided.

What you need to do is file the rejection away....

then keep writing without missing a beat.

There will more on this in my next post and point 3 goes along with this point very well. I have been a regular writer for one publishing house for over 27 years, yet I still get rejected by them from time to time. I don't care. If one article is rejected by one arm of the company, I submit it to another. If they reject it, I'll submit it elsewhere or publish it on Ezine or one of my blogs. Not every submission if viable for every publishing house every time. 

Write often.
Write well.
Just write.