Wednesday, 7 December 2011

How To Destroy Your Writing Career - The Writer Responds

Some weeks ago I posted about Quentin Rowan and the plagiarism scandal he was caught up in. Well, he has responded in the last couple of weeks, the most interesting (and exhaustive) being on the blog of the man who revealed his deception. It makes for fascinating reading, if you're interested in the mind of someone who does an act that seems totally nonsensical to everyone else. 

To give him credit he doesn't try to deny it, or make out that it was okay. But he does try to excuse it (I think) by suggesting it was some kind of compulsion, or addiction if you will, that drove him to take more and more risks instead of stopping and writing something from scratch. Some may find his arguments convincing, but I think there's a lot of self-justification going on in his replies. Like the rioters who here in the UK have recently voiced their "reasons" for looting, burning and generally acting like arseholes, I suspect that Rowan's reasons have more in common with his own vision of what happened, rather than reality. It's a very human response to not take the full blame for our actions and instead try to explain them in a rational way, that paints us in a more positive light. I was particularly struck with his admission that he didn't copy and paste - he actually typed out by hand the lines from other people's books! He certainly has the patience of a writer; it's just a pity he had to write other people's words and pretend they were his own.

What really came through to me though was a sad picture of a wannabe writer who lost his way. He chose the easy way, because of a lack of belief in himself, as well as a desire to succeed quickly. He didn't want to work at his craft, largely due to fear; fear of not being good enough straightaway, fear of working hard and still not succeeding, fear of discovering he just wasn't cut out for writing.

There are a lot of lessons for all us wannabe's in Rowan's experience: do not doubt your voice, do not damn your work as pointless or mediocre when you only just started. Writing is a skill that can be worked on and improved - and most of all, don't be afraid of trying and failing. 

I believe the path to success is full of potholes and we have to fall into them, climb out and fall in many more before we get to Camelot. And you know what? It's half the fun of this crazy thing called writing. I hope Mr. Rowan can one day see that and experience it for himself.


  1. I really enjoyed your last post about Quentin Rowan, and went on to read more about him after I read your account here. I also read his "apology" and found myself wavering from side to side on the issue. On one hadn, I appreciated where he was coming from in giving his statement, but I couldn't help but feel that his claims that he's now over his desire for fame are rather belied by the fact that he's publicly talking about what happened. On the other hand, all the people calling for his blood are a bit... over-enthusiastic and black-and-white for my tastes.

    I really like your wrap-up, though. You've hit all the chords that resonated with me as well. He's really a sad, tragic story. He's a guy who wanted writerly fame so much, and was so crippled by fear, that he made some stupid decisions that snowballed into the worst case of plagiarism since... who-knows-when. He's a cautionary tale to the rest of us.

    Thanks for writing about him.

    -- Jo

  2. Thanks for the comment Jo. Like you, I find the whole sorry tale a tragedy more than anything else. I think what fascinated me about the whole thing was trying to understand his mind set; it was such an extreme (and accomplished) case of plagiarism that it defied all reason. But I love trying to understand the motivations of those who do things no one can understand. Rowan may be sneaking his way into my fiction in the future as a result...