Each week, Evan Peterson rounds up stories from across the Web that scribes of all stripes should check out.
Though the ladies of “Downton Abbey” each have their distinct quirks, they’re all the work of a solo scribe, a different approach from that of most U.S. shows. Plus, Pulitzer winner’s plagiarism, a writing class for the homeless, and more.
If you're a writer with a vision for a story, you would much rather write it yourself than have it assigned to someone else. American television creators face just that on a regular basis: working with a team of writers to maintain a consistent voice and style, all the while managing staff, budgets, and schedules. It's not this way everywhere.
Also, another high-profile case of plagiarism, the difference between plagiarism and ghostwriting, and volunteer writers.
Solo or group?:
Did you know there's a difference in how British and American TV dramas approach the writing process? It breaks down to this: British hits like “Downton Abbey,” “Luther,” and “Sherlock” are all—as is tradition in the UK—written by a single author. All of your favorite American dramas are written by a team of writers who split up episodes (unless one of your favorite dramas is “True Detective” or “Fargo”).
Most writers would rather see their vision through by writing every word, whether it's a TV show or blog post, but there's something reassuring about writing with others in a collaborative, less pressurized environment.
However you see it, the American style is good for writers (more jobs to go around), more expensive, and less likely to survive in the long run. This piece from Variety
gets the view from British side of things.
Pulitzer winner and plagiarist:
The story of Chris Hedges and the news of his plagiarism this week is another shocking case of a highly accomplished, decorated journalist being caught copying others' work. In Hedges' case, it was pretty bad, according to Harper's fact-checker who first recognized the pilfered passages: “It was one of the worst things I’d ever seen as a fact-checker at the magazine. And it was endemic throughout the piece.”
It's a story we've heard a few times, and it's hard to imagine why a well-known writer sacrifices his career to get a piece in on time. It's the ugly side of writing, and a completely unnecessary one. Hedges' case is worth a read in this piece from The New Republic
Plagiarism is wrong. Ghostwriting, though, is perfectly fine, as long as everyone involved knows exactly how things will go down in terms of credit and public acknowledgment. The best books by politicians and entertainers in almost every case were not actually written by those people, according to this piece from The Washington Post
. That includes "Profiles in Courage," the Pulitzer-winning work from JFK.
It also includes Hillary Clinton's new book, written by three aides whom she acknowledges at the end. The process seems ethical—writers are getting paid, after all—but only as long as everyone knows how this works.
Volunteering your skills:
This story about a writing class for homeless people is touching, and for that it's worth a read. Beyond that, it brings up the idea of what we do with our free time, or what kinds of writing activities we should make time for.
There are lots of possibilities, but most of the time we think of blogging or freelancing when writing for something that is not our full-time job. This post
details a third worthy option for extracurricular work.
Evan Peterson is a writer based in Chicago, and the editor of OpenMarkets magazine at CME Group. He's on Twitter at @evanmpeterson.