This Blog Post Has Probably Been A Long Time Coming

And no, it, surprisingly perhaps, has nothing to do with my ex. Or her mum. Maybe that’s one for another time.

For a fair old while now I’ve been wondering how best to blog about this. Basically, and to cut a very long story short, there was a writing community. A group of writers who were friends. Who shared their work with each other for feedback. One of those friends, it turned out, was using (abusing) his friendship by stealing the ideas of his friends and passing them off as his own. Much has been said about this. Here, for example. It even spawned an anti-plagiarism day to which many, many people contributed. Including me.

And as I said at the time: theft is wrong and whoever does it should be ashamed. And one of the most important bits about being a writer is the ability to MAKE STUFF UP. Which is different to taking other people’s stories. Very different.

The writer in question has defended himself (I’ve linked to what he’s said below). He’s said that what he’s done is legitimate because he’s an artiste (don’t you know) and that all art is shared. And to a point, yes it is – every artist learns from who’s gone before them and what they’ve produced. People are influenced. I know I’ve said a good, good many times how much reading the utterly splendid Aimee Bender and Etgar Keret’s work has shaped me as a writer. And Carver. And Mary Miller. And Alice Munro. And Kurt Vonnegut. And Sarah Salway. And Michael Czyzniejewski. And Caroline Smailes. And Roy Kesey. And Sebastian Beaumont and F Scott Fitzgerald. And… okay, you’re getting bored. I understand.

The keyword here is: INFLUENCED. Not: I’LL WRITE, I’LL DO THE WORK AND YOU CAN TAKE THE CREDIT (without even telling me!!!).

The whole thing upset me. That a guy, a friend, could do that, upset me (most writers I know are brilliant and lovely and morally sound). A lot. God, that he did it was bad enough. And not apologise. And not admit to what he’d done. Even now he refuses to put a piece of his (which he nicked) up online (it won a comp and was taken down and withdrawn once the comp organisers realised what had happened) so people could see the actual evidence and make their own minds up.

What he has been doing, especially of late, is blogging (and commenting on his own posts and apparently replying to them) about the whole thing. Trying to justify why he did what he did. And trying to suggest that the people who objected (he calls one a ‘mad woman’ – I call her his former friend who trusted him who he stole work from and who’s pissed off about it) are stupid and don’t understand the artistic process. He’s talking bullshit of course. (All this after he’s commented here, on my blog, under a variety of different names, I should say.)

As I said, I’ve been wondering how best to blog about this for some time.

And then I got this email, which I think sums things up perfectly. And I had to post it now, even though it’s late. And no, it’s probably not from who you might think it’s from . But it IS right.

Stealing’s wrong. Stealing from friends is even worse.

(You can read Douglas Bruton’s nonsense here.)

It says (the sensible email, that is….):

The creative process, for most of us, has absolutely NOTHING to do with taking whole stories or part-stories from unsuspecting and trusting colleagues in writing groups, and using their creations for our own gain.

For most writers, this is utterly unacceptable behaviour. It is not the taking of legitimate inspiration. It is done behind people’s backs, without permission, abusing trust. It is theft. Underhand and mean-spirited, fuelled by both jealousy and greed.

There are NO articles endorsing the taking of work from friends without permission. Unless they are written by Douglas Bruton.

It is deeply cynical that Bruton repeatedly seeks to join groups of unsuspecting writers, without warning them of his weird creative habits. We’d like to suggest that he seeks the company of like-minded writers, who don’t mind their hard work being taken by colleagues, without asking, without thanks, without credit.


So that’s all I’ve got to say on the subject – I’m glad the above emailer said it so well (better than me). I imagine there’ll be a can of worms opened up. And I imagine there’ll be a few comments here from people (or names, let’s be honest!) I’m not familiar with. But it needed saying, this. And it’s been said.

Folks, be nice to your friends. Don’t steal from them. It’s rubbish.

44 Comments on “This Blog Post Has Probably Been A Long Time Coming

  1.  by  L-Plate Author

    Wow, Nik, that's appalling, and every writer's nightmare. I've only just started to trust a couple of people to look at some of my work and it still scares me. I've talked to them about it and it scares them too. So to think that someone deliberately goes out to…well, for once, words are beyond me. I can understand why it upset you so much. I hope now that you can move on from the whole sorry episode and concentrate on the friends that are true to you. x

  2.  by  Miriam

    He states his case clearly and succinctly. If I'd only read his posts and hadn't read details of his actions, I might have been persuaded by his words. But for one thing: he called his former friend a "mad woman". He implied that anything she says can be ignored because she's "mad". That's nasty.

  3.  by  Jane Smith

    Nik, I've tried to comment a couple of times on Douglas's blog, in order to reply to some of the things he's said there: but he won't approve my comments, and instead posts another of his rambling narratives in answer to them. The whole effecft is unsettling: he's talking to himself, but referring to other writers who he insists have been mean. I have real worries for him.Douglas Bruton is now putting up on his blog his own version of Greyling Bay, my collaborative blog which he pretty much killed off with his various odd behaviours. After his plagiarism came to light I could no longer trust him, and so I removed his pieces from there: he's now changed the location and character names used in the pieces involved, and has put them up on his own blog. He's referred in a few places to characters and stories from Greyling Bay which belong to other Greyling Bay writers and not to him: I could insist he removes these pieces, but it would only set off a whole new round of his nonsense and I don't have the energy for it, to be honest. And it would do little good: I see no point in doing so. This does two things: it confirms in my mind that Douglas Bruton is not confident of his own ideas, and so he steals them from other people; and it proves his willingness to plagiarise even now, knowing how much trouble it's got him into in the past. I can't see him stopping unless he accepts professional help.I've heard from the owners of some excellent writers' message boards, who have confirmed to me that they will not allow Bruton to join their communities now; and I've spoken to a handful of editors, too, who read my blog coverage of the plagiarism events and are very unlikely to ever publish him. A shame, as he's a good writer and they control what is probably his target market.To move on: your emailer is right. The creative process can be informed by the works of others, but it is never BASED in the work of others. That Douglas Bruton refuses to acknowledge that shows to us all that he is either deeply troubled, or deeply cynical about writing and writers. And neither is a nice place to be.

  4.  by  Matt

    Nothing feels as deceptive than a stolen joke you pass off as your own. We all take inspiration from single lines, phrases and anecdotes. That's how language works. But it's not calculated — it's a subconscious reimagining of something we've seen or heard. It's not going, oh, I like your setting, your theme, your character, and I'm going to use them. That'd piss me off, too.I suppose, then, as per that timeless urban legend about commissioning editors, that he wouldn't mind if the BBC produced a programme that was very similar to the script he’d had rejected a few months before.Hope stuff gets resolved.

  5.  by  Nik Perring

    L – Plate – I must say that in all the years I've been doing this (a few) this is the first time I've come across, or even heard of, anything of the like; the vast majority of writers I've come across are lovely, generous and decent people, so I don't think there's too much to worry about. Don't be scared!Miriam, that's exactly why I posted this.Jane, I know, I know. I genuinely hope that one day (and I hope it's soon) he realises and/or admits that what's been doing and is doing is wrong.The Virtual Victorian. I agree. And as I said this is all I'll say on the subject. I did need saying though, I feel.Exactly Matt. I wonder though whether people who do this kind of thing only feel it works one way. I wonder what he'd do if someone did something with his character, for instance, too…Nik

  6.  by  Julia Bohanna

    Bravo, Nik. I have been feeling quite tainted, even looking back on my acquaintance with Mr Bruton. How he is even now attracting a few unseeing, unknowing writers over to his warped and self-obsessive point of view. There are no other writers listed on his blog. It is The World According to Douglas. Then he accuses other people of mental illness?I may have felt tainted but I have then been made shiny again by knowing lovely writers like yourself, Vanessa, Sara Crowley….all those gorgeous people who restore my belief and passion in original writing. I was always taught that it was the slimiest and most insecure children who looked over other people's shoulders at school. It seems that this extends to adulthood.Again, bravo.

  7.  by  Leila

    Gosh, what a drama. Glad I have not been mixed up in it. I guess everyone should remember that it's easy to make friends on the internet… but you can also get your fingers burnt. 🙁

  8.  by  Welshcake

    I can't understand why someone would want to steal another writer's work. Surely one of the fundamentals of the creative writing process is that you are truly engaged with what you're doing and believe in it? I'm not expressing that very well, but I hope you know what I mean. That absolute love(and sometimes hate, when it's not going well!) of what you're creating. How can one have that when it's not really your own work? What's the bloody point of it?The loser at the end of the day is Mr Bruton – he's missing out on the real joy of writing.

  9.  by  Nik Perring

    Thanks, Julia. It is a rotten, rotten situation, and I think we're quite similar in feeling tainted. At least we know now.Hiya Leila. A drama indeed! I guess we have to be thankful that the friends we make far outnumber the bad eggs.Welshcake I know EXACTLY what you mean. It's a bout the joy of discovery and of discovering things ourselves!Nik

  10.  by  Lost Wanderer

    Seriously, people like that ruin things for everyone. When as a newbie, you hear stuff like that, it just makes you wary of trusting people with your work.

  11.  by  Nik Perring

    I agree, Lost Wanderer. But I would say in the err, about 5? 6? years I've been involved with writing and writing forums this is the first time I've seen anything of its kind. So it doesn't happen very often and when it does it gets exposed (as has happened in this case)because the writing community is better than that.Nik

  12.  by  Catherine Hughes

    Ohhh, this has reignited some old fears of mine! I would be absolutely devastated if someone nicked my work.Really sorry you guys have had to put up with this, but I am impressed by your mature attitude to it all. I'm afraid I would be less grown up and quite possibly rather hysterical if it happened to me.Sometimes, being the party with dignity can feel like small change. It's not, though.Cat x

  13.  by  Nik Perring

    Thanks Catherine. It's bad, isn't it – though I should clarify he hasn't (as far as anyone knows) stolen anything of mine. Which isn't really the point. Just so we're clear on that.Must also say that everyone involved has been wholly dignified.Just a bad situation.N

  14.  by  Catherine Hughes

    Ah, I see. That's what happens when you read too quickly; I surmised that you had also been affected.One thing that strikes me from a legal POV (I originally trained as a lawyer which was folly, but still..):-You have no fear of naming this person and yet he does not name the 'mad woman' to whom he refers in his posts. As Holmes/House/Patrick Jane might say – 'Interesting…'

  15.  by  Nik Perring

    Intersting indeed!And though my work might not have been swiped I've definitely been affected!Thank goodness this doesn't happen very often!And thank goodness most other writers are nice and decent and all good things. Nik

  16.  by  Doug Cheadle

    I thought this whole story had died down. And then I read Douglas Bruton's potentially libellous post in which he repeatedly calls his old friend mad. That's a foul thing to do to anyone. I hope he is ashamed of himself.So long as his offending stories remain away from the public view, he's going to be able to insist he's done nothing wrong. And I've had enough.So if anyone wants to read them, I've posted them on my new blog. Click on my name to find it, and them. Happy reading.

  17.  by  Vanessa Gebbie

    I won't comment on what it has been like to be labelled as mentally ill in an attempt to discredit and whitewash. However. I am saddened by this development. The introductory post by Doug Cheadle is not correct on several counts. I’d be grateful if he could edit.Zoe King was editor of Cadenza. I was her deputy. Bruton’s story Waiting in the Scriptorium did not win a prize. It was commended.The Fiction Workhouse was not founded until February 2007. Ms Hershman’s story had already won a prize and been published in 2006. It was linked openly from her website. Bruton did not join FW until early 2008.

  18.  by  Douglas Bruton

    Please do read Doug Cheadle (wonder who that could be?) – even if there is a blatant infringement of my copyright in what is done on his blog post.And, as Jane Smith on 'How Publishing Really Works' says, do the research and double check the facts rather than believe what others say. And read my own blog, especially the most recent post. I have never had anything to hide. This is not plagiarism.D

  19.  by  Douglas Bruton

    Of course, Nik, you could choose not to read my blog and only have one side of the debate… that makes sense… that way you will always be right… and there's nothing like the absolute feeling of being right… even if you're not.The fact that there is debate here, and not just from me, tells you at the very least that there is something still to learn here.As someone who calls himself a writer, I would have thought you would want to go on learning. And when people on your side lie to keep 'right' on their side, maybe that tells you that there is something not altogether honest in what people are saying against me.So, put the emotional stuff aside, those that you love and stand by no matter what; read my blog and the other serious minds I direct you to on my blog, and try to come to an understanding of the whole subject before making simple emotion-led judgements.D

  20.  by  Nik Perring

    Douglas, I don't need to read your blog, nor do I want to.I'll repeat what I said in my email reply to you all those months ago, for the benefit of my readers and for you: My opinion of what you've done has nothing to do with my friendship with anyone involved; what you did was wrong. Fact. There's nothing else to say on the matter unless you're man enough to apologise. What you did was wrong, you need to realise it.

  21.  by  Douglas Bruton

    What I have done, (whatever that means) you have it mostly second hand. And much of what you have is suspect for truth anyway.But Nik, you go on perpetuating the lies. It's your blog here, and you can do that. You go your way without looking deeper into the issues. That's your choice. You go on with the assurance that you are absolutely and unquestionably right.And when this whole house of cards comes tumbling down (and it already shakes!), then you can stand in the rubble saying over and over that you are right.Now I know why I think of the andrex puppy when I think of you.

  22.  by  Douglas Bruton

    And now Jane's lie. William Shears says he is not even in the same country… his picture shows you he is certainly not in the same decade as me.Look him up and see.Jane has lied… or, to give her the benefit of the doubt, her whatdoyacallit machines have given her misinformation in saying that our IP addresses are the same.If she lies so desperately about this, then you can bet there are lies threaded through this.Do you see, Nik? The house of cards that this is shakes to its foundation.

  23.  by  William Shears

    Hi, I'd just like to confirm Douglas's recent comment, he and I do not share the same computer. Jane has openly lied. Douglas knows the truth, Jane knows the truth and now I know the truth. I'm not a writer, and accidently stumbled into this community at war with Douglas Bruton, I read through all the crap, saw how the much admired instigators had joined forces, and I must say for so-called intelligent educated people,(which is how I always thought of writers), I find it quite disheartening that the majority of you can't recognise bullshit when you read it.

  24.  by  Nik Perring

    Thank you for your input, William (though I won't thank you for any abusive language).I must admit that I'm a bit surprised that my blog has riled you so much though, and curious as to how you might have found it.There are, of course, two sides to every story which is why the mysterious Doug Cheadle, whoever that is, has placed much of the work involved in this for one and all to see and to give them the opportunity to make up their own minds which is what I hope they, and you, will do.All best wishesNik

  25.  by  Jane Smith

    Nik, I've just posted this same comment over at Jonathan Pinnock's blog, where Douglas and William have also made an appearance. Forgive me for repeating myself here. According to Sitemeter, the comments that Douglas Bruton and William Shears left on my blog both came from someone using a BTCentralPlus internet connection, who was based in Edinburgh, using one computer with the IP address 86.131.241.After I pointed this out on my blog Shears commented, insisting he was not the same person as Bruton. This comment also came from a BTCentralPlus account, but this time one based in Brentwood, Essex, with a different IP address: 217.44.136. At first I thought that I'd made a mistake and was just about to apologise when Bruton commented on my blog again–this time from the same IP address in Brentwood, Essex, which Shears had commented from.I live in Sheffield, and when I visit my own blog from my own desktop computer, Sitemeter reflects that. But when I'm out and about and use my laptop and mobile connection, the IP address is naturally different–and my given location changes depending on which wireless connection I'm using. According to Sitemeter I've posted from Manchester, London, and Glasgow when I know I've just been down the road.You can draw your own conclusions. As for the rest of Bruton's increasingly libellous comments: I'm not even going to address them. He won't allow me to comment on his blog, he twists my words, and he misrepresents me at every turn. He's a talented writer and I wish him the very best: but I don't see the point in rehashing this very old, and very unsavoury story any more.

  26.  by  Douglas Bruton

    I am not sure what Jane is now saying. Is she saying that I am in Brentwood now? Or is she saying that there is something faulty with her gadgetry that made her speak false?And anyway, she is once again miles wrong, or further fabricating. I am not in Edinburgh. I do teach near edinburgh on a long commute every day. But I live miles from edinburgh in the scottish borders. So how can my IP address be based in Edinburgh? This is yet another error, or dare I say it lie.If what I have said is libellous, then let Jane seek legal representation… she says she has lawyer friends… or is she mistaken there, too?Of course, she will not want to rehash this very old unsavoury story precisely because she is one of the architects of the story. And now that she has been shown to lie and now that the ‘offending’ stories are there for the public to measure my ‘crime’ by (and despite over 300 views, no one has yet come out to say that Jane’s analysis of the 'offending' stories is correct) Jane will want to be very quiet on the subject. I think we can all understand that.Sorry if I am being tedious and obsessive here, but I am defending my name, which has been muddied by Jane Smith for one.I have once omitted to allow Jane to comment on my blog precisely because she has been unsavoury in her use of my private e-mails to her… something that she addresses on her blog in a discussion of copyright… it seems that copyright of sent letters and e-mails remains with the sender… but Jane seems ok about breaching copyright when plundering my e-mails to her. Funny thing, Doug Cheadle does exactly the same in posting my stories on the net without my permission!Maybe we can all draw your own conclusions!

  27.  by  William Shears

    I see from Janes comment that she was about to appologise for her LIE."At first I thought that I'd made a mistake and was just about to apologise when Bruton commented on my blog again–this time from the same IP address in Brentwood, Essex, which Shears had commented from."Well Jane I suggest you check your machine again. I look forward to your appology.

  28.  by  Nik Perring

    Douglas, I'll repeat what I said yesterday:"There's nothing else to say on the matter unless you're man enough to apologise".But I'll add to it. Go away and think about what you've done. Think seriously and think hard. And ask yourself why you think the majority of people who've been involved with this are so angry with what you've done.I honestly think that'll be far more helpful than shouting and ranting about other people, and far more decent than these wild accusations you're making. It'll probably make you look a lot less silly too.William. Yes, she was. As she said. Not much I can say about it really, as I'm not her.

  29.  by  Douglas Bruton

    My accusations are not so wild… and certainly not so wild as the accusations that have been stacked against me for more than six months.I unmasked VG's fabrications against me and now it seems Jane's are tumbling to the ground too. If people are so united in their anger against me, why haven't they been to Doug Cheadle's blog to underline the plagiarism in my stories? Could it be that: a) not so many people are angry with me as you would think, or b) that seeing the evidence (there have now been more than 310 views of Doug Cheadle's posting of my stories) they do not see the palgiarism that V and Jane and Mrs Jones and YOU have accused me of, or c) people are now rightly suspicious of Jane's motives in everything that she has said against me and therefore distrusting of this whole thing.If truth be told, I did apologise to TH for her feelings having been hurt… I did not apologise for having written the story, however, nor for finding inspiration for my story in hers…because what I wrote is legitimately mine.I think that YOU need to think hard, Nik. Why would someone as smart as Malcolm Gladwell have something to say about the creative impulses that pretty much chimes with my views and stand so firmly against yours? I don't want you to believe what i say and hold my views; but I do want you to allow that there are different views on this subject and that it is not so easy to be absolutist on what is right or wrong.And I do want you to look beyond what people say to why people have said what they have said. I have done nothing that would even reach a court of law… because what I have done is not wrong. That much is true. And Jane has other reasons to harm me; despite her wishing me well she has gone out of her way to damage my reputation.

  30.  by  Douglas Bruton

    Nik, I am man enough to apologise.I am sorry for the whole andrex puppy thing. That was my anger speaking out against the lies you have said about me here on this blogpost. It was childish of me and borne out of my frustration.But I repeat publicly here that I was never asked to leave a writing group. I did leave a writing group and not before I was pushed either… there was no pushing at all. When I left there were many there who asked me to reconsider, many who asked me to stay.There, I am sorry that I compared you to an andrex puppy.

  31.  by  Anonymous

    It seems very odd that William Shears seems to care so much about defending your name Mr Bruton. I don't believe he exists at all. I do not believe that Ms Smith's statistic counter is faulty either. You state that there are few comments on the Cheadle blog as if that shows silent support for you. I venture that nobody else has wanted to become embroiled in this mucky brouhaha. Comments are few because people are scared of having their names tainted by association.

  32.  by  Anonymous

    The only reason I've not commented on Doug Cheadle's blog is that I think it's all been said: I don't see how Douglas's stories can be anything other than plagiarised, and I don't think there's anything else left to add. My silence is a condemning one, not a supporting one, and I bet that's the case for most people.I've had a look at Doug Cheadle's blog and the visits it's had, via his Sitemeter, and around half of the visits have come from someone with a BT internet account. Judging by the search-terms which led the visitors there, and the various referring URLs which they followed, I'd say a lot of those visitors were one and the same.My guess is that Douglas Bruton, or someone he knows, is using a proxy server which changes IP address every time he reconnects. It can hide his location but it can't hide his ISP, and that accounts for the various locations which are appearing (Buxton, Antrim, Brentwood and others). I wonder if he has a friend helping him with this: whoever Mr Shears is, his phrasing is very similar to Bruton's, and I don't buy into the idea that someone would just come along and take up his cause in this way without having some deep motivation to do it. I think Shears is either Bruton himself, a close friend of Bruton's, or, if the IP addresses are deceptive, nothing more than an internet troll who is enjoying the rumpus. As, I think, Bruton is. It's his fifteen minutes of fame all over again.

  33.  by  Douglas Bruton

    Good muck raking again… and I contend that you, Anonymous, have more to hide by being anonymous here than I have.I am honest and not clever when I say that I am not William Shears, that I do not know who this William is and that I am not playing hunt the IP address. You make me sound like some kind of computer hack-wizard; I have always, since way back, admitted to a technical ignorance, so I am surprised to find myself in this super computer wizard thing. I am and always have been exactly what you see. A good writer. An impassioned defender of my name and my position. A blunderer in to wasps' nests and a bemused observer of the lengths that some people have gone in all of this to make me bad or to maintain their own suspect position.

  34.  by  Nik Perring

    Thank you all for your input. But, just so you know, this'll be your last chance to comment on this. Honestly I've had enough, and this isn't your (Douglas, William, Audrey, anon, whoever) forum, it's my blog.I said from the off that I'd never not publish any comments but this is just getting stupid, and it's taking up time that I could spend on better things. So from now on, every response to this will be blocked.Doulglas, you stole. From friends (and others). PLEASE just admit that, apologise, and move on. Stop trying to justify what can't be justified. And stop with all the attacks. And aliases. People tried to help you. They tried to protect you for goodness sake. And all you see is you. All you do is defend an action (and actions!) that can't be defended. And then you slander people. Enough is enough.And I – even as a puppy – know an IP lawyer. And guess what they said. And I know what's right. As I said in my email reply to you, all those months ago, what you did was wrong. Full stop. You are doing yourself no favours at all pursuing this.So. There we are. A line has been drawn.Best wishes.Nik

  35.  by  Nik Perring

    Hundred stories for Haiti eh, Douglas? And now I have lost all respect for you.You should be utterly ashamed. I wish you all you deserve. You actually make me feel sick, and there aren't many people who can claim that.Disgraceful.Nik.

  36.  by  Anonymous

    As much as I despise what Douglas Bruton has done, all this talk of IP numbers does not reflect well on the accusers.There is such a thing as invasion of privacy, and trying to track someone down by their IP number is stepping into that territory. Sorry for hijacking your blog like this, Nik. You're a nice guy. But all of this leaves a very sour taste in the mouth and risks pointing peoples' sympathy where it doesn't belong. In Bruton's direction.It does the real victims of his light-fingered behaviour no favours at all.

  37.  by  M M McTavish

    Hi. Three years on I don’t know what happened to this – but I notice Douglas Bruton is still unrepentant.

    Plus this week there has been a “sock puppet” controversy in the literary world, albeit with another writer. Brought back to mind a few things…

    I don’t know if we really want to open this can of worms again, but…

    If you click on William Shears’s blog (on Blogger –, you’ll find he runs an antique shop on eBay. His original user name was willshears_blvd, but it is now silvianantiques.

    Do a search on eBay under this seller, and you’ll find a link such as this one:

    The seller’s name?

    Ian Bruton.

    Coincidence? Is DB still going to insist he doesn’t know who he is?

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