Friday, April 19, 2019

Guest blogging today on NO WASTED INK

I've got a guest blog post today on the No Wasted Ink site. It's about how easy—or how hard—it is to make money self-publishing. Note that it's written for folks who know little or nothing about publishing.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Technology and the writing process

This post on Tor's website about J.R.R. Tolkien and how he developed Éowyn of Rohan as a character made me think about how technology has changed the process of writing a novel.

For most of the twentieth century, writers wrote in long hand and then paid someone to type the work, or they typed it themselves. The resulting manuscript could only be changed (in any but the tiniest of ways) by rewriting or retyping it. You could mark it up and add notes in the margin, but eventually, if you wanted to make changes, you had to write or type it all out again. If, like Tolkien, you kept every version you typed (or possibly hand wrote), then you, in effect, created a sort of fossil record of how the book evolved.

I really wonder if any writers do that now. With word processing, you can constantly revise the same file over and over. Unless you make a point to copy your files in a different location or to a different name, you won't have the earlier versions. Personally, I only copy a file in that way if I want to revise a story it in a way I'm not sure about.

It used to be that I would have backup copies on floppy disks, but even that has gone the way of the dodo as I now rely on Dropbox for backup. Every now and then I might email a manuscript to someone, which creates a saved version in a sense, but there's no pattern to when I do that.

Actually, when I first started to write, decades ago, I typed a short novel on a typewriter. I think I have the pages somewhere, but I have no idea where they are. Probably just as well.

Besides the biggest impact of technology on writing and writers isn't the loss of a book's fossil record, but rather the sheer number of people who are writing. You no longer need to be so obsessed by the need to get a story down "on paper" that you're willing to churn out reams and reams of typescript pages. All you need is a computer and some spare time. Not a totally insignificant barrier but nowhere near as high as it was in 1973.

So, technology has opened the floodgates. It remains to be seen what the impact of the deluge will be.