Writing in the Digital Age
With the rise of social events like NANOWRIMO and Amazon’s self-publishing division for the Kindle, it seems as if everyone who owns a computer is now a published writer. For those of us who’ve toiled for years at this craft, it can be frustrating to compete for sales against literally thousands of people who’ve recently been inspired to write because of the advances in technology that have made it easier to produce and distribute books electronically. If I’ve already offended you, please, leave me a comment at daadams.com
If you have a thick enough skin that my observations barely bothered you, please, keep reading. Writing is a fiercely competitive business. I can think of few other industries where so many compete for so little return. Music may be close, but there are probably still more radio stations per capita than there are bookstores, though I don’t have empirical data to back that up. My point is, if you want to be a writer and expect to get rich quickly, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
Sure, there are examples of overnight sensations. There are people who get lucky and strike the right nerve at the right moment and have runaway bestsellers with their first books. I concede that it is possible to get rich quick as a novelist. It’s also possible that aliens will abduct me, and I won’t have to grade my next round of essays for the classes I teach. But neither situation is probable. More than likely, I’ll have to trudge through each paper, and the vast majority of new writers will toil in anonymity for years.
I’m not against self-publishing. On the contrary, I self-published my first two books long before the digital transformation made it so easy. Traditional publishing is a mess, right now. Has been for several decades as more and more houses have been bought by international conglomerates with a keen eye on the bottom line. Each year, there are fewer and fewer slots for new writers, while more and more people produce work. That’s why I chose to self-publish. I believed in the quality of my work and wanted to prove myself in the market. For as long as there have been printing presses, there have been self-published authors. Google who self-published to begin their careers, and you’ll find a pretty impressive list of authors.
No, I’m not adverse to self-publishing. I’m not even adverse to NANOWRIMO, though I do think it’s silly to need a cheering section and external guidelines to enter into a profession that demands solitude and internal motivation for long-term sustainability and success. However, as a mode of self-expression, I’m all for it. Anything that gets people involved in reading and writing is a positive movement for society, in general.
What I am against is the ignorance or arrogance that a rough draft is a finished manuscript. At its core writing is truly about editing and polishing. It’s about refining the rough draft into a cohesive story without frayed edges, vanishing plot lines, grammatical blunders, and misspellings. Even in the digital age, perhaps even more so now than ever before, the quality of your writing matters.
Right now, there is a tidal wave of new material hitting the market, and while some of it is high quality stuff, much of it is pure rubbish, cobbled together in a rush with an eye on quick riches and red carpets. I’m always surprised by how many people confuse writing with acting and singing, but I digress. Right now, readers are overwhelmed and submerged by this tidal wave, and I’ve heard them complain about the volume of crap out there. However, I fully believe that like everything, once the cycle turns and the self-deluded retreat, the waters will recede, and those who have produced quality works will remain.
So my advice to you, if you want to write in this digital age, is to remember that the written word has been around for a few thousand years, and books have been with us for a few hundred. During this time, humanity has refined and developed a pretty sophisticated process for producing written works, and these rules are not arbitrary. They are not nuisances meant to hinder the writer. Instead, they are scraps of wisdom passed from generation to generation of what works and what doesn’t. Those of us who take the time to learn our craft and refine our skills discover how to tell the tale that is authentic to our experience. Some of us get lucky and make a living at it. Some of us toil for decades with little to no return. The one constant to the vast majority of us is that we take great pride in the quality of what we say and how we say it.
So if you want to write today, please, take your craft seriously before you enter the arena. Take your time. Don’t rush your manuscript to market. Learn how to edit and get at least a second set of eyes to help you polish. While my advice may not be glamorous or sexy, I believe it to be sound. If you rush your work and release a book rife with errors, you are only hurting your own credibility.
If you aren’t an aspiring writer but instead are an avid reader frustrated by the plethora of new books on the market, don’t fret. There are more and more opportunities for you to find high quality works by serious authors. Many of us have found our homes with independent and small presses, and we want to find you as badly as you want to find us. Please, be patient with us as we learn to navigate this new world of marketing and promotion. Please, forgive our trespasses as we attempt new methods to get our works in front of you. We’re all learning how to build the new platform as we go, and it’s not an easy task, but if you’ll be patient with us, we will figure it out.
I’ve been fortunate to be associated with the Literary Underworld for several years now, and one thing I can say for certain is that the people I know who are a part of this consortium of independent authors is that we all care deeply about our writing. I’m proud to be associated with so many talented authors, people who I consider part of my extended family. If you’re looking for good books written by people who care about their craft, look no further than the Literary Underworld.
From Horror to Hard Science Fiction to High Fantasy to Sword and Sorcery, we have something for everyone who loves to read, and when you support the Literary Underworld, you are directly supporting independent/small presss authors who produce professional quality work. Please, stop by http://www.literaryunderworld.com/ and check out the selection. Use this code to receive a special discount for a limited time:
D.A. Adams is author of the fantasy series The Brotherhood of Dwarves. You can follow his madness at daadams.com