Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Gratitude and the Digital Age

This post was first published here on November 27, 2013.

Prior to the invention of the Internet, writers holed up in their attics, alone and palely scribbling, fantasizing about an elusive publishing contract. They spent sunny afternoons deep in the bowels of libraries flipping through the card catalog and paging through thick reference books.

Scribes developed callouses on their fingers. They sported perpetual ink stains from writing draft after draft on paper they wadded and tossed in bins. They longed for someone, anyone, to talk to about their passion. They were isolated introverts with impossible dreams, often in desperate need of a critique group or at least someone to help with plot snags or elusive titles.

Then some smarty pants invented the electric typewriter, which led to the personal computer, which led to the Internet. Writers were able to research from the comfort of their living rooms while still in their bathrobes. They could draft and revise a hundred times without killing a single tree. They no longer needed Whiteout or carbon paper. Writers no longer had to spend a fortune on postage or trudge out to the mailbox in their slippers in hopes of a reply. Submissions (and rejections) were sent via e-mail at the speed of light. The response was rarely the acceptance letter they hoped for, but at least they had an answer, sometimes within seconds of hitting Send.

Along came the book that is Face and other social media. Writers could talk to each other. They could form critique groups, share their passion with people from all walks of life all over the world. They could interact with readers who loved their stories. They could see what people thought about their books, good and bad.

Just when we thought, “It doesn’t get better than this,” another smarty pants invented  E-books and print on demand. The elusive dream of winning a publishing contract was no longer the only option. Writers could produce print and E-books themselves, with varying degrees of prowess. But that is neither here nor there. Mediocre pulp fiction was prolifically distributed before Gutenberg’s printing press.

The game changed, irrevocably, for good or ill. Paper became electronic streams of data that could be distributed and shared with the push of a button. There was hardly any need for the “sad book warehouse” where printed copies were consigned for destruction.

Audiobooks allowed more fans to listen to books. Voice recognition software allowed writers who could not wield a pen to share their words. Digital files were easily uploaded and downloaded. Fun experiments stretched the boundaries of storytelling by combining audio, video, and written words.

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.

Without these technological advances, I would still be alone and palely scribbling in my pajamas. Unable to write longhand since my twenties, I rely on a keyboard. With my physical limitations, I would never have met wonderful writers around the globe or have connected with the authors whose work I adore. I would never have formed my wonderful Ladyscribes critique group nor worked with the other talented writers I have met along the way. My work would still be hidden in a drawer. I would not have received touching fan E-mails. I could not have shared the advanced craft that I learned in my self-directed study course made possible by internet access. I may never have heard of the work of authors I have come to love.

These are heady times for struggling scribes. No matter where it goes in the future, the digital age, in spite of its dark side, is a heck of an opportunity. And for that, I am grateful.

For other articles on the internet as a useful tool, check out:

Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. At once terrible and terrific, the Internet, ebooks, and POD have transformed our world. Without these, I would never have discovered the amazing writer Diana Hurwitz and my daughter would never have found the wonders of Mythikas Island. (She is getting another book in the series for Hanukkah.)

    The wonders of Word and the World Wide Web enable me to spend every morning as a full-time writer-researcher. Amazing! The same accursed technology means my next book competes with two million new titles by people who think they can write. We are condemned to live in interesting times--same as it ever was.

  2. Cream always rises to the top. I have to keep believing that, in spite of the all dreck that found its way onto the market before the wonders of POD and Kindle. And thank you for the compliments, you are making me blush. :)

  3. There are always upsides and downsides to new innovations in any business, and the writing business has certainly morphed into something so different from 30 years ago. I am thankful that I no longer have to physically go someplace to do research, although I always did enjoy my visits to the library.

  4. Not long ago, my mother (in her mid-80's) discovered copy and paste on her computer, which she uses primarily for email, Photoshop, and playing Solitaire. However, when I asked her a question about my father's declining health, and what the diagnosis was, she emailed me back with the name of his condition and said, "You can Google it."

  5. The Internet brought me in touch with the good folks at BRP ... and lets me pay my bills on line ... for that I am thankful ... beyond that, well, I'm just not sure ... anyway, Happy Thanksgiving y'all.

  6. I'm grateful for computers, since it's so much easier to type and also move words around on the page. However, the downside is I find it harder and more tedious to write anything by hand now because I'm so spoiled!

    Morgan Mandel

  7. Amazing, isn't it?! In my early days as a newspaper reporter, I would literary cut and paste with scissors and glue to revise articles. I don't know how the "old-time" authors wrote books without a lot of retyping! I'm thankful for my computer, although I swear at it at times!

    1. I did my college term papers that way, too...spread out all across my apartment floor. Real scissors, real tape

  8. We've come a long way, baby! I'm forever grateful to the internet for being able to 'meet' other writers. It can be a lonely life.

  9. I guess this old dinosaur will slink into her cave next to Puff the Magic Dragon or be dragged roaring and fighting all the way to Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. With reluctant heart, I do admit that I would NOT be writing novels if I were doing it on an old Smith Carona. Life marches on…it's get caught up or get left in the dust. Dust chokes me. :-)


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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