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.
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|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 DianaHurwitz.com for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.|