Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Oh how it's changed...

For an industry that hasn't had a major revolution since the invention of the printing press, publishing is experiencing mind boggling changes.  Not only has the eRevolution taken the publishing world by its ears and tilted it sideways, but the role of the writer has morphed into something new as well.

It used to be that writers pounded out their books on typewriters (or laboriously penned it longhand), made one round of corrections that required patience and perseverance (as well as scissors, white out, and tape).  They shipped their manuscripts off through the postal service and waited.  The physical act of writing/typing the manuscript took more time than the act of crafting the story. 

In fact, did you ever wonder why the keyboard of our typewriters/PCs are laid out so strangely?  The reason is, they were designed to slow the typist down.  In the day of the typewriter, the keys could not be struck too quickly or they would jam, so the inventors--never envisioning a day when typists would type 100 words/minute--made the keyboard as unintuitive as possible.

In the 21st century, writers don't write just one or two drafts.  Word processing makes it possible to write as many drafts as we want.  (And let me tell you, I write a lot of them).  I often wonder, does the ease of revision make the book better...or does it make it worse?  I agonize over every word.  Sometimes I fear I polish the shine right out of my prose, I work it so hard.  Is the original idea--that crystal clear image that motivates us to start our books, diluted by the constant revisions we make?  Who can say?

All in all, I think publishing is changing for the better and I am eager to see what the world of publishing looks like when the dust settles.  One thing is sure to stay the same though:  writers will write, spend countless hours of angst wondering if they’re good enough, and continue to strive to get their stories read.


Anonymous said...

Interesting Erin. I had no idea why the keys were set up that way. Since I learned how to type in middle school back in teh dark ages, it doesn't seem so foreign now. Not sure I'd be a writer without a computer. I'm not that patient. Oh, and don't agnst too hard, your stories are wonderful. :)

Caris said...

Hi, Erin,
I typed my first manuscript on an electric typewriter with a slide-in correction cartridge. So for every correction, I'd have to slide the cartridge in, type in the correction, then remove the cartridge to keep typing. I CANNOT FATHOM how I wrote that book!!!

But like you, I do question if all the revising actually makes a better book, or if all those physical acts that SLOWED the process down, might have actually contributed magic to the story. I guess we'll never know...until someone gets paid millions of bucks by the government to do a study...lol!

Thanks for an intriguing blog!


Connie Flynn said...


I've often thought that we do revise our work to death until I read a book (sometimes my own) where a clunky sentence just knocks me out of the story flow. I think it's a fine balance and the art of knowing when you're cutting too deep is probably part of it. Very thought provoking blog, and like Kim said, you're stories are wonderful so you must be doing something right.