As I said in a previous post, I’ve been writing on and off for (I can’t believe it) nearly thirty years. OK, so I did get a magazine article published when I was 15 but that’s still a long time! When I started, I had a manual typewriter, and then scrounged an electric one with a correction facility. At the time I was working in IT so fairly soon I had a computer with Wordperfect on it. (Whatever happened to Wordperfect?) Then of course, the computers got faster and started dialling up to connect to the Internet, before a few brave souls showed us the way with ADSL. Now, we’re always-on with wireless broadband, cloud storage and all the other benefits of the Internet.
I’m now wondering if this makes a difference to how many people are out there writing. If you think back to the late eighties, early nineties, most people did not have a computer. If they wanted to write a novel, they’d have to get a typewriter, buy some paper, make sure that the ribbon was fresh, and settle down to write. If you wanted to keep a copy you either had to photocopy everything (at 10p a page in the library or newsagent) or use carbon copies. If you don’t remember carbon paper, be very thankful because it was a horrible thing!
Now, most people use a computer, either at work or at home. People send text messages and emails all the time. Lots of people write blogs and comment on Facebook, forums, newspapers and a host of other websites. In short, more people are writing more words than ever before.
If someone today wants to write a novel, they just have to sit down, fire up Microsoft Word and start typing. You don’t even need paper or printer ink – you can go straight from screen to publication if you want to. But more important than that is the fact that it probably feels normal. Books are now springing from sources that didn’t exist when I started. Back then, there were no blogs, no online fan-fiction communities so these routes are entirely new and have spawned some best sellers.
Of course, all of this means that there is greater competition in the marketplace. And I think that it means that the quality has spread out in both directions. I’m sure that there is a lot more dross out there than ever before. Especially now you can publish directly from a word document to Kindle, or any other e-reader. You don’t even have to spell-check or proof it! But at the other end of the spectrum, there are undoubtedly writers with fresh, exciting voices who would never had the opportunity. Without the Internet their words would never have found a market.
Personally this means that I need to be more professional and organised. In a flooded market, quality is a good way to get noticed and rise to the top. Well, without becoming a celebrity and going on Big Brother (shudder!). What do you think? Are there more writers than ever before? What does this mean for the publishing industry?