Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Is Technology Making Writers Lazy?

Yes, yes it is.

Well, that's my opinion, at least.  Or possibly, technology is making lazy people write more.

My parents have this idea that because creating a professional looking manuscript is so easy now, people who would ordinarily be disuaded from sending their MSs to agents (or even bothering to complete them at all) are encouraged to keep going.   I think it's a valid theory.  I'm not saying that bad writers didn't exist before things like formatting and spell-checking were made easy, or that they didn't submit their work, but I can't imagine people who are too lazy to check simple facts, for example, setting the margins on their typewriters by hand or retyping an entire page because of one mistake.  I'm not certain, but I would guess that the publishers which require people to submit their manuscript in hardcopy by post get a lot less crap than those which accept email submissions.  I think with things the way they are today, there isn't as much of a system for weeding out those people whose hearts aren't really in it.

The self-publishing world is brimming with examples of these people.  They are people who want to be writers without actually having to do the work involved.  They vomit words onto their keyboards and see them appear on their screens, looking just the way they do in books and they think that this is what it takes to be a legitimate writer - and in no time, they can hold their books in their hands, flip through the pages, see it on a shelf.  All that's left is to sit back and wait for fame and fortune to come knocking.

I am not, for the record, bashing people who choose to self-publish.  Several great authors have gone this route, I myself have self-published one book and plan to have another out before the end of 2012 - and, of course, self-publishing has been around a lot longer than print-on-demand companies and the Internet.

Nor am I suggesting that technology is bad or that all writers should ditch their laptops, buy typewriters and do things the old-fashioned way.  Actually, the same technology that has the potential to create lazy writers makes things possible that otherwise wouldn't be.  Take, for example, Devereaux Court.  Imagine, living where we each do, trying to share the same information and opinions, to comment on articles, etc., using only paper and the postal system.  It would be an administrative nightmare, not to mention bad for the environment and kind of expensive - and yes, it may have something to do with laziness, maybe we wouldn't be willing to put in the time, but more likely, we simply wouldn't have the time to put in - especially not if we were all setting the margins of our typewriters by hand.  And then there are things like NaNoWriMo. 250,000 writers  from all over the world are expected to participate this year - Impossible, really, without the Internet, word processors, etc., etc.

So yes, I think technology is making some writers lazy.  I also think that those of us who can recognize how  lucky we are to have such massive resources available to us can use technology to achieve amazing things.

By the way, if all goes well, this article will be posted while I'm in Ireland and nowhere near a computer.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Remembering the Library

I miss libraries.  When I was a kid, going to the library (going, in fact, to this library) was a treat.  It was a place that seemed magical.  The library moved buildings when I was five, but what I remember about this particular library is that it had giant beanbag animal pillow-chairs (the one I thought of as mine was a ladybug) and one time, some kid tried to steal Babe, one of my favourite dolls* - and, of course,  it was full of books - an almost unfathomable number of books.

In high school, Rhiannon and I went to the library fairly frequently.  We would head downtown to hang out, and, after visiting the dollar store and otherwise empty mall, we usually ended up there.  Later in high school Vicky (my other sister) and I would to go to the new library** on Wednesdays.  We would rent books, movies, manga, CDs, everything we could, really, on every subject imaginable.  We would stay there for hours and often leave with back-breaking piles of reading material.

And of course there was always the research.  Search engines these days are like magic.  You type in a question and voila! a thousand, a hundred thousand, millions of answers just appear to you.  It's really amazing and I have to say that I feel lucky, as a writer, to have been born into a time when research is not half so labour intensive as it once was, when we can focus more on the story part of our stories - but there's magic in using books too.  There's something spectacular, when out of all the books piled on the table, you stumble across the exact piece of information you were looking for, the interesting fact that will alter the outcome of your book, that thing that's been missing.  There's something wonderful about the hushed, almost rain-like sounds of people around you turning pages.

Even when I lived on my own and had nothing to distract me at home, even if I had no research to do, I would still occasionally go to the library to write.  There's something about libraries - maybe it's being surrounded by all those books.  So much inspiration and so many words, just floating around.

There was no library where I lived in B.C., and for some reason, perhaps because I feared disappointment, I never went to the one in Jasper.  The library where I am now is ok.  It's a decent sized building and the staff are friendly and helpful (a rarety, in my experience), but I don't spend a lot of time there.  I don't know why; it's just one of those things, I guess.

I would love to go back to weekly library visits and hours-long research sessions in the library.  I think sometimes we let life get in the way of the things that make it life.  Like libraries.  

*I was about three when this happened, and when the girl's mother informed me that she had a similar doll at home, all I could think was, "Whatever, Lady, just don't let it happen again."

**It's been nearly 20 years and I still think of it as the new library

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Little Help

So, being mildly obsessed with my NaNo and unable to start writing it, I've been making an uber outline (currenly 13 pages)and (dun, dun, dun-dun) written a synopsis. I've had a lot of trouble with the second part, actually, 'cause I'm not sure how to introduce a fanatasy world without making it sound completely lame (even though it's not).

I was hoping you guys could give me some feedback on the following, ie: is it any good? Would you want to read this book? Is it way too pretentious? Is it confusing? Does it flow ok? Or if you have any other comments you want to throw in there, they'd be more than welcome as well.

Foxes and rabbits don't get along

Someone wants Minty dead and she can't remember why; she can't remember anything. The mysterious event that caused her amnesia has left her horribly disfigured and she finds herself lost and alone during a tumultuous time.

The dreamworld is in chaos. Social media has started people dreaming about places they've never been and there's barely enough space to contain their misconceptions. With nearly seven billion people sleeping through the night, Nod is at full capacity.

Now underground rings of big game hunters are inducing comas to get into Nod – and turn its inhabitants into their prey.

Behind everything is the Dust, the life-force of the soul and the most potent drug in existence. Everyone has some, but many want more – and will stop at nothing to get it.

I'd really appreciate any help you could give me. Thanks!