Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Three ‘Rs’: Authoring in the Digital Age, No. 2 wRiting.

This is the second part of the presentation given to the Swanwick Writers Summer School, 11th August,2009. It is based on The Three ‘Rs’: Authoring in the Digital Age.

Writing is the most controversial perspective and questions the work itself.

For the last couple of hundred years Books have been ‘straight jacketed’ between two pieces of card. The reason was simple and down to economics. The most economic format was what we see all around us today, 250 to 300 pages or around 75,000 words.But a digital age doesn’t have the same economics or constraints. The digital age has the potential to explode the spine and free writing from its current economic straightjacket.

Will it happen tomorrow? Will all books change?

It is already happening albeit slowly.

What do these authors have in common?

First we have the Keitai novel which is huge in Japan. This is a new bread of authors who are write books for your keitia, or mobile phone. These are written in instalments and in 5 years have jumped from zero to a $82 million and growing business.

Yoshi who wrote the very successful keitai novel ‘ Deep Love’ was turned into a book, which sold 2.7 million copies.

Mieko Kawakami, who is pictured, is a blogger who has been heralded as Japan’s biggest literary star. Her blog enjoys a staggering 200,000 readers every day and her third book won the prestigious Akutagawa literary award.

Next is Kate Pullinger, an established writer who I interviewed, who is now fully engaged in creating multi media stories that often evolve in instalments. It can be a shock to first see her work and you may not like it, but she recognises that stories are not exclusive to text, sound or visual and can be multi media.

Next author Stephen King, who in 1999 published his book ‘Riding the Bullet’. He did so over the internet and produced and sold one chapter at a time as he wrote it. Many derided the experiment and said it was a failure but the reality was he sold hundreds of thousands of chapters, broke new ground. Today he continues to experiment with digital and is to write an exclusive Kindle novel.

Next is our good friend Duke Redbird who is an Ojibwee Shaman and who wrote a poem ‘I am Canadian’ which he read to the Queen in 1977 to celebrate her jubilee. Scholastic have now published a book with just that one poem in it which is now going into all Canadian schools. If one poem can be a book it can easily be a rendered into many digital formats.

Poetry is no longer straight jacketed into economic collections and each poem can digital stand in its own.

Next is Kurt Vonnegut who died in 2007. His estate has just announced that 14 of his unpublished short stories are to be published as individual ebooks and then secondly as a printed collection.

Apparently Mr. Vonnegut is claimed to have told an interviewer in 1995 that he would “welcome” being called a Luddite. I think his estate has clearly taken a different stance.

Finally, let’s remember Charles Dickens. I borrow the following extract from his Wikipedia entry.

Much of his work first appeared in periodicals and magazines in serialised form, a favoured way of publishing fiction at the time. Dickens, unlike others who would complete entire novels before serial publication commenced, often wrote his in parts, in the order in which they were meant to appear. The practice lent his stories a particular rhythm, punctuated by one cliffhanger after another to keep the public eager for the next instalment

But it not just about how or what you write but also how you publish and promote it.

Today you need to be familiar with online content sites such as Scribd and Wattpad. These are the new generation of self publishing; they are not based on print on demand, but are online and attract huge audiences. Publishers, are also now experimenting with sites to let aspiring authors post their work on, in a hope to get noticed. I recognise that to many, this may be today’s slush pile, but we must also acknowledge that to others, it may be tomorrow’s reading platform.

Keep your minds open and decide on the basis of knowledge not ignorance. Digital writing is and will be different, will it replace tradition requests for 75,000 words and it it may suit you and your readers...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've been composing stories on Twitter via and putting the collated version on scribd at I'm getting a decent number of readers and some of my poems have been featured on scribd, but I have no idea if/how to create something where I could generate income so I have more time to write. I want to make everything free for ppl who don't have money, but what do I do to get income from ppl who do have extra cash?