How Many Writers Can You Fit In A Mini?

I’ve had an odd evening. I did the last set of edits on the story for the Beeb (now finished and with producer..yay!). I sent a longer version of the same story to an editor of a US magazine that I had sent a paper copy to months ago but they had lost it, and got a response back 15 minutes later saying they didn’t like it. I dropped into the TTA Press forum and lobbed a comment into a resurgent debate on New Weird, then pootled over to Vanderworld and read a leaked extract of Jeff V’s new book.

It really is a very small writing world.

I’m wondering what effect this must have on those old ‘established’ writers who are used to working in relative isolation. I’ve heard writers identified as the Class II persoanlities who stand on the edge of the playground and watch the other kids suspiciously. Writing fiction has long been a way interacting with humanity at a distance, not just physical but temporal. You get to compose your work well in advance and then release it into the world, complete and polished. This interweb thingy has changed all that irrevocably. Critical debates that used to rumble on over the period of decades in respectable journals now flower and then die in months or even weeks, and even worse any old johnny can throw in their tuppence worth. Readers aren’t held at a comfortable distance anymore, they are right in your face asking difficult questions of every snippet of information that gets written, and expecting answers. Writers used to be able to get away with a spectrum of ill behaviour ranging from irrascible old curmudgeon to pathologocal isolationism. No longer. These days a writer needs the public relations skills of a customer service executive just to  manage their e-mails.

And it has to change the nature of the writing as well. Once an exercise in exitentialist angst generation where the writer struggled to produce work that may not see the light of day for months or even years. Now a writer can draft work, publish and get feedback from an audience of anywhere from zero to a hundred thousand in seconds. The writers who thrive in that kind of environment will be very different to the old curmedgeons we know and…Love? Loathe? Both?

Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Director of creative writing at UoL, published with OUP and Cambridge. Currently travelling the world and writing a book.


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