Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Random Musings on Writing and Technology

(I just had to include the egg die contest up there... too funny!)

So, I’ve been zooming around, trying to catch up with all of my bloggy buddies and see what’s been going on around the internet... okay, that and I got caught up at the free rice site Precie linked on her blog... la, la, la... yes, more ways to waste time, while feeding the poor, though, and expanding my vocabulary, all and all it’s not so bad....... well, that’s my excuse, anyway.

And I finally went over and registered for facebook. Ello, Precie, and Moonrat have talked so much about scrabulous that I just had to check it out... even though I know it’s going to be a time suck... I should have probably paid attention to the warnings. What warnings, you ask? When I registered, it gave me a little code to submit before accepting my application. Do you want to know my code words?

End Violent

Seriously, I’m not making that up, I almost fell over I was laughing so hard. I wonder if Ello can teach me how to cheat at scrabulous. I still, by the way, haven’t figured out how to link my facebook site, or even what the url is, I have no clue what I’m doing over there – so it’ll probably take me a little while to get up and running.

The other thing I’ve been doing is catching up on some of the agent blogs. There are some new ones out there and some that I hadn’t really visited on a regular basis that are pretty good. I noticed that Nathan did a post on not calling a perspective agent to pitch... or for any reason. And that got me to thinking how much things have changed in the last ten years or so.

Okay, you were never supposed to call to pitch. That’s just stupid. I wouldn’t even try that one because honestly, I come off better on paper. And that’s the point, you want them to buy your writing – if you want them to see how charismatic you are, maybe you should try acting, or voice over, or running for Miss America, but if you want them to read your novel, you should probably be trying to get your pages in front of them instead of wowing them with your phone personality...

Where was I? Oh, yeah. About fifteen years ago and forever prior to that, the general admonishment was to call the agency or publishing house to verify that the person you wanted to query was still there and still the best person for your piece. That was all you were to call for – not to pitch talk or cajole, just to verify and hang the frig up... politely, of course. Publishing has always had a notoriously high turn over rate, or so we were taught in fiction writing courses and it was better to get your query in the correct hands with the correct name than have it whiling away on the desk of the person to usurp your intended victim... umn, I mean, recipient.

Today, that admonishment is a little dated. These agencies have websites and there are whole sites and message board communities devoted to keeping these resources updated. If you want to know if agent xyz is still with a particular agency, odds are you can find out by visiting the agency website or searching their name on a message board... There are reams of information at your fingertips on their preferences and submission requirements. There’s really no excuse not to have at least the basic information on any agent or editor you’re submitting to because research today is on point and updated constantly. Fifteen years ago, most writers were relying on reference books with information that was many months old by the time it hit the shelves in the first place.

The internet has accomplished a few really great things, especially for writers. It’s brought us agent blogs and whole writing communities where the aspiring author can learn the ropes and have a writing circle that they may not have found in the real world. Agents who blog are awesome because they freely give a plethora of information on the other side of the desk – information that most writers weren’t completely privy to before, at least not before having a few sales under their belt.

So what else has changed in the last few decades for writers? Is it better or worse in your estimation? Has it opened the doors? Crowded the field? What’s your take on the advancements of technology and how they influence the fiction writer? You know, besides permitting them to procrastinate with virtual word games.


Aerin said...

Procrastinate? I prefer to think of it as a necessary vocab-building tool.

(Oh, who am I kidding? Hey, look me up on Facebook; I can always use a new Scrabulous buddy!)

Ello said...

Have you friended me yet? We shall play scrabulous together! Oh and there is a way to cheat on scrabulous. I'll tell you in facebook land, as long as you don't use it on me!

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Aerin,

Nice to see you! I'll be tweaking my blogroll in the next few days so I'll be adding yours then and as soon as I figure out how to navigate the darn site, I'll definitely add you! So far Precie's my only friend, but that's only because she found me!

Hi Ello,

ditto, as soon as I can find you, I'll add you - oh, and I'll pinky swear not to use your powers against you on scrabulous.

Travis Erwin said...

I think the ease of writing and submitting has definitely increased the field of competition but I wouldn't want it any other way.

Look me up on facebook and congrats on finishing your novel. Wish I could say the same.

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Travis,

Thank you for the congrats, and I just friended you... and Aerin, and Ello... ha, ha, I'm getting good at this facebook stuff... I even poked Precie and threw an easter egg on her wall.

You know, I think technology has increased the number of writers, but from some of the agent posts I'm reading, there are an awful lot of queries that aren't using all of this easy research to their advantage.

Precie said...

In my personal experience, the internet has worked for the better. It's opened so many doors:
--enabling me to befriend you lovely people and other fascinating bloggers and online writing communties
--enabling me to take a fiction writing class online (through the Writer's Digest-related courses). I wouldn't have committed time and energy to an offline course.
--enabling me to find writers from all over the world who I "click" with--I never would have met any of them otherwise--and giving me high-energy communities to work with--I don't function as well in creative solitude.
--demonstrates to me almost daily that publishing isn't just an elite circle...people do get published out of the slush pile--That gives me hope!

Yes, all this technology has flooded the field with writers, with people who might not have felt up to the challenge before, but I can't begrudge that...because I'm one of them. :)

Jerseygirl89 said...

Yep, I'm staying away from scrabulous.

Jerseygirl89 said...

Yep, I'm staying away from Scrabulous. I think your code was a warning to all of us.

Josephine Damian said...

Merry: I've been at a few conferences where the powers that be blame the PC in general - the ability to store/edit/change/move around text as opposed to the much more labor intensive typewriter method as the reason why they're deluged with MS (translation: bad MS - bad because now everyone and their brother thinks they have a book in them, and ego and delusional thinking makes them think it's good and it will sell).

Internet? I'm planning on doing a series of posts on Internet addiction (and how I've started a kind of 12-step program for myself) and how it's especially detrimental for writers.... and, oh, yeah, did I mention I'm taking the entire summer off from blogging?

Anyway, yeah, I'm with Precie about the benefits, but like anything in life - it's got to be done in moderation.

What's up with avatar change?

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Precie,

"Yes, all this technology has flooded the field with writers, with people who might not have felt up to the challenge before, but I can't begrudge that...because I'm one of them. :)"

I love that!!! Though, I think there are also a lot of people out there who aren't really writers, they just think, hey, I could write a book, and do it without all of the research and learning we put into it... and then they google agents or editors and send out without knowing anything about the process.

For me, I've learned so much from blogging and having access to a writers circle it's amazing. More than any of my fiction writing courses taught me because there's constantly access to information from both the writer's perspective and the editor/agent side... all good stuff for those who want to learn and put their energy into it, which is pretty much everyone who visits this blog.

I've met a lot of people who just toss out there, 'yeah, I should write a book' because they have some great stories or a great idea... I always want to throttle them, because they have no idea how much time and energy goes into actually learning the craft of writing... at least for me. I've been writing since high school and actively researching everything I can about submission, publication, and craft since I was twenty - that's fifteen years now!!! This is the first novel I've written that I really feel like it THERE, READY, PUBLISHABLE... I might be on a longer learning curve than some people, but it's annoying to me when people toss it out there as if it's simple.

Long ramble, but that's basically what I was referring to in my comment to Travis... I've gotten the same benefits from online community as you mentioned and I love your list.

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Jersey,

You are a very smart woman... and yet, I've been super poking people and throwing eggs on their walls... sigh, I don't follow the warnings.

Hi Josie,

We responded at almost the same time!!! I'm right with you... though you're taking the whole summer?!!!! Ugh, just when I was looking forward to wasting tons of time on your blog!

I understand though, I think I averaged like a post every two weeks during my hiatus and I barely commented anywhere - It's odd, I've become so close to some of my blogging buddies that I feel guilty when I don't visit them.

I look forward to your posts on the subject and yes, I think everything in moderation is a good way to go - I've never been a blogger that posted daily, I usually average about two or three a week, but I visit and comment everyday - and that's still a huge time suck... on the other hand, I couldn't replicate the writing community I've found online in the real world... so, yeah, I just have to find a way to limit the time suck while fostering the communication end...

Maybe I should use a time limit. Allowing myself to check my blog once in the morning and once at night and so much time for visiting and commenting....

Oh, well, I'm not back to the grind for a few weeks... I'll try to think up a system for then.

Avatar... I just had a wild hair... I was going to switch it out with that happycat picture I posted for my six word memoir... but it came out all fuzzy and you couldn't see what it was, and I had tom and jerry saved to my pictures, so there you go.

Mary Witzl said...

I often try to imagine what it was like for writers before computers; it must have been hell. Now we can query and send entire manuscripts off by e-mail -- and wait for the inevitable to come pinging into our in-boxes. Rejection may still sting, but at least it's cheaper and quicker than it was for those writers who were constantly typing and packaging up their manuscripts. Being able to connect with other writers all over the world is also a huge bonus. The downside, I suppose, is that we don't appreciate this as much as we could.

Sadly, I'm not going to join facebook. My husband and my kids are pissed off enough as it is...

Merry Monteleone said...

Ha, ha, my husband just came upstairs last night and caught me playing scrabulous (I finally figured out where to find it)

He was all indignant with, "I thought you had all this stuff to do - this is why you're not spending time with me?" ... umn, yeah, pretty much.

Ah well, he should learn to like words more... he never wants to play scrabble.

Precie said...

LMAO!!! Oops--sorry we got you in Scrabulous trouble! ;)

Merry Monteleone said...

Umn, yeah, I should have paid attention to the warnings :-)