Finally, after many years of procrastination, I'm writing a novel. A lot of people apparently feel that they “have a novel in them”, but I've taken the plunge and I'm actually doing it. Yay, me.
Mind you, as I say, it took me a long while to get there. I've been mulling over ideas for as long as I can remember. In fact, last summer, I came up with what I thought was a great idea for a thriller. But I intimidated myself out of writing it because the topic was so complex. It would require extensive amounts of research, necessitate interviews with countless experts, plus research trips to various European destinations (oh, the hardship!) So before I'd even properly thought of another idea, I decided to shelve this complex thriller and make it my second novel.
The first novel took a while to formulate itself into a fully-fledged idea – ie, something with enough meat on it to be a novel (or even a novella) – but I'm now on chapter four. One thing I've found during the process is how important it is to be able to write anywhere; be it on my desktop computer, my laptop, my tablet or occasionally even the odd snippet on my phone. Using a cloud storage system, I can access my notes anywhere and put digital pen to digital paper – starting, finishing and even writing whole chapters.
Throughout this process, it's struck me more than once how much easier things are nowadays for would-be writers. I mean, we don't have to lug around an entire manuscript whenever we want to write. Plus there's no danger of my work vanishing into the ether – largely because it's stored IN the ether. All my notes are right there at my fingertips wherever I am.
What a great time to be a writer!
Of course, the same goes for many other creative professions too. Such is the complexity of music software these days that composers can write music along similar lines. The same goes for artists and designers.
But it's not only the accessibility angle which makes the process so much easier; it's the editing and amendment angle too. Having seen a number of manuscripts of Jane Austen and other heavyweight novelists, I was quite struck by how little re-editing there had been. Granted, I may have seen the second draft, I don't know, but when one considers that these are landmark works of fiction, it's quite extraordinary how little change there is from handwritten manuscript to finished, published book.
This led me to wonder whether our processes now are, for want of a better word, lazier. Given the ease of editing and amending, do we care or think less now about how we write, or what we design, and what we commit to “paper” than we did when things were more difficult? And if that's true, has the quality suffered? Do we now settle for an acceptable result rather than great result?
There must surely be more E L Jameses than Charlotte Brontes around, and more Tracey Emins than Pablo Picassos.
On the flip-side, one could argue that, for the very reason that we can amend and amend and amend, some people don't stop until the finished product is perfect. Or even beyond perfect, in the sense that it's a case of fiddling with something that doesn't need any further revision.
Plus with self-publishing becoming the norm, and absolutely anyone being able to create a website and post a blog (which is broadly a good thing), this does open up the information superhighway to allow an awful lot of dross into the world.
That being said, one could reasonably believe that, whatever the proliferation of creative work, the cream will usually rise to the top. But whether today's controversial artists such as Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin retain their place in history is yet to be seen.
Ashley is a copywriter, editor and blogger. Oh, and now he reckons he's a novelist.
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