|The author, Dane F. Baylis|
FIRST, AN UPDATE.
For those of you residing in the Ventura, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles County areas of Southern California:
NOW BACK TO OUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED PROGRAM!
You'll see me touting all kinds of things in this space when it comes to writing, but perhaps the most important bit of information I can pass along is the need to avoid stagnation. I've been at this long enough to see changes in trends, styles, and technology that, taken as a whole, are nothing short of staggering. As one example, this blog was an impossibility in the early 1970's when I published my first poems.
Back then, if you wanted to reach an audience other than the people you met at readings and workshops, you hand-typed a newsletter, took it to a printer, paid for the printing, stuffed it into envelopes, paid for the postage and schlepped everything around by mail or by hand. There was the easy way out. If you wanted to, you visited every venue you could locally, and posted things on the ever present, physical, bulletin boards. Flyers, word of mouth, telephones, and mail was how the word got out. This blog is no less than a quantum leap. Even my humble raving is now seen in places like S. Korea, Russia, Poland, Great Britain, Romania, Malaysia, and all over the United States with the tap of a key.
Back in the day, manuscripts were a laborious matter of hand written first drafts, typed and retyped pages - and I do mean physical paper and ink pages, inserted one at a time behind the roller of your trusty typewriter. If you made a mistake in the drafting portion, you erased it and typed over the erasure. But, when you got ready to submit, you either hired out the laborious task of producing an absolutely clean copy, or you agonized long into the night - night after night - until you got it right. The only thing back-spacing did was move the carriage in the typewriter, the mistake was still there.
If you wrote something that required research, it normally meant at least one trip to the library, and sometimes several trips to several libraries. You took physical notes, drank gallons of bad coffee, and wrote letters to subject matter authorities that might, or might not, elicit answers. (Which isn't any different today, when I think about it.) There was no Internet as a starting point, you had to hike down to the book store if you wanted to buy a reference. So, today there is the convenience factor. Unfortunately, I hear too many (let's couch this tactfully) "mature" writers, complain that the technology is just overwhelming.
Well, so was the first IBM Selectric typewriter. Not to mention the early Olivetti tape storage systems. But everything evolves. The hardware is in use and moves ahead whether we accept it or not. Resistance to it only insures that the outlets available to the individual who takes a Luddite stance will dry up faster than a paper towel in the Mojave.
I was at a round table discussion recently featuring four respected editors. One of the things they hammered on was that today's author has to learn to use the "Track Changes" function in Microsoft Word. Why? Because that is the industry standard and indicates to the rest of the publication chain that you believe their time is as valuable as yours. They use it so that they don't have to deal with multiple hard copies of a particular manuscript, everyone's proposed changes and corrections, and the author's stubborn need to express their creativity and individuality.
The surge in electronic publishing is another place where you might want to gain some familiarity. Especially if you don't want to end up passing out hand-stapled copies of your latest work one chapter at a time to your reading group and nobody else. Yes, there are some true horror stories involved in this, and I'm not referring to genre. Spelling, grammar, and formatting mistakes abound. But let's face it, more and more works are being produced this way and there are fewer and fewer traditional publishers in play. You can dangle your toes in the pool voluntarily or find yourself in a sink-or-swim moment. Of course, there is the third alternative where you roll up your beach towel and go home. But where's the fun in that?
Writing's writing. New genres and markets open. Someone is always pushing the envelope. You'd never think of shutting yourself off to the new and creative opportunities there, would you? So why would you take a contrary stance when it comes to new tools and techniques? Grab your rubber duck and jump on in!
Just a helpful hint from your Uncle Dane.
Meanwhile...live, love, write, and, oh yeah, learn!
Want to follow or subscribe to this blog? There are gadgets for that on the right side of the page. You can leave comments in the form below. I can be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can also find links to some of the sites I visit from time to time on the right. I'm also looking for submissions to the Your Work/Your Love page. Authors retain all rights.
Dane F. Baylis