October 29, 2012

Stop Five: An Unexpected Day at Home

Something must have gone wrong today. I have no idea what or why or how. Although I do know who, I have no way to get hold of the lady who had agreed to be my blog tour host other than the internet; and she doesn't seem to be able to get online today.
I was supposed to have been in Indiana today, but since it seems that this is not going to happen, I'll run with plan B. Yes, I have a plan B. I (almost) always have a plan B. In this case, plan B is that I will host myself for this installment of my blog tour. Mostly because I really want this post to be seen.

How Ebooks Have Changed Writing

I've had a lot of people ask me what I think about this recent craze over ebooks. They want to know how ebooks have changed the face of writing. I tell them writing has not changed. Publishing has changed a lot, and so has technology, but the art of crafting a story and presenting it in a permanent form has not changed in several hundred years.

No matter what the genre is, or the length of the story, all fiction writing has a few things in common. There must be a hero. The hero must have a goal. There must be obstacles between the hero and the goal. Some people may be surprised I don’t specify there must be a villain. There are many types of conflict and obstacles, not all of which absolutely require a villain; however, most heroes do have a flesh and blood nemesis throwing obstacles in their path.

Now, a little about publishing.

Some 700 years ago, Johannes Gutenberg put together several new technologies to create a new type of type of printing press. Before this time, all books were either written by hand or printed after a piece of wood had been carved for each page.

Somewhere around 150 years ago, Samuel Clemens is credited with being the first author to turn a manuscript in to his editor which had been written on a typewriter. Before that, all manuscripts were written out by hand. In fact, the very word manuscript means hand-written.

Some five years ago, ebooks became very popular with the invention of the Kindle. Ebooks had been around before that, but people like to carry their books around with them, and not have to sit at their desk to read them. The Kindle made the carrying-around part easy. Suddenly readers had the ability to go on vacation and take all of their favorite books with them. They would never run out of things to read.

However, because mainstream publishers were slow to make their books available in electronic format, readers became frustrated. At the same time, writers who for one reason or another were unable or unwilling to publish via mainstream companies were frustrated at the inability to get their books in front of willing readers. Self-publishing a book at that time cost a small fortune. By making ebook publishing affordable and available to all, readers and authors both found a cure for their frustration. Authors could afford to self-publish. Readers had more novels to choose from. Self-published ebooks made everyone happy except for the main-stream publishing companies who didn’t dare try the new technology.

Various inventions have changed the face of publishing over the years. The art and science of novel-writing has changed very little, however. An author still needs a hero, his goal, and a bunch of obstacles standing between the two. A good story is a good story, no matter how it’s produced, and it will continue to delight readers for many years to come. The method of its delivery to a reader’s eager eyes and hands is largely irrelevant to the writing process.

Instead of stories being written and revised and copied out by hand on voluminous amounts of paper, an ebook can be produced entirely with a computer and use no paper at all, yet still be totally engrossing to the reader. Thanks to my e-reader, I have just discovered a “new” favorite author...H. G. Wells.

Over the thirteen years I worked on Tanella’s Flight, I used a lot of paper. Many of the chapters were written in longhand, then typed into the computer. The manuscript was printed out, double spaced, at nearly a ream of paper per copy, for each revision. Ten copies were printed and sent to beta-readers. By contrast, The Siege of Kwennjurat was never on paper at all until the proof copy was printed. No paper! If you buy an e-copy, then between us we have used no trees in the production of an excellent novel. If you want a print copy, then the tree-consumption is still kept at a minimum, because only copies that are ordered get printed. There is no pile of paper books sitting in a warehouse someplace gathering dust.

The publishing process of both books was different, but the writing followed roughly the same path. I have a hero...and a goal...and a whole pile of obstacles standing in his path.


  1. I agree and disagree. I love that we are not wasting paper, taking resources and that books can be self-published. But I do wonder what if it all goes off in the ditch some of this technology that makes me a living. Think of the people that have that find of a lifetime in an old box in the attic, they find that old book and blow off the dust and open those pages. I think of that often when reading on a tablet.

    1. While I love the new technology, and I love that it is purported to be kinder to the environment, I also love actual paper books - which is why I own so many of them. I've cataloged more than 2500 books, and have probably at least that many in boxes waiting to be cataloged.

      As gar as the "greenness" of ereaders, yes, we save a lot of trees, especially trees that are wasted because many of the books books that get printed but not sold end up in landfills, but trees are a renewable source. How much in the way of non-renewable sources is used up in the manufacture of the reading device, and in the manufacturing of the electricity to power the device, the computer I used in writing the book, and the computers used in the Internet marketing and distribution of the book? Everything is a trade-off.

      I'm just glad that the technology has made self-publishing easily available to me when I really needed it.