'In the early years of twenty-first century, in the First Digital Age, ritual self-publication was widely practiced. Just as every Muslim was encouraged to undertake a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their adult life, each individual in Western society strove to publish at least one book, regardless of its merit. The practice was spread through social media (not yet recognized as a disease), and eventually destroyed whatever remained of Western culture, which finally drowned in a digital tsunami of loghorrhoea in 2020.' - An extract from The Chronicles of Unreason (pub. 2075).
Fantasy? Maybe. But even if you haven't published a book yourself, you probably know at least one person who has. And if you spend too much time on the Internet, like most normal people (and especially on Twitter, like me) you may have noticed a recent change in the way that writers are pursuing their favourite online activity, which is writing about writing.
For the last few years the Internet has been groaning under the weight of 'writing tips,' and most of them are drivel. I should know, I've written many of them myself. In my defence, I've always tried to come up with writing tips that are at best useless, and preferably misleading. Things like:
'Always take a break if you've spent more than six hours at a stretch in online arguments about punctuation.'
'Be alert for plagiarism. If it's not happening to you, you're clearly not writing anything worth stealing.'
'Writing is rewriting. No, wait. GOOD writing is rewriting. Or maybe, The BEST writing... No, the first version was OK.'
And, more recently:
'Write about what you know. But as if you were being spanked by a preposterous idiot.'
(I apologise if you've already seen any of these as tweets. Although you can't really blame me for doing a little light recycling. And it's not as if it's a huge chore to read them again, is it? In fact, I've got nothing to apologise for. Give me a break, OK? It's hard work coming up with this stuff. Actually, it's you who should apologise, for trying to make me feel guilty.)
My writing tips were facetious reflections of the kind of 'inspirational' guff that's very hard to avoid on the Internet, and for which I've coined the term Unspirational Quotes. Then came the eBook revolution, and everything changed. Instead of writers simply telling each other how to write, they began bombarding each other with instructions about what to do with whatever they managed to write in the brief moments when they weren't busy giving each other writing advice. Writing tips have now been overtaken by publishing tips.
Don't get me wrong. A lot of the information and advice you can find online about publishing and promotion is very useful. But like everything on the Internet there's just too much of it. I've absorbed as much as I can, and while I'm clueless about any of the technology, I've noticed a few attitudes that seem to emerge. I've attempted to distil them into three bullet points.
See what I've done here?
Follow Paul Bassett Davies on Twitter: www.twitter.com/thewritertype