editor of the Writing World e-zine
I’m probably going to show my age here, but do you remember when all you needed to be a freelance writer was a typewriter or a word processor, envelopes and, if you were high-tech, an e-mail account?
I only ask because apparently, according to what you can see on the internet and in writer’s magazines, you couldn’t possibly be a writer today with such basic equipment. To succeed in today’s competitive world, to be a better writer faster, you need specialist writing software, writing apps for your smart phone and tablet, and subscriptions to members-only guaranteed jobs sites and calls for submission sites.
But I ask myself, is any of this really necessary?
Some new writers seem to think so. A young woman approached me recently and said she’d love to get into writing but couldn’t afford all the specialist writing software and apps she’d seen advertised. I told her you don’t need all that to be a writer.
The basics haven’t changed. Just because technology exists doesn’t mean it is the only or best way of doing something.
Tiffany Jansen’s article below shows us that you don’t actually need tech to be a writer, and that quite often, old school is not only cheaper but also more reliable too.
Now I’m not for one minute suggesting going back to the days of posting query letters with SASEs and IRCs. Email queries are one of the small wonders of a modern writer’s life that I, for one, will forever be grateful for.
Similarly, I love being able to research writer’s guidelines online, rather than send off for them. I also find it much easier to get a feel for potential new markets by visiting a website and reading articles online rather than buying several copies of the print magazine.
But surely, there are still so many aspects of a writer’s life that could be done just as well, if not better, the ‘old-fashioned’ and, dare I say it, cheaper way?
For example, do we really need to use our phones to make notes, to plan our writing? Instead, might I suggest a cool old-school alternative called The Notepad? The Notepad is a flexible, highly portable writing aid. It comes in a variety of sizes suitable for most pockets and bags. Ordered minds can opt for a lined variety to keep their thoughts and musings in order, whereas for more creative, mind-mapping types, a plain paper option is available.
The Notepad can be used with a choice of input devices – the pen or the pencil.
The pen is for those who like to keep a definite note of their thoughts, whereas the pencil is better suited to those who prefer to self-correct as they write, as it is compatible with the word remover known as the eraser.
Likewise, do we really need apps to teach us how to write like Hemmingway? Or writing software to teach us how to structure stories, create narrative arcs and create memorable characters?
You could try the cheaper, old-tech way of doing it.
Want to learn from the great writers at your convenience? Want a master class in plot writing and word crafting? You need a “book.”
With a book you can study how any writer of your choice formed sentences, created characters and wove plots. A book is a portable device that enables you to learn from the great writers whenever and wherever you want. Simply read the words of the writer of your choice and think about how they did what they did. This amazing knowledge transfer system can be used anywhere and is now even available on tablets and smart phones.
Finally, if you really want to improve your writing skills, forget the super-duper Writer 3000 software and try this old-fashioned and inexpensive tip: practice. Write regularly. Write by hand or on your computer. Any blank surface will do. Actually, the less distractions the better, as you then have no option but to write.
My young wannabe writer friend didn’t sound too convinced by all this old-tech, but I told her she had nothing to lose by trying it.
Personally, I’m glad we have the internet and the advantages it brings – grammar guides and exercises, calls for submissions, access to experts and research via easy to use search engines, etc.
But I’m also glad I started writing when things were less high-tech and so was my bank balance.
This article is reprinted from Writing-World.com. Dawn Copeman is editor.