Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hello! Welcome to my head.

Yeah, that's me, right over there. I'm L. G. Vernon. I'm a novelist and essayist and have at last come to the conclusion that a blog isn't necessarily a bad idea. If you're looking for political discourse, though, you probably won't find it here. I'd rather rub road apples in my hair and dance naked in the moonlight (and at my age that's scarier than this election) than talk about politics.

I've been writing for a very long time. Hell, I've been doing almost everything for a very long time. I have given up on limbo contests, bungi jumping, kickboxing, and the idea that Tom Selleck will ever come knocking on my door. I have not, however, given up on the idea that writing--what we write and how we write it--has significance.

Before the advent of the home computer and, more significantly, the internet, writing was a solitary pursuit. I began my writing career by roughing out articles and essays in longhand on a yellow tablet (I know, it sounds barbaric, doesn't it??) and then developing those rough notes, eventually typing them on a Remington Rand portable typewriter. Geez, that was even before 'White-Out', before 'Liquid Paper', before a typewriter eraser that didn't tear holes in my paper.

Speaking of paper, I used carbon paper in those early days. There was no such thing as a printer-sized copier. There were no faxes; no scanners; no pdfs; no books on the net. The only net I had went over my hair.

If I wanted to fact-check something, I used the World Book Encyclopedia, along with a raft of other reference materials--all of which I still own. Otherwise, I drove to the county library. There was no Wikipedia.

There was no critique group to look at my writing. There were no Internet meetings. There were no online submission guidelines. In order to find places to submit freelance work, one had to subscribe to writers' magazines. And Writers' Market.

I read as much as I could about how to submit material to magazines and newsletters. I learned about accumulating 'clips'. I made interminable lists of story ideas and review possibilities. I wrote (again on the Remington Rand) to countless publishing companies, requesting submission guidelines for their various publications. Those guidelines went into genre-related file folders. I had dozens of file folders.

I kept 'tickler' files of which editor was working where. I learned that Christmas stories should be submitted no later than July and Fourth of July stories should be submitted in the fall. I learned about 'writing to space' and willfully worshipped the wordcount. I learned that 'double-dipping' had nothing to do with ice cream, but meant that I could use the same research material and review sources to write articles for more than one magazine.

Then came the home computer and the entire complexion of writing changed forever. My first computer used MS-DOS. It had two floppy drives: a five and a quarter and a three and a half. There was no such thing as a hard drive. No Windows, either--and no Internet. But a couple of years later--whammo! I graduated to a computer with a two-megabyte hard drive. Then up jumped Prodigy, then AOL.

Today, the world is literally at my fingertips. I schmooze with other authors, editors, publishers and literary agents. The information highway runs in all directions and is wider than the sea.

That doesn't mean that professional writing is any easier; on the contrary, I think it's tougher than ever. The computer, with its ease of production: no scribbling on yellow pads, no dictionaries to thumb through, no need for a room full of books, has only served to increase competition and glut the markets with material that is unsalable.

There are thousands upon thousands of would-be writers out there. Because computers have made the function of writing easier, these well-intentioned folks are pumping out material that, before the electronic age, would never have seen the light of day, muchless been presented to an agent, editor, or publishing house.

Their failure is in not understanding that clear, concise writing is an art and a science. It takes time and dedication to learn to put thoughts together in a cohesive, readable form. Our English teachers were right when they said we had to learn to spell; that we had to recognise a dangling participle; that we had to develop rudimentary grammatical skill. That we had to stop passing notes about how cute Larry in the third row was . . .

If you're a budding writer, I urge you--no--I BEG you: Learn to spell. Learn construction. Learn, learn, learn! Don't accept the myth that if you write a great story, it won't matter that you can't spell 'cat', that some agent somewhere is going to wade through your poorly-presented manuscript and will be transported by your tale.

Trust me. It's not gonna happen.

Until next time~~~I'm just Linda


Pat said...

Hello, I'm just Linda! Welcome to the blogosphere. I still recall with fondness the old clackity clack Royal and IBM Selectric that got me off and running. Sadly, I also remember 5 1/4 inch DS/DD floppies. One would hold about a chapter. Look how far we've come to get nowhere! LOL

Of course, now no one types--they keyboard. DUH. Watching some folks "keyboard" can be quite amusing--a two-fingered tap dance.

Good luck with the blog. {{{Hugs}}}

LGVernon said...

Well, as I wrote to the good folks (at least I hope they're good folks) at Dell the other day: I don't touch-type, I look-type, occasinally looking at the correct letter but then poking an entirely different letter, thus developing my own, indecipherable spelling system.