Beverage alert

Dear Miss Snark,

I read your blog regularly, have been for these past 37 years, and always enjoy it. I'm hoping a fellow octogenarian such as you might be willing to share your insights on some publishing industry trends. My theory is that the availability of economical personal computers and word processors has enabled people to write, revise, and spell check much more quickly and easily than in the days of manual typewriters and correction fluid.

Based on your 50+ years in the industry, do you think literary agents and publishers have become inundated with marginal tripe that wouldn’t exist if authors still had to labor over manual typewriters? Or has technology facilitated the discovery of exciting new authors that otherwise might not have taken on the daunting task of writing?

There also seem to be a lot more literary agents popping up. Coincidence, cloning experiments gone bad, a natural market response to more authors entering the field, or something else altogether?

Finally, in your opinion does any of this help explain the rampant increase in criminal behavior, divorce, mental illness, suicide, alcoholism, alien abductions, and substance abuse among literary agents?

Senile in St. Louis

yes no yes yes


Writerious said...

This blog has been around for 37 years?

Damn, I really did catch on to it late.

M. G. Tarquini said...

Yes, 37 years. Miss Snark started it preternatally.

Dave said...

Surely you jest.

PicAxe said...

The idea that the computer has spawned a new generation of writers, who might otherwise be canning peaches or watching foolsball is a valid thought, me thinks. I mean really, why not? A book is just words after all, and we all have an excess of them.

Lorra said...

To quote Miss Snark: Words Fail Me

Kanani said...

I'm hoping a fellow octogenarian

Shit. Tell me she's not really Spinster Snark.

rams said...

Revision = better writing. Technology facilitates revision. Therefore, technology facilitates good writing.

angrylil'asiangirl said...

kanani --

how mean! what's wrong with being a spinster?

my biggest goal in life is to be a spinster. like ms. marple. only more curmudgeonly -- er, snarky.

it's the whole double standard thing again. if george clooney were female, he could totally be considered a spinster at this point, too, you know.

Chumplet said...

Senile in St. Louis has accidentally tapped into our time line from the future. It's amazing he can remember anything. Maybe he isn't really in St. Louis at all!

Anonymous said...

Writing a novel is only 1% typing.

Xopher said...

rams, technology facilitates revision for some people. But with a word processor you only revise the things you think need revising.

When you had to type sentences over whether they needed revising or not, the cost of making marginal revisions was very low. Also, many a sentence, many a paragraph, many a chapter is enormously improved just by being shorter—and the tedious process of retyping a manuscript provides an additional motivation to avoid verbosity.

OTOH when you have one tiny revision in the middle of chapter 17, retyping the whole chapter to make it is a huge hurdle. So this cuts both ways, depending on the general OCD level of the writer.

Miss Snark's experience, however, is that the quantity of writing has increased, while the quality has declined. This data point is not to be taken lightly, though her advanced age may influence her opinion...us oldsters generally prefer things the way they useta be.

Kanani said...

Yes, mean.
Terribly mean.
I had my mean coffee today.
Oh, so mean, mean, mean!
meany, meany, meany!
Next, I'm going to go over and kick a plant.


ObiDonWan said...

The days of handwriting were better.

shelby said...

Xopher is right. Technology does facilitate revision, but only for people who have the self-awareness to recognize that revision is needed.

Senile in St. Louis said...

Chumplet, I am in St. Louis. But I don't remember how I got here, or when. I don't remember writing to Miss Snark, either. Maybe I did?

Anonymous said...


and the tedious process of retyping a manuscript provides an additional motivation to avoid verbosity.

Er...Victor Hugo? Charles Darwin? Galileo? Dickens? Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz? I think modern writers tend to be far less verbose in general than writers at most other points in European/American literary history, even the ones who lived before the typewriter and had to rewrite by hand. Go figure.

(I have a particular weakness for Victor Hugo's bricks with their half-page-long sentences, I must admit.)

I think technology is a helpful tool for the good writer but it also makes it easier for the incompetent writer to put their work out there. Or maybe that's just because the internet made self-publishing available to everyone.


Writerious said...

Xopher: Some writers might only revise the things that need revising. Perhaps most do. But "running it through the typewriter again" is one of my favorite means of editing, and my hardworking laptop allows me to do that without wasting paper and without overstraining my fingers and wrists.

ObiDonWan: Last time I checked, the office supply stores still carried pens, pencils, paper, and other analog instruments for writing by hand. The "days of handwriting" aren't gone after all. Now, I find that when I write by hand my writing voice changes. I don't know why. Does it for you?