We keep saying it’s happening, and now The Medium‘s The Message documents some of the changes occurring in writing now we are all constantly connected. They suggest change has moved on from vocabulary to syntax. I hadn’t ever articulated the thought, but now they point it out it’s really obvious that social media have increased the gross amount of writing that gets done nowadays. What used to be taken care of as a telephone conversation (or just not articulated) is now written out as a text, an e-mail or whatever. We should expect evolution under such busy interactional relationships.

It’s not only this sort of writing, of course; books are also engaged in a growth spurt. It’s hard to know for sure, and if you want to say that all these self-published books would have been written anyway in the past, and just kept in bottom drawers, please go ahead. I don’t agree though. The ability to get your work “published” seems to me to be a potent stimulus to creativity. There are probably still quite a number of attempts at genre fiction which are being consigned to digital bottom drawers, but the overall total of writing has surely exploded. According to Bowker, more than 458,000 titles were self-published in the US in 2013, 17% more than in 2012 and 437% more than in 2008. I really doubt if in 2008 all these extra books were actually being written and sat upon.

Are you finding it difficult to get started on your next? Kindle Spy, an app which is being offered at $37 today, will enable you, while analyzing your e-book sales, to use a word cloud to find the best words to use in your new book. Sounds crazy, but watch the video.

(Link via The Passive Voice.)

Without a world of self publishing I don’t think there would be people talking to themselves in the tone used in that promo video: “What shall I write a book about?” “How many dollars can I expect to make?” “What words are the most popular in that subject area, so I can structure my book around them?” I guess pre-digital authors did get suggestions for their next book from agents, editors, friends, fans and so on, and in a way that’s not so different. But the idea that there are so many people sculling around out there thinking what shall I write a book about is rather depressing. Where did they all find so much spare time? Is this what a jobless recovery does for you?

It’ll take someone more widely read in current fiction than me to say whether these sorts of writing changes are manifesting themselves in the literature. However, I would be surprised if there was no effect. R. L. Stine’s Twitter story from last Halloween, which you can read here at HuffPostBooks, seems to be little more than a regular story divided into 15 bits, none longer than 140 characters. I’d need to immerse myself deeper in Stineiana than I am perhaps willing to do if I wanted to come up with any Twittering trends in his style. But style must be influenced by form, and as more writers experiment with more media more mutations will become evident. Like the trivial one that when word-processing programs arrived, allowing for easy revision and insertion, the average length of manuscripts received by the publisher went up quite sharply. Once you were freed from retyping the entire chapter, you could freely insert copy without any corresponding deletion.

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