One Reader’s Opinion – The Future is Now

One thing writers can always count on: tons of advice about how to write and what to write. That advice can tell you a lot about who’s offering the advice. Some of the worst advice is from people who regard language and literature as something written in stone, never to be tampered with or changed. But how often do we see straight up advice from a new generation of readers?

One blog post does not a consensus make, but one I ran across recently pulled together and clarified some issues that keep coming to mind as I scan through new books, mostly self-published. It boils down to the question of why so many successful books are so poorly written. My own conclusion is (and has been for some time) that we now have a generation of readers that come from a visual background: movies, TV, computer games. Schools, for the most part, require less reading, and tend to ignore or simplify literature in favor of material written to entertain. The result is a generation that doesn’t know the difference between good and bad writing, and doesn’t care.

So writers need to make choices about what they write and how they write it.

The popular “just get on with it and tell the story.” These are pretty much read and toss. If you want to make real money from your writing, this is the way to do it.

Stories that make you stop and think, that might even offer a challenge or two. You might want to reread them some day, and they might actually stick around for another generation or two of readers. If you care more about quality than money, this is what you’ll strive for.

Literacy is decreasing; the pull of visual entertainment is omnipresent and in ever more variety. If you write, you compete not only with other writers, particularly if you write in a popular genre, but with a sensory deluge of color, movement, and sound that is becoming an environment of its own. Arguments about whether digital or print will be the predominant medium for words are almost irrelevant. It’s already clear that drama on the page can’t compete with drama that’s part of an immersive environment. That’s why the most important discussions are about how much of that ereaders will be able to tap into as they become technologically more sophisticated.

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6 thoughts on “One Reader’s Opinion – The Future is Now

  1. I think your theory is pretty sound, but I wouldn’t advise losing hope just yet. Good writing is still happening, and it’s more accessible than ever before. What we take away from it is shifting though – since I think a lot of reading is for escapism these days, thus making the ‘entertainment value’ way more important.

    1. I haven’t exactly lost hope, even though I’ve been a book person since I learned to interpret those little black marks on paper. Everything evolves, and books and the act of reading are also evolving.

  2. Pulp fiction has been around for a long time, and has always been profitable for those who do it well. Purple prose and lurid imagery is nothing new. And it still appeals to a large portion of the population, just like always.
    There will always be many different kinds of people, with many different kinds, and levels, of taste.
    Thank goodness! 🙂

    1. That’s actually the kind that’s going to be most successful in the future, I think. “Literature” has never been big; it’s just had the advantage of being considered important enough for teachers to push it on uninterested students. The future will be enhanced digital books full of bells and whistles, and contemporary pop will be most suitable for that. Literary fiction has always been an “elite” taste and it will probably remain a small niche.

  3. For those who want to make money with writing in the next couple decades, I bet writing the scenery and caricature descriptions for full-immersion virtual reality war games will be profitable.

    1. I’m sure that will be just one of many expanding fields as technology develops and the price keeps coming down. And, as real life becomes increasingly unpleasant, more and more people will retreat into various kinds of virtual reality. There’s plenty of science fiction already exploring those issues.

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