The internet has opened up exciting opportunities for writers, amateur or professional – or amateur hoping to become professional. Whether you are an accomplished professional writer, a beginner just setting out to learn the skills, or a hobby-writer doing it just for fun, the internet has transformed the literary environment.
The beginner and the hobby-writer have always been able to join local creative writing groups and meet with like-minded others to exchange ideas and get feedback on their work. But those groups usually only meet once a month and probably have a handful of members. The internet has resulted in a profusion of ‘creative writing groups’ and a writer can publish work instantly, make it visible on a worldwide basis, and get feedback from hundreds of members.
It doesn’t matter whether that work is a six-word mini story (yes, they do exist) or a 200,000 word novel, it can all be published at no cost to the writer and the whole world can read it. Which is really rather wonderful, don’t you think?
The gatekeepers have gone. They were the demons who decided what would, and what would not, be published. Actually, they do still exist, sitting on editorial committees within magazines and book publishers, but they no longer have the power to stop work being published. A writer can simply ignore them and publish via the internet.
Of course, the gatekeepers claim that they were the arbiters of ‘quality’, but that is patently untrue. They were the arbiters of perceived commerciality, which isn’t the same thing.
Amazon (through the Kindle Direct Publishing service) and Smashwords are the longest established free-to-publish services for novels, novellas and collections of short stories, but others are appearing, such as Draft2Digital. Amazon has extended its ebook publishing service to a print copy service called CreateSpace.
What must be concerning the gatekeepers is that it’s not just first-time authors who are taking this route to publication – established authors are abandoning traditional publishers. Linda Gillard, for example, grew tired of her publisher pressurising her to write to fit in with their ideas. Linda now self-publishes her novels and is enjoying the freedom.
It’s not just novels that are published via the internet, of course. I mentioned six-word stories. Known these days as a form of ‘flash fiction’, these have a long and honourable history. Ernest Hemingway reputedly wrote, “For sale: baby shoes; never worn.” and in doing so won a bet with other writers.
I’ve put some of mine up onto various websites. I think my favourite is, ‘Died of hay fever. No flowers.’ – probably because I’m a sufferer myself.
Stories with exactly 100 words are known as drabbles. There are websites that regularly feature such flash fiction. For example, Indie Book Bargains (http://www.indie-book-bargains.co.uk/) issues a daily newsletter of books temporarily offered at bargain prices. Each bulletin ends with a drabble and I’m pleased to say that several of mine have been featured, including this one:
‘There are fairies at the bottom of my garden. I see them every day through the window. They appear at dawn and dusk. They dance and sing on the lawn by the roses. I used to creep down to watch them. They flew around my head and sang to me with voices like tiny crystal bells, so pretty at first, but then so insistent. The words they sing aren’t nice. Their songs got into my head and made me do things I shouldn’t have done. I don’t go down there anymore, but I think they are coming closer each day.’
So, whether flash fiction, poetry, novellas or novels is your area of interest, the internet is ready and waiting to introduce your work to millions of potential readers. There are plenty of friendly forums happy to comment, advise and support. You can find short story competitions, some with reasonable cash prizes.
There are non-fiction opportunities, too. Special interest groups have websites and forums where articles can be posted. And if you are looking for a purely commercial involvement there are opportunities to write web content for many companies.
If you haven’t already done so, perhaps it’s time to release the author in you.