Writing digitally

The Literary Consultancy’s recent conference, Writing in a Digital Age, addressed many of the issues facing writers in our increasingly digital age and how writers can use this technology to their advantage.

In his keynote talk, author Hari Kunzru suggested that we are in an unprecedented ‘data-rich’ period of history—a ‘sublime excess’ as he termed it. This has led to the idea that a writer should abandon ‘self-expression’ in favour of ‘bricolage’. This postmodern term has been around for 50 years so why, he asked, does the writing community still resist the idea in favour of the much older concept of ‘self-expression’? He quoted David Shields (author of Reality Hunger) who thinks that unauthorised plagiarism is the way forward into the future.

In the session entitled Confessions of a Modern Writer, Nicola Morgan argued that while social media has undoubtedly improved her professional life, she also feels she has lost part of her soul as a writer, lost some connection to her subconscious and has opened herself up to endless chatter. Linda Grant said that she finds Twitter extraordinary because it is up to date on both macro and micro levels. She likes the terseness of the form and uses it to connect with the world rather than to promote herself or her work. Best-selling author Kate Mosse, on the other hand, has rejected completely what she calls the ‘triviality’ of social media. She feels that her business as a writer is to get better, for which she needs ‘peace’, and she feels that social media interferes with creativity.

Mike Jones, Portal Entertainment’s head of story, was another conference highlight. His talk in the session entitled How Multimedia Is Bringing Books to Life proposed three essential qualities to storytelling in the digital age:

1. Immersive, interactive stories need to move away from the traditional three-act structure towards the idea of creating the ‘architecture’ of the experience you wish to convey.
2. If possible, tell your story in first person/present tense. This helps to create immediacy.
3. The audience must be brought into the story through role-playing.

In the session entitled From Cradle to Kindle: Getting Discovered in Today’s E-cosystem, Michael Bhaskar—Profile digital publishing director—thought that most e-books fall into an abyss and it’s an agent or publisher who turns that abyss into an audience. A new e-publishing term—‘disintermediation’—refers to the cutting out of all middle men to get to readers, but it is not really happening, he argued, because e-book authors often end up with book deals and those books sell in even greater numbers.

A 99p price tag for your e-book is not enough any more, he said, and there is something in fixing a minimum price for your e-book because those who pay more want to like your book, in the same way that you want to like a meal when you go to an expensive restaurant.

Thanks to Becky Swift and the TLC team for an amazing conference.