Writers ask writers: Writing in the digital age

Writers ask writers: Writing in the digital age

To celebrate the launch of Annabel Smith’s new novel, The Ark, our writing group is discussing the issue of writing in the digital age. Also, we warmly welcome a new writer to our group – Yvette Walker, author of Letters To The End of Love, which is shortlisted along with Fractured in the Western Australia Premier’s Book Awards. Yvette is also my local bookseller, and it’s great to have her join us!
The Ark tells the story of a team of scientists and their families who retreat into a bunker known as The Ark, alongside five billion plant seeds that hold the key to the future of life on Earth as the world outside descends into chaos. But The Ark’s sanctuary comes at a price…

I was lucky enough to read an advance copy of this book and you can read my review here. What is even more exciting is that Annabel is releasing this story as an interactive app, an amazing project to take on and complete!  I haven’t yet seen the novel in its digital form, and I am really looking forward to the experience. You can read more about The Ark here.

Writing in the digital age

In my writing life, I use the internet a lot. While some of that time  is useful, much of it is not, and the biggest challenge for me as a writer in the digital age is finding the balance between the benefits of the internet and social media, and the endless distraction.

What are the things I love about the internet as a writer?

  • Research
    • As I write, I often look things up. For example, I might have characters standing in a garden in summer, and I want to know what kind of tree would be in flower – it’s easy to look it up! It’s invaluable for instant fact checking, and I use an online dictionary and thesaurus too. I’ve also done things like search for images on a real estate website of the type of house my characters might live in, or find an image of the Supreme Court of NSW so I can describe what it looks like.
  • Social networking
    • Writing is a solitary activity – I spend many hours on my own lost on my stories, which I love, but to balance that isolation, I do enjoy connecting with other writers, readers and industry professionals through social media. I can ‘virtually’ attend literary events like awards ceremonies by following a hashtag and reading what others are tweeting, or I can hear about literary events, reviews and news. It gives people a way to hear about my books and activities, and a professional networking tool…

What don’t I love about the internet, as a writer?

  • The distraction!
    • Most writers don’t have the luxury of time: writing is something that is squeezed around the normal working day, and every minute is precious. It’s very easy to sit down to write, and then to find that the hour has disappeared after checking emails, checking my Facebook and Twitter feed, checking the comments on my website, then going back to see what’s happening on Twitter…

The best piece of advice I was ever given was, “if you want to be a writer, you have to write.” Trawling the internet is not writing; social networking is not writing. Undoubtedly, the biggest challenge for me as a writer in the digital age is to return to that solitary state and just write.


Writers Ask Writers


How do the other writers in the group feel about the digital age?

Amanda Curtin – “When I try to imagine what my writing life would be like without the internet for research, the view becomes cloudy.”

Natasha Lester  who “views the digital age with excitement”

Sara Foster who finds that the internet “is a fantastic tool for publishing and promotion, but also an endless noise-maker.”

Yvette Walker – who describes the internet as “a twenty-first century toll road I have to drive along everyday.”

Emma Chapman who says that the digital age “shakes up the traditional order of things: it means that the floodgates are open not only to those who are ‘accepted’ but also to those who just want to share.”

Annabel Smith who believes “that most of the time, what readers want is much the same as it has always been: a great story, well told.” And The Ark certainly is that!

What do you think about writing in the digital age?