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          Volume 11 |Issue 17 | April 27, 2012 |


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Networked Ink

Zarin Rafiuddin

Why do we write? Simple — writing is the epitome of communication. It allows us to express ourselves. If speech is bread then surely writing is water. Without writing we not only lose civilisation as we know it, we feel like we begin to lose who we really are. In the dawn of the digital age, writing has also become digitalised; it may have changed in terms of style, form and content, but it has not become redundant. This just shows that people cannot exist without the written word.

Writing online is not new — it began with the internet in small quantities; however, it has expanded as its own franchise today. The net has hybridised writing into a new popular venture, although it depends on what sort of writing and what sort of audience one has. It has recycled old age concepts and modernised them, and expanded the market. We see pulp fiction and rail-line fiction on the web now and the SMS/net language (a crude or excellent remodelling of shorthand and university jargon), the status one-liners or updates (a more evolved form of notes and Morse code), the net friend (a more interactive transition of the pen-friend), and of course blogs, initially as online diaries, now a reservoir of many talents or 'mis-talents.'

Fiction is a grand arc in literature and also a boat floating in the sea of the net. The birth and expansion of 'fanfiction' has many of its roots in the net. Fanfiction is hybridised writing and, like any form of fiction writing, depends on the merits of its author; yet its hybridisation is obviously done by the internet. It stands as a collective, which incorporates many genres and perspectives pitching from the philosophical to the bizarrely redundant. Fanfiction is the continuation of imagination in the world of the real; it is written by fan for fans and it involves an existing body of work. A popular example is Harry Potter fandom. Fans write their own versions, interpretations of and conclusions to the franchise they favour.

There are obviously pros and cons to writing fanfiction and this is based on the net's growth. The section now has many people writing stories as they would write SMSs, and because of 'ships' (popular aspects of stories), arguments can run rampant with the infamous 'flames' (which translates to criticism) coming the author's way. Fanfiction is a good study of popular markets and/or human psychology, for writing online bares many of the trials and tribulations people go through, and reflects their ideologies and interests. This has become evident with Youtube channels discussing fanfiction nowadays to the extent of praising or severely blacklisting an author for their preferences.

Original stories have gotten a new avenue because of the net. Sites such as writing.com, webook.com and writersdigest.com allow writers to share their work. Many people enjoy writing sites because they are a good place to engage in sharing, editing and conversing about their works many a times without a fee. The sites may have rules and regulations one needs to follow but, at the same time, they offer the individual a whole community of people interested and involved in the sorts of activities he/she is attached to. Such sites also offer writing workshops or classes, either for free or for a small fee, that can help future writers. Professional writers also use writing sites as a place to advertise their work and do market research. Online publishers or publishers in general do also appear online at times, providing opportunities to publish works. Fiction writing online nowadays is a diverse medium ranging from short stories to even lyrics. The problem of writing online in these sites, however, may depend on this specific market. Pulp fiction has become also quite popular with the emergence of such sites, with people writing many romance stories and gravitating towards the mainstream. If one wants to write other kinds of fiction, it becomes harder to be recognised if the work does not fit the popular demand. Due to the massive interactivity present in these websites, the pros and cons pretty much have a semblance to the fanfiction servers.


Writing non-fiction online is also quite popular but people usually write about themselves in blogs. The format of blogs is easy to use with many free services available such as Wordpress and Blogger. Blog writing has expanded heavily in the 00's and now blogging is a global phenomenon. Many celebrities have blogs, including professional writers; blogs are quite versatile allowing interactivity with design and usability, making them popular. Most blogs involve writing — be it something personal as narrating one's depression or something exciting as monitoring one's adventures around the world. Professional writers seem to use blogs to also release fragments or whole copies of their work for free (Paulo Coelho, a renowned novelist, does so in his blog). Wordpress even features the “Freshly Pressed” section in their homepage, a collection of posts that its team finds innovative or unique, allowing more people to visit those blogs and read content. Thus, blogs give writers exposure and also allow them to learn about new things.

Publications and journalism also evolved with the digital world. Not only do famous media networks and publishing houses (such as BBC and CNN) use the net to deliver news but many newly formed networks work solely online as well. The internet seems to be a more democratic forum of writing, with comments being posted instantaneously to news. With the arrival of smartphones and tablets, it seems the digitalisation of news and interaction with news is ever increasing; people subscribe online to both free and commercial networks such as Google News. With online courses teaching basic journalism to even teenagers, writing jobs online is becoming a major sector. Many major publishing houses such as Penguin are also using the net to select promising new writers, yet one of the main aspects of writing online is that self-publishing has become more common. Digital software and/or companies have allowed people to publish their work either as an ebook or even in print.

Reaching people and remaining anonymous or well known — the net has empowered many people to write. Pseudonyms are also present in real life but the web is more or less a nomenclature-oriented network operating in penumbra. Whether a tailored version or the hard truth, writing is dependent on the author. One thing is for sure: the net has expanded writing as a more profitable and pleasurable venture.



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