.I published this online to a listserve on Feb 24 1999 with title 'How To Commit Hara-Kiri On The Internet'.I just rediscovered the essay and sort of like it enough to share once more.... intact and unedited...enjoy
Once upon a time.. indeed about a decade ago; there was I a blue eyed writer aspiring towards authorhood. English was a natural language by which to pursue my ambition , being the language by which I was educated and luckily that most spoken all over the world. And as every writer knows, writing is first about language. By language your thoughts are transmuted into virtual pictures in the reader's mind. The main picture together with the background indeed enables a piece of writing to be classified into what we now commonly referred to as the genre. The beauty of the use of any particular language is that it is possible to synchretise a language into the cultural environment of the writer; to embed his or her prevalent emotions, in such a way that a piece of writing becomes an individual style. This I sought to do with the English language, to the limit of my proficiency.
It was in this spirit that I hatched a great story, so good that it was accepted by the very first publisher that I contacted. It was indeed so much a masterpiece as far as use of correct grammar and drama was concerned that even till this day, the editorial team at the publishing house cannot stop talking about it even though it never got to be enjoyed by the public. There are of course two main classes of writers : those in the business for the money, and those in it for the ego. It is easy for a writer to be misunderstood by a publisher as yearning for the latter when he'd rather wish to be in the former class. Especially in my neighbourhood. Very many publishers as I am led to understand make this mistake as a mission statement and perhaps a moral excuse for failing to commit to a firm contract. Needless to say, it took the services of a lawyer to retrieve the "best book that was never published", and which now hangs framed on a wall in my study with a title : "Portrait Of The Writer As A Fool" in 30 points Grotesque bold.
After a couple of disastrous self publishing attempts, I discovered that my writing style had surreptitiously metamorphosed into a language that is known as "Pissed off". The problem of writing in Pissed off mode in an environment where creative writing is merely expected to feed the academic mill, or the Yellow Press, is that you should be prepared to pay or the printing. And after making yourself a sofa, probably read the rest of the books by yourself or give them away , which appears to tally with publishers assumption that writers do it for the ego.
Then I stumbled upon the Internet ; this wonderful global village where you can meet of thousands people of diverse interest without leaving your writing desk. It offered mind blowing opportunities : you can reach hundreds of publishers and their agents all over the world. Indeed you can reach a hundred of these guys in a day If you set your mind to it. Just type a short e-mail message , attach your e-manuscript to it, and with a simple click send it whizzing to a destination thousands of miles away. So simple, okay. Only the Internet is also full of people who have not been privileged to have read "The Idiot's guide To Reading Electronic Messages On The Net". And so will unwittingly double click your writing life away; converting your carefully prepared prose into unintelligible mixture of calculus and machine language. And back comes the message: Call yourself a writer ?. Voila; the e-rejection slip.
Okay, you now try sending your stuff off as plain ASCII text instead. As you probably know, there used to be in the publishing world a mischievous poltergeist known as the Printer's Devil. but it now has offsprings crawling about on the Net patiently waiting for documents to mangle beyond description in between points. And I would admire the courage of an editor who has the patience to read three hundred pages of single spaced text in 9 points courier except of course the writer is Stephen King.
And by the way, my short social correspondences have not remained immune to the chicaneries of the Net. Ever since some smart asses got themselves together and invented emoticons :( , from which your only protection is not to be Net - savvy :). Otherwise these silly combinations of dots, dashes and brackets which have become a language by itself can if carelessly inserted cause you much grief ;- . Meaning that you not only have your language to watch but also your punctuation, as the world appears to be in danger of receding into high -tech hieroglyphics. Thus the future appears precarious for the innocent Netizen who has become faced with an array of technical languages that promises better means of communication but succeeds in delivering a wider means of obfuscation; all invented by nerds whose idea of creative writing is the development of program compilers and protocols of use only to machines.
BTW, I am yet to join a newsgroup though a FOAF is ever trying to persuade me to. But IMHO and FWIW I am sure that the most FAQ in will be such as this : being misunderstood on the Net.
One is tempted to take the giant step of returning to snail mail ; to returning to plain intelligible English, smeared on real paper. But really despite the hundreds of virtual mines planted in Cyberspace, it is still a great place to have fun provided the consequences are not so important as to be life threatening. Newbies, don't despair yet.