Friday, July 15, 2011

IN the news today: a Jane Austen manuscript sold for $1.6 million.  Poor old Jane, who was always desperate to make money from her books, must be turning in her grave in frustration.
And I'm feeling frustrated too, because I don't have any manscripts to sell for one point six million. In my early days of writing I wrote the book long hand, then I typed it out because nobody except me could read my handwriting, then I paid someone to type it without mistakes, then it went to my editor.
But for the past twenty years I've written straight to a computer. I save a copy to an external hard drive but that's that. Even my edits are now done electronically. Penguin sends me the manuscript with queries and comments and I go through in the Word review mode and answer them. It's all so painless and quick. But it leaves no paper trail. No more manuscripts in the world to be auctioned off to future generations for enourmous sums.

I've often thought the same about email correspondence. Sometimes I'll be corresponding via email with an important writer and it will suddenly hit me--when I hit the delete key this will all be lost. No more books of the collected correspondence between Rhys Bowen and Jacqueline Winspear or Laurie R King. No future PhD candidates will be able to delve into our characters through our letters.  In fact the art of letter writing has vanished. All those bundles of long letters between Victorians and Edwardians will never happen again. I suppose one can say that we now connect via the phone so have no reason to write letters, but I find them so interesting, so poignant. John has letters written by his grandmother to his father,away at school. She signs them Your Affectionate mother, B. Quin-Harkin.  Very formal when writing to a little boy, and full of news of activities. No message that she loves and misses him. No wonder the Brits grew up cold in those days.

Anyway, I'm off to the closet under the stairs to see if any old scribbles in notebooks might be suitable to be auctioned off--or prepared for the Rhys Bowen collection at a university library some day!

1 comment:

  1. And here in Indiana they have deemed that our children no longer need to be taught cursive. Yes, they need to concentrate on learning the keyboard.

    So,in addition to no more handwritten manuscripts, I guess future generations will have no longer have individual signatures either.

    Kinda makes a Rhys Bowen autographed book worth a whole lot more, don't you think?