From the Financial Times:
A couple of years ago, one of my daughters, then aged 10, declared that she wanted to write a novel. I wasn’t terribly surprised: she has always been a bookworm, and has grown up surrounded by writers. When I was her age, I was desperate to write children’s fiction — so much so that I spent countless hours curled up on my bed, obsessively crafting my tomes. By my early teens I had penned a couple of “novels” with titles such as The Dwarfs of Kimberly Koe and The Origin of Bevelin. But the launch of my daughter’s writing career came with a startling and thought-provoking 21st-century twist.
Back in the early 1980s, when I was doing my own kiddie writing, I would scribble in notebooks that piled up in boxes under my bed. I could “edit” my work in a limited way, as I wrote in pencil and often rubbed things out. But writing, for me, was a linear process. It was also extremely solitary. I rarely discussed my books with friends, since they considered my obsession to be very odd, so I had no outside feedback. And while I vaguely hoped that, one day, the novels might be published, I didn’t expect the public to see them any time soon. In that sense, I was like most earlier generations of writers: I wrote for myself.
My daughter’s foray into writing is totally different. When she was first gripped with the compulsion to write, she too used notebooks. But then she switched to writing at least part of her fiction on a laptop, and reading it back on her mobile phone. This means that her work is always with her, rather than under her bed. She can also constantly edit it, and in a very fluid way, moving backwards and forwards.
Most startling of all, “writing” for a teenager today is no longer a solitary affair. Yes, the process still requires time curled up on a bed. But soon after my daughter started scribbling, she discovered a cyber platform called Wattpad. This is a website that lets users upload examples of work on to an online forum, where they can be read and commented upon by people around the world.
. . . .
So my daughter posted a story — and then informed me that 200 people had read it and offered comments, which she planned to use to improve it. “Two hundred?” I said in shock. At her age, I could barely have imagined 20 people reading my books. “Two hundred is nothing,” she replied, rolling her eyes. Quite so.
. . . .
A decade ago, there were widespread fears that the rise of the internet would kill off books, particularly among the young, because kids were becoming too addicted to cheap cyber thrills. But future historians may instead end up concluding that cyber platforms have actually sparked a literary renaissance; digital devices not only let kids write books but read them too, and then share good ones with their friends. Perhaps it is no surprise that the so-called young adult genre of literature is booming.
Link to the rest at the Financial Times