The Death of Writing
Ladies and gentleman, I am here to sadly announce the death of writing. Its passing, albeit after a pretty good innings, will leave what readers there are left, bereft. Before I started writing this article, I checked the long-tailed keyword, “the death of writing” on Semrush, of course, because in terms of SEO, there isn’t much point in a blog post that answers nobody’s question. And, of course, SEO is the first suspected murderer, though we shall soon discover there are others.
The global search volume for an article on “the death of writing” according to Semrush is forty, ten in each of the non-English speaking countries of Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand and Korea. Maybe they’re just ahead of us. But the point is no English-speaking countries have realised it, yet. What readers do not search for cannot be read.
If I am to survive as a writer, I mean by that, earn money by doing it, then I have to write for the algorithm. My first blog post was exactly that. And this, my second, exactly isn’t. Apparently this article has three errors according to an SEO Readability analysis (See chart below). But I’m not scared, if you see any sub-headings shoot me!
How to write a dystopian novel
My first blog post here was titled, “How to write a dystopian novel”. I didn’t even come up with the title, heading or sub-headings, they were all determined by SEO. I wasn’t particularly interested in writing about how to write a dystopian novel or had anything original or thought-provoking to share on the topic. But then what blog does nowadays? Linking to it here is the final irony or nail in the coffin. So why did I write it?
I wanted to sell something. I say that in all honesty because the thing I wanted to sell was never trying to be sold. I wrote a book, a trilogy of books to be exact, over ten years ago called “What’s Your Problem?” I had a job as a schoolteacher at the time, so money wasn’t the overriding priority it is today. I wrote it because I needed to write it. Maybe, in part, the death of writing is when we no longer need to write, but that isn’t it all.
I wrote “What’s Your Problem?” because I wanted to warn society, but society ended up warning me. I was shocked by the exploitation of people on TV talk shows long before someone killed themselves after appearing on one. I wanted to push the envelope, the literary equivalent of flying a jet as a test pilot in The Right Stuff, by asking what is the worst it could be in 100 years? It had to be so bad, that nobody would buy it (!) I needed a dystopian analogy.
What is the most vulnerable position we are ever in, in life? When we are ill, a patient. And what would the greatest nightmare be? A mad doctor. And that was my premise for a TV talk show with a difference: Counsellor vs Patient. What’s your problem? Get it? Genius, I know.
I would be lying if I didn’t say part of the purpose of writing this article is in the hope its writing convinces you to read my book one day, so I can afford to eat. But there is something more.
Whenever you write, you end up writing about yourself. That’s why whenever someone writes, ‘based on a true story’ I have to smile. Everything is! And my dystopian TV game show was no exception. It turns out our contestants had some pretty weird psychosexual problems. Go figure! But the craft of writing distorts the lens somewhat, because a story needs conflict, so you end up, ironically, writing the worst of yourself, particularly if you have a leaning towards dystopia. And why might that be? (You can see this is like Alice falling down the rabbit hole! (I’m sure you’re far ahead of me!))
I was passionate about crossing the line, ironically, to show how far we had already crossed the line (or perhaps I had, by watching it), and I thought the only medium that could do that was literature. This was in the days before Amazon and the heady booming rush of self-publishing.
I originally wrote to every Agent and Publisher in the UK with the concept for the book in 2000/2001 and they all rejected it which was soul destroying as any writer who’s tried to get an agent or publisher knows, and self-publishing then, known as vanity publishing for good reason, was prohibitively expensive.
However, with the advent of social media and Amazon I decided to try again. I recently took out the old book from the archives gave it a bit of a clean in terms of spelling and grammar, rather than profanity or sexual explicitness, and published it on Amazon. This is going somewhere I promise, bear with me.
I joined three Facebook ARC groups to get reviews because we all know you can’t sell a book on Amazon without a review and I got stabbed in the back. Not once, but twice. You see the real murderer may not be the algorithm, but other ‘writers’. I use parenthesis because they are not what I call writers, but let me explain how they did it.
You must understand that I only posted advertisements for ARC readers for my book and the blurb, which were not explicit and contained no profanity or hate speech. The blurb simply read:
“Welcome to the dystopian future of mass entertainment in 2084, where the Jerry Springer and the Jeremy Kyle Show are the inspiration for a counselling show with a difference: Counselor vs Patient.
Katy was fine with crocheting and needlepoint, but her past involved stitching of human parts.
Katy is a sassy big bold black woman struggling with weight all her life, from size 6 to size 18, and this new TV show, “What’s your Problem?” promises a solution to anyone’s problems in 60 mins of counselling to ‘guess the secret of your past’. If she wins, she gets her dream aquarium bathtub. If she loses, ‘the forfeit is designed for maximum personal humiliation’.
Enter Captain Stanislav Boglosovic from stage-left, a thin elderly former ‘translator’ wanted for war crimes, struggling in retirement in Brazil. If he wins, he gets his pension; If he loses, he calculates Prison, but he’s never lost; whatever it takes to win, there are no limits.
But who will win? And is the prize worth the effort for one, and the forfeit for the other?
Let the tournament commence, and all our hopes and fears begin.”
Is that offensive? Is that hate speech? And yet still someone reported me to Facebook twice, presumably because they found merely description of my book offensive because they definitely hadn’t read it (nobody has yet!), and my profile was taken down twice.
My notion of the writer is like a bearer of truth, bringing light in the darkness. I consider writing as the most noble of pursuits; the one remaining true freedom left in society. The fact that someone who presumably also writes, or reads, would try and remove that freedom deeply saddens me. The fact that they do it anonymously, without raising any of their concerns with me directly is cowardly; a bullying coward.
Which brings me nicely to the accomplice, Cancel Culture. When we live in a society where people take personal offence as easily as at a change in the weather, the ability to write anything challenging to society is severely restricted. Therefore, society cannot grow and learn. If nobody is telling ‘the Emperor has no clothes’, or we shut down the person telling it, society is blind.
When the media is controlled by what people are asking for, you end up with Fox News and the Daily Mail. There is no such thing as a free lunch; When something is free, you are the product. Ironically, akin to writing reflecting not exactly who we are, but perhaps the worst of ourselves for dramatic effect, the media reflects the worst in our society, the algorithm reflects the worst of who we are. We do not search google for love, we search google for the answer to our problems.
Instead of original thinking, writers are falling over themselves to answer your problem to rank higher in the algorithm and get more hits on their website, followers on twitter, likes on Facebook. I’m not preaching, I’m exactly the same. Which is why the final murderer, is perhaps suicide.
I wrote that first blog to sell my book and killed myself as a writer. I was ashamed to put my name to it. But it will probably ‘work’ because it does a good job in terms of SEO.
The death of writing begins at home.
Author of “Katy’s Loss”
Book 1: What’s Your Problem? Trilogy
If you would like to join the ARC Team for “Katy’s Loss” and receive a free ARC copy in exchange for a review on Amazon email: Max@Maxwellwinshire.com and state whether you prefer epub or pdf.