Peggy Bechko: “Anyone With an Internet Connection Isn’t Writing Good Fiction?” Wha–?


by Peggy Bechko

“It’s doubtful that anyone with an Internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.” ~ Jonathan Franzen

I ran across this quote the other day and all but burst out laughing. When did he say this? Why? What sparked it?

Really? What century is he living in? I don’t know any writer who isn’t connected to the Internet and probably planning on publishing to Kindle and/or other electronic outlets.

Or who is writing screen scripts on his or her computer using specific software, possibly downloaded from the Internet, doing research about their subject via the Internet and submitting said project frequently via email or a website.

As indicative of a very current post (link above via Mr. Franzen’s name) he plainly has many opinions (don’t we all?l) about many things. And apparently he’s kinda known for being a bit ‘cranky’. So, that said, I’ll concede that, also knowing the web and its faults, there’s a possibility he didn’t even say that, or what he did say was taken out of context. I’ve been misquoted myself, so I can’t pass judgment there.

But, on the chance he actually did say it – but forgetting him specifically as the source for said remark for the moment – the idea is pretty laughable.

Plainly us storytellers/writers would continue on even if the web were to vanish tomorrow. Hey, where do you think Giglamesh came from? And think of the ‘big name’ writers you know today who started out writing using typewriters, authors like Anne Rice, Stephen King, Sherri Tepper, Orson Scott Card and on and on. The web hasn’t been with us all that long.

Still the web has fueled a revolution on many fronts. Writing, whether content, books, scripts, articles or whatever has exploded. The need to fill pages and screens has a fierce driving force behind it like never before.

But wait, the point of the quote was regarding writing good fiction. I presume the keyword here is ‘good’. Is it then presumed that people writing fiction at their workstations with an internet connection are writing bad fiction? Tsk, tsk.

I beg to differ. I suppose it would depend in part on your standards for what ‘good writing’ is, but from my viewpoint, if it’s readable, entertaining and locks the reader into that famous ‘reader’s trance’, then it’s good writing. I’m not saying it has to be great literature, but it is nonetheless good writing. I suspect producers reading scripts, publishers manuscripts and readers new self-published fiction on Kindle would probably agree with me. In fact I know they do because I’ve read some of the reviews and seen some of the results.

So what this all brings me around to as a writer is that it is very doubtful that the original statement that launched all of this musing is anywhere near accurate.

Sorry, Jonathan, if you indeed are responsible for the quote above on writing, then you’re just plain wrong. Stay out of the surf if you want, the rest of us are ‘writing’ surf boards.

4 thoughts on “Peggy Bechko: “Anyone With an Internet Connection Isn’t Writing Good Fiction?” Wha–?”

  1. In a quickie search I couldn’t track down that exact quote, but Franzen has quite a history of dissing the internet. He particularly hates Twitter. He also writes mostly about pre-internet times.

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