Is it like running?

Overwhelmed as I am by all the new and excellent books I see, I can’t help wondering how they happen. Are written. Get published.

Is it like running faster? I’ve never understood how come people run faster with each generation. Once there was a fuss when someone could run a mile in under four minutes. I suppose there must be a limit to how fast a human being can run a mile? But then Stone Age runners might have thought so too, and their limit was probably far from four minutes. If they knew about minutes.

So do authors today write better books because they know they have to to stand a chance of getting published, or do they write good books because evolution makes it happen? (I’m on very shaky ground here, as you can tell.)

Although, unlike the runners who can’t arrive before they’ve started, I suppose writers could – in theory – write better and better books. Cleverer use of words and better sentences about really exciting new people in new style plots. (Unless schools prevent any sensible written language from evolving.)

Anyway, they say there are only so many plots. And I despair a bit about the state of editing. If I can see it, it must be bad. So I suppose it’s back to the running. And as I was reminded when I looked it up, there is a difference between the normally competent runner, and the really successful athlete.

Or could it be the Björn Borg factor? Sweden was over-run by especially good young tennis players in the years after Björn’s Wimbledon triumphs. Players wanted to be the new Borg, and there were plenty of people able to help train them.

Or were the tennis results simply contagious? Like J K Rowling started us on wizards and Stephenie Meyer gave us romantic vampires. I think tennis-wise that things calmed down after a while. Will books?

7 responses to “Is it like running?

  1. Hello, Bookwitch, yes I think you are right: it is like running. It’s evolution. Very fast evolution because of the miraculous catalyst of word processing which means that every word can be changed with ease, blocks of text moved etc. A writer can refine their work so limitlessly that the result is bound to be better use of language. I can remember sending my first book away typewritten, one draft, and then the bliss of a word processor with a two line memory, but my MacBook Pro is evolutionary ages later still. I marvel at the old writers myself- Jane Austen did it with paper and ink and produced flawless work.

  2. Ooh, what a really interesting idea – literary excellence as a by-product of evolution. As Hilary points out, though, of course there has been excellence before! How to compare past excellence with present – are books really improving or are there just more good books because there are more of us in the world, more of us literate, more of us writing fiction?
    Makes my head hurt just trying to work that one out! Great idea, though.

  3. Well, there I was, discovering I was floundering halfway through, and I thought this idea does not hold water (if ideas ever do), and here I have two intelligent women thinking this is interesting. What a relief!
    Long live evolution.
    And Hilary, Binny 2 just arrived and I’m very excited.

  4. I don’t think there’s many writing today who are going to beat old ink and quill Jane Austen, though.

    • No, I suppose not.
      One question is how many more like here there were. People who wrote but didn’t get published.

      • seana2014s

        Yes, and perhaps especially women. In that sense things have definitely evolved for the better.

  5. Perhaps there were more George Eliots than we realise.

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