Sunday, August 15, 2021

A Writer's Tools

Laptop, desktop, Underwood or pencil: what works best for you? How has the way you write (and submit stories) evolved since you started?

Brenda Chapman at the keyboard.

Way, way back when I first started writing poetry and short stories, I used paper and pen or pencil. I still have my handwritten notebook full of poems composed in university when I was studying English lit and taking a creative writing course as one of my electives. Those were the days before computers (I can hear the Millennials' gasps) and I had a little Olivetti typewriter that I used to pound out my essays. We had white tape that you could slip under the key, that had to be tapped again to 'erase' an error. Three of these fixes though and the page had to be retyped, however, since there was always a telltale sign of the error and the page looked messy. 

Never mind trying to organize all the research and type a coherent essay on the first go. An idea or piece of information or argument was tougher to work in if forgotten further on in the essay. The result was often more retyping of pages. One sad anecdote: I completed a 10,000-word history essay and left it with my books on a shelf outside the cafeteria as we weren't allowed to bring our books inside (not sure why but that was the rule). when I returned, my essay file was gone. I had no copy and had to retype the entire thing from my notes and my memory.

Let me just say that computers came none too soon.

My first job in the government was as a writer/editor, and computers were new on the scene. I actually had to ask how to turn mine on. My supervisor sent me on Word Perfect training (Word was not the software of choice) a couple of times, and I gradually became more adept at the keyboard. I'd even mastered the floppy disc before it went the way of the buggy whip, just as CDs are all but obsolete now. In one of my less auspicious moments back then, I managed to delete an entire shared drive at work and the tech guy spent his lunch hour bringing it back. I'm sure they dreaded my daily call for help ....

Since then, I've become proficient with my home computer (which I still use to work on a manuscript) and my laptop (which I use more and more often). Gone are the days of needing to call the computer hotline to speak with one of those techs to fix our home computer - do you remember being as frustrated as we were trying to follow their instructions?

My home office

I also remember printing off manuscripts and queries and sending them by post to publishers. The first manuscripts were returned with editing done on the hard copy and I'd have to go through the changes and make mine with a pen. How far we've come! Now, everything is done electronically, which is so much more efficient and quick.

I'm in the process of learning the self-publishing process, having decided to go this route with my next book. I'm still out to sea about a lot of it, but I'm determined to muddle my way through. The speed with which technology keeps changing is both exciting and daunting. I will admit that I still prefer a hard copy day timer and continue to write out shopping lists and notes to myself using good old pen and paper. It's all but impossible to doodle while daydreaming on a computer ....

Twitter: brendaAchapman

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Dietrich Kalteis said...

Well said, Brenda. And while you can't daydream and doodle on a computer, you can be sidetracked by googling — and that can be even worse.

Brenda Chapman said...

Agreed, Dietrich. One downside of the internet.