Friday, August 20, 2021

Exit, Pursued by a Bare?

 by Abir

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


Morning all. Friday again, eh? I didn’t get much sleep last night, so today’s piece might not be up to the usual Pulitzer-worthy standards you've come to expect from this blog, but I’d ask you to bear with me - or bare with me – I can’t remember which is correct cos my head’s a bit foggy this morning.


You might be asking, 

‘Why Mukhers? Why didn’t you get much sleep? Was it too hot? Did you have a lot on your mind? It can’t be easy being a prodigy, especially when so very, very few people actually recognise your prodigiosity.’ 

And to you I would answer,

‘Thank you. That’s very kind. And you’re right. It is difficult bearing (baring?) such a burden, but I do my best.’

No, the reason I didn’t sleep much is that I was out on the town, down at the local discotheque with all the other hip and trendy youths. We partied most heartily, jiving to the latest tunes on the hit parade. It was an exhilarating experience, I can tell you! And the reason I was able to do all this and still be back in front of my lap-top at 8am (albeit a little worse for wear (ware?)) is that unlike my colleagues who have given you their advice earlier in the week, I am young. I am a Xillenial (somewhere between Gen X and a Millenial), and that means that unlike them, I didn’t start writing in the stone age. I'm wifi to their dial-up modem, 5G to their... err...4G. And while I’ve seen a type-writer (I believe my grandad had one during the war. He threw it at Germans) I’ve never had cause to use one; certainly not in anger. 


My writing has all been done since after Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky were a thing, indeed Clinton and Lewinsky is my earliest childhood memory, and so I’ve grown up with the computer and the internet and the impeachment process and the polarisation of American politics. I started my first novel writing on a lap-top. The actual idea came to me in a jacuzzi, but I had to wait till I got home to start writing it because I've learned that people don’t like it when you bring a computer into a jacuzzi. Very quickly though, after about twenty thousand words, I began to run out of steam/interest/focus, and I ended up doing what I normally do when I can’t concentrate. I went shopping. In this case, I bought a software package called Scrivener. I think the marketing material said it was used by professional authors, such as Dickens and Dostoyevsky. I thought that being a professional writer sounded good, so I bought it. And the truth is, it’s been brilliant for me. It allows me to organise my work in a way I never managed using just Word. I can break down a manuscript into separate chapters, import research as separate files but access everything from the same screen. It does pretty much everything I need it to, except for actually writing the damn novel. Maybe they’ll introduce that in a future version.


Scrivener - helping me to write gooder since 2015

But I don’t only write on Scrivener. Sometimes I hit a mental roadblock. The act of typing something can suddenly feel artificial. At times like that, I resort to pen and paper. I find that writing things can often help unlock whatever is holding me up. It’s also easier to map out ideas on paper. I tend to keep two pads – an A4 pad for writing and a bigger, A3 pad for sketching out timelines and plot arcs. It’s a more laborious process, having to write things out longhand and then type it all into Scrivener, but sometimes that’s what it takes.


My A3 and A4 pads (redacted)

Once I’ve finished a draft on Scrivener, I’ll hit compile and it’ll change the whole thing into a Word document with a title page and everything. I’ll then e mail it to my agent and my editor, and then it’s a wait of about a month before they write back to tell me it’s all just absolute rubbish.


So that’s it. There’s really not much to physical aspects of my writing history, alas. I’ve never had the joy of using a typewriter, a fax machine, a mangle or any of the other accoutrements that writers used in the Stone Age. For me it’s always been electronic and supersonic.


Now some of my colleagues might doubt my youthly credentials. They might point to the fact that my beard is grey and my glasses are vari-focal. But that is merely the politics of envy. I am very much a digital man (albeit in an analogue body), and to my detractors I say, ‘OK Boomer. Whatever.’


Have a good weekend, all.




PS – I’ve just googled it. Technically it’s bear with me. Apparently bare with me is me asking you to take your clothes off with me, and this isn’t that sort of a website, and really nobody needs to see any of that on a Friday morning anyway. 

I’ll tell the bear. He will be happy.


Frank Zafiro said...

Damn Millenials. Ruining this world, they are. In my day....

Abir said...

I know, right. And you'd have gotten away with it too, Frank, if it weren't for those pesky kids!

Susan C Shea said...

It is with envy that I say, "Go bare!"