Saturday, September 18, 2010

The way we write

My oldest short stories were written long hand, the two oldest in pencil (second grade, there's also a scratch and sniff popcorn sticker from the teacher on one of them). My earliest attempts as an adult were also long hand, albeit in pen (usually black but sometimes blue ballpoint). If I tried that now I'd barely be able to read my own handwriting. I'm so used to typing, my handwriting - which was never all that great to begin with - is now nearly illegible. I do still make notes about works in progress with pen and paper, but the real writing takes place on the laptop.

I don't print anything out for editing and revisions anymore, either. For one thing I do a lot of editing and revisions while in progress, fiddling and making changes. I've changed names, appearance, location, reordered scenes, rewritten scenes, changed the point of view, turned the story inside out and upside down long before getting anywhere near "the end." If I get to, say, chapter five and come up with something that needs to be referenced or changed earlier in some way, then I can go back in the document and work on that right then, weaving in revisions as I go. It astounds me that writers got anything done before word processing and the wonder that is copy/paste. And the ease of saving multiple versions of scenes so that you can decide whether a scene should be in This character's point of view or That one's - whoa. That's some awesome stuff right there.

I'd never used the track changes feature in Word before the editing process of Bring On The Night. Now I love it so much I use it on my own. Why in the world would I want to waste paper and ink by printing something out when I can take a virtual red pen to my work with track changes? It's made the process so much easier, not to mention cheaper. I'm sure I don't have to tell anyone how costly ink can get.

Email has been great for writers too. I think there are still places that only take paper queries and submissions, but they'll never hear from me. The internet allows us to connect with fellow writers all over the world, something that has been very valuable to me as I don't know any other writers in real life. The internet's also given me a virtual classroom, teaching me how to do a snowflake outline, how to be a sex writing strumpet*, and how to make a mojo hand.

My laptop, Word, and the internet have become invaluable to my writing process. Taking advantage of this technology has made many aspects of writing easier, giving authors more energy to focus on the heavy lifting - the actual storytelling. I, for one, love it.

Has technology changed the way you write, and how do you feel about it?

*Okay, I'm still practicing that one.

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