Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Thursday, December 27, 2007

An Interesting Look Back

Agent Andrew Zack has an interesting look back at the way things used to be done in the publishing world in his post: The Problem is Volume. It's a long post, but well worth a complete read-through.

I've long thought the same thing. Think about it. Back in the 40's, everything had to be banged out on a manual typewriter, and if you've never used a manual, it was slow and arduous work. (Ayn Rand wrote Atlas Shrugged - 1096 pages worth - on a manual typewriter, just to give you a glimpse of that lady's drive to write.) When I was fourteen, I began writing a book using my grandmother's manual typewriter, and hour after hour of plunking at keys that would jam and stick is no walk in the park. (I'm not as old as that sounds. Really. We were just poor and it was all I had until I got an electric typewriter for graduation.)

But I digress...

My point, and Mr. Zack's as well, is that once upon a time writing and submitting was a very difficult thing to do. Nowadays, though, it's easy. Anyone can write a book, and anyone can send it shooting along the internet waves to arrive at its destination in mere minutes. This means any given agent or editor is swamped - all the time - and your manuscript has to be that much better to float above the dreck.

In a way, it's a depressing thought. You've got a glorious piece of work to send, and when you do, you have to worry whether it'll get lost in the flotsam and jetsam of the wild waves.

In another way, though, you can take heart in the fact that you can do this writing gig at all. That you don't have to sit day after day typing away, changing sheet after sheet of paper, and discarding a whole page because you transposed the I and the E in 'receive'. (Or only slightly better - use erasable bond paper, which allowed a writer to erase mistakes and type over them, but also smeared every time you touched it. Don't get me started on white-out.) You have technology to thank for the ease of your work now.

Gotta love technology. *happy sigh*

Not that I don't, in some sick way, miss the sound of my fingers clacking out a story, and the zip of the return as it slid across the page bringing me down to the next line, or the smell of typewriter ribbons and white-out.

Have you ever used an old typewriter for writing your stories, or are you strictly from the technological age?

5 comments:

Edie said...

I started off with a typewriter. I love computers. What I should do, though, is use one just for writing. It's too easy to peek at my emails.

Janimé said...

Heh heh - both!

We were also too poor when I was a kid to own an electric typewriter. So for my first few term papers in middle and high school, it was manual all the way.

Then we got Apple IIe's at school. I immediately switched over and have never gone back.

Travis Erwin said...

I seen this very thing discussed before. My writing mentor was first published in 1976 and she has often told me about the good 'ol days but I'm strictly of the techno age.

But as a kid i did write stories long hand in a spiral notebook.

Graeme K Talboys said...

I got my first typewriter at 16, a tiny portable, but I only ever used it for typing up finished drafts. At college I had an ancient office machine, built like a tank. You had to sit it on a pillow if you were typing essays late at night as it kept everyone else awake. Even when I got an electric, it was only for final drafts, about 40 pages a day of mind numbing graft. And then... an Amstrad PCW. Bliss. It was stone-age stuff compared with computing and word-processing now, and I sometimes miss the simplicity of it, but what a joy to be able to type stuff, redraft it on the machine, check your spelling, and then press 'Print'. That was 20+ years ago.

I still have a love-hate relationship with computers. I love them as problems with arthritis mean I cannot hold a pen comfortably any more. I love them because all my work is at my fingertips and I can edit, and I can do a quarterly magazine and set it all up, and I can stay in touch with so many people. And I hate it because I seem to have lost that quiet space in which I used to write. I have a different space now, but I still hanker after that desk with its blank paper and my fountain pen.

WordVixen said...

Does anyone have a program to make your keyboard click like a typewriter? I really think manual typewriters are the reason I want to type. I had a positive loathing for my dad's electric typewriter specifically because it was quiet. :)