Pub Rants

What It Means To Write

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STATUS: TGIF! Hum… not that it matters too much as I plan to work a lot this weekend to try and catch up on things.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? DREAMS by The Cranberries

Some days I can’t help thinking, and yes I’ll admit this is cynical, that there are more people who want to write a book than there are people who actually read books.

When asked, just about every person you talk to believes they have at least one book in them. These same people when asked how many books they’ve read in the last year might also say just one.

Back in the day before computers, to be a writer was serious business. Most authors handwrote their first draft before painstakingly typing it on a typewriter. An error on the page meant either careful white-out (hopefully my blog readers are old enough to remember that product!) or yanking the page to start retyping all over again.

The advent of computers makes the writing process significantly easier. Sometimes too easy I think. I wonder if writers work on their craft as much when it’s so easy to copy, paste, delete, or what have you.

It certainly means that more people try being writers. I guess we could make an argument that really only the serious have the perseverance necessary to really succeed as one. That there are still enough hurdles to make the process daunting enough that only the serious continue.

Today I read this story about Christopher Nolan; a writer who, because of his disability, had to use a pointer attached to his head to write. I can’t help but think that this person truly wanted to be an author. Nolan was willing to transcend what could only have been a cumbersome method of getting text on the page to share his art. In my mind, this is a writer serious about writing. Considering that my brain goes way faster than my fingers are able to type, I can’t imagine what the experience must have been like for him. An agile brain forced to slow down to the pace of how he could create. And yet, he wrote. Won the Whitbread Book Of the Year in 1988. Writing was by no mean easy on a whole different level and yet he remained undaunted.

And it’s very sad to hear that he passed away this week at the young age of 43.

49 Responses

  1. Sarah Jensen said:

    How lucky we are to have computers. I do remember typewriters and white out.
    Even so, I wrote my first manuscript by hand and then entered it, pecking method into an old computer, because the keys stuck and I had to use a pen to poke them down. I had that computer for a year before it finally croaked. (Thank heaven.)
    Now I work on a lovely 17″ screen Dell.
    I agree with both ends. Many more people think they can write without having ever read a book, but only those who are willing to put the time in will make it. And not even all of those.
    I read at least three novels a week, and I’ve learned so much from reading. Sometimes, what not to do, but mostly what has found success.
    Thanks for the post.

  2. Nikki Hootman said:

    Totally agreed. Actually, I think people who read LESS are MORE likely to think they could just “write a book” because they have no concept of the work involved. My friends and family who actually read are much more appreciative of what I’m doing and how much effort it takes; those who don’t tend to say things like “Oh yeah, I had this great idea for a book! Maybe I’ll write it down and sell it someday.”

  3. Just_Me said:

    Everyone is a story teller at heart. And at least people are trying to write, even if they don’t succeed at publishing. Keeps ’em off the streets, right?

  4. Anonymous said:

    Literature is my passion. I graduated with a M.A. in Lit, and I teach college composition. I read all the time; it is my favorite thing in the world to do. I would rather spend the evening with a good book than go out on a date! I love books, bookstores and anything having to do with writing. I especially love big, long historical fiction novels. The best way to learn how to write is to READ, READ and READ some more. I tell my students this all of the time.

    I have always dabbled in writing here and there. About two years ago I decided to write a novel. It is amazing how the story has sort of reveled itself to me, and it became a necessity for me to get it down on paper. I talk to my friends about my characters like they are real people. I am going to try to get this one published, but if I don’t it will be alright. I am already doing the research for my next novel. I will publish someday and I won’t give up no matter what.

    I also read agents’ blogs religiously, and I greatly appreciate all of the wonderful information. The story about the handicapped author really inspired me.

  5. Anonymous said:

    I agree with Nikki 100 per cent.

    When people find out I write they say things like, “Oh, I’ve been meaning to write a book, if only I could find the time.” You know, as if TIME is all it takes. No need to read in your genre, create an intriguing plot, compelling characters, or acquire an ear for the rythm of dialogue. One must just clear out a few weekends to “type a novel” (as opposed to writing it) and they’ll surely be a best-seller! Gag.

    *Very touching post about Christopher Nolan, Kristin. It was very humbling to read that.

  6. korastoynova said:

    I’m only 24, so I definitely grew up in the age of computers. Even so, I find the process of opening my notebook, putting pen to paper, and systematically filling up the page so soothing, and the only real way to write. I can’t think as well when I’m typing, so the physical act of writing by hand is the way I get my creative juices flowing. But there are plenty of published “authors” out there who, I suppose, should not be called “writers”. To me, a writer is someone who has an absolute passion for words, and the weight of emotion carried in an individual word. Or is that perhaps an “artist”?

  7. Tiffany Schmidt said:

    I agree with you and the people’s comments above that the development of technology hasn’t always advanced the craft of writing. As it becomes easier to type things up, as people become more dependent on spell/grammar check, and as it becomes so easy to go from keys pressed to e-mailed, people are losing the perspective that writing should be seen as a craft. They’re less willing to put in the work to develop their skills and more focused on “Look how many pages I typed today. And that’s single spaced! And it’s not even lunch – I’ll have this novel done before dinner.”

    As you say in your blog, our brains process much faster than our fingers can type, and our fingers can type faster than they could write with pen, but sometimes slowing down this process so that we focus on the sound and feeling conveyed by the words is the best thing for our art.


  8. Amy said:


    I’ve seen this theory tossed around from others in the publishing industry. I wonder if it’s because people in the publishing industry are around writers so much?

    Before I took on writing seriously (advanced college classes, three unpublished novels, etc…) I knew one person who ever wrote a book: a firefighter from New York who published a memoir after 9/11. I didn’t know anyone else who wanted to write a book. Most people I knew went on to get MBA’s, JD’s, MD’s, CFA’s… Not an ounce of interest in writing. They did, however, read a lot of books. My husband, mother, and father (none are writers and don’t want to be) read a book a week. No joke, our household is like a library, I suggested we get a Kindle as our next investment.

    I have several friends, most read about five to ten books a year, no one writes, they’re too busy with careers, families, and social lives. I know quite a few people who despise writing so much they won’t even write an email.

    Now I know a lot of writers who I’ve sought out to befriend. BUT, before then, not a single one, but I did know a lot of readers!

    Just wanted to take the other side of this issue.

    Have a pleasant weekend everyone.

  9. Chris Bates said:

    Kristin, I think you are right about ‘only the serious have the perseverance necessary to really succeed’.

    There’s a degree of manipulation that goes into writing stories that have real resonance. I’m a firm believer that this word/story manipulation can only be achieved through old fashioned hard work. If a story flows too easily than you really need to track back and discover why the book’s themes, structure and characterisations aren’t driving you to the point of insanity. Only then does something special take place.

    Geez, that kinda sounds as if I know how to write brilliant novels. Let me clarify: I don’t know sh!t.

  10. Taire said:

    Thank you for telling Christopher Nolan’s story. Despite enduring so much hardship, he was able to feel the tremendous joy of creating and completing something magical and uniquely his own. May the recognition he received for his efforts inspire others, and may their query letters grace your inbox. 🙂

  11. bucketgirl said:

    Just the other day, I came across a writer online asking for critique with the comment, “Just tell me if this is good enough to sell because I’m not going to waste my time writing a book if it doesn’t make money.” There were lots of encouraging comments but I would have just said, “Quit now.”

    To write, you must be willing to waste the time. And risk a lot of pain.

    And the only way to get better at anything (writing, cooking, speaking, dancing, painting) is to constantly expose yourself to and compare yourself against people who are much, much better than you. This makes reading essential.

    Plus, it’s a very handy excuse. I forget to write all the time, but I never forget to read. But reading kind of counts as “working on my writing.”

    @Anonymous re: “If I only had the time.” – similarly, people admire my husband’s photographs and then ask what kind of camera he has. Cuz the camera takes the pictures, don’t you know.

  12. Enna said:

    Bucketgirl, that’s funny about the camera!

    The same can be said for music…I read an article recently about the fact that everyone who owns a Mac owns Garageband, and it’s giving people the false impression that they’re musicians.

    Reminds me of a cashier who noticed my university shirt, asked what I majored in, then replied in surprise, “Oh, I didn’t know you could major in music.”

    Not insulting at all. 🙂

  13. Elissa M said:

    <<"Oh, I didn't know you could major in music.">> *snort*

    And the camera thing, too. Way funny.

    Yes, of course I read. As does everyone in my family and everyone I consider a friend. My sister is a librarian, and my sister-in-law a retired one. Of all these readers, I’m the only one actively trying to write for publication.

    I know lots of writers call agents and editors “gatekeepers” as if that’s a bad thing. If every book that was ever written got published, I’d be afraid to buy another single one.

    I like having most of the dreck weeded out for me. Thank you, Kristin.

  14. Elissa M said:

    Oh, and I like the idea of my own dreck being weeded out, too. I don’t want to be one of those authors who wish their first novels hadn’t been published!

  15. acpaul said:

    My first “novel” was hand written and then pounded out painstakingly upon my mother’s antique typewriter. (I was ten.) I don’t even know what happened to the ms, but I’m sure it was awful.

    These days, I use a computer. But once I finish a draft I still painstakingly revise and polish, and then rewrite and polish some more.

    I read between 2 and 5 novels a week, depending on schedule. My husband, who does not write, reads as well.

    If someone tells me about their great idea for a book they ought to write, I have the same reaction to them as I have to dementia and psych patients: smile and nod, smile and nod. Agree politely and then excuse yourself.

  16. Anonymous said:

    I do think that technology has made it more easy to write books, but I think this is good.

    Whether you get published or not, writing a novel is a creative, growing, and edifying experience, time well spent. I know a lot of people who enjoy painting, drawing, photography, ect. So why not write if you really enjoy it.

    The problem for you agents is that most people who finish a novel want to have it published because they love their story and think the world will too.

    But I do agree that anyone who is really serious about writing needs to read a lot.

  17. Margaret South said:

    Great Blog!
    When I work with writers, from our littlest Kids Talk Story writers, to our Master Class professionals, I insist they write in longhand. It slows down the thought process and it engages the brain in a wholly different manner from typing.

  18. dianecurran said:

    Thank you for the link to the Christopher Nolan story. Very inspiring – it certainly puts anything that I perceive as obstacles into perspective.

    Yes, I remember ‘white-out’ and re-typing a whole ms. Mind you, at 15, I don’t think I knew a thing about editing.

    Nowdays, I write fast and edit slowly.

  19. Nerine Dorman said:

    It’s too easy to get a MS to a finished state and there are loads of people who are cranking out material yet when it comes to revisions they get sensitive that “their baby” could have something about it that isn’t “right”.

    Even though I have a computer at work and at home, I still write the first draft of a novel using pen and paper. I find that I order my thoughts better and, also, during the outlining process, it doesn’t matter where I am.

    I usually write for about 2 hours a day on the train then edit at home for one. It’s a good system. I wrote my third novel in six months, although I admit that the editing will probably take another six.

  20. Sue Bolich said:

    I am so sad to hear about Christopher Nolan. When I hear stories like that I am always reminded how petty are the excuses I use to not sit down today and write.

    I have long wondered how much the computer age has contributed to the teetering piles of slush at every publishing house. I wrote my first novel on a typewriter: typed, retyped, made it perfect, ripped out pages and made sure they were clean. . . Oh, yes, it was a lot of work! It took commitment just to get a manuscript together. Now it’s cut/paste, print. At least, a lot of stuff I see on workshops looks that way. Do editors have to deal with twice the slush now as before PCs made it so easy?

    I have to say, if I had to write it all out longhand I’d go crazy. The pen/keyboard has always just been a straight conduit from my brain to the page; having to slow down makes me insane. My hat is off to Christopher and anyone else who perseveres one painful peck at a time.

  21. Raima said:

    This story hit home for me. I’ve been a writer all my life and, yes, I remember white-out – and when cut and paste was REALLY cut and paste.

    Several years ago a knife slipped in the kitchen and I ended up with several severed tendons and nerves in one hand and a cast from fingertip to elbow. I was forbidden to use my left hand for six months or risk breaking the tendons a second time.

    As a writer I was devastated, but found myself pecking out stories with one hand on my keyboard. I discovered and installed voice-recognition software that required many frustrating days of training before it worked at all, but I did it because the truth was I COULD NOT NOT WRITE.

    So, as Christopher showed us, this IS what it means to write.

    Thanks for letting me share my story.

  22. karen wester newton said:

    Kristin’s comment about computers is spot on, as the Brits say. But I think you can take it one step farther. Print-on-demand technology and ebooks have made self publishing quick, cheap, and easy. It might well be that in future, almost no one publishes their first book with a publishing house. Instead of submitting an m.s., they might have to submit a self-published book with respectable sales to get the attention of agents and/or editors.

    The world is changing, that’s for sure, and publishing is changing right along with it.

  23. Anonymous said:

    Tiffany @6:04

    re: “…Look how many pages I typed today. And that’s single spaced! And it’s not even lunch – I’ll have this novel done before dinner…”

    I could not agree with you more. I’ve come to detest those little WIP widget things people use to meaure how fast they are writing their WIP. I find myself continually stunned that they people can do 5,000 words a day — everyday? Really? I used to feel like such a slow, dense writer in comparison, but, as Chris Bates mentions above — do those words even make sense? Carry the theme? Flow into a plot? Is easy, brainless dialogue the objective? Or should you attempt for an actual story and readablity as well? 🙂

    (before you bombard me with — but, but, I DID write 5k words a day and it got published — yes, there are exceptions to every rule, but honestly, is there not the same level of care when your overall objective means reaching an obscenely high daily word count as opposed to creating real content.)

  24. Anonymous said:

    Anonymous 8:06

    I agree with you there. Just like life, a novel has to unfurl at its own pace. The more you try to rush it, the less powerful it becomes. It is amazing how much writing can teach us about life.

    I have recently been reading Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, & Literary Agents. There is an essay in there entitled “The Writer’s Journey – The Path of the Spiritual Messenger” by Deborah Levine Herman. I couldn’t believe how much it hit home.

  25. Luddite said:

    I wrote my first novel, still unpublished, by hand and then pecked it into an ancient Mac. I think the methods of editing, revising, and rewriting have changed with technology (I love being able to move text around), but it still takes an amazing amount of skill, determination, perseverence, and time to get a piece of writing to the level of quality that merits publication. And then there is the processs of getting that writing into the right hands at the right time. In the end, I don’t think the level of technology used matters. What matters is the writing.

  26. Vicky said:

    Kristen wrote: “I wonder if writers work on their craft as much when it’s so easy to copy, paste, delete, or what have you.”

    Are you a fan of Oscar Wilde?

    Writing slowly is no guarantee of a well-crafted novel. For some writers, too much attention to individual sententences and paragraphs leads to slow pacing. If you don’t get the story down quickly, you’re likely to lose the momentum – or the idea altogether. The computer makes it faster and easier for writers to get those crummy first drafts on paper and then revise.

    Nora Roberts is attributed as saying, “I can fix a bad page.”

    I usually have to throw mine out. 🙂

  27. melissablue13 said:

    Interesting theory and on some level I agree. Most people think you sit down and you write a book. It gets sold and voila you are an author. Now those same people probably stop once the going gets tough no matter how easy technology makes writing a book. Now, there are others who actually write the book and send it out with one rejection and never write again. And, then those are the ones who are determined. Now being determined does not equal being able to write. As I’m sure you know.

    But my own story is that I wrote my first book on a typewriter. A Smith and Corona. That was in 2004 and I didn’t have the means to buy a computer. I was 19 years old and no matter how many times I had to re-type a page I was going to get my story down. I was going to be a writer. Did that make my story any good? Hell no, but those typewritten pages meant that nothing would stop me. And that’s what really makes a writer. Rejections, critiques that rip your heart out won’t stop you from writing. The other side is listening to the advice that makes you nod your head.

    Because at the end of the day knowing craft is one thing, being able to weave a story is another.

  28. Donna said:

    I hand-write all first drafts. It’s just what’s comfortable to me to do. I thought I would have to do the same for edits but editing in the word processor is proving to be ok to do. It’s not the same and I definitely couldn’t do it for a first draft (my brain seizes when it sees that white screen).

    I did used to type on an automatic typewriter when I was younger even though I did have a computer (actually two) in the house. Something just felt right about it although those typing mistakes really screwed with my perfectionism!

  29. Piper Denna said:

    What cracks me up is seeing how many people actually DO complete a novel, but have no idea that they haven’t even scratched the surface of the work involved. Self-edits, critiquing others’ work and then implementing their critiques (of course, if said “writer” skips these steps, they’re all done and their ms will remain just that – a manuscript, for all eternity…), shopping to agents and editors…even here we’re only at the tip of the ‘berg. Once you’ve got a contract, expect lots of elbow grease with edits and various forms for the publisher. Also, chances are you’ll be doing tons and tons of promotion, cause let’s face it, even the BIG houses don’t put lots of publicity money behind new authors. I’ve only got 2newly released books out and am staggered by the amount of time I spend on promoting my books every week. As an editor, I can tell you when we look through the slush pile, it’s obvious when we get a submission from somebody who writes but doesn’t work. I’m sure the same applies for submissions to NLA.

  30. ryan field said:

    I’m 38 and I started writing and submitting stories while I was in college twenty years ago. There were word processors back then, but I worked on a typewriter and everything was submitted in hard copy. The revises were endless. If there was one mistake on the page, the page had to be re-written. I could go on (the money spent on copies and postage?), but that’s what you did if you wanted to write.

    And if all computers disappeared tomorrow, I’d clear my desk and go right back to my typewriter without thinking twice.

  31. Anonymous said:

    I think people will answer the question of what it means to write in different ways because I believe that people will approach writing in different ways. I don’t consider myself just as a writer, but I consider myself as a creator. I’m sure my approach is different than others; that’s why the style of my work is so much different than others. I feel that I was born to write– as long as I’m breathing then I’m writing. In my opinion (and there may be exceptions), I believe that you have to be born to write in order to really be successful. It’s a 24 hours, 7 days a week deal, and you just have to love it. In addition, there’s a lot of learning, and discovering a lot of secrets.

  32. writtenwyrdd said:

    I’m just glad of the word processing technology that came along with computers, because, having had carpal tunnel, I physically cannot hand write more than a few lines without pain. I’d be devastated if I couldn’t write due to the lack of technology!

    I used to prefer writing my stuff longhand, but developed a preference for the typewriter in college. But once I got my first computer, I was sold, because I was able to halfway keep up with my thoughts as I wrote (I used to type over 100wpm).

    I’m sure that of all teh people who think they have a novel or three in them, 99% of them don’t have any interest to try. (And I think that, of those who won’t try, they’ll be the first to try and convince a writer that their idea is so wonderful the writer should write it and they all will split the money!)

  33. Scott said:

    “I wonder if writers work on their craft as much when it’s so easy to copy, paste, delete, or what have you.”

    I think computers have the opposite effect. It’s much easier to revise with a computer, so we’re likely to revise a chapter or an opening paragraph dozens of times.

    Where computers might cause problems for writers is that they make it much easier to write first drafts, just to get it down. In fact, we’re encouraged by most writing books to do so. But once the words are down on paper, it’s often harder to see the problems through our filters, so those easy-to-make revisions might not get made.

    Once you’ve done the work to finish a first draft, it’s natural to be proud of yourself for finishing and so in love with your effort that you don’t revise enough. Or, it’s easy to see the small changes that are needed, but you don’t really have a view of the big picture, especially if you work solely on the screen without printing the manuscript.

    On-screen editing is perfect for tweaking words and sentences, but we’re likely to miss anything bigger than a few pages. Still, we feel like we’ve done our job because we’ve edited each paragraph 30 times.

  34. Caitlin said:

    >>When asked, just about every person you talk to believes they have at least one book in them. These same people when asked how many books they’ve read in the last year might also say just one.

    Not in my experience. Anyone I know who wants to write a book is a voracious reader of books. Just as anyone I know who wants to open a restaurant likes food.

  35. Treethyme said:

    The hard part is when you love to read AND write. It’s always a tough decision whether to pick up a book from The Dangerous TBR pile or go back and do the revisions that are always beckoning. Tough call!

  36. Anonymous said:

    I know what white-out is. It looked very weird on the onion paper that I used for my poetry collection and first ‘epic’ fantasy way back in the early 80’s. Why onion paper? Somebody gave me free paper for my electric typewriter. Who was I to turn it down? Those were the days. Not.

  37. Dara said:

    I remember handwriting a novel. Of course, I was only 11 and computers will still a bit too expensive. I started out on the typewriter, but being so young, there were many typos, so I decided writing in pencil was easier 🙂

    And yes I remember white-out. It’s still handy here in the office when there are some things that need a bit of fixing.

    The story of Christopher Nolan is inspiring too. It is sad that he’s passed away, but his story of perseverence is something each writer should examine and think about.

  38. Liz Kreger said:

    I remember the days of handwriting your story and then typing it on a typewriter. Mom even had an old manual typewriter that I used. (This was when I was a kid and wrote my animal stories). Nowadays, I would never trade my computer for a typewriter.

    What I found amazing was one day when I was at the DMV waiting with the masses for my number to be called, I looked around and noticed I was the only person in a room of at least 50 people who had a book in my lap. How pitiful is that?

  39. jimnduncan said:

    Computers have certainly been more boon than bane for writers. As mentioned above, it’s in the revising process that I think this has proven to be the biggest benefit. While the reduced time and ease of actual writing has certainly put a lot more ‘dreck’ out there for the publishing industry to wade through, a lot of great stuff has likely reached the bookshelves that would have not otherwise made it.

    The internet has had a bigger impact by far than computers by themselves. It’s changing the publshing industry in ways not even imagined ten years ago. In another ten years, the industry won’t likely look anything like it does today. There are definitely a lot more questions out there about these changes then there are answers, and just trying to keep up with things will be the biggest challenge facing writers and publishers.

    One of these days, not too far down the road I expect, we’ll have e-readers that are the size of paperbacks, open up like a book, read with less eye strain, have numerous options for added content like author intervies, artwork, character bios, etc., have direct online access to millions of titles, including magazines, newspapers, textbooks, and so on, which will allow you to instantly plug in feedback/reviews about anything you are currently reading. People will be twittering away with each other over the latest chapter/installment of some new release, and you’ll find authors in constant connection with readers, promoting on a continual basis.

    It’s going to be a very different world out there in the near future, and success is going to be a lot more than just getting the words down on a page. Like it or not.

    J Duncan

  40. Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said:

    Reading is essential to good writing. It gives you a wider perspective on life. It exposes you to good and bad writing, and if you’re a thoughtful reader, you’ll learn the difference. It gives you a world of ideas and experience, even if only vicariously.

    If you read widely you can play a game of connections. The Holmsian phrase “the game’s afoot” really isn’t Holmsian at all. He borrowed it from Scott’s Ivanhoe. (“for there’s game afoot that must be hunted hard.”) Scott in turn borrowed it from history. It’s not a reference to gaming, but to hunting, and it is in that context that Doyle used it. You read S. S. Van Dine (W. H. Wright), and you find the roots of some of Doyle’s stories. Van Dine delighted in exposing the original source of Sherlock Holmes stories.

    I read about ten novels a week. Most of them I read quickly. A few I read as if they were a savory meal. I return to those books, reread bits and parts and sometimes all of them. I also read a lot of nonfiction. I write history and fantasy fiction. They overlap. (I see that “huh uh” forming; stop it. They do overlap.) Since much of the history my writing partner and I turn out is original research, I’m exposed to a world of bad writing, boring books, odd documents and letters, all in pursuit of the root and branch of forgotten acts. This creeps into my fiction too, often providing a bit of realistic detail. A good story depends on the details.

    Fiction should reflect reality. That means that one should be more than a good and frequent reader. It means that one should be an acute observer. In one of his essays, Montaigne suggested that a truly educated person was a careful observer of others’ actions and motives. He was right. As a writer, carefully observing others will give you an accuracy of description, gesture, and dialogue. It gives your story life.

    I believe a good writer is a good raconteur first. Back in the day when I lectured, I found I could hold my audience’s attention by just being me, by telling history as a story. I like history told that way, which is why I am a fan of Francis Parkman (not so much his Oregon Trail, but his History of the French in America. Deliciously good writing.) What made him an adept story teller was thoughtful experience. He walked the ground where happened most of the events he recounted.

    Don’t you just hate long blog-posts?

    Rachael de Vienne
    Pixie Warrior, Drollerie Press
    Nelson Barbour: The Millenniums Forgotten Prophet (forth coming)
    Princess of Pixies
    Queen of Goats
    Sister to the Old Lady who Lives in the Shoe.
    And … According to Janet Reid … “Pixie Princess extraordinaire!”

    I love that last one!

  41. dr.morbius said:

    I still have my typewriter. A manual, no less–not even an electric. I’m not nostalgic about using it, but I remember the process of learning to use a word processor and hating it because I could never feel myself make a mistake, as I could with the typewriter. The “wrongness” of a wrong keystroke was linked with the mechanical process of making the machine work. It took me a long time to get to the point where I could feel myself make a mistake with an electronic keyboard. Still and all, I’m in for a pound now.

    As an aside, I love your blog. Don’t be a stranger.

    Take care,

  42. Indigo said:

    I happen to agree on the everyone thinks they are a writer theory. I’m forever daunted with the remarks that fall my way here and there with sentiments of you should write a book.I should, should I? (smiles) My story is one of survival, I write a blog to expunge the details from my head to the page before me. It’s my therapy. Not everyone’s therapy is book material. What I think they find book worthy is a story they haven’t lived and can’t imagine exist out of surreal context.

    Mine is only one of thousands of such stories…again book matererial? Depends on which of us can tell the story raw – with all the eloquence to not offend. Then again defending one’s sensibilities does garner attention (raises eyebrow). No we are NOT all book material, yet we all DO have a story.

    Thanks for the Chris Nolan story. (Hugs)Indigo

  43. Kimber An said:

    In my observation, it’s the story which matters and craft is only a means to that end. Twilight, for example, is full of writing mistakes and/or amateur craft, I’m told. Yet it’s sold millions and led to a successful movie. I’ve also read perfectly crafted novels which were so boring they nearly put me into a coma.

    Readers are going to get the books they love, whether they’re free eBooks, self-published novels sold out of a trunk, or $25 hardbacks from Barnes & Noble. The advent of technology has only broadened their choices. Reader choice stiffens the competition and that may make it harder on the publishing industry, but it also means the best stories will rise to the top. And that’s also good for readers.

  44. Antony Bennison said:

    I’m reminded of what the editor and writer Howard Mittelmark said when asked about everybody having a novel in them:

    “Everyone has a kidney in them too. That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to try to take it out.”

  45. Beth said:

    I wonder if writers work on their craft as much when it’s so easy to copy, paste, delete, or what have you.

    Speaking for myself, I think the advent of computers has made me a better writer. In the pre-computer days, it was far too much work to make a lot of corrections, so I didn’t fiddle as much. Now, I can work hard at making my prose shine precisely because it is so easy and quick change it.

  46. David Dittell said:


    Though it’s true that the threshold for who can write have been lowered, this process has been going on for far longer. It used to be that literacy was determined who could write, and there were relatively few people who qualified, and almost all were white males of a certain age.

    There are costs and benefits of this shift, but one of the benefits is that people are more likely to find specific niche titles that once were impossible to find. I personally think this is a wonderful thing, whether it’s text message novels in Japan, LOLcatz blogs, or being able to call up Anna Karenina through google in an instant.

    Also, as an aside, I worked as an English teacher recently and can verify that white out is still very much in vogue. Until schools go digital (which has seemingly been talked about forever), it will definitely remain so.