Thursday, October 18, 2012

Force of Habit

I'm in a rush tonight, so you get what you get. Here's how I write my stories. I like to do the first draft longhand, because I can carry a pen and notebook all over the house more easily than I can balance the laptop. I've gotten into the habit of writing first thing in the morning while I have my cup of caffeine. I don't know how many pens I go through in writing a book, probably three or four. I use the same pens for journaling and sketching and writing random notes to myself, so it's hard to say.

The second draft is the typed draft. That one goes into the Troglodyte-1000, because I haven't gotten a printer for the laptop yet. I have to have a printed version. This is where habit comes in.

When I started writing, everything was paper. No computers in that bygone era. I'm talking typewriters, folks. (Ask your parents what a typewriter is.) You know, that thing that looks like a computer, but doesn't have a screen. You roll a sheet of paper into the thing and type directly onto it. What will they think of next?

Like that wasn't horrendous enough, I started out on a manual. I didn't get my first electric typewriter until after I was out of high school. (It was my graduation gift.) On-screen correction meant dabbing Wite-Out on the typo. If you wanted copies, you used carbon paper. (Ask your parents.) If your fingers really started flying, several keys would hit the paper at once and they'd get clumped up and stuck. Those were fun times, let me tell you.

My first computer changed all that. No more stuck keys. No more typing over gobs of Wite-Out. You correct it right on the screen. I can type as fast as I want and make all the mistakes I want because I can go back and fix it all before I print it out. Yes, it comes with a printer. Hallelujah! No more carbon paper stains on my fingers and smearing all over the keyboard! You want a copy? You want ten copies? Just hit Print. The machine does the rest.

Since the advent of email, I know some writers who don't even print out their drafts any more. Why bother? Hardly any publishers ask for hardcopy manuscripts. You attach your work to an email. Whole books are written, rewritten, edited, submitted,and offered up for sale to the reading public without ever being committed to paper. No trees were harmed in the creation of this trilogy.

So why don't I just type my stuff directly onto the laptop and save myself all that extra work?

Because habit's a tough thing to break. I grew up with paper. I feel more secure around paper. I want to have that visual proof the book is finally done. I want to sit in bed with the pages and sip my tea while I read through it yet again and scribble notes in the margins. It's hard to do that on a screen.

Paranoia plays a role too. The Troglodyte 1000 crashed on me once, and I lost everything in the hard drive. It's 20 years old; it could go at any time. I know I could save to a flash drive, but what if that corrupts? I've had disks go bad on me too. Paper is my security blanket. Short of a fire, it won't crash or go all screwy on you. And you can wave it under people's noses and impress them with how industrious you are.

That's why the third draft is the one typed onto the laptop, for emailing. That's why there's a third draft to begin with. It's also helpful in that I catch errors and plot holes and make little tweaks every time I type. I need that third draft for the final run-through.

At some point Trog will give up the ghost and I'll be left with Mr. Lappy. But I'm not typing a thing until I buy a compatible printer for it. You're not crashing on me, bucko. No sirree.


Savanna Kougar said...

Pat, I didn't get an electric typewriter till about that time, and started out on a manual.

That was the worst, when you're typing away and the keys all clump up.

I do have a selectric I've kept... although, where would I get the film for it?

Actually, that's a damn good way to do it. Write. Type out draft. Do a third typing, and you do catch lots of typos, and places to revise.

I have my four flash drives, in case one does corrupt. You can also email yourself your mss, so it's in your email account, and not just on your hard drive. Actually, you can upload it to our SS yahoo loop.

I do wish I had everything printed out, but at this point, that would take reams and reams of paper, and tons o'ink.

Pat C. said...

It does take reams of paper, and I've got the desk drawers, filing cabinets, and floors of the closets to prove it. I could never live in a truly paperless society.

Dunno about ink. I like laser printers. You can still get those, and toner cartridges.

I've occasionally emailed myself bits of chapters so I could get printouts at the library, but that gets expensive after awhile. I also get that unintended extra copy every time I email a ms. to a publisher. I suppose I could email copies to the Yahoo loop, but if I did that you'd all be able to read my stuff for free -- oh. I see.

Pat C. said...

Ah yes, manual typewriters. Those were the days. Thank God those days are over.

Savanna Kougar said...

About manual, likely with the current tech materials you could make a manual typewriter that is much easier to use.

No, don't printout at the library unless you have to. It's just about having your electronic copy stored off the hard drive where you have access to it, if needed. You don't need to email to the Yahoo group, you can download it directly... maybe not if you don't have computer access at your place.

Laser printers are less expensive in the long run, from what I know. However, don't be in a confined space with the ink while printing, it ain't good for your health.

Yeah, I wish I could print out everything. It would be Herculean at this point. And, I'm already behind-the-eight-ball busy.

Savanna Kougar said...

Hey, if I get the time, energy and the means... maybe, I should just go through Lulu, and just do a book of everything I've got *only for my purchase, of course* it would probably be less expensive than printing out everything.

Serena Shay said...

Oh gads, I was of the electric typewriter generation, but even that was ghastly. Mostly because I'm a horrible speller and spent most of my time correcting, correcting, correcting! Ha

I've written some things to paper, but not much beyond notes when I can't get on to my computer. I have 'what the hell did I write there' handwriting...I kid you not, it looks like I use my nose to hold the pen/pencil. Yeah, now that's a picture. ;D

I, too, go the flash drive/emailing the wip to myself/external hard drive route. No print outs for me. If I'm in editing mode, I need to fix it right away or I lose my train of sad. lol

By the way, I have printed out Darling Diva's stories, but to do it I've used Office Max with a flash drive and they have a very cheap price, especially if you do front and back pages and have a rewards card. :) Just a thought in case it's cheaper than the library.

Savanna Kougar said...

Hey, good idea about Office Max, if you have one handy.

Pat C. said...

I didn't know you could do that at Office Max, and I think we have one in the neighborhood. I'll have to look into it.