I’m not talking about how hard it was to come up with the idea; that had been rolling around in my mind since I was twelve. I’m not talking about the challenge of structuring the story; I made it simple and told it in chronological order. I’m not talking about creating believable characters; I’d known them in my imagination for years and they were very real to me. I’m talking about the fact that I wrote that book, the first draft of which was over 700 pages, on a typewriter. How did I ever do that?
Imagine not being able to simply delete a typo. Not being able to move sentences and paragraphs around on a page. Or change a character’s name. Or add a cool subplot that you think of around page 300 but which requires loads of foreshadowing. “Saving” in the dark ages meant putting your manuscript in the freezer, since that was the one place you could be pretty sure it wouldn’t burn if the house caught fire. “Copying” meant putting a sheet of carbon paper between your sheets of typing paper and/or standing over the Xerox machine at your local copy center for hours. I know I’m really showing my age here. I finished my first book, Private Relations, in 1985, which is also when I bought my first dinosaur of a computer. I typed the whole book over again (onto a floppy drive) and thought I’d died and gone to heaven.
Sometimes I wonder how my writing would be different now if I couldn’t do it on a computer. I wouldn’t be turning out a book every nine months or so, that much is certain. I love being able to rearrange my chapters on a whim, go back and add details as my research nets me new information, and audition new character names whenever I like. (I remember changing one character’s name in that first book. I had to be sure I picked another name with the same number of letters so that when I replaced her name with the new one, it wouldn’t change the pagination of the entire document.)
We twenty-first century writers are a lucky lot! I’m going to give my computer a big kiss now and say good night.