Occasionally, I feel the urge to reminisce about the changes that have taken place in my world since I sold my first book in 1986. I may have mentioned before that I wrote my first book on a small electric typewriter borrowed from my mother-in-law. I used carbon paper for my back-up copy. Whenever I needed to make a change, I either retyped the entire page or used correction fluid and hoped the correction fit into the same space. Needless to say, I learned to write without doing a lot of drafts.
My first computer had a 20 mb hard-drive, a monochrome monitor (amber on black) and a very basic word processing program called Volkswriter. Being able to backspace and delete was truly a joy for me. I couldn’t imagine needing anything else. And then programs continued to develop, and I discovered cut and paste, search and replace, automatic formatting, spell check, word count — oh, my. (I’m currently using Word ’07. Oddly enough, my only complaint is that it sometimes wants to do too much for me!)
My first daisy-wheel printer required eight to twelve hours to print a manuscript. Yes, that’s right. I always scheduled a full day for printing and several days for the package to reach my editor’s desk. Now, I rarely print anything. I just hit “attach and send.” Moments later, my editor receives it. Lovely.
I was a bit late getting on-line. I wasn’t quite sure I needed email or the internet at first. How foolish I was! I honestly cannot imagine now how I wrote a book without having Google open on my desktop at all times.
It used to be that when I needed to do research, I had to drive to the library, turn to one of my own encyclopedia volumes, atlases, dictionaries or other research books, travel to a location, or make a few phone calls. Now, the information is at my fingertips. Whenever I need it. I still do all of the above, occasionally — I particularly enjoy the travel research — but it always amazes me how much information I can glean with only a few keystrokes.
Just within the past few days of writing, I’ve needed to know the duration of a flight from Little Rock to Dublin, the legal requirements for getting married in Scotland, random facts about several bacteria and the diseases they cause, and the approximate driving distance between Dublin and Dungarvan. A few minutes on-line, and I’m back into my story without having to even step away from my computer. I wish I could say I’m guaranteed never to make another factual mistake, but I’m not that foolishly optimistic. I will say I always try to get my facts right, and the internet has made it so much easier!
The internet also makes it so much easier not to write. Today alone, I’ve also looked up several phone numbers for my husband, checked the entry price of a local comedy club for my son, searched Google maps for the route my daughter and her husband will take to move to the east coast in a few weeks — and made a list of several attractions I want to see when I visit them there. Social interaction websites, television discussion websites, writers’ chat groups, silly cat pictures, recipe sites, shopping sites, games, blogs — so much to see and do! All more fun than actually working. Being my own boss, I sometimes have to be very strict with myself about personal use of the internet during work hours. I don’t always listen.
Because I’ve met my writing goal for today and can play on the computer without guilt for a couple of hours, I’m off now to see what my on-line friends are saying about the American Idol finale. So, my friends, until the next time — happy Googling.