Technology is a fast-moving train to hop onto these days as it stops almost everywhere. For me as a writer, Marshall McLuhan was right. The medium is the message. And that’s why I was thinking about all the ways my techie gadgets help my writing; in fact, were it not for my computer, I might not be writing at all. (I well remember those days in school filling pages of foolscap with my stories and absolutely loathing the rewrite.)
1. First of all word processing allows cutting and pasting of words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, or even whole chapters. And all of it is easy. Make friends with your word processor’s abilities. You’ll be glad you did. And the actual writing is fast if you’re a touch typist. If not, do as a member of my critique group does. He is not a great typist, I think, but has voice recognition software so he can talk and the computer records his work.
2. Writers can work from virtually anywhere they want using a laptop or an iPad-type machine, especially if that gadget includes 3G. Even if it doesn’t, a smart phone can access the Internet to look up that obscure detail. I used mine to check my memory of McLuhan’s quote above.
3. We can easily see what the finished product will look like. Instead of different coloured ink scratches squeezed between lines of unreadable handwriting, our typed manuscript looks almost like the finished product as we work on it. That makes my words flow like nothing else. I feel so close to that actual book.
4. Instead of heading to the neighbourhood copy centre, we make our backups as we go. I know that puts a lot of ancient monks out of business but it is so fast. I keep several backups at home, but I also have a dear sister who lovingly guards at her house my USB sticks with my precious work on them. And I can update them in a flash (flash drive?).
5. Whatever writers are working on, little details always need to be correct. My historical novel research has been done mostly on the computer. Of course I have scoped out forts online first and then gone to visit the actual sites but the online work tells me what might be there so that I can decide whether to go. Yes, I know, there are libraries. And I love mine. Often as not, however, the library will have me researching on a computer as well.
6. One of the fastest growing places for writers to be known is through social media. Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t want to ‘friend’ me on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or some other connection media. And I love it. Even though I’ve had to take the time to learn all of these media, connecting with people in Texas, Colorado, Ireland, Germany, or even Toronto, closer to home, is so affirming. There are other writers out there facing the same dilemmas as I, and offering solutions.
7. It used to be that going to a conference was wonderful but keeping up with great connections afterwards was almost impossible. No one had time to write letters, and phoning was expensive and apt to result in phone tag. Last April I attended a writing conference in Vancouver, got all the participants’ emails and am still in contact with many of them. A group that I met taking a course a couple of years ago is meeting face-to-face this fall at our very own writing retreat. And we’ve set it up on e-mail.
8. My newest acquisition is my iPhone, named a smart phone, I guess, because it can do just about anything except write my book for me. 3G is some mysterious technology that allows me to search the Internet wherever I am. If I’m lost looking for a fort or an old cemetery, my phone saves me.
9. A Flip camera found its way into my purse (Oh, I did pay for it!) a few weeks ago and I’m working on my first videos, to be attached to my site. Two amazing people have agreed to be interviewed on camera as my guinea pigs. Pretty exciting.
10. It occurs to me that via technology we authors now have the capability to plan, write, edit, review and publish a book without destroying a single tree. I probably won’t be doing that, myself, as I still love to print out my drafts for editing and then going back to the computer to make the changes. Still I wouldn’t have to. I could do it all electronically and then publish my work as an e-book.
Now I wonder if the day will come when technology will be able to read my thoughts and transfer them immediately to an automatic story-sleuthing program which makes my work perfect without me having to slog along for months and years. I grew up reading Orwell’s 1984, so a thought occurs: be careful what you wish for. For the moment I’m in technology heaven.