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Author Resource Round Table > Paper, Screen or Tablet?

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message 1: by Anthony (last edited Jan 23, 2015 01:07PM) (new)

Anthony Hill | 59 comments What’s the method most writers prefer when setting down their original composition – writing that tantalisingly difficult first draft?

Are we still pen and paper people – Edward Gibbon’s “scribblers” – at heart? Or have we adapted completely to the electronic revolution, and happily compose as well as edit on the shining screen?

Personally, I straddle both worlds, though the balance is tipping to the new way of doing things. In fact I’ve fallen in love with the little iPad. Tapping away in bed of an early morning and emailing the text to myself, has quite changed my way of writing books.

As a young journalist in the 1960s I had no problem writing stories for the newspaper at the typewriter. But when it came to my early books, they first had to be written out by hand – black ink on a white page – before I transferred them to the keyboard.

It seemed that something happened between the brain, the hand and the tip of the pen, that turned an idea into literature – and it was never the same on the keyboard.

It wasn’t until my eighth book written in 1999-2000, that I first began to compose directly onto the computer keyboard. It was strange at first, and difficult to engage the imagination. But once I began to see not only the form of the words, but the shape of the sentences and paragraphs as they’d appear on a printed page, I became much more involved.

The architecture of the book began to emerge from the beginning, and I found myself becoming ever more fluent at the screen.

Now, all my books are composed directly on the computer … although I’m careful to print out a copy of each day’s work. I’ll edit the page in pencil and to keep it with the running text of each chapter, just in case I want to revert to an earlier version and can’t remember what it is!

It’s belt and braces for me, really. All the speed and freedom of the new technology … tempered by an old-fashioned distrust of the digital siren singing its paperless song. What if the typescript were to disappear into the cloud completely?

Besides, there’s a lingering belief that the written word should be just that. Written – or at any rate printed – in black ink on a white page

message 2: by Ken (new)

Ken Doggett (kendoggett) I started out on a used manual typewriter, and moved up to a new manual typewriter (I didn't like the electrics because they hummed). Later I got a combo word processor/typewriter that used a floppy (remember those?) and didn't hum. Now I write on a desktop computer, save it to the cloud, and review and edit on a Kindle. All things considered, I like my current setup best because it leaves more time for writing and I don't have to fiddle with Wite-Out or paper. In fact, my latest novel has never seen paper, and won't until someone buys the first paperback.

message 3: by Roger (new)

Roger Jackson | 8 comments I dont' think there is a right way or wrong way to write. Personally, I apply virtual black ink to a virtual white page. I have always been able to type much faster than write by hand. Now, I have fibromyalgia and writing more than a couple of sentences becomes quite painful. Fortunately, it hasn't affected my typing.

I also don't print the work. The paper just ends up in the recycle bin anyway. I have no problem reading from a computer/tablet screen. I can even read on my smart phone using the Kindle app without much trouble. I've come to prefer working digitally instead of -- hmmm, analogally? Is that a word?

message 4: by Mike (new)

Mike Robbins (mikerobbins) | 66 comments It's a word now!

I'm also pretty much 100% digital until the first paperback proof copy arrives. But there is one exception - proofreading, for which I use hard copy. As a young sub-editor, I was taught that you should always cover the line after the one you are reading so that your brain does not see what it is expecting to see.

message 5: by Victoria (last edited Jan 23, 2015 01:30PM) (new)

Victoria Zigler (toriz) | 2820 comments Until my teens it was all done by hand. Then I switched to doing the first draft by hand and then typing it all up on a typewriter I had, and later - when the typewriter broke and I didn't want to have an electric one - I switched the typing up phase to a computer instead.

I only stopped doing the first draft by hand when I couldn't read my own writing any more due to my failing sight. I still miss being able to do the first draft without sitting at a computer, but as yet haven't found a way that works for me without using one; I don't really want to use a recording device, due to the difficulty of hearing recordings when trying to transcribe them if there was a lot of background noise where I was at the time, which I know to be an issue from using one at school, and the little braille frames aren't easy to use and mostly aren't any good for more than a couple of words anyway (most of them require you to write the symbols backwards too, which isn't very easy). I do have a braille machine, but it's much too heavy to carry around with me, and my Kindle does have a notes function, but I haven't managed to get the hang of using the keyboard on a Kindle yet (touch screen isn't easy for the blind). So, yeah, right now all I can do is make notes in my mind, hope they stay put, and use a laptop or PC to write them down as soon as I get a chance. This, of course, means that every draft is currently done on the computer, along with all the notes I make about my current works In progress and ideas I have for the future.

message 6: by Dwayne (new)

Dwayne Fry | 349 comments For most of my life, I hand wrote everything. I had notebooks, binders, forests of paper covered with my scribblings. Now, it's all done on computer. Trust me, I am saving trees this way.

message 7: by Anthony (new)

Anthony Hill | 59 comments Thanks for the comments everyone: it's pretty clear that, whatever affections we had for the pen and paper, the new technology is really establishing itself as the medium for original composition. But it's interesting that some, like me, continue to edit in hard copy.

Victoria raised some very significant points about the importance of portable and convenient devices for writers with disabilities such as she mentioned. The iPad also has a touch screen, which I use with the Notes function. But even for a sighted person it can be rather hit and miss.

For example, the word 'of' almost always comes out as 'if'; and the thing has such a mind of its own when it comes to anticipating words, that if you're not careful the most awful rubbish can appear on the screen and transfer itself into the text. I'm still picking up iPad errors into the third and fourth edit of the current manuscript.

message 8: by Victoria (new)

Victoria Zigler (toriz) | 2820 comments Exactly!

Although, at least they do actually have reliable speech software on the tablets now. My first Kindle (a Kindle Keyboard) had a normal keyboard - as suggested by the name - but other than navigating the basic menus enough to pick a book and turn on text to speech, I couldn't use any of the functions, because it wouldn't speak to me when I tried to. But my new one (a Kindle Fire 6) actually speaks with anything there's text for, and therefore the only thing stopping me using some of the functions is my difficulty with using the touch screen keyboard, but at least I have more control over reading and navigating the books and menus.

message 9: by Anthony (new)

Anthony Hill | 59 comments Thanks Victoria. I've never actually tried to compose literary work using the speech option on the iPad, though I was reasonably competent dictating copy direct from my shorthand notes to the office typists when I was a young reporter in the 1960s and 70s. I must try the contemporary approach...

Since writing this, I gave some dictation to the iPad using the sentence, "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog" which apparently uses all the letters in the alphabet. It wasn't terribly encouraging. 'fox' came out as a very vulgar word. 'jumped' came out with a capital J which, when I said lower case j, appeared as words on the screen. When I said 'space' that also came out as a word.

Still, as a good workman doesn't blame his tools, the fault must lie with the workman and I'll be giving the speech function a lot more practice. The issue then will be whether I can compose anything worthwhile in my head. There is still this thing for me between the brain, the hand, and the written word on the page or screen, that turns an idea into literature.

message 10: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey Eaton | 53 comments Loved, loved, loved writing on paper for a long time. But I composed my novel on a computer and am glad I did.

Those scenes where the action or dialogue is galloping -- I just can't capture it as well on a piece of paper. And the desire to shift and reorder things quickly gets done better on a screen.

That said, I still have a legal pad next to me for doodling ideas, making lists, trying things out (even though I could open up another screen for that if I wished). I am guessing in 20 years or sooner, legal pads will be seen as a quaint relic of the past.

message 11: by Victoria (new)

Victoria Zigler (toriz) | 2820 comments Anthony wrote: "Thanks Victoria. I've never actually tried to compose literary work using the speech option on the iPad, though I was reasonably competent dictating copy direct from my shorthand notes to the offic..."

To have anything closely resembling what you said, you have to very carefully pronounce every sylabol. A frustrating process, which is even more frustrating when you're trying to get down ideas. That's why I prefer to avoid it, and instead just hope things stay in my head long enough for me to get to my computer.

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