Friday, May 20, 2011

Tools in my toolbox

A few weeks ago, a new laptop entered my life. And, right on time, my faithful desktop computer died. My local computer guru might be able to resurrect it, but for right now I am learning the laptop.

On the plus side, I can write almost anywhere: in the Lazy Boy chair, in bed, at the dining room table, on the couch, even in the stands during Little League games. (Only when DS2 is in the dug-out)

On the down side, it's smaller and touchier than my desk top. I'm using some new software, too, which is another change.

I used to write in long hand on legal tablets. I think the Great American Western Novel fills a ton of those in one of those boxes in the basement. (We've only been in this house for 20 years and I've got some other things to do first.)

Sometimes I'd use my trusty electric typewriter to put my long hand notes in a more readable form, but once the draft was typed, it seemed written in stone to my mind. I wonder if anyone else felt that way about a typed draft.

My first computer booted up with big floppy disks, and had a tiny screen like a port-hole with little green letters floating by. It was compatible with a dot-matrix printer.

As personal computers became more affordable, we invested (because it cost as much as a couple head of cattle) in a laptop computer. We putted out onto the Information Superhighway at the speed of a golf cart, but eventually made it.

With the ease of writing and editing on screen, my productivity soared once I switched to using a PC. Strangely enough, though, I found no takers for a 400,000-word contemporary romance novel.

Now these two tools seem irreplaceable -- both a computer and the internet. Recently when plot ideas came to me when I could not find pen and paper, I jotted them down as a draft of a text message.

I would love to hear about others' work styles and spaces. Does anyone still write in long hand first? Or e-mail ideas to themselves? I'll check back after work tomorrow. Have a great weekend, everybody!


  1. Sometimes, I use note cards and then juggle them around in front of me to see how moving plot elements around changes the story.

  2. For me the most important writing condition is time. I have to write early in the morning before my brain gets too busy. Otherwise, I can't seem to focus.

    I find that many different strategies help with my story. At times, I use index cards for each scene, but usually I just go for the full sheet of paper and use each sheet for a scene.

    I've found that post it notes on a large wall also work great and give me the visual I need for my story. My wife thinks I'm the only sane person in the world who does this.

    I tried the Dramatica software, but after a year I finally gave up on it. It was too complicated for me.

    I'm a big fan of the vein map (bubble map), according to research, the brainstormer will come up with different ideas by using these fragmented nodules as apposed to writing thoughts out.

  3. I love using a laptop! But only if I have my wireless mouse. I don't know if I could ever go back to a desktop computer now. As long as I have my wireless mouse! ha

    I also like working on the computer. I do admit I sometimes like to brainstorm on legal pads, but for crit work or my edit work, I like the tracking and comments.

    But I say work with whatever works best. As a former teacher I'm all about working in your "sweet spot." :)

  4. Every time it's diff. But most often, I get an idea, sit down, and start pounding away until I have the first chapter done. After that, it's seat of the pants and away we go!

  5. Two points. (Why do I never have just one?)

    1. I have created hard copy forms for my character sketches and plot developments and then fill those out by hand when I'm waiting for my wife or hanging out at my favorite coffee-house. But the real writing is done on computer.

    2. When I say computer, I'm not saying laptop. Both my wife and I prefer the desktop. Additionally, I find that when I DO use the laptop, that document is locked on the desktop and is available as read-only, meaning I have to create a new document and add a hyphen to the title and delete the old. No, I don't lose information, just time.