Monday, December 16, 2013

Tools of the Writer: Growing with the times

You know, way, way back in the day-- by which I mean high school-- I did my writing on WordPerfect, using the 8088 PC-clone that I had at the time.  Before that I had an Apple II+, and I don't recall having a word processing program on that.  I did actually learn to type on a typewriter, though it was probably a weird and strange choice made by a weird and strange child*.  But my high school creative writing classes had us go to the computer labs, where we had to sign in with our TOTALLY SECRET IDS** and use WordPerfect to write our stories.

 At some point around when I started college, I switched over to WordPerfect for Windows, which I mostly used on my dad's computer, since it would have made my 8088 explode.  This did create a challenge in the college computer labs later, which all used-- I want to say WordStar for Windows, but it might have just been Mircosoft Word-- but the important thing was, NOT WordPerfect, and trying to transfer a *.WPW into one of those formats was an exercise in futility.

Ah, the early days of computer usage. 

As a matter of fact, the process of transferring archives from one computer to another, regardless of utility, means I still actually have some *.WPW files on the laptop I'm currently working on.

Eventually, I switched over to Microsoft Word, once I got a desktop that could handle it, and pretty much stayed with it for quite some time.  And that was handy, because it was a format I could use on computers at home and at work, and plenty of early writing was done on that.   Even going back and forth between using PCs and Macs didn't impede me.  Portability of projects was a very crucial thing for me.

Trunked novels "Fifty Year War" and "Crown of Druthal", as well as many plays, unfinished projects, and the early drafts of Thorn of Dentonhill, Holver Alley Crew and Maradaine Constabulary were all written on Word.  And while I never had a problem with Word, the challenges of writing an entire novel on it were quite clear.

And thus, eventually, I went, heels dragging, to Scrivener.  Which now that I'm here, I totally love it.  I won't lie, it had a bit of learning curve that I resisted.  But the process of transferring the drafts of those three novels so I could rework them into Scrivener taught me how it could be a valuable resource to me.  Especially in terms of keeping all sorts of character and outline and conceptual information in one place, and being able to visualize the scope of the story. 

And in writing Banshee, where I've been jumping around like crazy with regards to what part I'm writing any given day, Scrivener has been absolutely perfect.

Will I change again, when some other format presents itself?  Hard to say.  I know that any form of cloud-based writing holds very little appeal to me.  Perhaps that's because I'm already gypsy enough with taking my laptop anywhere, but also because I like the files I'm working on to actually be on the computer I'm using.   

But things may someday reach a point where I'm a dinosaur with my dying MacBook Pro, typing into outdated Scriviner files with the antiquated "keyboard", telling all you kids to get off my lawn.


*- Seriously.  I went to a day camp as a child that let you sign up each day for your afternoon activity.  While most children signed up for "soccer" or "swimming", yours truly, at the tender age of eight, signed up for "typewriting".  And I'm pretty sure most of the other people in there were high school kids obliged to do it for summer school. 
**- Mine was "MARMAR".  My friend Dan Fawcett was "FAWDAN".  Ken Chang was "CHAKEN".  You can see how they stayed up all night coming up with the system here.

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