Thursday, February 23, 2012

Writing tools: their pros and cons

Pens and pencils are fantastic for writing short pieces, taking notes, illustrating and editing but for writing novel length texts quickly they are problematic. Agents and editors prefer typed copies and electronic copies, meaning you will have to type up all your scribbles anyway. Initial copies could be written in pen and pencil but switching to a computer or laptop will happen sooner or later simply so you can sell your works to a publisher.

Quills produce a personal and warm feeling that few other writing tools can. These are great for short pieces and can be used to produce a high quality hard copy (as long as you can handle a quill with a certain degree of skill)  but for large works and works to be printed through a publishing house you will end up having to type up your works again. In some ways, this is a pity as the old tomes written with quill and illustrated with ink drawings have something extra special about them that the average paperback or hardback just doesn't. Only the original presses could create a product to compete in impact. Creating that instant attachment a reader gets to a specially designed book is a challenge for the book designer and illustrator nowadays.

Colour! If you use pens, quills and pencils for short pieces never forget that you can add colour of so many different styles and types. Written works that include colour often attract the reader and create an attachment that lasts longer than that created by a work solely in black and white. Why? Because it engages more senses and it is apparent that lots of work went into its creation, amongst many reasons. Despite this, if you are aiming to be published by a House you will have to find out if it is acceptable for you to provide illustrations or not. This is because each publishing House has a style and each House has its own illustrators with whom you will be competing for the work. Also, your illustrations may not be deemed the most appealing that can be produced for your writing. Don't take this as an insult against your art, it is a matter of sales, compatibility and known House styles. That said, I do love seeing a writer's own artwork in a book. 

Typewriters, good old clacking typewriters that give you bolt of satisfaction whenever you finish a line and have to wind it on. I love typewriters but I just can't write on one for work. They have as much mystique to the writer as the quill and even now when a writer finds out one of their fellows uses one there comes a sense of awe. It is such a pity that the current publishing demands have made it difficult to hand in a hard copy only, otherwise using a typewriter would still be an option for more than the first few copies.

Typewriters have so much mystique that USB a typewriter app has been produced along with the above Limited Edition Typescreen. The typewriter here is a modern computer typewriter and not an old typewriter that has been adapted. So with a little fiddling about you can type an electronic copy on a typewriter. One problem appears to be that with the Typescreen you lose half the screen to the extra keyboard. It you used the computer typewriter and attached it to a PC you'll have the complete screen available but what you've done is take out half of the mystique and fun of using a typewriter. Personal preferences and practicality come into play here. For me it is too much trouble to bother with.

The PC, as in the keyboard, monitor, mouse and computer combo, is one of the easiest writing tools to use as you can create both electronic copies and hard copies easily, especially if you also have a printer. You may also alter the design and mass produce your product with ease. But it is still a PC and you will still be locked in your seat, typing away much as you are likely to with a typewriter but with no mystique and no chance of taking it anywhere where there isn't an electrical point. At least a typewriter is portable, if heavy, and can be used in various locations.

That leaves us with the laptop. Perfect solution, you say? Don't be fooled. Again electrical points come into play far more often than you think. Great, you can take it with you and go outside but you still need to find a place to recharge the battery so here's hoping you have friends and family in the area. Typewriters have it over laptops in this instance as they don't require batteries and power points. Laptops, on the other hand, provide soft and hard copies of your works, allow you to alter designs, print, mass produce and everything else a PC does. As a result many writers choose a laptop so that they can sit as they please rather than at a desk, possibly wander about, take their work with them and still not have to redo typed or written text. All they have to consider is the battery life.

Me? I'm writing this on a laptop but I'm an artist who loves colour and ink, original hard copies and personalised works, who would be thrilled to be able to use a typewriter while writing my book but sees it is impractical. I'm far too sentimental about anything that has a touch of history and the personal. I love books that have been illustrated by their own authors as their artwork provides another peek into the imaginary world the author created. Sometimes I wish it was still possible to mass produce via the Gutenberg press because producing books by this type of press means mixing so many of my loves together. But we move with the times and I along with all of you.

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