Hwæt! (Always wanted to open a blog post like that.)
While the Powers that Be ruminate on Sleep of the Unjust, I’m finishing up revisions on Dance Around the Dying. I shuffled the novel from the word processor back to YWriter for the sole purpose of tweaking some chapter and scene breaks; it’s much easier to slide scenes around there, like the tiles in a puzzle, while at the same time tracking how long the chapters are as I do.
I wanted to keep the chapters in this one relatively consistent, and they still are (a little over 3000 to around 4500 words each). Chapter length and scene length are both important parts of the pacing formula, which I’m sure can be expressed as a function of the relationship between nuclear magnetic dipole moment and the valuation of the Swiss Franc during the Cold War, but which boils down to: don’t let a reader put it down. Rob your readers of their well-deserved sleep. Make them resent you in a loving way, like your novel is one of their children.
But I digress.
What I was going to say was that it only hit me last night, as I was massaging a two-scene lump through the python, what an absolute luxury it is to be able to do this sort of thing now, as opposed to, say, a hundred years ago, or even thirty-five. (Cue harp music for flashback.) I recall those days, of Liquid Paper and handwritten outlines, of typing up a friend’s term papers in the basement of the Geology building, and you know what? It’s a miracle anyone ever wrote anything longer than twenty pages without a gun pressed to their temple. I leave whose hand held the gun to the audience’s fertile imagination.
Since we romanticize the travails of the past like the three guys comparing scars in the boat in Jaws, there are apps that simulate typewriter keyboard animations while you write (http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2014/09/02/345254677/in-tom-hanks-ipad-app-typewriters-make-triumphant-return-ding and yes, it’s that Tom Hanks) and even YWRiter lets you insert typewriter sounds. I’ve always put those sort of things in the fun-but-unnecessary category (then again I like clickity-clack keyboards, so maybe that’s enough).
Yet I wonder if that sort of thing is good on a spiritual level, if only to remind us that the act of writing has never been easier than it is today, just as chopping down trees is easier now than it was when the best we had were logger-powered two-person saws.
Of course, fewer people lost their fingers in their back yards then too.
PS: Hanks has a great line in that interview: “Typing on an actual typewriter on paper is only a softer version of chiseling words into stone.” Unless it’s a Selectric with the built-in correction tape, in which case it’s more like quick-drying cement.