An interesting article on Slashdot about Word Processors: One Writer’s Retreat — wherein the author talks about the bells and whistles of emerging technology actually getting in the way of the relatively simple process of writing.
With a new novel to write, the time seemed ripe to switch software. I’d like to say I scoured about for word processors, but I didn’t. In my novel, one character would write computer programs. The story question was, What software would he use? It had to be vi. Vi, a Unix editor for plain text files created in 1976 by Bill Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems. I’d remembered working with a software engineer, who saw no advantage to word processors and dismissed the “prettiness” of desktop publishing. He did everything in vi. Could I write a novel in vi? I decided, Why not?
Vi fast became — and remains, 100,000 words later — my writing implement of choice. Most of all, what I like about vi is something that is, well, aesthetic. I like vi’s keyboard-only operation. Vi doesn’t assault with helpful balloons or racks of toolbar icons. No, vi has a 70s ambience (no mouse, no GUI) that’s refreshingly clean. In that sense, vi is a treasured software servant. It works well without showy presence and respectfully stays out of the way.
Just for the record, I won’t be writing any novels in Vi. That said, I will point out that I’ve never written anything creative in Word for many of the reasons the author cites in the article above: I like my word processing program to be that: a processor of words… that’s it: no helpful capitalization, no auto-correct, and certainly no desktop publishing features poorly implemented and largely unnecessary.
Roughdraft is simple enough for me.
A man holds a tentacle of a ‘Arcciteuthis Dux’ squid on La Isla beach, in northern Spain, September 15, 2003. Scientists are trying to find out what caused two enormous squids, one of them 40 ft long, to wash up dead on Spain’s northern coast this week. ‘It’s not a natural death and it’s not the Prestige,’ Luis Laria, president of marine protection agency CEPESMA said, referring to a massive oil spill from the Prestige tanker late last year. He declined to speculate on the cause.
Could have been lifted right off the front page of the Arkham Gazeteer.
A grim fairy tale.
Having trouble revising your novel? Nanoedmo provides the support and deadline pressurefor one solid revision. Editing starts March 1. Just clock 50 hours of actual rewriting by midnight, March 31, and you’re a winner.
Am I doing this? Oh heck yeah. If people are interested, I’ll crank WiD back up and participants can use it as a forum. Let me know if you’re interested in participating and I’ll set you up (if you need to be set up — most of the WiD-ows are still able to post).
During the trip (leaving next Saturday!), I think I’m going to write up a little story. One entry for each day, based off things that happened, but…
well, you know… twisted, like. Slightly off plumb.
Then I’ll post it. Just see if I don’t.
I’m hating what I have to write tonight. I have a fear of commitment.
There comes a point at which suspense becomes frustration; instead of keeping the best parts hidden, you’re just frustrating the audience. But once you’ve given up enough of the story to the audience, you risk losing the best parts of it: is the moster ever as scary once you’ve actually seen it in full frame on the screen? Obviously, no.
This is the point I’m at: some of the curtain has to draw back — I know this because of the main character: by god, if she doesn’t find some stuff out right now, she’s going to fuckin’ walk out. I can’t ignore her anymore, but I still hate this part.
Up to this point, the mind of the reader does a lot of my work for me: whatever I don’t say they fill in for themselves with the most delicious terrors and boogeymen in their own head. Now I have to shine a light in there and say “here’s the boogeymen that I see”. Some people will see it and say “that’s what I figured” and some others are going to say “eh, I’ll deal with that”, and the rest will just lose interest.
At least that’s how it plays out in my head. I love the suspense, the shadowy zones of undefined space, but if I leave it that way for too long I’ll get to the end of the story and everyone will be writing me to ask what the hell they just read.
It’s the thing you’ve eventually got to do, hoping that most everyone says “well, now that I can see the rest of ride, I’d say it looks fun and I’m staying on”. That’s what you hope. Here’s hoping.