Here is a brief reading from The Find made for a book club site. I postponed making it because I expected, and dreaded, techno-trauma, but it turned out to be very easy – I simply talked to my laptop about my two main characters, read a little from the novel and and then saved the result.
See what you think:
The fuss I made with myself over getting down to this simple recording makes me realize all over again what a love-hate relationship I have with technology. I grew up with the typewriter, manual and then electric, and had to utilize carbon paper if a copy was required. Cut and paste was done with scissors and tape: very messy. I adopted word-processing early on, and many, many years ago took on pioneering electronic Writer in Residence project working with several schools on a group novel created via the internet. I certainly see what all this has to offer, but I know, too, that there is always if not a price, a potential trap.
My ideas often come to me when I go for a walk , or write by hand in a notebook (plain, creamy paper, no lines), so I aim to do do that every day, before I hook up with the machine. Once a novel or story is on the go, I write much of it straight into the computer. I love to cut, paste and rearrange using my word processsor, but at the same time, I’m wary, because word processors all too easily seduce us into endless tweaking, as opposed to starting over. Polishing sentences or juggling paragraphs early on is often a substitute for drastic action and I find that the more I invest in an early draft, the harder it is to abandon, and often that needs to be done.
Yes: the internet is wonderful for research, and it gets better all the time. I can sit at my desk and drive down the street I’m thinking my character might live in, consult specialists of every conceivable kind, absorb countless pieces of information, all without leaving the house. But this kind of research is no substitute for meeting real people or for actual travel. Face to face meetings and visits your settings will always give me more than the internet does; sensory detail, surprises. And the when I am on the (real, not virtual) road, whether driving, stiting or in a bus, plane or train, or walking round a strange city, I often find ideas and characters’ voices popping onto my head.
The internet gives, but it also takes away: attention. Facing up to the blank page and to what comes next, and then after next, has always been hard; the internet tempts us to become addicted to distractions. We find ourselves waiting for the ping or croak that tells us an email has arrived, or diving out of our project every ten minutes to check Facebook or surf a bit, perhaps with as some pretext or other, perhaps without. I’ve been there, and know that for me it works best to have an internet free writing office, and a word processing program stripped of distracting menus and buttons.
The internet is wonderful for publicity and promotion, and for connecting authors and readers without them having to leave home. But in its very brilliance lies a trap for the unwary writer. Blogging, tweeting, networking on Facebook and so on all take time, the most precious thing we have. As the fairy godmother said: use this gift wisely, or it may turn out not to be a gift, after all.