Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Confessions of a Techno - Challenged Writer

I am a woman of "a certain age." I did not grow up with the internet. Or cell phones. Or tablets. Or computer programs that change every time some techno genius in California puts down his energy drink, grins at his coworkers, and says "Lets throw this at them." Someone needs to find those guys a girlfriend. They have way too much time on their hands. If they would read romance novels and update their romance techniques as often as they do their software they might have an occasion to use their hardware.

All of this means I am devoutly techno-phobic. De. Vout. Ly. My nephew calls me Aunt Techno-Challenged. He does so because his mother informed him it isn't nice to say "My aunt is an idiot." Isn't that sweet?

My first venture into writing romance was about twelve years ago. I started reading fan fiction based on my favorite character in a soap opera. And then I started writing it. I wrote it longhand on my breaks and lunches at work. Then I came home, typed it into the computer submission form on the fan fiction site, and voila! it was there for the other fans to read and comment on. It required minimum technological skills on my part and I liked it that way. I wrote it on the HP computer Noah used to keep count of the animals on the ark. Or at least that is what my nephew tells his friends.

A little over eight years ago, I decided to return to my first writing love - historical romance. I had a brand new HP desktop computer. I mean, right out of the box. Only took six phone calls to the nephew to set it up. Fortunately I had met some fellow writers online and they helped me to format my documents and get started. What they neglected to tell me was I needed to save said document somewhere other than on the computer. You guessed it. I wrote my entire first historical romance novel without saving it to any sort of exterior disc or jump drive or other saving thingy. (Stop laughing!) When my computer crashed, and I know now they always do, I had a freak out somewhere on the scale of the entire population of Tokyo when Godzilla approaches. It didn't help when I told my brothers about it and they both responded :

You didn't save it????

Fortunately, one Neal Lynn, our own Tammy Lynn's husband, figured out how to salvage my novel from the smoking ruins of my computer. Thank you, Neal !! This particular manuscript went on to final in the Golden Heart in 2008. Which was about the same time I acquired my first cell phone. (I told you to stop laughing.)

Fast forward to the last two years. I now own a desktop computer, two laptops, a tablet, and I recently acquired (GASP!) a smart phone. Okay. Go ahead and laugh. My nephew did. Especially as the damned thing proves on a daily basis it is far smarter than I am. I spent a great deal of Christmas Day handing it to him and saying "Make it do this." As for saving my work, honey, I am a saving fiend. I have a portable hard drive thingy, jump drives, discs - you name it. I carry them all with me everywhere I go in case of a fire or a zombie apocalypse. I do dropbox, e mail things to myself. Paranoid? Moi?

I am certain you are thinking "How did this idiot manage to indie publish two novellas?" She didn't. She wrote the novellas and was fortunate enough to have them published in an anthology with three people who know far more about this procedure than she does! I mean, this stuff is scary! I speak eight languages, but none of them bears any resemblance to something called MOBI. Makes it sound like Herman Melville has gone techno. Frankly I would do better going after MOBI with a harpoon than I would with my brain. And if it keeps raining in Alabama I may need that harpoon to go after the snakes and alligators inviting themselves in for New Year's dinner.

The publishing industry is a brave new world. It is also confusing as hell and changes its mind faster than Donald Trump changes who he wants to ship out of the country. For those of us who simply want to write a good story it is a bit frightening. For those of us who would rather be living in nineteenth-century England it is a pain in the arse. Speed, get it out there quickly, is the name of the game.

Yet, with all of the technology and gadgetry and the all-consuming quest for the quick turnaround we need to remember something very important.

There is nothing to compare to a story well told.

All of the technology in the world will not save a story churned out to feed the masses and make a quick buck. The people may survive on bread. But they thrive on cake. And making a cake takes time,skill, and care and it involves very little technology. Trust me on this. I know a little something about cakes.

I am slowly, but surely, coming over to the techno-side. As a writer I have no choice. However, I still love the feel of a print book in my hands. I often resort to writing with a pen and paper when the words won't come at the computer. I have read a number of very recent articles about the resurgence of print book stores. And, yes, this made me smile. I'll keep working on my computer skills and all of the skills necessary to be an indie published author. But the most important skills I have and those I need to hone the most are those of a writer. Without those, nothing else matters. 

You know the image at the end of Jurassic World with the T-Rex climbing to the top of the building and roaring out over the forest? That's me. I'm old. I'm beat up. I'm not the latest model or the shiniest. But let us not forget - with the help of some clever friends - Old T-Rex whooped that new dinosaur's ass ! 

How about you? Do you have any techno confessions to make? We won't tell anyone. What is the hardest part of the brave new publishing world for you?




Amy said...

I am the exact opposite. I started in IT when the PC was first shoved on the market. I had wrote and edited numerous manuscripts on an electric typewrite and was done. I wanted a PC with software that could do the spell checks and keep me from buying so much whiteout. The backspace key is my favorite.

I try any new software. I have tablets, eReaders, iPhone, an iWatch, and a laptop. I'm on facebook, twitter, instagram, TCO, Ello, and Linked in. I know I'm forgetting some. I'm an early adopter and will beta test software.

But it is my day job so that has fed my addiction to technology. I don't know why I love it, but I think it's the constant challenge to keep up by learning new things. Working with technology forces you to learn something new almost everyday to stay competitive in the business.

I'm here for you if you need me. :-)

Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

A very happy, safe, healthy, and productive 2000 sixteen to you and yours

Collette Cameron said...

I always enjoy your posts, Louisa! Technology still kicks me in the rear end, but I'm getting better!

Andrea K. Stein said...

I turned that backup thing over to Carbonite a year ago when I realized I had no idea where in the heck anything was within the pile of thumb drives in my desk drawer - ACKKK! Will not say a thing about a certain roommate whose email queue is like the Great Wall of China.

Suzanne Johnson said...

Thanks to working in educational publishing since God was an infant (yes, I, too, am of a CERTAIN AGE), I've embraced the technology (I think it's genetic; my 90-year-old mother, who is now housebound, shops on the Internet and sends emails) from the early days. Little-known fact: university departments lose the unspent money in their budgets when the new fiscal year rolls around on October 1, so September is often filled with frantic shopping. My new 27"-screen iMac arrived last week. The only thing that I can't seem to grasp is *hangs head* Wordpress. I think I have a version programmed and maintained by Satan. And he's winning.

Louisa Cornell said...

Ah, Amy, I may take you up on that! I think you have hit on it. You got in on the ground floor so IT is natural to you. And any time you truly love something it is a thrill to see each new thing appear.

Louisa Cornell said...

Thank you so much, Mac! And to you and yours as well !

Louisa Cornell said...

Thank you, Collette! That is all we can do isn't it!

Louisa Cornell said...

I am definitely going to try Carbonite some time in the near future. One can never have too many back ups, can one, Roomie ! Uhm.... and I am working on tearing down the Great Wall of China. (hangs head in shame)

Louisa Cornell said...

Oh, Suzanne, you and I have the same version of Wordpress! I cannot get that +_)_(*(*(*&&^^ to work! I knew that about university finances. My nephew is a huge Mac fan, but I am doing well to deal with my non Mac products, thank you!

Ella Quinn - Romance Novelist said...

I cracked up reading this. My first experience with a computer crashing was just after I'd finished a 200 page research paper for my masters. Hubby had to come home from work to save it. When I decided to publish a novella series, I also decided to release all of them in boxed sets because I don't know how to publish an indie book. The funny thing is that although I think I'm technically challenged, I'm able to show other people how to do stuff. Great post, Louisa!

Louisa Cornell said...

AAACK ! A research paper for your masters? I'd have jumped off the boat! LOL Thank goodness for husbands with computer skills. And isn't it much easier to show someone else how to do something? I will be jumping into the indie publishing single book business soon and I am shaking in my shoes!

Jillian said...

so glad you got it back! WHEW!