Popular Anarchy: Tools of the Trade

I first got interested in writing in high school. I had an assignment to write something creative for my ninth grade English class, and I wrote a short story where my English teacher hunted down and killed every member of our class for various reasons. I think I died because I thought I was witty, yet was sorely mistaken. This story got me an A, the adoration of my teacher, and a trip to the guidance counselor. If I wrote that story today I imagine I’d be suspended and the teacher would be fired, so I’m glad that didn’t happen, Mrs. Jones! I hope you are doing well.

I still remember writing that story, sitting in my bedroom and typing away on a computer made sometime in the 1700s, using whatever text editor was available on Windows 3.1, typing in Arial font and trying to figure out what was happening whenever I used the world “I’ll” in a sentence. The computer I have now could probably load a few thousand instances of that program side by side while playing Skyrim with no slowdown, but I’m not posting this afternoon to talk about how old I am (29) or how easy kids today have things (so easy). I’m posting to talk about how I write, which is basically unchanged from that freshman high school assignment.

Popular Anarchy was written using Google Docs, mostlly because I can access my files from work, desktop, and laptop. Most of my writing has happened on lunch breaks and before work, though I’ve pushed some nights to midnight or later because the scene is working and stopping it would be silly. I know there are programs that are supposed to be of great help to writers — Scrivener is one that I hear a lot about from my friends — but I don’t really understand what those changes would be. I imagine once I actually sit down with the program I’ll wonder how I ever got by without it, just like how I felt with Google Docs after I stopped emailing Wordpad files back and forth to myself whenever I wanted to work on something.

Editing Popular Anarchy has been much more difficult. My preferred method of editing is to print the document out and make notes by hand, but every printer I have ever owned has died within a month and I don’t think I can get away with printing 120,000 words of novel out at my office. Crocodoc worked pretty well in theory, but in practice updates kept crashing my browsers and made editing much more of a chore than it needed to be. I took to editing with two pages open, with the story in one window and my notes on the other. It did not go well. I’m still not pleased with the editing, and if anyone has a better solution I’d love to hear it.

I’ve always been interested in how everyone actually writes. My wife writes longhand and transfers it to the PC once she’s done. Another friend of mine doesn’t sit down to write until he knows he’s ready to do the final project, and doesn’t write first drafts or big outlines, just the final story itself. My editor writes via typewriter and mails me my stories marked up with red ink with a handwritten note explaining that he doesn’t hate me. Another friend of mine writes on his laptop after disabling his wireless connection so he’s free from distraction. I can see the appeal of that last part; I remember looking up the official names of parts of a sword one afternoon and finding myself reading up on the history of Pac-Man less than an hour later. It’s not even that interesting. Wikipedia just does that to you.

While trying to find an image for this post (so many words!) I went on Wikipedia to look at “writing” and see what they have. I’m already on Sting’s page by way of Botticelli’s painting of St. Augustine writing. I’m just closing the browser now before somebody gets hurt. No image!

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