Monday, November 19, 2007

On writing 50,000 words in 30 days -- on a manual typewriter

Over the years, I've tried a bit of everything as far as technology for NaNoWriMo goes : Microsoft Word, hand-writing (mmmm...fountain pens and ink...), and an Alphasmart Neo. This year I fully intended to do it all 0n the Neo again, but then someone posted a thread in the technology forum about doing it all on a manual typewriter. I was intrigued.

Now...I realize that it's a little strange to be obsessed with old typewriters when you're supposed to be a PC tech, but I am. I had one when I was little -- a Smith Corona Galaxie 12 is my guess, looking at pictures now. It was a finger-eating monstrosity, the ribbon didn't work quite right, and I loved it: the smell of it, the sound of it, seeing those slightly-misaligned words pop up on the page. About a year ago, I decided to find one again, since I tend to think better on paper (hence all the hand-writing), but hoped for more speed and legibility than I could get with pen and ink. I've picked up several since then, most dirty and sticky-keyed, but still in surprisingly good condition for their ages. A little elbow-grease, a new ribbon, and most are good to go.

So I'm using a 1967 (? gotta double-check) Olympia SM-9 with Pica typeface, and a 1958 or '59 Hermes 3000 with elite. I started off with the Hermes and typed the first 68 pages on it, but have now switched to the Olympia in mid-stream. I like both. The Hermes takes a light touch, it feels fast. The Olympia is a solid, serious thing; keys have to travel a bit further, but it has a nice new platen and a springy touch. It's my best typer, I think...but I do love that nimble little Hermes!

The jury is still out on elite vs Pica. Fitting a TON of words on a page so my transcribing ups my word count in a rush is very cool. But I do like the big, blocky Pica letters, and they don't get gunked up as easily.

I'm -- surprisingly, perhaps -- having fewer problems with hand and wrist soreness than I do with the Neo. This in spite of the fact that I'm typing everything twice. I like the feel of the Neo keyboard, and I can blaze on that thing, but there's no denying that it does make my wrists hurt after a relatively brief time. And apparently the typewriter keyboard forces good form. I also wonder if there's a difference because of the fuller range of motion.

I love my manuscript. It actually deserves that term: manuscript. It seems pretentious to call a Word document by that name. But this is different: 85 pages (so far) of ink and paper, scribbled notes and strike-throughs. It's real. It has heft. I can physically flip through it and smell it and -- oops -- drop it on the floor in a scattered mess. It's so cool!

The story is another matter, though I do think my writing quality goes up when I do the first draft on paper, one way or another. I think better. I analyze less. I can pretty it up on the computer, but for just getting the initial thoughts down, the computer doesn't work nearly as well for me.

I think this will become my standard writing M.O.


Duffy said...

Yay! New Blogs!
I'm glad you linked to this. I want to be able to touch base with Typewriter Brigaders in the off-season.
Your experiences with NaNo pretty much mirror my own. Thanks for posting this.

Elizabeth H. said...

Thanks for stopping by!

Is it a sign of a sick mind that I want more technology (a scanner) in order to be able to do some "typecasting" like Strikethru?

I love that concept...

Duffy said...

I agree. I wish I'd thought of that first!