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What a story set in 1952 can teach writers about publishing today
bibliomaniac
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My novel, Perfect Red, is set in 1952 New York. The main character, Lucy, who is the secretary to a prominent book editor, writes a book on a Royal manual typewriter. I love the era of the typewriter -- I love the sound of typewriters, the look of them, the whole idea of actually putting a word on a piece of paper -- but there were perils inherent in the whole enterprise.

For one thing, there was no going back and polishing up a story. There was no hitting delete, no backspace, no chance to decide that you'd change half a page. You wrote a page and it either worked, or you threw it out. It makes for a very different writing experiencing -- one that, in some ways, demands more committment than what we do today. Before you wrote, you had to know what you were writing, you had to know it was worth your time, the paper and the ink, and you had to be willing to commit when you slammed the letters against the paper. Having that same attitude can bring a whole new energy to your work on a computer.

The second danger of the typewriter era was the physical nature of the thing you wrote. Unless you used carbon paper behind each sheet of paper you wrote (an expensive, time consuming, messy business) there was just that one version of it. It was an object, a thing. I don't want to give away the plot of Perfect Red, but I'll say this: imagine all the things that could go wrong with one copy of a book. Scary, isn't it? It's enough to spark gratitude for the "save" button, and to remind us to actually use it.

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I remember it well :)

It's all true and it went on long after 1952! You've seen that cartoon of Snoopy tossing the pages over his head into the overflowing wastebasket... Pretty accurate. 'Dear Editor, what is it with you...?'

Every novel page I wrote, I wrote ten, twenty, fifty or more times over.

Upside was, the system never crashed and deleted months or years of work at a stroke.

I know two novelists who've had to rewrite whole books from memory, even in these days of multiple backup systems.

Good luck with your book!