Thursday, 16 June 2016

Technology for Writers: Heaven or Hell? by Wendy H. Jones


I have been thinking a lot about technology recently. In today's society we spend a lot of time using technology. This can be even more true as writers. Even if the entire book is written by hand, at some stage it will need to be transferred into a document which can be sent to agents or editors. Technology can transform our lives in so many ways. It is ingrained in our lives in aspects we could never have imagined in the past. The ways we us technology are too numerous but the main ones which I, and many others use, are:

  • Writing 
  • Blogging
  • Social Media
  • Research

As writers we may all have different computers, be they PC or Mac. I am certain we all have one product in common - Microsoft Office. This is one of the most versatile software programmes around. If you don't use this this you may use one of the equivalents such as Apple's suite of office apps. These not only provide a platform to write books, but also allow us to do presentations or keep our accounts. When they work well we do not know how we can live without them. I know I certainly couldn't imagine how I would cope. However, sometimes things go wrong. Word has a horrible habit of inserting formatting where you least imagine. This can play havoc when converting files for uploading for printing and publishing. Regular updates to these products means major changes. Major changes to how you do things that is. Just when you thought you knew what you were doing, bam, that is no longer the case. Frustrating and a huge time suck as you learn everything again.

Blogging is one of the most exciting ways we can use technology. Writing them helps authors to get their work known and to work in partnership with others. This blog is a superb example of just how good this can be. Blogs can be written quickly and then thought about, tightened and sharpened before being released to the general public. When things go well blogging is a joy. However, when things don't go quite so well? When I started today's blog I put the title in, downloaded a suitable image, then it all went pear shaped. I could not for the life of me upload the image as my computer was not showing the correct folder. After a forty-five minute telephone call with Apple support it was fixed. A code in a sub folder and corrupted and needed replaced. Apple were amazing but it still took a huge chunk of time out of my already packed day.

Social Media is humongous in today's society. It is practically impossible to live without it, especially if you are a writer. This is a way to network, receive support, give support and generally get your name known. It can be enjoyable, you meet new people and can use it to appropriately advertise your books. But,  and this is a big but, it can also drain your time. Setting limits is crucial if you want to leave time for the actual writing. This is one rule I need to remind myself of regularly. 

We all use the internet for research. Again, I am not sure any writer would be able to do without this. If they did then it would mean a lot of trips to the library. One caveat, and I know all writers are careful, make sure your source is credible. There is a lot of useful information out there, and a also a lot of rubbish, if not downright lies. 

This brings me to what started my train of thought in the first place. The last three of these, and many other of the main uses of technology, require WiFi. Things go swimmingly as long as WiFi is working. I recently went to Spain for a week on holiday. There was no WiFi in my apartment complex unless you went down to the bar. An entire complex + poor router = 0 chance of using the internet at all. Great for a relaxing break. Not quite so good when there are several blogs you need to write and research to do for a book on a deadline. 

So I leave it with you. Is technology heaven, or is it hell? I welcome your thoughts. 




   

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Wendy lives, and writes, in Dundee Scotland. She has four books out in the DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries. Her YA Mystery, The Dagger's Curse, will be published on 10th September, 2016 by Books to Treasure. This is the first in the Fergus and Flora Mysteries. She is also a public Speaker and can be contacted for speaking engagements through her website

6 comments:

Chris Longmuir said...

As the resident technogeek, I love technology, but you are right it can go wonderfully well but also horrendously wrong. I do love playing about with new software and a technology problem gives me something to get my teeth into - provided it doesn't come at the wrong time - there is a sense of satisfaction at solving a technological puzzle. I suppose that's why I started to build my own computers in the first place arising from the curiosity about how everything worked. I strongly believe that whatever technological problem you hit, there is a solution. You just have to hunt for it. But, it is definitely a displacement activity.

Katherine Roberts said...

Oh yes, Word's 'corrections' drive me crazy! (I think there is a way you can turn them off, but that's more time wasted wrestling with the technology...)

Catherine Czerkawska said...

Oh definitely heaven. But I always turn ALL of Word's horrible corrections off. I'm amazed you can work with them on, Katherine! I couldn't and it's the first thing I adjust whenever I have a new PC.
But I can remember when you had to retype the whole ms every time you did a new draft or even significant corrections. (Tippex anyone?) One effect, however, was make you stop and decide that enough was enough, just because you couldn't bear to retype the damn thing all over again. And now - when I'm always thinking 'I'll go through that one last time' - I'm not at all sure that it makes the work better!

Ann Turnbull said...

I was de-cluttering my writing space recently, and found a little pack of Tippex dating from my manual typewriter days. Such nostalgia... But I threw it away.

Reb MacRath said...

I don't have Wi-Fi in my studio, relying on cafes that supply it. There's an interesting story there: the fight for electrical outlets. A few spots I like have lineups at opening: 'laptop hobos' who will beeline for available outlets...where they may sit for hours. Great post.

Tara Lyons said...

Great post! It's a fine line between technology heaven and hell.