Better Living Through Old Technology


I've been writing since I was 12; most of that writing has been done on computer. Now that I'm 32, I've come to believe that modern tools are not as good as the old tools.

On my desk right now sits a 1940s-vintage Royal typewriter. In the roller is a sheet of paper, the 17th such sheet, with a lot of words on it. Those words are part of my new novel, "Speak for the Dead." This is book #8. As with every book, this is THE ONE that will be the break-out. Period. But that isn't the point. Next to the typewriter is one of five spiral notebooks with words on the pages. Those words and notebooks made up the first draft of the book; in the machine is the second; as I type, I'm revising what's in the notebook.

The typewriter belonged to my late grandfather and I recently restored the machine so I could use it. I find no allure or enjoyment in typing on a computer; there's no personal connection. On the Royal, it's the opposite. It's a very personal machine with a deep family connection. It makes me feel like one of the old timers I'm such a fan of, and while I'm working I imagine what the Black Mask boys must have felt like when pounding out a story for the pulps.

I use the two-finger technique, which avoids the carpal tunnel symptoms I sometimes feel while using a computer. I get to listen to the clack-clack-ding of the machine; when I really get going, it sounds like machine gun fire. It's hard work, really hard; feels like I'm digging for coal, and to do five pages is a long day. But I keep going. Clack-clack-ding. It's addicting.

I also prefer to write in the notebooks because, when it's quiet, I can hear the scratching noises the pen makes on the paper; it's a cool sound. It makes me feel like I'm painting on canvas.

I just don't get that kind of feeling using a computer. Ultimately, however, the final draft must be put through the word processor; that's fine. For now, I'm having fun. I've never been more excited about a book before, and I hope it shows in the final product. I think it will, and may make this ms. THE ONE after all.

Happy writing.

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Comment by Brian Drake on September 8, 2007 at 7:00am
Fabrizio, What model did you restore? I used to play guitar in high school--mine was red with white stripes just like Eddie Van Halen's--and I want to start playing again as soon as finances allow for refresher classes.
Comment by Fabrizio Fulio - Bragoni on September 5, 2007 at 10:05am
i know what you mean...
i've restored an old typewriter too, and felt - just as you say- one of the old black mask guys, and then i think the loud sounds that typing make help you keep the rythm... (i'm a piano/guitar player, though, and i don't find it very hard to type on the old machine... )
Comment by Brian Drake on July 25, 2007 at 6:00pm
Well that certainly bosts my confidence! LOL!
Comment by Pepper Smith on July 25, 2007 at 1:11pm
Enjoy it while you can. My fingers are arthritic from too many hours pounding out words on a typewriter.

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